FoodHACCP Newsletter
08/12 2013 ISSUE:560

 

Sellers warned to identify irradiated tomatoes
Source : http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/rural/216715/sellers-warned-to-identify-irradiated-tomatoes
By radionz.co.nz (AUG 12, 2013)
New Zealand businesses selling Australian irradiated tomatoes are being reminded they are obliged to label them as such.
The tomatoes are expected to be on sale in the country shortly, after Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye changed the import rules to allow in irradiated tomatoes from Australia earlier this year.
The Ministry for Primary Industries has issued an advisory telling food businesses they must let consumers know the food they are purchasing is irradiated.
The ministry says the mandatory labelling statement must be on the food or close to the food at all points of sale.
It says acceptable wording on consumer labels may be "This product is treated with ionising radiation", or simply "Irradiated".
Retailers may also use the international symbol of irradiation on labels, as well as the wording.
MPI says food businesses that do not comply may be in breach of the Food Act 1981 and Fair Trading legislation.
Tomatoes New Zealand says it expects Australian tomatoes to be on the shelves this month.

E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella in your Kitchen
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/e-coli-listeria-and-salmonella-in-your-kitchen/
By Bill Marler (AUG 11, 2013)
According to Food Safety Magazine, NSF International’s Applied Research Center (ARC) has released the 2013 NSF International Household Germ Study, revealing that many common kitchen items harbor unsafe levels of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, yeast and mold. NSF International scientists point to a number of contributing factors — including improper food storage, handling, preparation and cleaning — which may help explain why more than 20% of foodborne illness outbreaks result from food consumed in the home.
The NSF microbiologists conducting the germ study analyzed 14 common kitchen items for the presence of four different types of microorganisms: E. coli, Salmonella, yeast and mold, and Listeria. The study found that many of these common kitchen appliances and tools used to prepare food do indeed harbor pathogens that can cause foodborne illness:
• Refrigerator vegetable compartment: Salmonella, Listeria, yeast and mold
• Refrigerator meat compartment: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
• Blender gasket: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
• Can opener: Salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold
• Rubber spatula: E. coli, yeast and mold
• Food storage container with rubber seal: Salmonella, yeast and mold
It is NSF’s hope that the information gained from this study will further underscore the importance of properly maintaining and cleaning these items, especially those that we don’t always think to disassemble and clean such as the blender gasket.
Perception vs. Reality: Are We Unknowingly Making Ourselves and Others Sick?
Importantly, while germ study volunteers correctly identified items that they thought would harbor the most germs, they are not always cleaning them sufficiently to prevent illness. The following is a list of the items that were perceived by volunteers to be the “germiest” versus the actual “germiest” items (ranked from highest to lowest in germ count):
Perceived:
1. Microwave keypad
2. Can opener
3. Refrigerator meat compartment
4. Refrigerator vegetable compartment
5. Flatware storage tray
6. Knife block
7. Pizza cutter
8. Rubber spatula
9. Refrigerator insulating seal
10. Ice dispenser
Reality:
1. Refrigerator water dispenser
2. Rubber spatula
3. Blender
4. Refrigerator vegetable compartment
5. Refrigerator ice dispenser
6. Refrigerator meat compartment
7. Knife block
8. Food storage container with rubber seal
9. Can opener
10. Refrigerator insulating seal
Germs found on these everyday kitchen appliances and tools can easily come in direct contact with food, especially raw produce, meat, poultry, seafood and ready-to-eat food. The study identified where the germs are located in the average home kitchen and, more importantly, how people can better protect against foodborne illness. The key is to be aware of where the ‘hot spots’ are in your home and clean correctly and regularly to help prevent germ accumulation.

Los Burritos Mexicanos E. coli Lawsuit Update
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/los-burritos-mexicanos-e-coli-lawsuit-update/
By Bill Marler (AUG 11, 2013)
An E. coli outbreak in DuPage County, Illinois resulted in the closure of Los Burritos Mexicanos, a Lombard restaurant, in mid-June.
Marler Clark represents several victims of the El Burrito Mexicano E. coli outbreak. The firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of one woman on June 20, 2013.
An E. coli outbreak in DuPage county, Illinois, is suspected to have been caused by food served at the Los Burritos Mexicanos restaurant in Lombard. The restaurant was closed on June 14, 2013 during an E. coli outbreak investigation.
Several E. coli outbreak victims have been hospitalized.
The DuPage County Health Department counted 31 confirmed and probable E. coli cases as part of the Los Burritos Mexicanos outbreak.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include painful abdominal cramping and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Anyone who ate at the Los Burritos Mexicanos restaurant and is experiencing symptoms of E. coli should contact a healthcare provider and the local health department to report their illness.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a complication of E. coli infection that can cause acute kidney failure. Children are most likely to develop HUS.
E. coli:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.
If you or a family member became ill with an E. coli infection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.

What’s Up with Cyclospora?
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/whats-up-with-cyclospora/
By Bill Marler (AUG 10, 2013)
The CDC reports as of August 8, 2013, that it has been notified of 514 cases of Cyclospora infection have been reported from 17 states and 1 city. The number of cases identified in each area is as follows: Texas (206), Iowa (153), Nebraska (79), Florida (27), Wisconsin (10), Illinois (9), Arkansas (5), New York City (5), Georgia (4), Kansas (3), Louisiana (3), Missouri (3), Ohio (2), Connecticut (1), Minnesota (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), and New York (1).
Most of the illness onset dates have ranged from mid-June through early July.
At least 30 persons reportedly have been hospitalized in five states.
Nebraska and Iowa have performed investigations within their states and have shared the results of those investigations with CDC. Based on their analysis, Cyclospora infections in their states are linked to a salad mix. CDC will continue to work with federal, state, and local partners in the investigation to determine whether this conclusion applies to the increase in cases of cyclosporiasis in other states.

