06/10 2013 ISSUE:551
Chemistry professor doubts food safety labels' legitimacy
Source : http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2013/06/10/380814/Chemistry-professor.htm
By Katherine Wei (June 10, 2013)
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Department of Health (DOH) recently ordered edible starch manufacturers to provide legitimate food safety certifications, a move that did not stop customers from wondering about the validity of such documents.
The policy comes in the wake of the tainted-starch food scandal.
Local food vendors, grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants have put up the food safety labels. The DOH said stands and restaurants selling eight types of starch-processed products must provide certificates relating to the products. The eight products are tapioca, Taiwanese mega dumplings, yam balls, taro balls, flat noodles, tofu pudding, tempura and jelly.
Wu Chia-cheng (çïÊ«á¤), a chemistry professor at the National Taiwan Normal University, expressed doubt over the validity of the food vendors' certifications and slammed the safety documents as a “false move to calm customers, much like praying with incense and putting up protection slips secured from temples.”
Wu stated that the “standard procedure” nowadays for food retailers following food scares is to present allegedly legitimate documents in an attempt to clear their names. Wu cited examples from the United States beef dispute, the plasticizer-infused beverage scandals and the recent maleic-acid additives incidents.
Labels Confusing: Customers
Customers in turn have reported that the labels are as confusing as they are abundant. Chen Xing-he, a John Tung Foundation official, voiced doubt over the validity of a noodle vendor's certificate regarding its whole wheat flour. Chen said the shop sold white, not whole-wheat noodles.
A housewife surnamed Lee said she saw food safety labels while buying ready-made grass jelly in a traditional market, adding that she was unsure whether the labels were valid or not.
Foundation Proves Labels Unreliable
The Homemakers United Foundation, a producer known for its safe diet and safe food-source stance, voluntarily submitted 29 of its starch-containing products for a DOH examination recently.
Two of the 29 products were discovered to contain the reportedly harmful maleic acid. Both had safety labels. Chairman Huang Shu-de (üÜâ×Óì) said “that the labels are (the government's) attempt the smooth things over.”
The DOH has ordered all of its branches to conduct investigations into the legitimacy of food vendor certificates and food safety labels in order to ensure the documents do not become outdated, said an official from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those retailers and vendors found to have unqualified products or falsified papers may be fined, the official added.
The FDA said it plans before the end of the year to develop policy which looks to separate industry grade additives from edible additives in future imports, said another FDA official.
Townsend Farms Hepatitis A Lawsuits Seek Compensation for Personal Injury
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/townsend-farms-hepatitis-a-lawsuits-seek-compensation-for-personal-injury/
By Kathy Will (June 08, 2013)
To date, four lawsuits have been filed against Townsend Farms Corporation on behalf of people who contracted hepatitis A infections after eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend mixed berries with pomegranate seeds purchased at a Costco store. These people are part of an outbreak of hepatitis A that has sickened over 70 people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.
The lawsuits seek compensation for hospital and other medical expenses, lost wages and other income, physical pain and other personal injury damages.
Three of the hepatitis A lawsuits have been filed in California and one in Arizona. “Ultimately, there will be lawsuits filed in all of the states where people were sickened,” said attorney Fred Pritzker, who is representing hepatitis A victims and is providing free case reviews here.
Two lawsuits against Townsend Farms have been filed in the Superior Court of California, San Diego County. One was filed on behalf of a 58-year-old woman from El Cajon, California. She bought the Townsend Farms berries at the Costco in La Mesa. She has been unable to work for a month. The other was filed on behalf of a San Diego woman. Her hep A symptoms were a headache, fatigue, and pain in her right side.
The other California lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. Her hepatitis A symptoms included fatigue, chills, muscle and joint aches, vomiting, dark urine and yellow eyes and skin. She suffered liver inflammation and was hospitalized.
The Arizona lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on behalf of a woman from the Phoenix area. Her symptoms of hepatitis A infection including fever, chills, nausea, abdominal pains and jaundice. She continues to experience the effects of her hepatitis A infection.
Vietnam's food safety and sovereignty in jeopardy
Source : http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20130606-vietnam-food-safety-and-sovereignty-in-jeopardy.aspx
By By Chuck Palazzo (June 08, 2013)
The worldwide protests against Monsanto and their various genetically modified products on May 25 were more than successful. We expected and hoped for 200,000 participants, but the latest estimates put the numbers at between 2.5 million and three million participants throughout the world.
At the time, I happened to be in Saigon.
I walked by the Opera House as I often do, as well as the photography exhibit across the street. One picture showed President Ho Chi Minh tilling the soil outside his modest home. It was captioned with a quote from the late president: "Have plenty of food for mighty army.”
I think we can extrapolate President Ho’s war-time statement to a time of peace, and it would translate into: “Have plenty of food for all Vietnamese people;” and it would go without saying that it would refer to safe food that also secures the sovereignty it represents for the Vietnamese people.
