Townsend Farms-Costco Hepatitis A Outbreak Updated
Again by CDC; 54 Hospitalized
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/townsend-farms-costco-hepatitis-a-outbreak-updated-again-by-cdc-54-hospitalized/
By Linda Larsen(June 19, 2013)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated the Townsend
Farms-Costco Hepatitis A outbreak again today. There are still 118
cases in eight states, but the number of people hospitalized has increased.
Fifty-four people have now been hospitalized for acute Hepatitis in
this outbreak. Sixty-eight ill people are women. No deaths have been
Eighty percent of the ill persons interviewed ate the recalled Townsend
Farms Organic Anti-Oxidant Blend frozen berry and pomegranate mix
before becoming ill. All of the ill persons bought the product at
Costco. It was sold under the Harris Teeter brand name, but no ill
persons bought the product at Harris Teeter.
The case count maps and epidemiological curves still have inaccurate
numbers. But we know that the patients that are sick live in these
states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico,
Utah, and Washington. The product was distributed in Arizona, Alaska,
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico,
Oregon, Utah, and Washington state.
If you purchased this product, contact your physician to see if you
can get a Hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccine. The shots only work
if given within 14 days of exposure. Please check your home freezer
to see if you have the product. If you do, discard it, or double bag
it and put it back in the freezer. Wash your hands thoroughly after
handling the product; you can contract Hepatitis A by touching the
berries and then touching your mouth or face.
HACCP Coordinator – Buffalo, NY
06/21. Food Safety Specialist – Akron, OH
06/21. Food Safety – Restaurant Audit – San Jose, CA
06/19. Associate Principal Scientist Food Safety – Fremont,
06/19. QA Coordinator, Corporate – Hilmar, CA
06/19. Produce Food Safety Coordinator - Lakeland, FL
06/18. Quality Assurance Manager - New Berlin, NY
06/18. Qual Mgmt Specialist - Food Safety – Fresno, CA
06/18. Food Safety/Quality Coordinator – Los Angeles, CA
06/17. Extension Associate/ Specialist – Baton Rouge, LA
06/17. Food Safety Specialist R&D – Hastings, MN
06/17. Quality & Food Safety Technologist - Oklahoma
06/14. QA Manager – Chaska, MN
06/14. QC Technician – Aurora, IL
06/14. Senior Food Safety Specialist – Salinas, CA
06/12. HACCP Coordinator – Springdale, AR
06/12. HACCP Coordinator – Chandler, MN
06/12. Food Safety Specialist - Alexandria, KY
The Reality of a Hepatitis A Outbreak
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/the-reality-of-a-hepatitis-a-outbreak/
By Bill Marler (June 19, 2013)
I received this email a few moments ago from one of the 62 ill people
who have hired me to represent them in this Hepatitis A outbreak:
Thank you for asking and for your concern for Karen.
Karen is a little forlorn today, as she no longer has a position.
Her employer told her that they could only hold her position for one
or two weeks after she left the hospital. She has been gone from work
for over a month now. It is a small natural health practice and they
need to have a lead therapist and person to draw blood (her position).
She felt bad but she did not want to make the clients of the clinic
not have the services and help they need. She told me she knows she
is not ready to go back to work yet and it was unfair to both the
clinic and the clients.
The CDC reports that as of June 18, 2013, there are acute hepatitis
A illnesses in 118 people in eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado,
Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington. Based on completed
epidemiologic investigations of 116 cases:
•68 (59%) ill people are women
•Ages range from 2 – 87 years
•Illness onset dates range from 3/16/2013 – 6/11/2013
•54 (47%) ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have
Investigation by state and local health departments, FDA, and CDC
is ongoing. Costco notified its members who purchased this product
since late February 2013, and has removed the “Townsend Farms
Organic Antioxidant Blend” frozen berry and pomegranate mix
from its shelves. The product was distributed in 12 states (AZ, AK,
CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, and WA); however, no cases from
Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, or Montana have been linked to the outbreak
at this time.
These numbers will rise.
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 five states suggest
the outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is genotype 1B. This
strain is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa
and the Middle East. 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. However, there is no evidence at this
time that these outbreaks are related to the current U.S. outbreak.
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
E. coli Lawsuit Filed Against Lombard Restaurant
Connected to E. coli Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/e-coli-lawsuit-filed-against-lombard-restaurant-connected-to-e-coli-outbreak/
By Suzanne Schreck (June 19, 2013)
CHICAGO, IL—Seattle-based Marler Clark, the nation’s leading
law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, filed a lawsuit
today against Los Burritos Mexicanos. The lawsuit was filed
on behalf of DuPage County, Illinois resident Elizabeth Bernardi,
who alleges she fell ill with an E. coli O157:H7 infection after eating
food from the restaurant. Also representing Ms. Bernardi in
the case is attorney Gary Newland the Chicago-area law firm Newland
According to a complaint filed in DuPage County Circuit Court, Elizabeth
Bernardi ate food from the Los Burritos Mexicanos restaurant on June
6, 2013 and fell ill with a gastrointestinal illness on June 9.
Ms. Bernardi alleges that on June 11 she sought medical treatment
for bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal cramps and vomiting. Despite
returning home from the doctor’s office, the plaintiff states
that she awoke in great pain and distress and was rushed to the emergency
department at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Illinois the
morning of June 12. Ms. Bernardi’s attorneys claim that
she was hospitalized for 5 days due to infection with E. coli O157:H7
and that she continues to receive medical care as a result of her
The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) announced Monday that it
was investigating several reports of illness possibly associated with
food consumption from the Lombard, Illinois Los Burritos Mexicanos
restaurant location. The Chicago Tribune reported this week
that 6 of 9 confirmed E. coli cases associated with the outbreak had
been hospitalized, but that all 6 had been released.
“E. coli O157:H7 illnesses have fallen in the last decade, however,
this outbreak shows what this pathogen can do to even healthy people,”
said Marler Clark managing partner, Bill Marler.
BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims of E.
coli and other foodborne illnesses in claims against restaurants and
food manufacturers across the nation. The lawyers have recovered
over $600 million for victims of foodborne illnesses such as E. coli,
Salmonella, hepatitis A and Listeria.
1. See: DuPage County Health Department Investigates Cause of
Cluster of Gastrointestinal Illnesses in DuPage County, DuPage County
Health Department Press Release, June 17.
Researchers Pinpoint Factors Influencing Spinach
E. coli Contamination
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/researchers-pinpoint-factors-influencing-spinach-e-coli-contamination/
By Linda Larsen(June 23, 2013)
A new research report about the changes of E. coli contamination on
spinach has been published in the July 2013 issue of Applied and Environmental
Microbiology. Scientists found that contamination is “strongly
influenced” by the time elapsed since the last irrigation, workers’
personal hygiene and what the field was used for before the spinach
In February 2013, Taylor Farms spinach was recalled for E. coli contamination,
and late last year, 33 people were sickened in a multistate outbreak
of E. coli O157:H7 linked to organic spinach. Another E. coli outbreak
that sickened 200 people happened in 2006.