Michigan Cantaloupe Distributor Warns of Listeria Contamination
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/08/michigan-cantaloupe-distributor-warns-of-listeria.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (AUG 09, 2013)
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Heeren Brothers Produce, a wholesale distributor, is recalling approximately 5,400 cantaloupes because the product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
The company is advising consumers to discard the produce, which was distributed to small, independent grocers in Michigan July 23-26.
Heeren Brothers Produce stated it was not aware of any reported illnesses related to the "Athena Cantaloupes".
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) brought the matter to the attention of Heeren Brothers Produce after the agency conducted a routine sampling and discovered the cantaloupes contained the bacteria.
"After receiving notice from the FDA, Heeren Brothers Produce immediately alerted retailers and requested that they remove the produce from their shelves," the company stated.
The source of the contamination is still under investigation, the company added. 
Listeria can prove fatal, as evidenced by the 2011 cantaloupe outbreak that was linked to 147 illnesses in 28 states, including 33 deaths and one miscarriage. In that catastrophe, FDA identified a number of potential causes of the outbreak, including the cantaloupe farm's failure to wash the cantaloupes with an antimicrobial solution such as chlorine.

Are Chemicals Commonly Used in Poultry Plants Masking Salmonella?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/08/are-chemicals-commonly-used-in-poultry-plants-masking-salmonella/
By Helena Bottemiller (AUG 08, 2013)
Food safety experts are scratching their heads after a Washington Post article suggested last week that certain chemicals used in poultry processing might be masking the presence of Salmonella. It’s a scandalous theory that could explain why government data show big reductions in Salmonella rates in poultry plants while human illnesses have held steady – but is it a real concern?
According to the Post’s report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is reviewing academic research that shows there “could be a problem.” The article cites a “lengthy PowerPoint presentation that cited research from a USDA scientist and several university scientists” that was presented at FSIS in June. The story says the compound under the most scrutiny is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC), which is widely used in mouthwash and is a common finishing rinse for poultry to combat disease-causing pathogens.
The issue being raised is whether CPC, or other antimicrobials, might stick around in the samples collected for pathogen testing at a high enough concentration to kill the bacteria on the way to the lab, which would give FSIS a false negative test result when the chicken might very well be contaminated.
Asked about the concerns raised in the presentation, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service downplayed the issue, noting that it was not undertaking a formal review, but said officials are taking a look at the information that was presented. The agency said the new information “contributes to a well established dialogue on antimicrobial use in poultry processing” and that it “will take appropriate steps to adjust our policies and procedures if warranted.”
One of the scientists cited in the PowerPoint presentation, Catherine Cutter, a food safety professor at Penn State, told Food Safety News she did not know her research on CPC was being mentioned at the meeting and was a bit confused about why her study was referenced because it is 14 years old. She said she conducted the research so long ago that she no longer has her lab notebooks from the study.
On top of that, she pointed out that her study was about beef, not poultry, which is an “inherently different process.” For beef, pathogen testing is done by swabbing meat directly, but for chicken, the process requires rinsing the birds and then testing the resulting liquid for bacteria.
When the Post quoted Cutter as saying, “This is a valid concern,” she says was talking about her beef research.
“[CPC] stuck to everything. It sticks to whatever you put it on,” she said, noting that it has great cleaning capability for hides. “How [the paper] made the leap to chicken, I have no idea.”
One of the pieces of research at the heart of the controversy, it seems, was produced by Enviro Tech Chemical, one of the leading manufacturers of peracetic acid, another widely used poultry wash. The company’s research, which they posted online at the end of July also suggests that CPC should be labeled as a food additive if it lingers in product  – an argument reminiscent of the controversy over the use of ammonium hydroxide in lean finely textured beef, aka pink slime, last year.
The National Chicken Council contends processing aids are not remaining in product or interfering with the pathogen tests.
“USDA-approved processing aids by definition have no lasting effect after application,” said Ashley Peterson, NCC’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs.  “As such, we are confident that testing results are indicative of effective chemistry.”
As the Post noted, the presentation in June was made by chemical companies, including Enviro Tech, who make products that compete with CPC, produced by Safe Foods in Arkansas, fueling accusations that these new concerns are really just about trying to undermine a competitor’s product.
Mansour Samadpour, president of IEH Laboratories and a leading food testing expert, agrees the controversy is likely a marketing move.
“This is a commercial issue,” Samadpour said. “They are making a circular argument. If the wash remains in the sample and is killing the bacteria, it’s also killing bacteria on the bird.”
But Jon Howarth, the technical director for Enviro Tech, who was one of the presenters at FSIS in June, argues that the problem is real and says FSIS is concerned about it.
Howarth – who co-authored the research in question and whose company has also developed a method for testing CPC concentration in samples – said he was asked to present his findings to FSIS and that he was surprised by just how much interest there was.
He said nearly 20 regulators attended and another 30 to 40 called into the meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, but lasted two hours because of the high level of interest in the matter. (Howarth also clarified that someone at FSIS leaked the PowerPoint to the Washington Post and that the company did not share the presentation with the paper.)
The reaction from FSIS officials was “very, very good,” he said. “They told me ‘this is very interesting and we’d like you to explore this in more detail’. I was very pleased with FSIS. They said ‘yes, you do raise some points of concern.’”
Asked why FSIS downplayed the presentation and their review of the issue, Howarth replied: “Of course they did. They don’t want to scare the public.”