This is one of several problems with accepting and embracing genetically modified (GM) products and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Vietnam. The business model that Monsanto has created prevents, actually prohibits, the saving/storage/replanting of seeds. The company does so contractually with farmers. It is the farmer who is responsible – not the government. It will be the farmer who will pay the consequences should he or she "violate" the terms of this contract. The farmer could, and likely will, lose everything. And Vietnam would surely lose its sovereignty over food production.
But there are many other reasons why Vietnam, as well as the entire international community, should reject any and all GMOs, including but not limited to genetically modified seed, materials, livestock and fish.
I have been perplexed as to how easy it has been for Monsanto and other biotech companies to implement their diabolical strategy. They do so because they are self-regulated. The US Food and Drug Administration as well as the US Department of Agriculture have granted the company unlimited authority to “self-regulate” their products. From a business perspective, this is ideal.
However, we are indeed talking about the destruction of mankind. Monsanto and Dow approve their own products for consumer consumption – the US government has no say in this whatsoever. How better to make whopping profits each and every quarter, for hundreds of quarters? After all, billions of US dollars are at stake here. In 2012, Monsanto earned, in net sales, US$13,504,000,000. That is no mistake – Thirteen billion, five hundred and four million US dollars.
Another important aspect of this problem that we are all faced with is that these companies, who produce GM products and GMOs, are indeed the very same companies that brought us, among other things, Agent Orange. The very same companies who told the US government that Agent Orange was absolutely safe and would never harm the environment or human beings.
How wrong was that? Today, over three million Vietnamese still suffer and die as a result of Agent Orange. Over 5,000 victims in my home city of Da Nang. 20,000 in neighboring Quang Nam Province. I can continue, but we all know how horrible the Agent Orange problem was, is and will be. It’s now affecting the fourth generation of victims.
But I wonder why, after knowing all of the dark history of companies like Monsanto and Dow, governments, including Vietnam, would allow them to open offices, do business, field test GM seeds – the list goes on.
Monsanto and Dow are responsible for over three million Vietnamese deaths. Neither has paid a single dong to Vietnam. Neither has admitted any wrongdoing. This is surely criminal and, I submit, a war crime and a crime against humanity.
I wonder: What would President Ho Chi Minh have to say about all of this?
I am fairly certain that Uncle Ho would not agree with what has and continues to occur in Vietnam regarding genetically modified products and GMOs.
He was fond of children and would never let them come to harm because of a few companies’ desire to make profits at the expense of people, communities and the environment.
Please consider these and other reasons to stop the proliferation of GMOs in Vietnam.
JOHNSTONE: Food safety system failed Canadians
Source : http://www.leaderpost.com/business/JOHNSTONE+Food+safety+system+failed+Canadians/8496626/story.html
By Bruce Johnstone, The Leader-Post(June 7, 2013)
The ongoing shenanigans on Parliament Hill (expense account scandals in the Senate, $1-million slush funds in the PMO, a rogue Tory MP leaving caucus) sometimes distracts us media types from covering more serious news.Case in point was the report released this week outlining the many shortcomings of our food inspection system in the wake of the E. coli outbreak at XL Foods last year and the largest beef recall in Canadian history.
With the circus going on in Ottawa, the report on the foul-up at XL Foods kind of got lost in the shuffle. It’s too bad because the report makes interesting, if at times stomach-churning, reading.
The report by highlighted the significant failures in the food safety system that resulted in the poisonings of 18 consumers, the recall of some 1,800 products in Canada and the U.S. and the damage done to the Canadian beef industry (estimated at $16 million to $27 million).
And there’s plenty of blame to go around, namely XL Foods, owners of one of Canada’s largest meat packing plants in Brooks, Alta. with 35 per cent of Canadian beef processing capacity, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
The report’s authors point to a “series of inadequate responses’’ by both XL Foods and the CFIA staff that led to the contamination event in September 2012.
“We found that responsibilities towards food safety programs were not always met — by both plant staff and CFIA officials on site. We found a relaxed attitude towards applying mandatory procedures ... We found one of the country’s largest beef processors unprepared to handle what turned out to be the largest beef recall in Canadian history ...
“In short, we found a weak food safety culture at the Brooks plant, shared by both plant management and CFIA staff.’’
Without going into the gory details, the report determined that a “animal heavily contaminated with E. coli O157: H7 (a pathogenic or disease-causing strain of the bacteria) entered the plant’’ and as the “contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in or on a piece of equipment,’’ probably part of the mechanical tenderizing process.
“The contamination might have been limited only to that day’s production had adequate sanitation been performed on this piece of equipment.’’ But inspection of sanitary procedures was performed “randomly twice a week.” For example, 12 of 100 nozzles on the pasteurizer were clogged.
“It is the panel’s view that equipment maintenance and sanitation were significant problems at the plant,’’ the report said.
As sides of beef continued to pass by this piece of equipment, they were also sporadically contaminated over subsequent days. As a result, the E. coli contamination was allowed to spread, causing more contaminated product to leave the plant undetected.
The report cites a litany of failures — “absence of detailed documentation, inconsistent trend analysis, insufficient record keeping, inconsistent sampling’’ — that exacerbated the problem. After the contamination was discovered (at another plant and at the U.S. border), information provided to CFIA officials by XL was coded or in hard copy, causing further delays in determining the source and extent of the contamination.