Researchers studied spinach farms up to four times per growing season
over a period of two years in this study. They pulled 955 spinach
samples from 12 farms in Colorado and Texas. They found that 6.6%
of spinach samples were positive for genetic E. coli. The most significant
risk factors for contamination were proximity of a poultry farm, the
use of pond water for irrigation, a greater than 66-day period since
the planting of spinach, farming on fields that were previously used
for grazing, the production of hay before spinach planting, and farm
location in the southwestern United States.
They also found that contamination was significantly reduced if the
plants were harvested more than five days after the last irrigation,
and when workers were trained in food safety rules, such as hand-washing
stations and the use of portable toilets. The scientists believe that
controlling these factors could be cost-effective strategies to control
Wellington Storm update ; including food safety
Source : http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1306/S00573/wellington-storm-update-including-food-safety-advice.htm
By scoop.co.nz (June 23, 2013)
Regional Public Health is warning people in the region who have been
without power since Thursday night’s storm to be careful with
food that has been in freezers but may have started defrosting.
The food safety advice below will help keep people safe:
· Any food still
frozen with ice crystals evident throughout the food, and with packaging
that has not been damaged or opened, can be safely refrozen.
· Defrosted food
cannot be refrozen.
· Foods that have
been defrosted can still be used if they have just recently defrosted
and can be kept cold, ie if the fridge is working again. Use this
food in the next 1 to 2 days.
· Discard any food
that smells bad, has a different colour, looks affected or has a slimy
Wellington Electricity reports that it is putting in a big push to
restore power to as many customers as possible today. The company
is working with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office
to identify schools still without supply and prioritise restoration.
In the meantime:
Stay well away from remaining fallen powerlines. Always assume they
are live and dangerous. This includes keeping clear of trees and anything
which is in contact with fallen powerlines. Do not touch them.
If you still don’t have power, contact Wellington Electricity
at 0800 248 148.
Check on your neighbours, particularly the elderly, if you think there
may be any danger or if they don’t have heating.
Inter Island Line and Bluebridge both report normal services have
Services are getting back to normal across the region. Wairarapa and
Hutt services have buses running from Petone to Wellington because
work is still underway repairing the harbour wall. This work is not
expected to be completed till Tuesday.
All highways are open however Paekakariki Hill Road is still closed
and no indication at this stage when it will reopen.
In Wellington all roads are passable, except Makara Village to Makara
Beach Road, which will be closed for at least the next 3 days. Access
to Makara Beach is via Takarau Gorge Rd from Ohariu Valley and Johnsonville.
Middleton Road between Churton Park and Tawa has been reopened this
afternoon after trees have been removed.
All normal services have resumed.
Food safety tips for the summer season
Source : http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20130623-LIFE-306230327
By seacoastonline.com(June 23, 2013)
CONCORD — During this busy summer season of trips to the beach,
vacations, and cookouts, the Department of Health and Human Services'
Food Protection Section wants to remind everyone to follow some important
food safety practices to avoid food-borne illnesses such as salmonella,
shigella, E. coli, and campylobacter.
There are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease, 325,000
hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year in the United States.
"Food is an important part of vacation and holiday gatherings
but it needs to be handled safely, especially during the warmer weather,"
said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at DHHS. "The
basic rule is keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. It sounds like
common sense, but often we get busy and forget or think someone else
is taking care of something. It is everyone's responsibility to be
A DHHS video on summer grilling food safety is available on YouTube
at http://bit.ly/11cMf2O. There are some simple precautions everyone
should always take to reduce the possibility of becoming sick when
preparing food, which include:
Separate: Use a separate cutting board for cooked foods and raw foods
(especially meat) and always wash them after use. Avoid cross contamination.
Wash any utensil after preparing one food item before going on to
the next item.
Clean: Always wash hands before touching any food. Wash hands and
surfaces often during food preparation and afterward.
Cook: Make sure all meats are thoroughly cooked by using a meat thermometer:
turkey, stuffing, and casseroles to 165 F; veal, beef, and lamb roasts
to 145 F; and ham, pork, ground beef, and egg dishes to 160 F. When
reheating, leftovers should be thoroughly heated to 165 F.
Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours — one
hour if it is a hot day over 90 F. The refrigerator should be maintained
at 40 F or lower and the freezer should be at zero or lower. Keep
hot foods hot, 140 F or hotter, and cold foods cold, 40 F or below.
Never defrost food at room temperature. Thaw food in the refrigerator,
in a cold-water bath, or in the microwave. When using a microwave,
meat must be cooked immediately after. Marinate foods in the refrigerator.
Report: Report suspected food-borne illnesses to DHHS by calling (603)
271-4496. Often calls from concerned residents are how outbreaks are
first detected. If a public health official calls you to talk about
an outbreak, your cooperation is important, even if you are not ill.
A Few Days in Rochester – E. coli and
Listeria on the Menu; then to London
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/a-few-days-in-rochester-e-coli-and-listeria-on-the-menu-then-to-london/
By Bill Marler (June 23, 2013)
Before I head over to London to speak at the Royal Society for Public
Health, I am stopping over in Rochester, New York for a court ordered
mediation on Monday regarding last years E. coli O157:H7 outbreak
linked to another leafy green outbreak.
A total of 33 ill persons infected with the outbreak strain of STEC
O157:H7 were reported from five states. The number of ill people identified
in each state with the outbreak strain was as follows: Connecticut
(2), Massachusetts (3), New York (26), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia
46% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic
uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were
Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public
health and regulatory agencies linked this outbreak to pre-packaged
leafy greens produced by State Garden of Chelsea, Massachusetts.
Ironically, the following morning I am the keynote speaker at the
Center for Produce Safety 4th annual Produce Research Symposium.
From the agenda:
Food safety advocate William “Bill” Marler, Marler Clark,
L.L.P., P.S. will open the Center for Produce Safety 4th annual Produce
Research Symposium on Tuesday, June 25, with a keynote presentation
on “The evolving legal and financial realities of produce food
safety: what it means for you.” Marler, the leading plaintiff’s
attorney in food safety, will describe the evolving legal and financial
implications when foodborne illness outbreaks occur. Mr. Marler will
share his experiences and provide the human and business context for
the importance of developing and implementing risk and science-based
food safety programs. Stephen Patricio, CPS chair and president of
Westside Produce, stated, “Bill Marler will provide perspective
to the difficult issues that surround produce food safety. We are
honored Bill will be a part of the symposium.”
After the speech, I head to New York City to take an overnight flight
to London where I land a few hours before my talk at the Royal Society
for Public Health. From the agenda:
We are very pleased to announce that Bill Marler will be joining us
for this event. Bill is the founder and Managing Partner, Marler Clark
LLP PS, the major food poisoning lawyers in the USA who have represented
thousands of clients in litigation against restaurants and companies
whose food was identified as the source of illness. This includes
the 2011 Listeria outbreak in melons where 142 were hospitalized and
over 30 deaths were reported.
I will probably sleep somewhere.