What To Do if You Get Food Poisoning From a Restaurant
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/what-to-do-if-you-get-food-poisoning-from-a-restaurant/
By Linda Larsen (AUG 08, 2013)
If you start experiencing the symptoms of food poisoning, what should you do? Ryan Osterholm, one of the attorneys at Pritzker Olsen, was interviewed by THELAW.TV in Houston and has good advice.
First of all, the food you just finished eating most likely did not make you sick, which is contrary to what most people believe. Most pathogens, whether bacteria, viruses, or parasites, have an incubation period of at least 12 to 24 hours. Listeria, for instance, can incubate for 70 days before you start experiencing symptoms of illness. The first step is to go to the doctor. She will run tests, such as a stool sample, and should be able to pinpoint what has made you sick, and can prescribe antibiotics or other medication to make you feel better.
If you got sick from restaurant food, there are most likely others who are sick as well. The exact pathogen must be determined. To be considered part of an outbreak, the bacteria that sickened you will be matched to others using a DNA test called PFGE. If that specific strain of bacteria is found at the restaurant, whether on the food, in the environment, or from an ill employee, there is little doubt that you got sick from eating at that facility.
Saving the food you think made you sick isn’t generally very helpful, because it’s hard to culture out specific bacteria in a food. Receipts and credit card statements proving you ate at a particular restaurant on a specific date are more important, although the paper trail isn’t necessary to prove a claim.
When you call an attorney about suing a restaurant, the pathogen that sickened you is tested, and the lawyers make sure the serotype is determined. Health department records showing PFGE tests will be accessed. The time frame of your exposure, date of illness onset, and strain of bacteria are the critical pieces of evidence to prove a claim against a restaurant or food supplier.

Fonterra in breach of food-safety protocol
Source : http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/dairy/9015133/Fonterra-in-breach-of-food-safety-protocol
By stuff.co.nz (AUG 08, 2013)
Fonterra breached its safety plan by failing to tell officials it had discovered a food-safety issue, delaying the Government response to the botulism scare by a full day.
Under its risk management plan, when Fonterra discovers a food-safety issue it is required to inform AsureQuality, a government-owned food-safety company, within 24 hours.
Fonterra confirmed on Wednesday that Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria linked to botulism, was in a concentrated whey product but did not inform the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) until Friday afternoon.
AsureQuality chief executive Michael Thomas said his organisation was not informed until Friday, after MPI and a day after what was required.
"They [Fonterra] haven't followed protocol," Mr Thomas said.
Once informed of food-safety issues, AsureQuality has another 24 hours to pass the information on to MPI.
MPI acting director-general Scott Gallacher confirmed last night that Fonterra was meant to tell AsureQuality within 24 hours but this did not happen.
Fonterra has already faced criticism over delays in revealing the contamination scare, but until now the Government and officials have simply said questions over timing would form part of an inquiry, rather than giving details on the delay.
Fonterra refused to comment about the timeliness of its contact with AsureQuality last night.
"Any questions around timings and notifications will be addressed as part of our internal review," spokesman Gary Romano said in a statement.
Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings defended the timeliness of its reaction in his first appearance since returning from China.
"I think in these specific circumstances, with the complexity of the bacteria group we're talking about, that is pretty fast."
Mr Spierings apologised to the country for the food scare episode, saying he understood "the anxiety and distress this issue has caused".
Fonterra faced a fresh drama yesterday, when it was fined about $900,000 for its part in a price-fixing investigation by the China National Development and Reform Commission.
In Parliament, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman continued to question Prime Minister John Key on whether Fonterra should have continued using products that had tested positive to Clostridium back in March.
Mr Key said he did not know how unusual it was for Clostridium to be discovered in dairy products, but the chain of events was "odd".
"I can't tell you whether that should have waved lots of red flags, or none whatsoever. That's what an inquiry will show us, but I do think it's a bit odd that the tests showed something in March . . . and production carried on," Mr Key said in Parliament.
A spokesman for MPI said they could not yet identify how often Clostridium was detected in milk products - even in general terms - because doing so would require searching a major database.
Meanwhile it appears New Zealand has no medication to treat botulism, but that instances are extremely rare.
Dr Pat Tuohy, chief adviser on child health at the Health Ministry, said there had been no cases of infant botulism in New Zealand for the past 20 years.
Anti-toxin was not kept in New Zealand because it degraded, but could be sourced within 24 to 48 hours and could shorten the duration and severity of the illness.