“A six-day delay in providing this information — while the plant remained in operation and no root cause had been identified — meant that contaminated product continued to be produced and shipped from the plant.’’
The report concludes that the XL Foods recall was hindered by poor communications with the public. “And it was all preventable.’’
Of the report’s 30 recommendations, 24 refer specifically to the CFIA and how it can improve prevention strategies and regulatory oversight, surveillance and trend analysis, incident management and recall response and communication with the public about food safety.
The ink was barely dry on the report when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced his government’s response: a new inspection verification system with team of 30 inspectors at a cost of $16 million over three years. “As we all know, no system is perfect,’’ said Ritz, who promised to implement all of the recommendations.
But NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said the report is a “damning indictment of his management of the entire food safety regime.”
It’s hard to argue with either of those statements.
79 Hepatitis A Cases in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/79-hepatitis-a-cases-in-arizona-california-colorado-hawaii-nevada-new-mexico-utah-and-washington/
By Bill Marler (June 7, 2013)
The CDC reported today that as of June 7, 2013, 79 people with acute hepatitis A infections that may be linked with consumption of a contaminated product have been reported by seven states: Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. These numbers are expected to change as the investigation continues.
On June 3, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview, Oregon voluntarily recalled certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend because it has the potential to be contaminated with hepatitis A virus.
Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two states suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions.
This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt. The strain of 1B in the current outbreak does not match the European or Canadian outbreaks, however.
According to the label, the “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix associated with illness contained products originating from the U.S., Argentina, Chile, and Turkey.
Everyday Foods That Can Make You Sick
Source : http://www.weather.com/health/risky-foods-can-make-you-sick-20130606
By Camille Mann (June 07, 2013)
An organic frozen organic berry mix from Oregon-based Townsend Farms has sickened 30 people, spurring an investigating from the Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reports.
Although berries aren’t the most common cause of a foodborne illness outbreak, they do regularly sicken Americans, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group that publishes an annual list of the riskiest foods regulated by the FDA. This year, berries came in at number 10.
Typically, foods that have been associated with spreading illness have been meat and dairy, but according the CSPI, the globalized food system and the rise of large-scale production and processing has put all types of foods at risk.
The 10 foods that made the list make up 40 percent of all foodborne outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated foods since 1990, according to CSPI, who used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and elsewhere to compile the list.
But foodborne illness is difficult to track: Many illnesses go undocumented because people rarely go to a doctor to get treated; therefore, the number of outbreaks in the study does not include all the cases of illnesses linked to food.
Each year, one in six Americans (or 48 million people) will get a foodborne illness, according to CDC estimates. More than 120,000 will be hospitalized and 3,000 will die from foodborne illness.
Foodborne disease can cause anything from minor stomach cramps and diarrhea to serious conditions, such as kidney failure or even death. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and adults with otherwise compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to severe symptoms from foodborne illness. In 2011, 30 people died after eating cantaloupe melons infected with listeria — the single deadliest foodborne illness episode since the CDC began tracking outbreaks in the ’70s.
The CSPI also ranked the riskiest meats, with ground beef and chicken posing the greatest threat and often times, the most severe reactions.
"Outbreaks from ground beef and chicken are reported frequently, and all too often cause debilitating illnesses—illnesses that lead to hospitalization," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal in a release.
Food safety body issues warning after 'shocking' fall in standards
Source : http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/food-safety-body-issues-warning-after-shocking-fall-in-standards-29324247.html
By Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent (6 June 2013)
MAY was one of the worst ever months for serious food safety problems in restaurants, shops and takeaways.
Health inspectors took action against 19 food businesses over hygiene and safety problems that could endanger public health last month.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) warned businesses to clean up their act as warm summer weather greatly increases the risks of food poisoning.
It was "shocking" that such a high number of food businesses were not compliant with food law, said FSAI director of service contracts Dr Bernard Hegarty.
"The risks for food-borne illness increase as bacteria can multiply rapidly in the warmer temperatures," he said.
The 19 enforcement actions last month matches the previous highest monthly total recorded last October. So far in 2013, some 61 food businesses have received enforcement actions, compared with 109 in the whole of 2012, and the numbers falling short of food safety standards have risen dramatically over the last six years.
The recession could be one factor, but also health inspectors have increased powers under new EU food regulations to take action where there is a breach of food legislation, an FSAI spokesperson said.
Londis supermarket at 12 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2; Chopsticks restaurant in Parnell Mall, Ilac Centre, Dublin 1; Sichuan House Restaurant at 100a Parnell St, Dublin 1; and Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant at 138 Parnell St, Dublin 1 were all served with closure orders, which were lifted when the problems were resolved.
Pacino's restaurant in Suffolk St, Dublin 2, and Morning Star grocery store, Flower Hill, Navan, Co Meath also received closure orders that were later lifted.
Senator raises food safety concerns over Smithfield, Shuanghui deal
Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-senator-raises-food-safety-concerns-over-smithfield-shuanghui-deal-20130605,0,6066465.story
By www.chicagotribune.com (June 5, 2013)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has raised concerns about the food safety implications of the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods by China's Shuanghui International.