Senators urge inclusion of food safety in Smithfield
Source : http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/20/us-smithfield-shuanghui-senators-idUSBRE95J0O220130620
By Doug Palmer (Jun 20, 2013)
A bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators urged the Obama administration
on Thursday to consider whether the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods
Inc to Chinese meat company Shuanghui International posed any threat
to U.S. food safety or food security that could justify blocking the
"We believe that our food supply is critical infrastructure that
should be included in any reasonable person's definition of national
security," the senators said in a letter to Treasury Secretary
Jack Lew, whose department chairs the interagency panel that reviews
foreign investment for national security threats.
Smithfield, based in Smithfield, Virginia, is the world's largest
producer and processor of pork. Shuanghui is planning to acquire it
for $4.7 billion in what would be the biggest takeover of a U.S. company
by a Chinese firm.
"We strongly encourage you to include the Department of Agriculture
and the Food and Drug Administration in any CFIUS (Committee on Foreign
Investment in the United States) review of this transaction,"
the senators said.
The group included 15 of the 20 members of the Senate Agriculture
Committee, including the Democratic chairman, Senator Debbie Stabenow
of Michigan, and the panel's top Republican, Senator Thad Cochran
They said the Agriculture Committee had not taken a formal position
on the proposed sale, but planned to "further examine how this
transaction is reviewed and how these transactions will be reviewed
in the future," given the potential for other foreign purchases
of U.S. food assets.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat,
were among the five Agriculture Committee members who did not sign
The CFIUS review process does not typically include either the USDA
or FDA, although the statute allows the president to bring in additional
agencies on a case-by-case basis.
In addition to Treasury, other CFIUS members include the Departments
of Justice, Homeland, Security, Commerce, Defense, State and Energy
as well as the offices of the U.S. Trade Representative and Science
and Technology Policy.
The senators urged Lew to make the USDA one of the lead agencies in
the Smithfield review and to consider "the broader issues of
food security, food safety and biosecurity" posed by the proposed
They also suggested the U.S. government should require certain safeguards,
if the deal was approved, to ensure Shuanghui complied with U.S. food
safety and biosecurity standards.
RISING 'TO OUR STANDARDS'
U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman Holly Shulman declined to comment
on the senators' letter, citing confidentiality requirements of CFIUS
"By law, information filed with CFIUS may not be disclosed by
CFIUS to the public. Accordingly, the Department does not comment
on information relating to specific CFIUS cases, including whether
or not certain parties have filed notices for review," Shulman
Nancy McLernon, president of the Organization for International Investment,
which represents foreign companies that invest in the United States,
said she believed the Smithfield purchase would be approved and there
was already no question that Shuanghui would have to abide by U.S.
"When foreign companies invest here, it's not a race to the bottom.
It's about having them rise to our standards, because we have laws
and regulations that they have to abide by. That's the price of entry
into our market," McLernon said.
Treasury should respond quickly to the senators' letter so "the
concerns don't spiral out any further," McLernon added.
CFIUS could sign off on the deal by mid-July if the companies satisfactorily
answer all its questions in an initial 30-day review. But some analysts
expect the investigation will go into a second phase, which could
take up to 45 additional days.
House votes to delay food safety rules
Source : http://www.wbtv.com/story/22625757/rural-lawmakers-push-for-farm-bill-votes-in-house
By MARY CLARE JALONICK (Jun 20, 2013)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House voted late Wednesday to delay sweeping
food safety rules that would require farmers and food companies to
be more vigilant about guarding against contamination.
Lawmakers adopted an amendment by voice vote to a wide-ranging farm
bill just before midnight that would delay the rules signed into law
in 2011 until the Food and Drug Administration conducts a study on
their economic impacts.
The proposed rules would require farmers to take new precautions against
contamination, to include making sure workers' hands are washed, irrigation
water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields, among other measures.
The amendment was offered by Republican Rep. Dan Benishek of Michigan,
who said the regulations would be burdensome to farmers in his district.
Earlier in the day, the House voted to cut food stamps by $2 billion
a year as part of the farm measure.
The chamber rejected, 234-188, a Democratic amendment to the 5-year,
half-trillion-dollar farm legislation that would have maintained current
spending on food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program, or SNAP. The overall bill cuts the $80 billion-a-year program
by about 3% and makes it harder for some people to qualify.
The food stamp cuts have complicated passage of the bill and its farm-state
supporters were working to secure votes Wednesday. Many conservatives
have said the food stamp cuts do not go far enough since the program
has doubled in cost in the last five years and now feeds 1 in 7 Americans.
Liberals have argued against any reductions, contending the House
plan could take as many as 2 million needy recipients off the rolls.
The White House has threatened a veto over the food stamp cuts.
The amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and other Democrats would
have eliminated the SNAP cuts and taken the money from farm subsidies
"It's too big, it's too harsh and it's going to hurt so many
people," McGovern said of the food aid cuts.
Other amendments chipped away at the program. The House adopted by
voice vote an amendment to require drug tests for SNAP recipients,
angering Democrats, who said the tests would be demeaning to people
who apply for the food aid. Lawmakers also adopted by voice vote an
amendment that would end a 2004 U.S.-Mexico agreement to educate Mexican-Americans
about food stamps. More amendments are expected to try and scale back
Also complicating passage is growing Republican opposition to farm
subsidies, some of which are expanded under the bill. Republicans
have proposed amendments that would cut back dairy and sugar supports
that could turn lawmakers from certain regions of the country against
the bill if they were to succeed.
The House is scheduled to continue voting on 103 amendments to the
bill Thursday, with a vote on passage possibly next week. As of Wednesday,
it was unclear if Republicans had enough votes.
In an effort to push the legislation through, House Speaker John Boehner,
R-Ohio, said last week that he would vote for it, while making it
clear that he did not really like it. He said he wants to get the
bill to House and Senate negotiators for a potential deal and that
passing the bill was better than doing nothing.
The legislation would cut around $4 billion a year in overall spending
on farm and nutrition programs. The Senate passed its version of the
farm bill last week, with about $2.4 billion a year in overall cuts
and a $400 million annual decrease in the SNAP program - about a fifth
of the amount of the House food stamp cuts.
Democratic leaders have said they will wait to see how the House votes
on the many amendments, but have so far signaled opposition to the
measure. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California argued against
the food stamp cuts on the floor Wednesday and was a "likely
no" on the bill, according to an aide. No. 2 House Democrat Steny
Hoyer of Maryland called the food stamp cuts "irresponsible."
The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Frank Lucas,
R-Okla., told colleagues that a robust farm policy was necessary to
avoid farm crises like those in the 1930s and 1980s.
"I will work with all of you to improve this draft," he
said Tuesday. "I ask you to work with me."
The legislation would achieve some of the food stamp cuts by partially
eliminating what is called categorical eligibility, or giving people
automatic food stamp benefits when they sign up for certain other
programs. The bill would end a practice in some states of giving low-income
people as little as $1 a year in home heating assistance, even when
they don't have heating bills, in order to make them eligible for
increased food stamp benefits.
Lucas said the cuts would still allow people who qualify to apply
for food stamps, they just wouldn't automatically get them.