Food additive safety often determined by those with food industry ties, study finds
Source : http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-08-food-additive-safety-industry-ties.html
By Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter (AUG 07, 2013)
Experts selected by the food industry have often been the ones approving the safety of food additives for the past 15 years, a new report claims. In a study of conflict-of-interest issues in food safety evaluations, researchers from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that employees of food additive manufacturers wrote one of every five safety determinations submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the industry between 1997 and 2012.
Another 13 percent of the determinations were written by someone working for a consulting firm selected by the manufacturer. And the remainder of the reviews were conducted by expert panels selected either by the manufacturer or a consultant to the manufacturer, according to the report published online Aug. 7 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study also found that the expert panels conducting a majority of the safety assessments tend to feature the same experts repeatedly.
"There's a cadre of 10 people that serve on almost all of these expert panels," said study author Thomas Neltner, director of Pew's food additives project. "Three-quarters of the panels contained at least one of these people. One person served on 44 percent of the panels, which tells us there's not only conflicts of interest, but there's a very small group of people making these decisions."
The study used conflict-of-interest criteria developed by a committee of the Institute of Medicine to analyze 451 "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS, determinations that the food industry submitted to the FDA over a 25-year period.
The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 allows manufacturers to determine when an additive is GRAS. Manufacturers are not legally required to notify the FDA about GRAS determinations, but in some cases they do, the authors wrote.
"For right now, the law doesn't even require a company to tell the FDA that it's going to start marketing or using a new food ingredient," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The FDA may not even have the chance to evaluate the safety of new ingredients."

Businesses closed over food safety
Source : http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/businesses-closed-over-food-safety-29481184.html
By independent.ie (AUG 07, 2013)
Food safety chiefs shut down nine businesses last month over public health fears.
Another seven premises were hit with prohibition orders for breaches of food safety legislation in July.
Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), warned that food businesses need to be vigilant in relation to food safety, ensure full compliance with food regulations and demand high standards from their suppliers.
"This is another high monthly total of enforcement orders, with seven prohibition orders served last month, which is a new and worrying record," he said. "These prohibition orders force food businesses to withdraw unsafe or illegal food from the market.
"We warn food businesses to ensure that the food they serve and sell is safe to eat, and obtained from reputable suppliers. It is vital that all batches of food are fully traceable and labelled correctly, and that food businesses know it has been produced and stored safely and hygienically."
Five restaurants, a take-away, a distributor and the food areas of a pub and hotel were closed for one or more days during the month until health and safety standards were met.
They were the Blueberry Restaurant, Moyvalley, Co Kildare; The Larder (restaurant), Parliament Street, Dublin 2; Red Parrot (pub), Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1; and the New Millennium Chinese Restaurant, South King Street, Dublin 2.
A further five businesses shut down under European food regulations were: Creedon's Hotel (main kitchen and rear-yard store room) in Macroom, Cork; Kebab Bites (take-away), Redmond Square, Wexford; Sur La Mer (restaurant), Rosslare Strand, Wexford; Great Stuff Caterers (storage shed and garage of distributors / under appeal), Cork Road, Midleton, Cork; Pizza Palace (restaurant), Temple House, Templeshannon, Enniscorthy, Wexford.
The FSAI said closure orders are served where it is deemed that there is or there is likely to be a grave and immediate danger to public health at or in the premises, or where an improvement order is not complied with.
Elsewhere the seven prohibition orders - issued if the handling, processing, disposal, manufacturing, storage, distribution or selling food involve or are likely to involve a serious risk to public health from a particular product, class, batch or item of food - were served by environmental health officers and sea-fisheries protection officers last month.

Cyclospora from Salad is Largest Food Poisoning Outbreak Since 2010
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/cyclospora-from-salad-is-largest-food-poisoning-outbreak-since-2010/
By Carla Gillespie (AUG 07, 2013)
The Cyclospora outbreak,* which is fast approaching 500 illnesses, is the largest multi-state food poisoning outbreak since 2010 and ranks fourth largest among such outbreaks in the last five years. At least 486 cases of Cyclospora infection have been reported from 16 states. Twenty seven people have been hospitalized. Cases from two states, Iowa and Nebraska, which together have at least 236 cases, are considered part of the same outbreak.
Because Cyclospora is so rare, health officials have generally considered clusters appearing during the same time frame linked. A case is considered part of this outbreak if it is a ”laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infection in a person with onset of illness since June 2013 and no history of travel outside of the United States or Canada during the 14 days prior to onset of illness,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At least 486 people in 16 states have been diagnosed with Cyclospora infections. By state the case count is as follows: Texas (171) Iowa (151), Nebraska (85), Florida (25), Wisconsin (12),  Illinois (9), Arkansas (8), New York (6), Georgia (4),  Kansas (3), Louisiana (3),   Missouri (3), Connecticut (2),  Ohio (2), Minnesota (1), New Jersey (1).
There hasn’t been a larger outbreak since 2010 when a Salmonella outbreak linked to shell eggs produced in Iowa sickened 1,939 people. The egg outbreak, linked to producers from Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa, is also the largest food poisoning outbreak in five years, according to CDC outbreak data from 2008 through 2013.
The second-largest food poisoning outbreak in the last five years is the 2008 Salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated produce from Mexico that sickened 1,442 people and hospitalized 286. Two people died in that 43-state outbreak.
The third largest is the peanut butter Salmonella outbreak of  2008-2009. In that 46-state outbreak, peanut butter produced by Peanut Corp. of America, sickened 714 people, and hospitalized 171. Nine people died.
The Cyclospora outbreak is the fourth largest outbreak in the last five years. It’s also the only one of the Top Five that was not caused by the Salmonella bacteria. Cyclospora is a rare parasite usuallly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Rounding out the the Top Five is last year’s tuna sushi Salmonella outbreak. That 28-state outbreak, linked to  tuna scrape imported from India sickened 425 people and  hospitalized 55 .
*Note: The CDC map on the link above lags behind the accurate total of all cases.