The head of the Senate Agriculture Committee said in a statement Wednesday that the federal agencies considering the merger "must take China's and Shuanghui's troubling track record on food safety into account, and do everything in their power to ensure our national security and the health of our families is not jeopardized," Stabenow said.
Stabenow did not suggest her committee would hold a hearing on the proposed deal, which if approved would be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese company.
Listeria Death Rate Shows U.S. Food Safety Shortcomings
Source : http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-04/listeria-death-rate-shows-u-s-food-safety-shortcomings.html
By Stephanie Armour (June 5, 2013)
One in five Americans sickened by listeria over a three-year period died, according to government data that highlight how little has been done to curtail the pathogen linked to tainted cheese and produce.
Listeria sickened 1,651 people from 2009-2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said in a report today. Twenty percent of those stricken died, primarily the elderly and prenatal babies who were stillborn or miscarried.
“No progress in reducing the overall incidence of listeriosis has occurred in over a decade,” the CDC said. “Renewed prevention efforts are needed from farm to table.”
The Obama administration proposed in January the first major regulations from the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which was to be the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. food oversight in 70 years when it passed. The Food and Drug Administration is developing the rules aimed at keeping people safe from listeria.
“We are also working with produce growers, food processors, and our state partners to further implement what we know works to minimize food safety risks,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said in a statement.
Congress passed the food safety law after poisonings related to cookie dough, spinach, jalapenos and other foods killed at least nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2008 and 2009.
For the three years studied by the CDC, 12 listeria outbreaks sickened 224 consumers in 38 states. Five outbreaks implicated soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk that were likely contaminated during cheese making. The overall CDC data also included a 2011 listeria outbreak where 146 people were sickened and at least 30 died from cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado. That outbreak was the deadliest in almost 90 years.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the incidence of listeriosis declined markedly after investigations led to industry changes, such as using ingredients that inhibit listeria growth. The data today show that progress has stalled.
CDC Updates Hepatitis A Outbreak Associated with Townsend Farms Berries
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/cdc-updates-hepatitis-a-outbreak-associated-with-townsend-farms-berries/
By Linda Larsen (June 04, 2013)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the Hepatitis A outbreak associated with Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxdant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix. Now 49 people are sick with acute Hepatitis A in seven states. And eleven people have been hospitalized. The numbers are most likely going to change every day.
The ill persons are in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, and California. Twenty-six people have been interviewed. Sixty-percent, or 15 patients, are women. The patient age range is from 2 to 71 years. Illness onset dates range from 4/29/13 to 5/24/13. Nineteen people, or 76%, reported eating “Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix before becoming ill. Nineteen people bought this product at Costco supermarkets. The product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores and may have been for sale elsewhere. The FDA just released a recall of this product.
Preliminary test results suggest the outbreak strain of Hepatitis A is genotype 1B, which is rarely seen in America. The genotype is common in Middle Eastern and North African countries.
The CDC is offering advice for consumers about this outbreak and the attendant recall. Do not eat or handle this product. Discard it, or double bag the product and wash your hands thoroughly. Check with your physician about the necessity of a Hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccine. And monitor yourself and your family for symptoms of Hepatitis A, which include yellowing eyes or skin, abdominal pain, pale stools, and dark urine. More information about Hepatitis A is also available at the CDC web site.
Attorneys Fred Pritzker, Brendan Flaherty and Ryan Osterholm are helping the many hepatitis A victims who have contacted them. Pritzker and his Bad Bug Law Team help Hepatitis A victims and their families get compensation for hospital and other expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages. They have won lawsuit settlements against some of the largest food processors and retailers in the United States. Pritzker, Flaherty and Osterholm can be contacted for a free consultation regarding a Hepatitis A lawsuit by submitting the free consultation form found here.
Food Safety Focus on Packaging?
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/fsm-edigest/food-safety-focus-on-packaging/
By Jeffrey Barach, Ph.D. (June 4, 2013)
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), coupled with increased media coverage of foodborne illness outbreaks, has contributed to the attention that food safety receives. But the real driver behind this focus on food safety was from consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) seeking the latest technologies to ensure regulatory compliance and advance their operations.
These measures are not unique to the United States, and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), established in 2000, recognizes the need for harmonious food safety standards. Most recently, there has been a push by CPGs towards certification of packaging suppliers.
Change is Just around the Corner
At a conference last year, Cass Wade-Kudla, senior manager of packaging at General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, summed up this movement quite well. “If you supply a food company, you are no longer just the packaging industry, you are a part of the food industry,” said Ms. Wade-Kudla. “We treat food packaging with the same food safety rigor as food ingredients.”
Food needs all the protection it can get. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, foodborne illness affects an estimated 48 million people in the United States every year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and around 3,000 die.
Consequently, FSMA expands the role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in interstate commerce, requiring CPGs to comply with a variety of new procedures, including preventative controls, records and traceability and verification. To help them ensure compliance, processing and packaging suppliers are working directly with their customers to advise on new technology applications and equipment redesign.