The Oklahoma Republican has called the overall legislation the "most
reform-minded bill in decades" because it would make needed cuts
to food stamps and eliminate $5 billion a year in direct payments,
subsidies that are paid to farmers whether they grow or not. The bill
would expand crop insurance and makes it easier for rice and peanut
farmers to collect subsidies.
The bill also sets policy for international food aid abroad, which
is currently shipped from U.S. farms. The House rejected an amendment
to shift around half of international food aid money to more flexible
accounts that allow for cash purchases abroad.
The Obama administration has proposed shifting the way the food aid
is distributed, saying it would be more efficient to make purchases
closer to conflict areas.
Organic Hepatitis A Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/organic-hepatitis-a-outbreak/
By Mischa Popoff (June 20, 2013)
Today’s organic consumer is well informed. They have made the
connection between quality of life and their own personal responsibility
as for how it’s going to play out for them. They understand
the risks – the effects of hormones, GMOs, antibiotic, and pesticides
– and that’s why they are buying organic.
– Christine Bushway, Executive Director of the Organic Trade
Naturally Savvy, August 2012
How safe are organic foods, especially when compared to conventionally
grown varieties? Not as safe as many assume.
Three weeks ago, a recall was announced for certified-organic berries
sold at Costco. According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least
118 people in 8 states have now contracted hepatitis A infection linked
to Townsend Farms frozen berries bought at the box store retailer.
Hepatitis A infection is a debilitating condition that can last for
weeks or months, and even be deadly. The specific item in the crosshairs—Organic
Antioxidant Blend Frozen Berry and Pomegranate Mix—was apparently
purchased in April.
The CDC says Costco removed the item from its shelves and Townsend
Farms voluntarily recalled the item. But what about those who certify
organic food? What’s their response?
Rather than test organic crops in the field for lethal pathogens resulting
from improperly composted manure, authorities in the United States
and Canada say they will continue to rely on paperwork to prove the
safety of these niche products.
And organic activists, like Christine Bushway, quoted at the top of
this article, are perfectly fine with this, not stopping to consider
that it’s actually untested certified-organic foods, and not
thoroughly tested genetically-modified (GM) varieties, that pose an
everyday potential threat to the public.
Should you worry?
You heard right. Certified organic crops are not tested. They’re
not tested to ensure that prohibited substances like synthetic pesticides
are avoided; nor to ensure that feces are kept out of the organic
food chain. The system is based on good-faith compliance (record-keeping
and record-checking) and a hope that nothing untoward happens. And
it’s this complete lack of scientific rigor which has led to
the current Townsend fiasco.
Did you assume, like most people do, that the term “certified”
meant organic crops were being tested? After all, that is what that
term means when light bulbs are certified to be 100 Watts or motor
oil is certified to be 10W30. But that’s not what it means in
the organic industry.
In response to this current scandal, supporters of the status quo
in the American organic industry are attempting to put as much distance
as they can between organic certification and food safety, as if to
imply that these are two totally separate considerations.
“We don’t see that organic standards necessarily overlap
with food safety standards,” said organic program manager Brenda
Book with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). “One
thing organic-certification should not be confused with… is
a food safety standard.”
Book sits in a chair that was once occupied by none other than Miles
V. McEvoy, the current Deputy Administrator of the USDA’s National
Organic Program (NOP). Back when he held Book’s position with
the WSDA, McEvoy was, to his credit, one of the few people in America
doing any organic field testing (1). And he brought this commitment
to science with him when he moved to the USDA in Washington DC in
2008. He decided to try something unprecedented at the national level:
to begin unannounced field testing to ensure prohibited substances
and excluded methods were not being used on organic farms, as per
USDA NOP §205.670. It was something the Consumers Union (the
policy division of Consumer Reports) had called for more than a decade
Sadly, as with many good ideas brought to Capitol Hill, it took an
inordinately long time for McEvoy to get others to act on his promise.
The final program was eventually watered down to include only a small
fraction (5 percent) of the more than $33-billion-worth of organic
crops the USDA certifies every year, with little and likely no testing
of foreign organic crops, like the ones implicated in the current
hepatitis A outbreak scandal and which provide the majority of the
organic food the USDA certifies for sale in America every year.
And yet, in response to this organic hepatitis outbreak, apologists
like Book still maintain that “organic certifiers are concerned
with the prohibited materials side of contamination over the microbial
variety,” as if to imply that McEvoy’s efforts to make
organic certification more scientific apply only if someone cheats
by using prohibited pesticides. Certainly consumers expect the USDA
to clamp down on prohibited use of pesticides when they pay hefty
premiums for organic food. But shouldn’t they also expect their
organic food to be scientifically verified to be fecal-pathogen free?
The irony is palpable. Organic activists, registered with the Internal
Revenue Service as non-governmental organizations or foundations,
spend millions of tax-free dollars on anti-GM propaganda and ballot
initiatives for questionable labeling laws even though ”over
25 years of research has failed to find any harm from GM technology.”
Even the United Nations World Health Organization has declare that
GM crops and food are perfectly safe. And yet, these very same anti-GM
organic activists fail to see the immediate and very real threat right
before them posed by untested “organic” food, which could
be contaminated with natural bacteria. They want all GM crops to be
tested according to a misinterpretation of the “precautionary
principle,” but are not willing to test organic crops.
The buck stops here
The issue boils down to whether or not pathogenic microbes –
which can give rise to diseases like hepatitis, E. coli and listeriosis
(to name but a few) – qualify as prohibited materials in organic
production. People like Book seem to be determining that this is not
their responsibility. Let’s look at the section of the USDA
NOP where proper manure management is outlined.
Section §205.203 is where we’ll find the USDA’s “Soil
fertility and crop nutrient management practice standard.” Subsection
(c) stipulates that “The producer must manage plant and animal
materials…in a manner that does not contribute to contamination
of crops [or] soil.” Subsection (c) (1) says manure must be
composted (emphasis added). And finally there are subsections (c)
(2) (ii) and (iii), where proper composting protocols (temperature
and duration) are outlined in detail. Clearly, any failure to comply
with §205.203 means an excluded method is being used, which could
quite easily result in a prohibited substance – i.e. feces –
making its way into the organic food chain.
Pretty straight forward. Right? But not according to most in charge
of this multibillion dollar business. Why does the failure to keep
such prohibited materials as raw manure out of an organic crop through
improper composting not qualify as an excluded method in organic production?
As a former organic farmer and USDA contract inspector, I believe
that USDA organic certification is, and always has been, a food safety
standard. It’s just that no one has ever enforced §205.203
through unannounced inspections and field testing as the USDA NOP
requires. Not surprising given that everyone involved in the organic
industry has been busy attacking GM crops, along with all other forms
of science-based advancement in agriculture, instead of working to
improve upon how organic food is kept genuine and safe.The powers-that-be
in the organic industry have had the proverbial blinders on for the
last twenty odd years, never missing an opportunity to scare consumers
with unproven theories about the dangers of modern agriculture, all
the while failing to recognize organic’s shortcomings.