SCHLAGECK: Food safety back in the news
Source : http://ottawaherald.com/opinion/080713schlageck
By JOHN SCHLAGECK, Kansas Farm Bureau (AUG 06, 2013)
The issue of safe, healthful food is in the news once again. While the majority of this nation’s food is healthful and safe to eat, food remains deeply entrenched in family values.
Without question, emotions are also tied with what we’re eating for lunch or dinner. Emotional connections to our food sometimes make potential risks within our food supply appear frightening.
Consumers react strongly to food safety issues. Because they can’t control the outcomes, their exposure is involuntary, the effects are irreversible and they’re caused by human actions or failures.
About 5 million illnesses and 4,000 deaths can be attributed each year to meat and poultry products, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 9,000 people die and at least 6 million become sick each year from food-borne infections.
Like the food industry and our government, consumers have an obligation to keep food safe. The way we handle, store and cook food can mean the difference between a satisfying meal or a bout with E. coli or salmonella.
Purchasing, storing and preparing food, presents many challenges to consumers. As wise and safety-conscious shoppers, it is our responsibility to keep food safe once it leaves our local grocery store or meat market.
Always buy food from a reputable dealer, with a known record for safe handling. If you don’t know if the meat is fresh ask a neighbor or friend who’s shopped there before.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises consumers to buy dated products only if the “sell by” or “use by” date has not expired. While these dates are helpful, they are reliable only if the food has been kept at the proper temperature during storage and handling. Although many products bear “sell by” and “use by” dates, product dating is not a federal requirement.
When we purchase products labeled “keep refrigerated,” we should do so only if they are stored in a refrigerated case and cold to the touch. Buy frozen products only if they are frozen solid. Never buy something that feels mushy.
Buy packaged precooked foods only if the package is sound — not damaged or torn.
Avoid cross contamination. To prevent raw meat and poultry from contaminating foods that will be eaten without further cooking, enclose individual packages of raw meat or poultry in plastic bags. Position packages of raw meat or poultry in your shopping cart so their juices cannot drip on other food.
Always shop for perishables last. Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they will remain cold. Place perishables in the coolest part of your car during the trip home. Pack them in an ice chest if the time from store to home refrigerator will be more than one hour.
Restaurant salad bars are one of the most common causes of bad stomachs. Improperly washed raw vegetables are another classic source of food poisoning.
Unless they’ve been washed scrupulously and handled expertly, vegetables are every bit as likely as meats to have come into contact with pathogens or toxins. If you fail to be as careful with your veggies as you should be with meat it can be unpleasant.
Whatever you do, wash your own hands before handling food and before switching to another food group. And don’t forget to wash your hands each and every time you handle and eat food.
While most of these tips sound simple, a common-sense approach the next time you shop, snack or prepare a meal for your family will ensure mealtimes are healthful and nourishing.
John Schlageck is a Farm Bureau commentator, specializing in agriculture and rural Kansas.

Exporters encouraged to test food safety procedures
Source : http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/216312/exporters-encouraged-to-test-food-safety-procedures
By radionz.co.nz (AUG 06, 2013)
Maori business consultancy group Poutama Trust is encouraging exporters to test their food safety procedures in light of the Fonterra milk contamination scare.
China has put a temporary ban on some Fonterra products as work continues to trace goods which may contain contaminated whey protein.
Poutama Trust chief executive Richard Jones says there are concerns the incident will damage New Zealand's reputation for food safety.
He advised Maori exporters to check and test their food safety procedures, traceability systems and risk management to relieve any fears its Chinese customers may have.
It is likely many will be making contact with their Chinese counterparts to re-build trust and strengthen the supply chain, Mr Jones says.

Food safety is No. 1
Source : http://www.newspressnow.com/opinion/editorials/article_53fd3aad-c797-54e9-a59f-784b32e687fe.html
By newspressnow.com (AUG 06, 2013)
Two recent developments speak to everyone’s interest in knowing more about the food they eat and provide to their families.
The issues may seem vastly different within the food industry, but to consumers they are not:
• The Food and Drug Administration, after months of delays and several well-publicized food illness outbreaks, has proposed new rules requiring importers to observe the same food-purity standards as U.S. growers and food processors.
This matters because U.S. authorities have identified foreign countries — Turkey, India and Mexico, among others — as the source of food products linked to eight multistate disease outbreaks in the last three years.
The Wall Street Journal reports 15 percent of all food consumed in this country is imported, including at least 30 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables and about 80 percent of seafood.
Importers would be held accountable for knowing whether the farms and processors that supply them are taking food safety precautions, and they also would be required to assist with audits to verify this.
• The American Meat Institute and several other industry groups have sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture over new labeling rules for meat.
Previously a label could say, “Product of U.S. and Canada.” The new required wording: “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.” The new rules also prohibit mixing meat from animals from other countries with meat from the United States.
An executive with the meat institute argues providing more information about a product’s origin “will serve only to confuse consumers, raise the prices they pay, and put some producers and meat and poultry companies out of business in the process.”
The argument seems over the top. We understand there is an additional cost to improve labeling, but it’s not likely to run anyone out of business or deter someone from buying a steak. In reality, more information is better for consumers, particularly in the event of an outbreak of food-borne illness.
Our resilient meat producers have proven themselves capable of developing products of high quality, tailored to consumer demand and competitive with anything in the marketplace.
If consumers want to know more about a meat product, then we should not be reluctant to tell them.

