FoodHACCP Newsletter
09/16 2013 ISSUE:565


Cantaloupe vs. al-Qaeda: What's More Dangerous?
Source :
By Michael Meurer, Truthout (Sep 15, 2013)
One of the most important revelations from the international drama over Edward Snowden's NSA leaks in May is the exposure of a nearly lunatic disproportion in threat assessment and spending by the US government. This disproportion has been spawned by a fear-based politics of terror that mandates unlimited money and media attention for even the most tendentious terrorism threats, while lethal domestic risks such as contaminated food from our industrialized agribusiness system are all but ignored. A comparison of federal spending on food safety intelligence versus antiterrorism intelligence brings the irrationality of the threat assessment process into stark relief.
In 2011, the year of Osama bin Laden's death, the State Department reported that 17 Americans were killed in all terrorist incidents worldwide. The same year, a single outbreak of listeriosis from tainted cantaloupe killed 33 people in the United States. Foodborne pathogens also sickened 48.7 million, hospitalized 127,839 and caused a total of 3,037 deaths. This is a typical year, not an aberration.
We have more to fear from contaminated cantaloupe than from al-Qaeda, yet the United States spends $75 billion per year spread across 15 intelligence agencies in a scattershot attempt to prevent terrorism, illegally spying on its own citizens in the process. By comparison, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is struggling to secure $1.1 billion in the 2014 federal budget for its food inspection program, while tougher food processing and inspection regulations passed in 2011 are held up by agribusiness lobbying in Congress. The situation is so dire that Jensen Farms, the company that produced the toxic cantaloupe that killed 33 people in 2011, had never been inspected by the FDA.
In the past 10 years, outbreaks of foodborne illness have affected all 50 states, with hundreds of food recalls annually involving many of America's leading brands, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Taylor Farms Organics, Ralph's, Kroger, Food 4 Less, Costco, Dole, Kellogg's and dozens of others. There have been multi-state recalls of contaminated cheese, organic spinach, salad greens, lettuce, milk, ground beef, eggs, organic brown rice, peanut butter, mangoes, cantaloupe and hundreds of other popular foods.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, foodborne pathogens have killed an estimated 36,000 people in the United States. During this same period, terrorism has killed 323 Americans worldwide. Imagine for a minute if food safety threats were marketed to the public in the same lurid fashion as terror threats. Here is a sample press release:
WASHINGTON, DC - Homeland Security announced today that America is under attack by deadly terrorist cells. These terrorists often originate overseas. The threat to our security is credible. They can destroy our way of life and must be stopped. They have no respect for individual life or democratic freedoms. They operate on a cellular basis and hide in darkened spaces. They kill over 3,000 innocent Americans each year and are likely to strike again at any moment. These deadly operatives are masters of disguise, often concealing themselves in peanut butter sandwiches, spinach salads, hamburgers, milkshakes or gourmet cheeses. Their leaders have code names such as E-coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Staph Bacteria and Hepatitis A. We urge all Americans to be alert.
With profound respect for the memory of the 2.997 people who lost their lives as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Americans are 110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than terrorism, with 1 in 6 sickened every year at an annual cost to the economy of nearly $80 billion. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable because their immune systems are weakest.
The disproportion in risk versus spending when comparing terrorism and food-borne illness makes it clear that US threat assessment with respect to terror is irrational. It distorts the entire federal funding process and needs to be overhauled.
Inflating the risk of terrorism is a $14 trillion business
With only a few thousand al-Qaeda members worldwide, and an ideological leadership core now reduced to 300 to 400 individuals, few of whom operate outside the Muslim world, it is not far-fetched to suggest that delusional paranoia is driving US policy and budgeting in the "War on Terror." Excluding September 11, 2001, fewer than 500 Americans have been killed by terrorism in the past 40 years.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Michael Morell, deputy director of the CIA, listed the top three security threats to the US as Syria, Iran and North Korea, in that order.
