FoodHACCP Newsletter
06/24 2013 ISSUE:553

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 reported.
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.

Job openings
06/21. 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, MI
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:
Evening Bill,
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 been reported
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 Turkey.

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 & 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 illness.
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.[1]  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 was planted.
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 produce contamination.

Wellington Storm update ; including food safety advice
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 texture.
Electricity
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.
Interisland ferries
Inter Island Line and Bluebridge both report normal services have resumed.
Rail Services
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.
Roads
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.
Buses
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 food safe."
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 (1).
46% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.
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 review
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 deal.
"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 of Mississippi.
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 letter.
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 takeover.
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 reviews.
"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 said.
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. law.
"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 instead.
"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 the program.
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 Association
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 earlier (2).
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 one.
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 cure.
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 organic foods.
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 $20.
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 gripe about.

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 code “0481.”
• “National Beef” 81/19 Coarse Ground Beef, package code “0421.”
• “National Beef” 80/20 Fine Ground Chuck, package code “0484.”
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 poisoning
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 the incident.
"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 predicament.
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 area.”
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 animals.
Risk management
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 and nutritious.”
“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 added.
Proactive approach
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 Restaurant Outbreak
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 through Tuesday.
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 distributors.

Children in Poverty Face Greater Food Safety Risks
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 and Listeria.

 


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