Honesty is the only policy with food safety
Source : http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1308/S00161/honesty-is-the-only-policy-with-food-safety.htm
By Federated Farmers (AUG 06, 2013)
Honesty is the only policy with food safety
Willy Leferink is Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson
Last Friday I sat down with my wife and planned our weekend.  As we are about to be hit by that farming tsunami called calving, this picture of farming domesticity meant this past weekend was likely going to be my last of relative freedom until Boxing Day. 
Then Federated Farmers communications team called me with the kind of bad news you don’t want early on a Saturday.  A Fonterra media release indicated that in a batch of whey was the potential presence of a strain of Clostridium botulinum. 
We need to remember that no one is sick and this recall stems from Fonterra's product testing.  If you want, Fonterra blew the whistle on Fonterra.  Another thing we need to remember is that the volume involved is a fraction of the 2.5 million tonnes Fonterra produces each year.  When I mean fraction, the 38 tonnes involved represents 0.0015 percent.  But just as a miss is as good as a mile, the tolerance for C botulinum is rightly zero. 
Yet this also means 2,499,962 tonnes of Fonterra produced product is unaffected.  Getting that message out is vital in order to get our dairy products moving again.
As farmers like me own Fonterra, few people can comprehend how proud we are of what our cows, farms and company produce.  You may see milk as a weekly staple but it takes an amazing amount of work to produce a quality product which has so many applications.  The product in question, a whey protein concentrate known as WPC80, is used in products like infant formula, growing up milk powder, as a calf milk replacer and even in sports drinks.
Federated Farmers has talented people and our Food Safety spokesperson, Dr William Rolleston, is a sheep farming medical doctor and biotechnologist.  Speaking to William, it seems Fonterra’s discovery of C botulinum is the laboratory equivalent of a needle in a haystack. I appreciate that is cold comfort right now.
Farms are the first link in the production chain because what we produce is collected and processed under strict sanitary standards.  This is not lip service but an ingrained process starting well inside the farmgate. If there is any break in this pasture to plate chain then product does not go, or rather, that is how things are meant to work. 
We are here because of that single unsanitary pipe at Fonterra’s Hautapu factory. There will be a reckoning but now is not the time; the ‘who, what, why, when, where and how’ questions come later.  Right now we owe it to our consumers here and abroad to give them facts and not speculation.  We owe it to them to communicate truthfully and in a format they will understand.
Contrary to popular opinion most of those bags of powder you may see in the news are produced to specification.  Fonterra is directly plugged into major global supply chains and this is why being open and transparent counts.  While the presence of C botulinum is serious, what we do next, matters.  No matter how tough it may seem, being unambiguous, frank and accessible need to be guiding principles in how we communicate. 
This started Friday at midnight when Fonterra blew the whistle on itself.  Now the most urgent thing is to remove uncertainty in the wider market place. 
That means identifying the products and companies involved in the recall.  Of the eight customers, we welcome that Nutricia Karicare, Coca-Cola, Danone, Wahaha Healthfood as well as the local animal feed business, NZ AgBiz, have all stood up.  Good on them.  We must ensure that our consumers, wherever they are, have easy access to all the facts and in a format and language they understand.  If you are a consumer and have concerns then please call the consumer number likely listed on the tin, bottle or container you are holding.
This is why communication channels must be kept open for the Ministry for Primary Industries as the regulator, Fonterra as the processor and the companies who used WPC80.  Our only priority must be food safety and the integrity of what we export.  Integrity is communicating facts openly and transparently and this is thankfully happening.