Anyone can see that testing is in order here, and that any food that
fails that test should not be certified as organic. I’ve been
saying this since I became an organic inspector in 1998, and I have
a standing offer to debate this issue anywhere, any time with anyone
from the organic industry. But, sadly, those opposed to across-the-board
organic field testing have chosen instead to continue the full-frontal
assault against science and technology, and to malign anyone who believes
organics should be modernized.
Organic activists believe it’s perfectly acceptable to make
use of the very latest in science and technology when it comes to
all other aspects of their lives, whether it’s communications
(smart phones and the internet), transportation (hybrid automobiles
and high-speed trains), or energy production (solar panels and wind
mills). But food production is the exception for some strange reason,
and they actually believe farming needs to go backwards in order to
move forwards. And the result, tragically, is outbreaks like this
Is the worst behind us on this outbreak?
A remarkably similar case occurred in Germany three years ago when
44 people died and over 3,700 fell ill after eating E. coli-contaminated
certified-organic bean sprouts. Hundreds of the survivors will require
kidney dialysis for the rest of their lives. The source of that contamination
was never definitively determined, although a nearby cattle operation
was suspected of contaminating the water used to sprout the organic
beans. This raises the question: What measures were being taken to
ensure the water used in this organic sprouting operation was safe?
Was there any testing?
Food scares can often drag on for weeks, even months, and are rarely
solved satisfactorily. All consumers can hope for is that authorities
learn from such disasters so that they might be prevented in the future.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
The incubation period for hepatitis A is between two and six weeks,
and the berries were a frozen product, meaning some people may still
have them in their freezers. This means this outbreak caused by certified-organic
berries is likely to continue for some time. Many more cases could
very well result, and lawsuits are already being filed. And yet, authorities
remain silent on the most obvious preventive solution: start testing
organic crops for fecal contamination.
Even the lawyers representing the victims in this still-unfolding
tragedy appear oblivious to the broader implications and obvious possible
solution: organic field testing. Instead they are electing to sue
small companies like Townsend Farms in Oregon which sourced some of
the ingredients for its frozen berry mix in good faith from Turkey,
and supplied the finished product to Costco, all under the supposedly
watchful eye of the USDA NOP. We can assume that all the paperwork
was in order throughout these transactions or none of the ingredients
in this organic berry mix would even have made it to market. The problem
is that the USDA didn’t bother doing any field testing. Until
pressure is brought to bear on the USDA NOP for failing to uphold
its own rules on preventing the contamination of organic crops with
pathogens, this problem will occur again, and again, and again.
Feeling better yet?
Keep in mind that for all its bluster, the organic industry in America
still comprises just roughly 1 percent of total food consumption.
What will happen when it reaches 2 or 4 percent? Shouldn’t the
USDA be held to account and be forced to get things sorted out scientifically
right now before total organic sales in America grow any further?
Defenders of the certified-organic status quo categorically reject
the idea of routinely testing organic crops in the field, claiming
it will make organic food too expensive. Ironically, when conventional
growers make the same argument to explain one reason why they oppose
mandatory labeling for GM foods, organic advocates are first in line
to ridicule them for putting industry profits ahead of food safety.
The difference is that there are no proven safety issues involving
GM foods, but quite serious ones, as this incident shows, involving
And yet, in spite of the preponderance of evidence as to which of
these two competing agriculture philosophies needs more scrutiny,
the USDA is planning to test only a mere 5 percent of the domestic
organic crops it certifies every year, completely ignoring the lion’s
share of the organic crops they certify on paper every year in far-off
foreign lands like Turkey, along with China, Mexico and Brazil.
Even within the context of the organic industry itself, the cost argument
looks bogus under close examination. The cost of the current paper-based
organic certification system is at least $1,000-a-year per farm. A
full-spectrum herbicide residue analysis meanwhile costs about $100,
and the cost of a “Total Fecal Coliform” test is just
It would appear, even to the casual observer, that the real reason
organic leaders resist across-the-board organic field testing is because
it will undermine the persuasiveness of their leading marketing ploy:
to deride GM foods and other forms of advanced agricultural technology
which are constantly being tested and have consistently proven to
be completely safe.
As long as activists can stave off the commonsense requirement of
testing organic crops, they can continue to freely ride a wave of
ignorance in the marketplace, capitalizing on the average consumer’s
assumption that anything natural must be better, even in cases where
it can be lethal.
In fact, if the organic industry in its current state was held to
the same rigorous scientific standards that the rest of the agricultural
sector is held to, consumers might very well come to realize the proven
connection between quality of life and the very technologies that
organic activists reject, like GM crops, antibiotics, and pesticides.
And then, well… they’d have to find something else to
National Beef Recall: E. Coli Possibly Contaminated
22,000 Pounds Of Ground Meat, USDA Says
Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/national-beef-recall-e-coli_n_3473287.html
By huffingtonpost.com (June 20, 2013)
More than 22,000 pounds of beef are feared contaminated with E. coli,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection
Service announced Tuesday.
A recall spanning at least 13 states concerns 22,737 pounds of ground
beef packaged by National Beef Packing Co. of Liberal, Kan., and affects
10-pound packages of the following products:
• “National Beef” 80/20 Coarse Ground Chuck, package
• “National Beef” 81/19 Coarse Ground Beef, package
• “National Beef” 80/20 Fine Ground Chuck, package
The packages of ground meat have a use/sell by date of June 14, 2013,
and bear the establishment number “EST. 208A” inside the
USDA mark of inspection, according to a press release by the FSIS.
The beef was produced on May 25, 2013, and shipped to retail establishments
in Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, Mississippi, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Arizona.
There is concern that some contaminated products may have been frozen
and stored in consumers' freezers.
The recall resulted from routine FSIS inspection. No cases of illness
associated with these products have yet been reported.
E. coli are potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea,
dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very
young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible
to foodborne illnesses.
The FSIS advises consumers are advised to fully cook their meat so
that its internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as it
is the only way to ensure that harmful bacteria are killed.
Last year, a massive recall of more than 890,000 pounds of beef from
Canada ended up affecting 30 states in the U.S., eventually extending
to 1,500 types of products representing one third of the total Canadian
beef supply. Between four an 22 incidences of illness stemming from
the tainted beef were reported, all in Canada.
SDA trip end in tragedy, man dies from food
Source : http://bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-local-byo-31928.html
By Staff Reporter (June 19,2013)
A CHURCH youth trip for members of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA)
church in Bulawayo ended in tragedy when a 23-year-old man died while
about 40 people fell ill in a suspected case of food poisoning.
The incident occurred when members of the SDA drank borehole water
during a one day trip to Thuli Hills in How Mine area on 8 June.
In an interview at the family's home in Makokoba yesterday, the man's
father, Mr Sipho Khumalo said his son, Brian Khumalo died on Friday
after being admitted to Mpilo Central Hospital for four days following
"Brian was fine by the time he left for their one day church
trip on Saturday 8 June, but when he returned home from the church
trip he was ill. He was vomiting and had a running stomach. His condition
worsened and was admitted to hospital the following day where he spent
four days and died on Friday at about 10 am."Mr Khumalo said.
He however, could not fully ascertain the exact cause of his son's
death he suspected that the water he drank was contaminated.