Michael Cohen, a political and foreign policy fellow at the non-partisan Century Foundation, noted that "What is most striking about Morell's warnings is, in fact, the stunning hollowness of the threats he describes. If Syria, North Korea and Iran are truly what threaten us, we have little to fear from the world outside our borders." Cohen adds that ". . . when the US fights a major war these days, it is generally because they've started it - with consistently disastrous results."
Food-borne illnesses have killed tens of thousands of Americans and hospitalized nearly 1.5 million since Sept. 11, 2001.  However, a 24/7 propaganda marketing campaign by America's extravagantly funded terror-war-surveillance machine ensures that spending on these two threats is in inverse proportion to the comparative risks.
Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project estimated total 2011 national security spending of $1.22 trillion, with $751 billion in spending on the bloated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) between 2002 and 2013. The NSA budget is secret, although estimates range as high as $52.6 billion per year.
Extrapolating from these figures, we have had an obscene expenditure of at least $12 to $14 trillion on national security in the past 12 years. This spending orgy has produced a massive and illegal surveillance state, two enormously destructive and destabilizing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the large scale militarization of domestic policing, with training courtesy of Israeli special forces. In spite of the obvious erosion of constitutional rights and freedoms that has accompanied the new panopticon terror-war-surveillance state, the entire $14 trillion apparatus failed to prevent two deranged murderers from carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings, in spite of multiple detailed warnings from Soviet intelligence beforehand.
It is time to rethink our priorities. In an age of global corporate agriculture and food distribution, when the ingredients in a single street taco from a San Francisco food truck travel 64,000 miles, twice the circumference of the earth, to arrive on your paper plate, $1.1 billion is not enough money to address the lethal, tangible and ongoing threat from food-borne pathogens. We need to begin diverting money from the NSA and the $14 trillion national security state to the FDA, just for starters.
The Food Safety and Modernization Act Under Siege
Food safety experts both in and out of government agree that the FDA's food inspection programs are chronically underfunded and understaffed, receiving $1 billion or less per year from 2005 to 2010. Absent adequate funding, the FDA is relying to an ever-increasing degree on voluntary monitoring and reporting by food producers at a time when a few large corporations have begun to consolidate their control of our food supply. Four corporations control 83.5 percent of beef slaughter in the US, with similar figures for poultry and pigs. US food imports have doubled in the past 10 years. Nearly two-thirds of fresh fruits and vegetables sold in the United States are now imported, yet the FDA inspected just 6 percent of domestic food producers and 0.4 percent of food importers in 2011.
The internationalization of the food supply chain makes inspection, tracking and monitoring of food more complex than at any time in US history. Until we find alternatives to the corporate industrial model of agriculture, we need increased spending, and tougher, more proactive standards for food safety and intelligence.
The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama in 2011 with exactly this intention.
Although it is far from perfect, FSMA is intended to not only increase FDA funding, but to shift US food safety programs from a defensive posture to an aggressive, preventive posture. FSMA was originally supported by large agribusiness lobbyists, but a 2012 amendment that exempted small farmers with annual gross revenue under $500,000 turned the larger agribusiness players against the bill.
FSMA has therefore faced a tough path to implementation because of Republican obstructionism in the House and intense lobbying by agribusiness, which deploys an army of Congressional lobbyists to thwart FDA oversight, spending $133 million in 2009, with an additional $65 million in campaign contributions in the 2008 election cycle.
During the first week of August, for example, as Russia's grant of asylum to Edward Snowden set off an international media frenzy, Republicans in Congress generated almost no media attention as they quietly derailed funding to implement FSMA. Bowing to pressure from corporate fruit growers, they objected to FSMA's more stringent standards and inspection requirements.