3 years after Salmonella outbreak, questions about egg safety remain
Source : http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/iowa/years-after-salmonella-outbreak-questions-about-egg-safety-remain/article_1977e872-88bf-5d15-9923-db86ae3690e8.html
By siouxcityjournal.com (AUG 05, 2013)
DES MOINES | It’s been almost three years since more than 500 million eggs were recalled in 2010 because of an outbreak of Salmonella that caused nearly 2,000 illnesses – the largest outbreak of its kind on record.
Yet under a new egg safety plan approved shortly before the recall, which involved egg production plants owned by DeCoster Egg Farms of Iowa, production facilities still are not inspected as required by the plan, data shows. It could be years before they are.
The Food and Drug Administration is one of four federal agencies that play a role in the egg and hen inspection process. The other agencies -- Agricultural Marketing Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Food and Safety Inspection Service -- are within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We estimate it will take three to five additional years to complete inspections of all registered egg producers, including those farms that supply hatcheries,” said Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA, in an email.
Given that a flock of laying hens is usually kept in production for two to three laying cycles, or up to 36 months, the FDA could miss an entire rotation of hens during this implementation phase.
The overall egg inspection system has periodically come under heavy criticism for a lack of coordination and for taking as long as a decade to implement improvements.
Recently, a USDA internal audit revealed that more than one of its agencies knew of Salmonella contamination at the Iowa farm at the heart of the 2010 recall.
The internal audit states that Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials knew about an environmental test at the farm that was positive for Salmonella Enteritidis four months prior to the recall.
Meanwhile, officials in a different USDA office, the Agricultural Marketing Service, visited the farm two weeks before the recall and observed the same sanitation issues that the FDA later determined to be the probable cause of the Salmonella E. related illnesses.
In addition to failing to share information, USDA agencies were not conducting regular facility inspections, or coordinating with FDA, the internal audit found.
In their response, Food Safety and Inspection Service officials said they will review existing coordination efforts and create a plan of action, if needed, and implement a new plan by November 2013.
Agricultural Marketing Service officials completed changes to their processes in 2012, according to their response to the audit.
SAFETY ISSUES FOUND UNDER NEW FDA ACT
The FDA modernization act is meant to improve the prevention of food safety problems, enforce safety and prevention standards, and better coordinate recalls across the 15 agencies that collectively oversee at least 30 food safety laws.
But FDA inspectors found “significant deficiencies” at 40 percent of the more than 500 facilities inspected in 2011 under the new egg safety plan, according to a final report on inspections issued in July 2012.
Most of the deficiencies were related to lack of a Salmonella prevention plan. FDA noted 14 violations as egregious and warranted an official warning letter to the producer.
The same coordination and communication problems have existed for decades, according to a 1999 Government Accountability Office report.
The Food and Drug Administration now requires an inspection of all egg production facilities as part of its new egg safety plan.
Producers are sorted into three categories: those with 50,000 or more layers, those with 3,000 to 50,000 layers, and those with fewer than 3,000 layers.
Since September 2010, FDA has been working to inspect the operations in the 50,000 plus category. It took 15 months to inspect about 600 facilities. These operations make up 80 percent of egg production.
Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, has said the new rules set safety standards to thwart outbreaks of Salmonella E., like the one in 2010.
“We think that the industry’s compliance with this rule will significantly reduce the risk of SE infections and outbreaks in the future,” Taylor said in a statement. “These inspections will help ensure high rates of compliance and in turn improve the safety of eggs.”
But some egg producers and industry representatives see FDA involvement in egg inspection as unnecessary and chafe under its rules.
Chad Gregory is president and CEO of United Egg Producers – the national trade association for egg farmers in the United States.
“We have worked with USDA and AMS for years and years,” said Gregory. “USDA understands farming and the inspectors are there and going out to see producers.”
Increased record keeping, training of workers, rodent and pest control, vaccinations and aggressive bio-security requirements are all part of the FDA’s final rule, which went into effect in 2010.
From September 2010 to July 2013, the FDA has issued 20 warning letters to egg production companies. Officials from the FDA are now inspecting smaller egg production facilities – or those producers with less than 50,000 hens.
Even though it could be 2016 to 2018 before the new round of inspections is complete, John Sheehan, FDA’s director for the division of plant and dairy food safety, said the FDA is on track with the timeline to get to egg producers.
During this implementation phase of the FDA final rule, producers are to conduct Salmonella E. testing of their flocks and facilities. Swabs are taken from various points in the hen houses and then analyzed for Salmonella E.
VOLUNTARY TESTING AND CONFIDENTIAL FINDINGS
Also, the 2012 internal audit expressed concern with the current voluntary testing and reporting system. Producers currently can send swabs from a laying house to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for analysis.
However, the agency is under no obligation to report facilities that test positive for Salmonella E. to the FDA or any other USDA oversight agencies.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials worried that if it were required to make findings public that producers would no longer use its testing service, according to the federal audit.
Sheehan said it is too soon to see “markers” to determine a drop in Salmonella E. rates since the final rule implementation.
“We don’t have concrete data to point to,” said Sheehan. “We are gratified to see how the implementation of the rule has been met. That will ensure eggs are safer.”
FOOD SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE’S ROLE
Food Safety and Inspection Service was also cited in the 2012 internal audit for not having an effective enforcement strategy in place to deal with shell egg distributors or producers that habitually violate USDA regulations.
Companies, including Wright County Egg, which have multiple citations on file, received a series of warning letters but the federal oversight agency did not seek civil penalties or criminal sanctions, nor did it seize eggs that were found to be stored at improper temperatures.
According to the 2012 USDA audit, while its investigators were in the field conducting a review with a Food and Safety Inspection Service agent, they found an egg distributor to be in direct violation of the temperature policy.
A pallet of more than 10,000 shell eggs was found sitting in a warehouse area in which the temperature was approximately 83 degrees. Eggs are to be stored at 45 degrees or cooler.
Company officials informed the USDA team that the eggs had been unrefrigerated for approximately five hours.
The federal inspector was prepared to seize and destroy the eggs. However, “he was directed by his supervisor to release them.”
The Food and Safety Inspection Service officials said the eggs would first need to test positive for Salmonella E. before they could be seized and destroyed. Therefore, the eggs were released and only a warning letter was issued.
The federal audit reported that FDA and USDA have worked out new agreements to better coordinate their efforts. In addition, Food and Safety Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service have “developed a web based inter-agency referral report system” to improve communication.
Agricultural Marketing Service has issued new guidelines to in-plant inspectors that expand the agency’s ability to withhold the quality grade mark on potentially adulterated eggs.
New agreements with producers would require that the agency be notified if the facility tests positive for Salmonella E.
Testing though could still take several days, or weeks, in which eggs are still being graded and distributed.
Food and Safety Inspection Service has agreed to assess the effectiveness of its temperature and refrigeration standards. The agency is also evaluating the current enforcement system in place to more effectively penalize producers that are repeatedly found in violation of standards.
But the agency stands its ground in claiming minimal responsibility.
“FSIS is not the lead on shell eggs, we have very limited role,” Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the agency said in an email.