Anticipation and the Waiting Game
An open and flexible dialogue with equipment suppliers will be critical to manufacturers in the coming months. CPGs are already challenged by the ongoing delays of formalized regulations. Following the 24-month delay between signing the law and publishing proposed regulations, FDA finally released two of five food safety standards for 120 days of public comment in January 2013.
The first rule requires any registered facilities of food intended for sale in the U.S. (manufacturers, processors and packers) to develop a written food safety plan that identifies hazards and outlines steps to minimize these hazards as well as monitoring procedures and methods for recording results. The plan must also map out steps that will be taken to correct any issues that do arise.
The second rule puts forth enforceable safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. While small farms (family farms with less than $250,000 annual monetary value of all commodities sold) will have one year to achieve compliance, larger farms will have 26 months. The proposed standards require farms to identify routes for microbial contamination—including water sources, animal health and hygiene, equipment, tools and buildings.
In these still early stages, many CPGs continue to question what new measures will be mandated and concerned about implementing changes that could be incorrect, un-needed and costly in the long run. However, these proposed rules can serve to guide the expectations of food processors and packagers as they look to formulate their own preventative measures. When compliance starts, they will require food safety and food defense plans to include a detailed overview of their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. New rules will make it imperative to update directories of supply chain contacts, maintenance and access procedures as well as records should be brought up to date.
To help food manufacturers prepare for full implementation of new regulations, packaging and processing suppliers can also take proactive steps to validate properly functioning machinery. It is critical to ensure equipment is designed and constructed for best sanitation practices. This includes minimizing surface areas that requires cleaning; making sure parts and assemblies are easy to access and inspect; and that cleaning and sanitizing procedures are easily repeated.
The impact of FSMA will stretch beyond U.S. suppliers to U.S. manufacturers. Food and beverage producers that export to the U.S. will also be expected to comply with new food safety regulations.
As the industry awaits the finalization of the new requirements, CPGs and suppliers can look to the Grocery Manufacturers Association website for a facilities checklist of food safety measures. Similar equipment checklists are also offered by the American Meat Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Guidelines for the Sanitary Design and Fabrication of Dairy Processing Equipment.
Packaging under the Microscope
With packaging materials increasingly being sourced from a global marketplace, a harmonious set of standards will help ensure safety. That’s where the GFSI comes in. At one point in time, Good Manufacturing Practices and the occasional audit sufficed in the sourcing of non-edible products that come in contact with foodstuffs, items used in the manufacture, containment, storage and even transportation of foods. This is no longer the case.
The GFSI, managed by The Consumer Goods Forum, a global group of CPGs, recognizes industry audit leaders whose standards and requirements meet the principles of GFSI through a benchmarking process. This includes developing a model that determines equivalency between existing food safety schemes, while providing flexibility and choice in the marketplace. Continuous improvement in food safety is mandated, controlled and updated through this process.
In early 2011, the GFSI created a Packaging Technical Group to review current best practices in relation to the manufacture of food packaging; define and develop the scope of recognition for food safety requirements within packaging manufacturing schemes, review and define the competence of auditors and duration of audits and provide technical recommendations to the GFSI board on issues relating to packaging in the food supply chain.
To date, there are two GFSI-benchmarked schemes for food product packaging—the British Retailer Consortium (BRC) and Safe Quality Food (SQF) —with the Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 awaiting acceptance. In essence, certification to any GFSI-recognized scheme ensures a company is meeting the highest standards and demonstrating a commitment to producing safe packaging products.
In October 2012, BRC received confirmation of GFSI benchmarking of the BRC/Institute of Packaging Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials. This measure represents the first packaging standard to complete the process of benchmarking by GFSI, providing a focus on packaging that complements the industry’s requirements for facility hygiene.
Soon after, the SQF Code received confirmation of GFSI benchmarking for packaging. The SQF Code is a HACCP?based food safety and quality management system that utilizes the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food and the Codex Alimentarius Commission HACCP principles and guidelines.
To meet GFSI benchmarking requirements, FSSC 22000, a certification scheme based on the food safety management standard ISO 22000-2005, adopted Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 223, which provides guidelines to implement prerequisite programs and design requirements for manufacturers dealing with the packaging of food products and beverages. PAS 223 sets out practical requirements for the design of food packaging, too. It looks at environment cleanliness, layout and workspace, as well as temporary equipment. It also gives practical requirements to ensure the right air quality and addresses compressed air and gases. Other topics include wastes, waste handling, storage and pest control. The development of this PAS was sponsored by Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere, with a steering group, consisting of leading global packaging and food manufacturing companies.
Taking a Proactive Role
What does all this mean for suppliers to the food industry? Food manufacturers are going to be required to verify to FDA that their suppliers are providing them with safe materials and ingredients. This includes packaging. No longer will a “Letter of Regulatory Compliance” suffice. Packaging suppliers must be proactive and have an understanding of the food safety risks associated with their process and operation.
Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, and California Report 49 With Hepatitis A
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/colorado-new-mexico-nevada-arizona-utah-hawaii-and-california-report-49-with-hepatitis-a/
By Bruce Clark (June 4, 2013)
The CDC reports as of June 4, 2013, 49 people ill with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of a contaminated product have been reported by seven states: Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Hawaii, and California.
Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions. This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
On June 4, 2013, Townsend Farms, Inc. of Fairview Oregon announced that it is voluntarily recalling certain lots of its frozen Organic Antioxidant Blend because it has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A virus.
Townsend Farms is recalling all product sold at Costco warehouse stores under the name Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, 3 lb. bag and UPC 0 78414 404448. The recalled codes are located on the back of the package with the words “BEST BY” followed by the code T012415 sequentially through T053115, followed by a letter.
This product was also sold at Harris Teeter stores from April 19 – May 7 under the product name Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend, 10 oz bag and UPC 0 72036 70463 4, with “BEST BY” codes of T041615E or T041615C. Recall information.
If you consumed this product in the last two weeks and have never been vaccinated, contact your health care provider to find out if you should be vaccinated. If you don’t have a health care provider (usually your doctor) contact your health department.
Contact your health care provider right away if you develop any of these symptoms:
•Yellow eyes or skin
Food hygiene high on the agenda for Dubai kitchens as Ramadan draws near
Source : http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/food-hygiene-high-on-the-agenda-for-dubai-kitchens-as-ramadan-draws-near#ixzz2Vm2icyhT
By Preeti Kannan (June 04, 2013)
More than 100 owners of traditional kitchens in Dubai have been warned against unsafe food practices during Ramadan and have been given a nine-point plan to follow
Dubai Municipality met caterers and food suppliers yesterday and asked bosses to appoint approved health supervisors, ensure training and personal hygiene of workers, properly store food and equipment and maintain a register for raw meat, among other measures.
"As Ramadan is just a call away, we understand the importance of beefing up our systems to ensure food safety," said Sultan Ali Al Taher, head of inspection at the municipality's food control department.
"This meeting comes as a part of our keenness on food safety and consumer protection."
Traditional kitchens are popular for their regional dishes and generally cater to large orders of more than 10kilograms. Often, people and charities turn to these kitchens to give food to the poor, especially for iftar.
Mr Al Taher said his department would inspect all kitchens in the emirate to make sure they were adhering to the authority's regulations. Kitchen workers have to hold occupational health cards, undergo basic training in food safety, and ensure vehicles that transport food comply.
NGA Adds Food Safety Expertise
Source : http://supermarketnews.com/retail-amp-financial/nga-adds-food-safety-expertise
By supermarketnews.com (June 03, 2013)
The National Grocers Association here said Monday it has retained Gale Prince, a food safety expert, to provide resources on food safety issues to NGA and its members.
Prince is the founder of Sage Food Safety, a consulting firm based in Cincinnati, and a strategist with Stericycle ExpertRECALL, Indianapolis, which deals with crisis management, traceability, quality assurance, regulatory compliance, food litigation defense and other issues. He is also a senior food systems analyst for the University of Minnesota's National Center for Food Protection and Defense.
According to NGA, members will receive exclusive access to Gale's expertise, including webinars on food safety topics; up to one hour of complimentary food safety consulting; and access to the association's new food safety hotline.
More news: NGA Hires Lynch for Industry Relations
"Gale's expertise will help independent grocers stay in the forefront of important issues that impact consumer safety from farm to table," said Peter J. Larkin, president and chief executive office of NGA. "Gale's strong working relationship with regulators, manufacturers and the retail community complements NGA's commitment to working collaboratively with others in the food industry on the vitally important issue of food safety."
Food safety alert given ahead of Ramadan
Source : http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/health/food-safety-alert-given-ahead-of-ramadan-1.1192376
By Mariam M. Al Serkal Senior Reporter (June 03, 2013)
The civic body has stepped up inspections of more than 100 traditional kitchens as the month of Ramadan approaches, to ensure that health and safety standards are adhered to.
Sultan Al Taher, head of food inspection at Dubai Municipality, said it had visited up to 113 traditional kitchens in Dubai, including Mandi outlets, to pursue the best practices to ensure high food safety levels.
Al Taher explained that the municipality was currently evaluating every single public kitchen to ensure whether they were following the regulations and instructions to protect consumer rights.
“As Ramadan is just a call away, we understand the importance of raising our security systems to ensure food safety, and this call for public awareness comes as part of our keenness on food safety and consumer protection,” said Al Taher.
According to Al Taher, the municipality has given basic instructions to public kitchens that should be adhered to during Ramadan.
He pointed out that public kitchens are required to appoint a trained health supervisor and that the safety of the building with regards to roofs, walls, floorings, lighting and air circulation has to be up to international standards.
“As part of our procedure to ensure that all the public kitchens are following our regulations, they have to allocate an appropriate and separate space for preparation, storage and display of food, in addition to ensuring that workers are maintaining personal hygiene, holding occupational health cards and also have basic training on food safety,” said Al Taher.
Further requirements include ensuring that all equipment used in preparation, storage and display are complying with approved standards, and to keep a register for raw meats to know where from they have come from,
“Once the food items are delivered and received, shopkeepers have to make sure that the products are kept at an appropriate temperature so that the food will not get spoilt. This also includes the temperature in transportation vehicles, which are required to comply with the municipal specifications and standards,” he added.
Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella a Rare but ‘Growing Concern’ in Canada
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/antibiotic-resistant-salmonella-rare-but-notable-in-canada/
By James Andrews (June 3, 2013)
Antibiotic resistance among species of Salmonella remains an extremely rare phenomenon in Canadian health, but it’s a “growing concern” worth monitoring, according to a new study led by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada published in the June 2013 edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The resistant strains also do not appear to be coming from food sold in Canada, but are instead brought back with Canadians who travel to Africa.
Between 2003 and 2009, Canadian health agencies collected a total of 76 samples of a Salmonella serotype known as Salmonella Kentucky from people who had fallen ill and sought medical attention. Out of those samples, 23 (or 30 percent) were resistant to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinoline antibiotic and the fifth most commonly prescribed antibiotic for humans in the United States.
Those 23 Salmonella Kentucky isolates, as it turned out, made up 66 percent of the 35 ciprofloxacin-resistant strains of Salmonella analyzed during that time period. Worth noting, however, is that health labs performed susceptibility testing on 21,426 nontyphoidal Salmonella isolates during the six-year period, meaning ciprofloxacin resistance was present in 0.16 percent of samples.
On a positive note, no ciprofloxacin-resistant strains have been found in Canadian retail meat samples, and no cases of ciprofloxacin-resistant Salmonella infections have yet been reported in the U.S.
Ciprofloxacin resistance in Salmonella does not touch on the issue of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed, either, as veterinary fluoroquinolines are only legally prescribed to treat respiratory infections in cattle and swine. The study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Mulvey, told Food Safety News that his agency has seen no evidence that ciprofloxacins are being used for non-therapeutic purposes in agriculture animals.
So, where are these resistant cases coming from?
Of the 23 cases of resistant Salmonella infection monitored, researchers were able to track down the travel histories of 11 patients. Each patient, as it turned out, had traveled to an African country within a week of developing symptoms.
Similar ciprofloxacin-resistant cases have cropped up across Europe after travel to countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Libya.
The Canadian study did not look into the use of ciprofloxacins in African agriculture.
Many of the ciprofloxacin-resistant strains were also resistant to other classes of antibiotics, further complicating treatment options, Mulvey said.
Though the issue of ciprofloxacin-resistant Salmonella appears to be more of an African problem for the time being, Canada has had experience with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella getting into food in the past.
In 2003, Quebec began seeing a resistance to cephalosporin develop in strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in humans linked to poultry and retail chicken meat. The Quebec broiler industry decided to voluntarily cease use of cephalosporins on chickens in 2005, which led to a “dramatic decrease” in rates of resistance, the study said.
“Once bacteria become resistant, the drugs used to cure the bacterial infection no longer work or are less effective,” Mulvey said. “In addition, the lack of new antibiotics in development is of serious concern.”
Townsend Farms Hepatitis Outbreak Puts 9 in Hospital
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/townsend-farms-hepatitis-outbreak-puts-9-in-hospital/
By Carla Gillespie (June 03,2013)
Townsend Farms brand frozen mixed berries sold at Costco are associated with an outbreak of hepatitis A that has sickened 32 people in six states and put nine people in the hospital. About 1 of every 5 people with hepatitis A requires hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hepatitis A is a contagious viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. Symptoms, which can take two to seven weeks after exposure to develop, include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. Sometimes, a person who is infected may have no symptoms at all. Others may have mild illness lasting a couple of weeks and some may have severe illness lasting several months.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Normally, the virus runs its course and the liver heals with no lasting damage. But, in rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure which requires hospitalization and, sometimes, a liver transplant. The loss of liver function usually occurs suddenly.
There is a vaccination for hepatitis A which is effective in preventing illness if taken within the first two weeks of exposure. Anyone who has eaten the berries associated with this recall should see a health care provider about getting vaccinated.
Although an official recall of the berries has not been issued, consumers should not eat the berries associated with this outbreak. The Townsend Farms brand Antioxidant Blend which contain tart cherries, pomegranate seeds (also called arils), blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, were sold at Costco, and possibly other stores.
Processing Aids Used to Deliver Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/processing-aids-used-to-deliver-food-safety/
By Dan Flynn (June 3, 2013)
When an expert like James Marsden, Distinguished Regents Professor of Food Science at Kansas State University, starts talking about processing aids, it’s as if a menu of choices pops up in his head. The professor is best known for his work on reducing Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli in beef, so he’s very familiar with the intervention methods that achieve this.
But in going down the list of processing aids that might be used to eliminate E. coli before it can reach consumers, it’s clear there are some choices that would be wiser for producers than others.
“While the very definition of a processing aid is a substance used in food production that are not present in any concerning amount in the end product, they are not always without controversy. Two that come to mind are the industrial-like ammonia process used by Beef Products Inc. to make its lean finely textured beef that the public came to know as ‘pink slime’ and the transglutaminase powder known as ‘meat glue.’”
The USDA has a zero-tolerance policy for seven strains of E. coli.
“It’s very hard to achieve that,” says Marsden.