"Brian's condition was deteriorating by the day and by the time
he died the doctors had indicated that he was supposed to go through
the dialysis process as he was unable to relieve himself. We have
not collected his medical records to ascertain the cause of his death
but I suspect the water they drank at the venue of the trip was contaminated.
It appears that the youths who were part of the group that visited
the area started complaining of stomach pains after drinking water
from that place," said Mr Khumalo.
He said the death of his son calls for thorough investigations to
ascertain whether the water was really contaminated so that another
group of people, which may visit the place do not fall into the same
A pastor from the Seventh Day Adventist Church who declined to be
named confirmed that a group of youths from the church fell ill during
their one day trip.
"I can confirm that there is a boy from Makokoba SDA Church who
has died and we buried him on Monday following an incident of suspected
poisoning, which left about 40 other people who comprised mostly youths
and a few accompanying elders ill. We suspect that the cause of his
death might be the water they drank at Thuli Hills but we are still
awaiting results as samples of water were taken for testing by the
city council," said the pastor.
Outlets coy on food-safety plan
Source : http://www.portstephensexaminer.com.au/story/1581524/outlets-coy-on-food-safety-plan/?cs=761
By MICHAEL McGOWAN (June 18, 2013)
PORT Stephens restaurateurs have voted with their feet in rejecting
the NSW Food Authority's Score on Doors food safety campaign.
Scores on Doors is a volunteer star-rating system given to food outlets
to display in store following routine food safety inspections.
In October 2011 the Port Stephens Council signed up to be part of
a state-wide trial of the program, with a staff report stating it
was an opportunity to "improve consistency of inspections and
outcomes for food businesses".
However, more than a year later the program has been dubbed a failure,
with only 10 food outlets out of 338 within the Port Stephens Local
Government Area signing up.
"There has been little positive response from food businesses
to participate in the trial, despite a serious proactive effort on
the part of the environmental health team to generate interest,"
Matthew Brown, the council's development assessment manager, wrote
in a report to councillors.
"It is the opinion of the environmental health team that the
lack of interest from food business proprietors is due mainly to the
initiative being a non-compulsory trial [and] participating voluntarily
could potentially result in an unsatisfactory rating that they had
no choice but to display to the public."
One business supportive of the plan was Medowie Macadamias, which
received a five-star rating, the highest available.
Owner Scott Leech said it was hard to understand why businesses would
not support the plan.
"I think it's a great idea, I really do. If you have nothing
to hide you have nothing to worry about," he said.
However, the program could be "tweaked" to allow businesses
time to come up to scratch if they received a poor rating, he said.
My Tour with Foodborne Illness Victims Through
the Leafy Greens Industry
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/my-tour-with-foodborne-illness-victims-through-the-leafy-green-industry/
By Samantha Bernstein (June 18, 2013)
My life changed forever in June 1996, when my two little sisters were
stricken with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating “triple-washed,
ready-to-eat” mesclun lettuce. At first, they suffered horrendous
cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. While Chelsea soon recovered, Haylee
— who was just three years old at the time — fell critically
ill with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney disorder
that can result from E. coli infection.
Haylee spent three-and-a-half-months fighting for her life. She suffered
retinal hemorrhages, pneumonia and rectal prolapse. A tennis-ball-sized
brain hemorrhage necessitated emergency surgery, which caused blindness
for weeks and left her with a lifelong visual deficiency. Haylee still
has reduced kidney function, diabetes and a learning disability.
I was shocked to learn that the leafy greens implicated in my sisters’
illnesses had been grown at a farm not registered with the state and
processed with unchlorinated water in an exposed stainless steel tub
located less than 100 feet away from a cattle ranch. The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration found that the well that supplied the wash
water was 20 feet from a cattle pen, that the filter had been disconnected
and that no bacterial testing was performed.
Activism and foodborne illness education became key to my recovery
from this trauma. Today, I work for Marler Clark, the nation’s
leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, and the
underwriter of Food Safety News.
This past March I spoke at an FDA hearing in Portland, Oregon, about
the importance of fully implementing the Food Safety Modernization
Act. As luck would have it, after speaking, I shared a van ride back
to Portland International Airport with Scott Horsfall, CEO of the
California Leafy Green Products Handlers Marketing Agreement (LGMA).
Mr. Horsfall applauded my support of the FSMA and my testimonial.
He also told me about the LGMA and its support of the Food Safety
Modernization Act. I was excited to hear about the mission of the
organization and its commitment to raising the bar for food safety.
Scott explained he was developing a tour for victims of foodborne
illness and their families to see the changes that have been made
in California leafy greens production, and then he invited me to participate.
I agreed to be included and was curious about what I would find visiting
these farms and seeing the faces behind these products.
In the days before the tour I was not sure what I expected to see.
My assumptions were that produce growers and handlers were more concerned
with the business’ bottom line and that extra food safety standards
were an expensive inconvenience. I worried that this tour was a marketing
ploy and that the farmers would be insensitive to our stories.
I was very wrong.
The tour group consisted of victims of foodborne illness and their
families along with the staff from STOP Foodborne Illness, a non-profit
organization that works with foodborne illness victims. The group
was there primarily to be shown the inner workings of the industry
and to get a real feel for the role food safety plays in leafy green
farming. Because of my personal connection with E. coli poisoning
from California-grown lettuce, I was there to see the changes that
had been made since my sisters were sick and to share their story.
The tour was in fact a personal and educational endeavor for me.
I needed reassurance that threats of pathogens in our produce were
understood and, most importantly, being addressed.
Our tour started at Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange (POVE), a member
of the LGMA. Dan Sutton, the general manager of POVE, was the first
handler I met and really had the most impact on me. He talked
to the group about the LGMA and how seriously its members take food
safety. He was so touched by our stories that he became overcome
with emotion. Sutton expressed his gratitude for our willingness to
share our experiences and to advocate for safe food. He explained
that distributing safe food was, in his words, “a moral obligation.”
I was touched by how genuine and compassionate this man was. He seemed
to understand the importance of food safety and the impact foodborne
illness has on families.
We proceeded to Ikeda Brothers Farms (grower for POVE) in Oceano,
and got to meet the Ikeda family and see their growing operation.
Tom Ikeda, who operates the business, spoke candidly about the fact
that he feeds his family and friends his produce, so the safety of
the food is crucial and ultimately personal. Getting to put faces
to this idea I had in my head of farmers helped me relate to them
as individuals rather than a giant faceless corporation. It was truly
humbling to see the fields and hear about the process.
We then visited Talley Farms, a member of the LGMA in Arroyo Grande,
California. The company is operated by the third generation of the
Talley family. The main message from Ryan Talley was that the company
holds a very high standard for food safety and that although the LGMA
deals exclusively with leafy green produce, Talley upholds the LGMA’s
high standard for all their produce. I was surprised to hear
that food safety procedures and training translates to about 15 percent
of their annual budget.
That evening our group had dinner with local farming families and
I got some time to speak one-on-one with many of them. The general
consensus among the LGMA members and growers was that they were happy
we could join them and that the initial fears of our visit were diminished
(that victims and their families would show up with feelings of vengeance).