During FSMA hearings by the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Dan Benishek, (R-MI), who sits on the committee and whose Northern Michigan district includes corporate fruit and produce growers, introduced a new amendment to conduct a "scientific and economic analysis" of the proposed new FSMA food safety requirements. Benishek is a Tea Party favorite who was endorsed in 2012 by AgriPAC, the lobbying arm of the corporate-funded Michigan Farm Bureau. (MFB) The MFB is also one of Benishek's top donors.
Sandra Eskin, director of the food safety campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts, says Benishek's amendment could "significantly delay" the implementation of FSMA. "What this provision does is totally undermine the process we have for regulations in this country," said Eskin, noting that FDA has already published regulatory impact reports that include analysis on the costs and benefits of each proposed rule.
While FSMA funding and implementation is stalled for the foreseeable future, the NSA budget is so safe, the agency is planning to double the size of its facilities and operations over the next 10 years, surpassing the Pentagon in square footage. At the same time, proposals for minuscule cuts in the bloated Pentagon or DHS budgets consistently draw howls of protest from a bi-partisan chorus of Congressional leaders, most of whom depend on Pentagon and/or DHS spending in their home districts.
Taking Action
A coalition of food advocacy groups is fighting to secure adequate funding and full implementation of FSMA. In August, 2012, the Center for Food Safety (CFC) and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) sued the FDA and its commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, to force implementation of new FSMA regulatory and food inspection programs. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ordered the FDA to begin meeting FSMA deadlines immediately.
The FDA has until mid-2015 to comply fully, but the FSMA amendment introduced by Rep. Benishek throws the entire FSMA compliance and implementation process into doubt. Getting to full implementation requires continued political pressure from voters, who can work through organizations such as CFC and CEH to multiply their efforts.
Looking Ahead and Shifting Public Opinion
To focus on domestic quality of life issues such as food safety, the manipulative and irrational hold of the fear-based, terror-war-surveillance complex on our national psyche, politics and economy has to be broken. This may seem like an impossible task, but the terror-war state is not impregnable. It has failed miserably by turning malignant, routinely exaggerating threats, spying on its own citizens, succumbing to bureaucratic bloat and failing to maintain the adroit, flexible intelligence and response mechanisms required to fight terror.
A July 26, 2013, nationwide poll by Pew shows 56 percent of the public believe we need stricter limits on anti-terrorism surveillance, 70 percent think intelligence data is used illegally, and for the first time since Pew began asking the question, a 47 percent to 35 percent majority are more concerned with threats to civil liberties than terrorism. Recent Reuters polling also reveals 53 percent of Americans oppose a US military attack on Syria.
This shift in public opinion may be modest and is certainly overdue, but it is nonetheless an opportunity to begin redefining homeland security and working for a radical change in national priorities. Food safety should just be a start. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from a long list of preventable or controllable risks. In 2001, the worst year for terrorism deaths in US history, with nearly 3,000 fatalities, diabetes killed 71,372, there were 29,573 gun deaths and 13,290 were killed by drunk drivers.
When working for change, it is worth remembering the example of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. (UFW) During their massively underfunded, but still successful boycotts of grapes and lettuce in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the UFW mounted a national field and PR campaign, using volunteers to hand out flyers at grocery stores across the nation. By taking their nonviolent campaign directly to the public at street level, they ultimately convinced millions of consumers not only that farm labor wages and conditions were inhumane, but that the same pesticides and chemicals that were sickening farm workers who picked grapes and lettuce were also dangerous to their own families if they consumed these foods.
Said Chavez, "I think one of the great, great problems . . . is confusing people to the point where they become immobile." We cannot afford to become immobile. Every small victory that contributes to a new narrative beyond the politics of fear and terror is meaningful, whether in improved food safety or reduced gun violence.