But one thing that helps producers in this effort is processing aids.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture approve processing aids for foods ranging from meat and poultry to other food products. They are not supposed to change the appearance or taste of the product in any way and, more importantly, they cannot negatively impact food safety or public health.
Anything added to food, including processing agents, is regulated as a food additive. That means the processing agent must be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, in order to be approved for use in foods. Food additives and processing agents are either on the GRAS list because of their history of safety, or because companies who use them have gone through scientific processes to prove their safety.
Processing aids are not considered ingredients, however, and therefore are not required to be listed on ingredient lists on nutrition labels.
Both agencies recognize three types of processing aids: those that are used and removed, those that are converted into components that naturally occur at insignificant levels without changing the finished product, and some that remain in food at low levels without any technical or functional effect.
Not all processing aids are as complicated as BPI’s ammonia process or transglutaminase. Take hot water and steam, for example. Thermal processing of beef carcasses using hot water and/or steam is a processing aid that’s been highly effective in reducing E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens, according to Janet Riley at the American Meat Institute. Hot water and steam leave no residues and have no lasting effect on the product.
Marsden says the use of high-pressure washes in ready-to-eat lunchmeats and hot dogs have virtually eliminated Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes the infection listeriosis, in these products. As recently as the late 1980s, Listeria contamination seemed to some to be an insolvable problem for the ready-to-eat products.
Killing antimicrobials is just one of the functions processing aids play during the food production process. Others include removing impurities, preventing crystallization, controlling pH levels, controlling bacteria in chill water, scalding agents that remove feathers, and others.
Not every solution can be applied to every product, however. For example, restrictions on Kosher and Halal meats dictate that thermal processes cannot be used. And processing aids that are effective on one pathogen strain might not work on another. That’s something Marsden is dealing with now, as there are six strains of E. coli that have recently been banned from beef, in addition to E. coli O157:H7, which has been banned since 1993.
Only insignificant amounts at safe levels should remain in the food once a processing agent is used, but Marsden says food companies must be aware of how the consumers view chemicals.
Some the public accept without a second thought, such as using lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid, which have not raised consumer concern.
Fruit and vegetable washes, which are often comprised of organic acids or chlorine, have also raised little concern. The addition of ammonia to lean finely textured beef , on the other hand, became so controversial that almost all beef companies stopped using product processed this way when it gained national attention in the spring of 2012. Transglutaminase powder, or ‘meat glue,’ as mentioned above, has also raised consumer concern over the past couple years.
Outbreak of Rare Strain of Hepatitis A Spreads to Hawaii
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/outbreak-of-rare-strain-of-hepatitis-a-spreads-to-hawaii/
By Dan Flynn (June 3, 2013)
Another Western state was touched by the outbreak of a rare strain of hepatitis A, adding two more individuals to the list of those sickened nationwide. Hawaii is the sixth state to be added to the growing outbreak.
State health officials in Hawaii say two adults, one from the island of Oahu and the other from Kauai, are among those sickened with the liver disease. Like at least another 30 victims on the mainland, the Hawaii residents are believed to have consumed a frozen organic berry mix purchased at local Costco outlets.
The national warehouse outlet based in Seattle has removed the product from its shelves, and contacted it members who purchased the mixed berry product. But the weekend passed without any official recall by manufacturer of the suspect product, Townsend Farms, based in Oregon.
Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend contains berries from multiple locations (Argentina, Chile and Turkey) and a pomegranate seed mix from Egypt, according to health officials.
On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said the outbreak strain (genotype 1B,) usually isn’t seen in the Western Hemisphere, but is more common to the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded its ongoing investigation over the weekend to include Hawaii in addition to the original five sticker states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Anyone who ate the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend frozen berries in the last 14 days should contact their personal physician or public health department about getting a vaccine or immune globulin injections, which are administered prophylactically.
Individuals requiring those treatments can become part of a class action lawsuit being filed against Townsend Farms today by the national food borne illness law firm of Marler Clark.
“Consumers of organic frozen berries should not have to worry about their safety,” said William Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs. Marler is also publisher of Food Safety News.
Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Berries Sold at Costco
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/06/hepatitis-a-outbreak-linked-to-frozen-berries-sol.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (June 3, 2013)
ATLANTA—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to Townsend Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend of frozen fruit sold at Costco. Nine people have been hospitalized.
As of June 3, 2013, 34 people have been confirmed ill in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico with acute hepatitis A that may be linked with consumption of the contaminated fruit. Nineteen of 25 ill people interviewed reported eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds.
Costco is notifying its members who purchased this product since late February 2013, and has removed this product from its shelves. Preliminary laboratory studies of specimens from two cases suggest the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This strain is rarely seen in the Americas, but circulates in the North Africa and Middle East regions. This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak in Europe linked to frozen berries and another 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
According to the label, The Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend frozen berry mix associated with illness contained pomegranate seeds and other produce from the U.S., Argentina, Chile and Turkey.
Hepatitis A is a human disease and usually occurs when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate hand hygiene. However, food contaminated with HAV, as is suspected in this outbreak, can cause outbreaks of disease among persons who eat or handle food.
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