Day two started with visiting Rancho Guadalupe in Santa Maria, California,
where I got to see an iceberg lettuce harvest as well as an audit
demonstration. Before entering the field, strict policies were explained
in which we had to do things like remove our jewelry and wear hairnets
— all in the name of food safety. The speed, skill and rhythm
of the harvesting crew were astounding. I felt a lot more respect
for the hard work of the crew and their skills after getting an up
close view of the process. Two government auditors talked with our
group and explained the things they looked for when visiting a farm,
the questions that are asked and how detailed the process really is
– one farm audit can last between 6 to 10 hours.
For the last leg of the tour, our group went back indoors, where we
got to see the inner workings of a processing facility. Here we would
see how bagged salads such as triple-washed mixes (much like what
my sisters ate) were processed and put together for consumers. Before
entering the Gold Coast Packing facility, we were given stringent
guidelines which included no phones or cameras. I felt anxious about
seeing how the produce was handled. I was ushered into a clearly new
and sterile building in which I was able to observe the entirety of
the processing from when the produce enters the facility up to how
it’s packaged to be distributed.
The whole operation of making the products “ready-to-eat”
was explained, as well as the company’s microbiological testing
program. I had a multitude of questions about the washing process,
the hygiene factors and everything in between. I was not easy on the
food safety and quality assurance staff and they were more than happy
to oblige. I left the processing facility feeling more at ease
with some “ready-to-eat” mixes knowing the high standards
that went into the process (at least at Gold Coast Packing). Given
my family’s experiences, however, I still don’t think
I will be running out to eat them any time soon.
The tour wrapped up with a large roundtable discussion in which we
met more leafy green growers, shippers, food safety staff, scientists
and auditors. The stories the group members shared were incredibly
moving, both to me and clearly to the food professionals, as many
of them told me so afterward.
I gained a lot of insight on the tour and started to feel more empowered
about my fight for food safety. Perhaps I wasn’t fighting this
uphill battle alone. The industry that became the villain in my eyes
after Haylee fell ill may not be as bad as I once thought. I was inspired
by the hard work and dedication to raise the bar for food safety in
the industry. Roxanne, a government auditor I met, told me she would
think of Haylee when she was out in the fields. I was touched.
Food safety a global concern
Source : http://www.worldpoultry.net/Home/General/2013/6/Food-safety-a-global-concern-1211140W/
By Fabian Brockötter (June 18, 2013)
Experts debated issues of food safety and security along the supply
chain, both in Asia and globally, at a dinner hosted by Alltech during
VIV Asia. The discussion was opened by Dr Mark Lyons, VP of Alltech,
with an overview of crisis management, noting the recent broiler issues
which have arisen in China and in the actions of Yum! Brands and McDonald's.
Chaired by Alltech vice president Aidan Connolly, more than 150 industry
leaders discussed the impact of recent crises and food safety scares
on consumer confidence. The panel represented the experience of suppliers
to the feed industry, integrated meat companies and the experience
of a nutritionist involved with auditing meat and feed companies.
The panel opened on the question “Why does it seem that so many
food crises have occurred in China?” Jon Ratcliff, Food and
Agriculture Consultancy Services, answered, “It's not only China
that has seen crises recently. In Europe we have had the horse meat
scandal, mislabelled organic eggs and aflatoxin contamination in milk
in the Netherlands due to contaminated Serbian and Romanian grains.
China attracts attention due to its sheer size - one state is nearly
the size of the European Union - thus it's task in controlling food
safety is magnified. It is an enormous task for China to control
food safety with 1.3 billion people spread over such a large geographical
Lyons agreed, adding, “The pace and scale of China means that
one incident in China can be blown up to being very significant, whereas
the same incident in one European country would not reflect on the
entire EU.” Lyons zoomed in on the recent food scare involving
Yum brands Kentucky Fried Chicken stores. KFC’s parent, Yum
Brands, was facing problems of food safety, or food safety perception,
originating in the fourth quarter of 2012. Yum! reported a 6% drop
in fourth-quarter sales in China because of adverse publicity on social
media regarding antibiotics and toxic chemical residue found in its
chicken supply. In January consumer trust took an even harder beating
(-41% in revenue), when it became clear that there was more going
on than just rumours.
Insufficient control on farm level
“What went wrong, was it criminal behaviour, politically motivated
or China’s X-factor?”, Alltech’s vice president
of China, Mark Lyons, asked at the discussion. Part of the problems
in China could occur because of insufficient control from the farm
level up, at some of the suppliers. In a reaction Yum! stopped doing
business with a few suppliers, cutting 1,000 farms out of the supply
chain. Alltech is eager to facilitate any discussion on food safety
to bring the protein sector forward.
Vice president Aidan Connolly: “Production in China is pushed
so fast due to an increase in consumption that organisation and knowledge
fell behind. China really needs help and fundamental changes have
to be made in education, management and mentality. Food security is
one thing, food safety is at least as important.’’ Getting
the right knowledge across to the Chinese farmers and introducing
broad quality control scheme’s, topped off with possible sanctions
when not complying, that is the challenge for the near future. Responsibilities
are huge for everyone involved in the poultry sector. Food safety
is a global concern.
The panel discussed what the food industry is doing to adapt to food
safety and traceability requirements. Philip Wilkinson, director
of the British Poultry Council and executive director of 2 Sisters
Food Group, discussed the development of the Red Tractor scheme in
the UK, “The Red Tractor logo is a guarantee of quality and
origin. Every critical step of the food supply chain is independently
inspected to ensure food is produced to quality standards by assured
farmers, growers and producers in the UK, from farm to pack.”
He stressed that this industry initiative has not been imposed on
companies, but rather driven and embraced by the entire industry all
along the supply chain. Ratcliff argued that while there is
a place for approval schemes and auditing procedures, “They
are NOT a guarantee against food scandals or crises.”
Food safety perception
The panellists discussed whether some countries were using food safety
as a form of protectionism but all agreed that this was not the case.
Ratcliff told the audience that we must differentiate between food
safety issues (such as dioxins or PCB contamination) and issues which
are simply consumer concerns (hormone use or genetically modified
(GMO) products). If companies want to export, they must meet local
regulatory requirements as well as retailer requirements, such as
welfare or feed requirements. Ratcliff stressed that this is not a
barrier, as the same rules are applied to producers inside the country
as well. Wilkinson agreed. “This is not a barrier of entry -
it is only fair that foreign suppliers meet equal requirements as
local suppliers,” he added.
The chairman asked the panellists what suppliers can do to make crisis
management a core competence. Lyons stressed that companies
should have people in the organisation focused on food safety. “We
pay for feed, raw materials, lights, etc - but we have to consider
food safety a necessary part of our cost structure. The costs are
too high - we must include this in our pricing.”
Wilkinson spoke of the importance of consumer confidence in food.
“If you buy a beef burger, you expect to get beef. We must assure
customers that we are delivering what we say we are going to.”
Lyons agreed, touching on recent testing which found that a single
hamburger may be made with meat deriving from as many as 300 different
The audience was eager to ask questions. One attendee asked what companies
like Alltech are doing to be sure they are not part of the problem.