19 sick in UK with E. coli O157 linked to watercress
Source :
By Doug Powell (Sep 15, 2013)
Afternoon tea with the queen and those cute cucumber and watercress sandwiches may never be the same.
The UK Food Standards Agency has identified at least 19 people sick with E. coli O157:H7 link to UK watercress. Sainsbury’s has recalled all watercress containing products because of a possible link and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland is checking whether watercress is linked to 17 cases of E. coli O157 in the past month.
FSAI director of consumer protection Ray Ellard said that although there was no Sainsbury’s in the Republic, the FSAI was checking supply lines to see if watercress products were supplied to outlets in Ireland.
It is also working with the Health Surveillance Protection Centre and liaising with health investigators in the UK to see if both E coli outbreaks share an identical genetic make-up.

Has Chobani Yogurt with the Mold, Mucor Circinelloides, Caused 170 Illnesses?
Source :
By  Bill Marler (Sep 14, 2103)
USA Today reports that the recent recall of Chobani Greek yogurt caused by the mold, Mucor Circinelloides, brought new attention to the issue of mold that develops in food, when it’s harmful and what to do about it. On Sept. 5, the company that makes Chobani yogurt voluntarily recalled containers with the code 16-012 and best-by dates of Sept. 11 to Oct. 7.
The Food and Drug Administration received a total of 170 complaints associated with Chobani yogurt as of Sept. 13. The various issues reported continue to be cramps, nausea, headache and diarrhea. The complaints were submitted by individuals in Arizona, Delaware, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Indiana and Florida.
“These reports about a product only reflect information as reported and do not represent any conclusion by the FDA about whether the product actually caused the adverse events,” says Tamara Ward, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The Oregonian reports that Chobani has said that a type of mold not considered a foodborne pathogen contaminated the containers, causing them to hiss, fizz and even explode. Initially, the company brushed aside questions about illnesses but then acknowledged the reports.  It has not responded to queries from The Oregonian about microbiological tests of its yogurt. The FDA, which is strapped for funds, does not routinely carry out spot tests in manufacturing plants, such as dairies, for salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and harmful strains of E. coli. But the FDA does investigate outbreaks. It’s not clear what tests, if any, the agency might be conducting in this case because officials consider the mold a cause of spoilage but not illness.
Last week Cornell University Professor Randy Worobo said on a conference call arranged by Chobani that the mold “should not pose a health risk to most consumers.”
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nearly a week after Chobani issued a recall, two grocery stores in Wisconsin are still selling the moldy Greek yogurt, the Public Investigator found during a spot check Tuesday and Wednesday.  The sales of recalled yogurt are going on despite stores’ assurances to customers that the affected yogurt has been removed.
“If you’re still seeing it on the shelves, that’s a concern,” said Tamara Ward, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is assessing the recall. “We have to look at what’s working and what’s not. It’s an issue we’re looking into.”

Flooding in Colorado Creates Water Safety Problems
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 14, 2013)
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a health advisory and is advising residents to avoid contact with rivers and streams after massive flooding followed heavy rains this week. Rivers and streams may be contaminated with partially treated sewage and other wastewater because of power failures and damage to wastewater treatment systems.
Keep out of rivers and streams in northeastern Colorado under further notice. The affected counties include Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick and Weld.
Don’t let children or pets play in the water, or to play with toys that have been in contact with the water. Wash hands frequently with soap and clean warm water. If you have been in contact with the water and experience diarrhea or vomiting, see a health care provider for advice about tetanus and/or diphtheria vaccinations.
In addition, the Left hand Water District and the Town of Lyons have issued boil water advisories. Left Hand Water District has experienced several drinking water line breaks, so bacteria, viruses, and parasites may have entered the system, which can cause vomiting, nausea, cramps, and headaches. The District serves the unincorporated areas from the Foothills Highway and I-25, between Longmont and Boulder/Erie. Bring water to a boil, let it boil for 3 minutes, and let it cool before using. You can also use bottled water.
In the Town of Lyons, no contamination has been detected, but a boil water advisory has been issued as a precaution. If you have been using the water in the Left Hand Water District or the Town of Lyons and have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms, see your health care provider.