Fonterra Deeply Apologetic in Response to Clostridium Dairy Case
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/08/fonterra-deeply-apologetic-in-response-to-contami.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (AUG 05, 2013)
Fonterra, the dairy exporter, was apologetic a few days after revealing that some of its whey protein concentrate was contaminated with a bacteria that has the potential to cause botulism.
Traveling to China Monday, Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings offered "deep apologies," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Just three days ago, Fonterra informed regulatory authorities and customers that three batches of its whey protein concentrate was tainted with Clostridium botulinum.  
Botulism is a rare but sometimes fatal disease, and some symptoms include blurred vision, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and paralysis, according to the Mayo Clinic. In a press release, Fonterra stated there had been no confirmed reports of illnesses linked to its contaminated product.
The tainted product was shipped to factories in Australia, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, according to "ONE News" in New Zealand.
Food safety, the company said, is its "number one priority." But such an assurance did not placate one of the world's biggest economies. Quoting an emailed statement from New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries, Bloomberg on Sunday reported that China has suspended imports of Fonterra's whey protein and milk-based powder.
The product was produced at a manufacturing site in New Zealand, and the Journal reported that New Zealand Prime Minister John Key promised to investigate the dairy company. Among the issues that are likely to be investigated: why it took the company so long to reveal the contamination. According to the Journal, Spierings largely attributes intensive testing to the lag between its public disclosure and when it first identified that the product contained bacteria (March 2013).

Family Cow Raw Milk – One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out?
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/family-cow-raw-milk-one-two-three-strikes-youre-out/
By Bill Marler (AUG 05, 2013)
According the Pennsylvania State Agriculture and Health Department, raw milk consumers are being urged to discard raw milk produced by The Family Cow in Chambersburg, Franklin County, because of potential Campylobacter bacterial contamination.
After the Department of Agriculture received a consumer complaint, it collected samples of raw milk during an investigation of The Family Cow on July 29, 2013. Positive test results for Campylobacter were confirmed today. Additionally, the Department of Health confirmed two cases of Campylobacter infection in people who consumed raw milk from the farm at 3854 Olde Scotland Road.
The packaged raw milk is sold under The Family Cow label in plastic gallon, half gallon, quart and pint containers. It is labeled as “raw milk.” Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.
The Family Cow, owned and operated by Edwin Shank, sells directly to consumers in an on-farm retail store and at drop off locations and retail stores around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley, as well as south-central Pennsylvania.
Agriculture officials have ordered the owners of the farm to stop the sale of all raw milk until further notice.
Sound familiar?
May 29, 2013
The Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Health today advised consumers to discard raw milk produced by The Family Cow in Chambersburg, Franklin County, because of potential bacterial contamination. Agriculture and Health Department laboratory tests and several recent illnesses indicate the raw milk may contain Campylobacter bacteria.
February 25, 2012
The number of people who became sick with an intestinal infection after drinking raw milk from a Franklin County farm continues to rise. As of today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said 78 cases of Campylobacter bacteria are connected to unpasteurized milk sold in mid-January by The Family Cow dairy in Chambersburg. Of the cases, 68 people were sickened in Pennsylvania, five in Maryland, two in New Jersey and three in West Virginia. At least nine people were hospitalized.
For information on the risks of raw milk, please see Real Raw Milk Facts.

Health Profile: Good hygiene, proper handling key to food safety
Source : http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130805/LIFE/308050014/Health-Profile-Good-hygiene-proper-handling-key-to-food-safety?Frontpage
By Estela Villanueva-Whitman Special to The Register(AUG 02, 2013)
With at least three types of foodborne illness cropping up this summer in Iowa, food safety expert Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn says practicing good hygiene and proper food handling can go a long way in preventing sickness.
She oversees content management of the Food Safety Project website through Iowa State University Extension and is a faculty member at Iowa State University.
What is the Food Safety Project?
The purpose of the website is to provide consumers, educators, retail food service practitioners and other researchers with science-based resources to improve their safe food handling and cleaning and sanitizing practices. The food safety site has links to information about hazard analysis and critical control points, targeted to retail food services; local food systems; and general operations in hospitality management. It also includes a safe food blog; downloadable educational resources, training materials and specific information for consumers, such as shelf/storage life charts.
How common is foodborne illness and how severe can it become?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people get sick each year from a foodborne illness, with 3,000 deaths as a result. Many times illnesses are not reported and symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting will go away after a few days. However, sometimes the symptoms may lead to further complications. Those with compromised immune systems, such as young children, adults over the age of 65, those with a chronic illness or on certain medications, may experience more severe symptoms and won’t be able to shake off an illness as easily as a younger, healthy adult.
How can these illnesses be prevented and how can consumers lower their risk?
Analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks that have been reported typically show one of the following reasons were the cause:
• Poor personal health or hygiene practices of food handlers
• Temperature abuse — failure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
• Contaminated surfaces or equipment, including serving utensils and containers
• Food from unsafe sources, such as raw milk.
Hemphill Strohbehn says the bottom line for consumers is to follow these key messages from the FDA:
• Chill — keep cold foods cold.• Clean — hands and food contact surfaces, using proper procedures.
• Cook — use your thermometer to be sure end point temperatures are reached.
• Separate — raw food from ready-to-eat and clean from soiled.
What are a few summer food safety tips for consumers?
• Hand washing is one easy way to reduce risks, as is not re-contaminating hands or food surfaces after they have been cleaned.
• Wash produce before eating, even if there is a rind, as the knife used for cutting will come in contact with the skin and the edible parts. Wash produce by rinsing under running water. If the product is not fragile, apply gentle rubbing with hands. There is no need to purchase chemical cleaners. After washing, keep certain types of foods refrigerated: cut tomatoes, lettuce greens and sliced melons.
• At grilling events, keep the raw meat separate from the grilled food. That means using a new platter and tongs for cooked meats. Check to see if food is thoroughly cooked by using a calibrated thermometer.
• At potlucks, tote items in an insulated container and keep the food covered as much as possible to avoid airborne contaminants and insects. Pack an extra set of serving utensils..

 

 

 


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