Lyons answered, “Our owner has made it clear to all employees
that he does not want to risk his reputation or that of our company.”
He shared that seven years ago, Alltech put together the Alltech Quality
System or AQS. “The AQS is not just a risk management tool;
it is designed to ensure that every product we ship is safe, effective
“Who wins in a food crisis?” Wilkinson asked the audience.
“Analytical companies do. They are becoming more and more important
in the food industry as consumers demand testing for GMO or PCBs.”
Ratcliff added, “The more sensitive techniques become, the more
likely we are to pick up contamination”. Professor Trevor Smith
from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada commented from the
audience about his work with fusarium mycotoxins. He shared that while
current testing methods are significantly underestimating fusarium
contamination by possibly as much as 100%, even the simplest of testing
procedures are very helpful for diagnosing mycotoxin contamination,
yet they are still not commonly used. “The educational process
is so important - we must continuously repeat ourselves,” he
In closing, the panellists made final comments regarding the topics
covered throughout the Alltech dinner event. Ratcliff encouraged attendees
to be proactive, “Analyse your business at all levels and look
to where a problem MIGHT occur.” Wilkinson emphasised that the
beef issue is only the tip of the iceberg. He showed the audience
a full page newspaper advertisement from supermarket Tesco in the
UK promoting that their policy from July will be to use only Irish
or UK chicken, as is currently the case with beef. “Never lose
the opportunity of a good crisis,” encouraged Lyons. “Looking
at China, we need to learn from crises. We need to really create initiatives
for those that do the right thing. We need to provide programs to
help them produce more food at lower cost.”
Wilkinson stressed that, “It's not just doom and gloom.”
He added, “The food industry has a lot to be proud of.
The developed world is living longer and are healthier than ever before.
We don't need to be defensive.” Wilkinson concluded, “We
are always looking to be safer, but really, our industry is doing
a great job.”
17 Likely E. coli Cases in Illinois Mexican
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/17-suspected-e-coli-cases-in-illinois-mexican-restaurant-outbreak/
By foodsafetynews.com (June 18, 2013)
The number of E. coli cases tied to an outbreak at Los Burritos Mexicanos
in Lombard, Ill., has risen to 9 confirmed and another 8 probable,
according to the DuPage County Health Department.
As Food Safety News reported yesterday, the restaurant was closed
on Friday for an E. coli investigation. The restaurant remained closed
Out of the 9 confirmed illnesses, 6 people were hospitalized, though
all have since been discharged.
Health officials are investigating the possible cause of the outbreak.
The restaurant managers said no employees have been sick and there
have been no problems reported at the restaurant chain’s other
two locations in Villa Park and St. Charles, which use the same food
Children in Poverty Face Greater Food Safety
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/children-in-poverty-face-greater-food-safety-risks/
By Linda Larsen (June 17,2013)
A new report by the Consumer Federation of America finds that children
from low-income families are at greater risk for foodborne illness
and unintentional product injuries than children from higher-income
families. The report, titled Child Poverty, Unintentional Injuries
and Foodborne Illness: Are Low Income Children at Greater Risk? concluded
that researchers must collect better data on the relationship of family
income to foodborne illness incidence. More than 2/5 of the 73 million
children in America are from low-income families.
The report was based on data collected through FoodNet, the CDC’s
national foodborne illness surveillance system. According to that
data, children under the age of 15 account for half of all foodborne
illnesses in this country. Children under the age of 5 are particularly
vulnerable. One report estimates that just five pathogenic bacteria
(Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and STEC) account for
291,162 laboratory-confirmed illnesses every year among children under
the age of 5.
Researchers found that “economic deprivation increases the likelihood
of bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections. This research links
higher rates of particular foodborne illnesses because of factors
such as poorer nutrition, geater exposure to food safety risks in
retail stores located in lower-income neighborhoods, and poorer access
to health care.” The report stated that a mitigating factor
in foodborne illness risk is that poorer households consume fewer
high risk foods such as eggs and meat and eat more processed foods.
Inspection scores for retail food establishments in Detroit found
that “for each additional ten percent of individuals below the
poverty line there was an increase of 0.6 critical food safety violations.”
Most research on income and food safety has focused on identifying
barriers to acquiring safe food for poorer families. A 2011 study
by Signs, Darcey, Carney, Evans, & Quinlan found that egg samples
from low-income census tracts had higher internal temperatures, which
can increase bacterial growth. That same study found that milk samples
from lower-income neighborhoods had higher aerobic plate count, which
indicates temperature abuse. In addition, poor infrastructure, lack
of refrigeration, and limited resources are barriers to adequate food
safety regulation compliance.
Foodborne illness costs this country $77.7 billion every year in medical
costs and lost productivity. The latest estimates of the cost of an
individual case of foodborne illness is $1,626.
Los Angeles County Woman Files Hepatitis A Lawsuit
Against Townsend Farms
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/los-angeles-county-woman-files-hepatitis-a-lawsuit-against-townsend-farms/
By Bill Marler (June 17, 2013)
LOS ANGELES, CA—Seattle-based Marler Clark, the nation’s
leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, filed
a lawsuit today against Townsend Farms, the Oregon company whose frozen
berry and pomegranate seed blend has been identified as the source
of a hepatitis A outbreak among residents of 8 states. The lawsuit
was filed on behalf of Los Angeles County resident Catherine Gunn,
who alleges she became ill with a hepatitis A infection after eating
“Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” purchased from
Costco. Also representing Ms. Gunn are San Diego-based law firms
Gordon & Holmes and Keeney, Waite & Stevens.
According to the lawsuit, Catherine Gunn purchased and consumed Townsend
Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend berry and pomegranate seed mix in
May of 2013. She alleges she fell ill with symptoms of hepatitis
A infection on May 31 and later tested positive for hepatitis A.
Ms. Gunn’s attorneys state that she has sought medical care
for treatment of hepatitis A on multiple occasions and continues to
receive medical care.
“All of the people I represent in this outbreak have been fatigued
for weeks,” said attorney Bill Marler, who represents over XX
individuals who became ill with hepatitis A after eating the Townsend
Farms product. Marler noted that victims of hepatitis A infection
can take up to 6 months to fully recover from their illnesses.
According to a June 17 update to the CDC website, “Multistate
outbreak of Hepatitis A infections potentially associated with ‘Townsend
Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend’ frozen berry and pomegranate
mix,” at least 106 people in 8 states have fallen ill with hepatitis
A infections as part of the outbreak traced to the Townsend Farms
product. The incubation period, or time between ingesting the
virus and becoming ill with symptoms of hepatitis A infection, is
typically about 30 days.
“This outbreak will continue to grow,” added Marler.
“Some people probably won’t start feeling ill until closer
to the Fourth of July.”
BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented thousands of victims
of foodborne illness outbreaks, including hundreds of victims of hepatitis
A outbreaks and thousands who were exposed to hepatitis A and were
forced to receive inoculations against the virus. In the last
20 years, Marler Clark has recovered over $600 million on behalf of
victims of foodborne illnesses such as hepatitis A, E. coli, Salmonella
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