Burma Superstar E. coli outbreak – 12 Sickened, 5 Hospitalized, 2 with HUS
Source :
By Bill Marler (Sep 13, 2013)
Food Safety News reports that the San Francisco Department of Public Health released an update on Friday to the Burma Superstar E. coli outbreak that occurred around August 16.
Health officials now believe 12 people were sickened in connection to the outbreak, with 10 of them having dined at the restaurant. Of those diners, five were hospitalized, but have all since been discharged, according to Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of the city’s Population Health Division.
Two of the five hospitalized developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.
Earlier reports had indicated that 14 people were sickened in the outbreak. It’s not clear why the case count has been reduced to 12.
The restaurant temporarily closed over Labor Day Weekend as public health officials investigated the outbreak, but it was soon allowed to reopen.
Health officials have not determined the food source in the outbreak, but they say the investigation is ongoing. They are continuing to monitor for new cases, though none have appeared.
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.

Nine Hospitalized in British Salmonella Outbreak
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 13, 2013)
British public-health investigators are tracking the source of a Salmonella outbreak which has put nine people in the hospital and sickened 57. Those who became ill range in age from an infant to an 87-year-old.
The U.K. government’s Food Standards Agency reported Thursday that cooked ham from small independent butchers may be the source of the outbreak, with 30 cases so far confirmed in England since the end of August and another 21 in Wales. Tests revealed that the culprit is Salmonella Typhimurium, officials said.
One supplier was identified as a potential source; however, no trace of Salmonella has apparently been found in that company’s products. Investigators did identify some hygiene issues among the inspected suppliers, which resulted in one voluntarily recalling some batches of cooked ham.
Salmonella infection is typically caused by eating contaminated raw or undercooked foods such as meat, eggs and dairy products. Symptoms usually include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.
This current outbreak is the largest public-health scare the U.K. has experienced since June 2006 when Cadbury voluntarily recalled more than a million chocolate bars after Salmonella was found in some samples. A leaking pipe at a production facility was later identified as the source of the problem.

Salmonella in Dog Food Harms Humans, Too
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By Carla Gillespie (Sep 12, 2013)
Twenty one people in New Hampshire have recently discovered what few dog owners know but should: dogs aren’t the only ones who can get sick from contaminated dog food. Joey’s Jerky brand chicken jerky dog treats were the source of Salmonella infections for at least 21 people in New Hampshire’s Merrimack and Hillsborough counties, the state health department said this week.  And this isn’t the first time contaminated dog food has been the source of human food poisoning.
There are a number of ways humans can get sick from tainted dog food. Bacteria can spread when tainted food is spilled on the floor or countertop and not cleaned up properly.  Or, if a thorough hand-washing does not take place between feeding the dog, giving the dog a treat or picking up after the dog.
Last year, a Salmonella outbreak linked to dry dog to made by Diamond Pet Foods sickened 49 people in 20 states and two people in Canada. Ten people were hospitalized. In 2006 and 2007, a Salmonella outbreak linked to dry dog food sickened 70 people in 19 states. In 2004 and 2005,  a Salmonella outbreak that sickened nine people was associated with dry dog food.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, which include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, usually develop within 12 to 72 hours after exposure and last between four and seven days. Some cases, where the infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream, can be fatal without prompt treatment from antibiotics.
Young children are at particular risk for foodborne illness because they are more likely than adults to put their fingers in their mouths and because their immune systems aren’t completely developed.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children younger than 5 years of age should not be allowed to touch pet food or treats and infants should be kept away from the area where the dog is fed. Washing hands with soap and running water for 20 seconds, long enough to sing Happy Birthday, twice; after feeding the dog a meal or a treat or picking up after him is the best defense against illness.

Two E. Coli Cases Confirmed by Pennsylvania Medical Center
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 12, 2013)
The Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College, PA, has confirmed two cases of E. coli in the area. One reportedly involves a local high-school student, but no information was available on the other. It has been identified as enterohemorrhagic E. coli, a Shiga toxin-producing strain.
The two E. coli cases have been reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Health as required, but no further information on the individuals involved has been released.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. E. coli infection can progress to a life-threatening situation if the person develops hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). For more information on E. coli infection, see the CDC website at:

North Carolina Researchers Find Formaldehyde in Imported Fish
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 12, 2013)
Researchers at North Carolina State have verified that an inexpensive instant test for formaldehyde on food has found about 25% of the imported fish purchased at a grocery store chain in Raleigh, North Carolina had unacceptable levels of the chemical. The contaminated fish were imported from China and South Vietnam.
The firm Appealing Products developed the test, and have posted a chart with their results. Swai, cod, pollack, shrimp, tilapia, and whiting are some of the species that were contaminated. No fish from the United States or other regions tested positive for formaldehyde.
The chemical occurs naturally in tiny quantities in fish and other foods, including fruits and vegetables, but the levels found in the tests were far beyond normal or acceptable. The FDA does not test fish for formaldehyde, even though some countries such as Bangladesh use it to preserve food when refrigeration is inaccessible. It is also used as a bleaching agent on mung bean vermicelli, tripe, and soy bean sticks, as officials in Hong Kong have discovered.
Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that is primarily used for embalming corpses and is used to produce wood products. The National Cancer Institute states that formaldehyde exposure can cause leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancers and it may affect the lymphatic system.

After Outbreak, Chicken Back on the Menu at Tennessee Campus
Source :
By  News Desk (Sep 12, 2013)
Chicken is back on the menu at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Crossroads Cafeteria, confirms Chuck Cantrell, the school’s associate vice chancellor for Marketing and Communication.
The news comes after an outbreak of Salmonella and Campylobacter affected at least 25 people who had eaten at UTC’s dining facilities since Aug. 20 and complained about illnesses involving fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
“Since the number of cases dropped off dramatically and quickly, and we haven’t had any new reports, it would appear that any problem has likely been resolved,” Cantrell wrote to Food Safety News in an email.
Although the source of the outbreak has not yet been identified, chicken was the main suspect. It was pulled off the menu and, “All of the chicken products in stock at the time of the suspected infection have been replaced,” Cantrell noted.
All UTC dining facilities have scored high in the county health department’s periodic and unannounced inspections, with marks of 95 to 99 out of 100 possible points.
“The health department has not identified any specific product or any process that needs to be addressed or changed, so all of the necessary procedures are in place,” Cantrell stated.

African countries told to clean up food safety standards
Source :
By  Sue Blaine (Sep 12, 2013)
THERE are many challenges to food safety in Africa, but the continent has to establish safety standards before it can attain the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, said Department of Health deputy director of regulatory nutrition Malose Matlala on Wednesday.
There are an estimated 2,000 food safety-related deaths in Africa each day, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mr Matlala said at the first Global Food Safety Initiative Focus Day to be held in Africa — this time in Johannesburg.
The event was held under the auspices of South Africa’s National Consumer Commission, a statutory body aimed at promoting a "fair, accessible and sustainable" marketplace for consumer products and services, and establishing national consumer protection norms and standards.
Mr Matlala said food safety and food security were inextricably liked, and countries needed to develop "good" science-based food safety legislation that was also enforceable. Challenges included vetting compliance, co-ordination between government departments and bodies, the supply of well-trained inspectors, the lack of competent laboratory services that were International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) compliant and used correct testing methods, and ensuring the food industry was trained in the interpretation of the law.
South Africa did not yet have a food safety policy in place, but was working on one, Mr Matlala said. This puts the country on a par with Guinea, Liberia and Tanzania, but behind Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire. Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo, according to WHO research.
Nestlé vice-president in charge of quality management Anthony Huggett, who is also a Global Food Safety Initiative board member, said the initiative was aimed at harmonising food safety standards worldwide so that market efficiencies were increased.
The initiative was pleased to be able to expand its work to Africa, and impressed by the attendance of 250 delegates from 17 African countries at the first African focus day, Mr Huggett said.
The initiative’s chairman, Yves Rey, said food safety was a "shared risk" across the globe because most food products contained ingredients from several countries.
"The food industry faces a huge number of food safety standards across the world. The Global Food Safety Initiative is an attempt to standardise (food safety standards) and to reduce confusion," he said.
The initiative does not write its own standards or policy for countries or companies. It aims to build confidence in third-party safety certification by "recognising" various standards schemes such as the ISO and the FAO-established Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Some of the world’s largest food companies, including Danone and Walmart, and, in South Africa, Pick n Pay, recognised standards benchmarked by the initiative, Mr Rey said.

Sainsbury’s recalls own-brand watercress after E.coli outbreak leaves 15 people ill
Source :
By  Emily Davies (Sep 12, 2013)
Sainsbury's supermarket has recalled all of its own-brand watercress after it was linked to an E.coli outbreak that has made 15 people ill.
The Food Standards Agency issued an alert last night after six people affected by the outbreak were hospitalised.
It is thought their illness is linked to watercress products bought in Sainsbury’s over the past six weeks.
The supermarket has recalled six different products containing the watercress as a ‘precautionary measure’ following the possible link to the outbreak of E.coli O157.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said their tests had not found any traces of E.coli in any products, and that no other Sainsbury’s supermarket products are known to be affected.
The FSA says on its website: ‘[Sainsbury’s] is advising people not to consume any of these products and to return them to the store they were purchased from for a full refund.
‘Investigations by the Food Standards Agency, Public Health England and local authorities are continuing and further information will be provided once it becomes available.
‘Sainsbury’s has informed the FSA that it is carrying out testing on all of its affected lines, but that no trace of E.coli O157 has been detected to date.’
Escherichia coli (E coli) is a bacteria which causes food poisoning, including symptoms such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is usually contracted by eating contaminated food but can also be passed from person to person by poor hand washing.
The FSA, Public Health England and local authorities are investigating the matter and the FSA confirmed no other supermarkets had recalled products.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: ‘The Food Standards Agency has made us aware that a small number of people have fallen ill with a bacterial infection, and that one of their lines of investigation is watercress bought at Sainsbury’s since August 1.
‘Customer safety and the quality of our food are our overriding concern, and so although no traces of contamination has been found in our products we have as a precautionary measure withdrawn six lines of pre-packed salad containing watercress from the supplier concerned.
‘We are urgently testing all similar products and have to date found no indication of contamination. We will of course keep customers fully updated.
‘Customers who have bought any of these products from Sainsbury’s since August 1 should not consume them. They can be returned to store for a full refund. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause.’
Last year seven people were infected with E.Coli after visiting Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield, in the West Midlands.
And in 2011 a deadly mutant strain of the bacteria was identified, which was capable of spreading from person to person and had been found in 12 countries.
Hundreds were left seriously ill by the outbreak and at least 18 died.

Salmonella Outbreak: Link To Butchers' Ham
Source :
By SKY NEWS (Sep 12, 2013)
A salmonella outbreak that has seen nine people admitted to hospital may be linked to cooked ham from small independent butchers, say health experts.
The outbreak of the infection Salmonella Typhimurium has led to 21 confirmed cases in Wales and 30 in England.
Nine are known to have required hospital treatment, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said.
Other potential cases are being investigated in both countries by public health officials, the FSA and environmental health officers.
The outbreak was first detected in Wales in August and centred mainly on Conwy and Gwynedd.
Additional clusters were investigated in England in the Thames Valley, Leeds, Cumbria and Stafford areas, the FSA said.
Patients ranged in age from seven months to 87 years.
Investigations had found a potential common link to cooked ham from local butchers.
The FSA said: "Testing has been carried out on ham supplied to a number of butchers identified in the investigation.
"No trace of salmonella has been found, but other hygiene issues were identified that led to one supplier voluntarily withdrawing certain batches of ham. Investigations are ongoing."
Salmonella food poisoning is usually caused by eating contaminated raw or undercooked food such as meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Symptoms can include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever.

Packing School Lunches With Food Safety in Mind
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By Mary Elizabeth Dallas(Sep 12, 2013)
Schoolchildren should start each day with a clean lunch bag or box to help prevent the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, according to a food safety expert.
Insulated, vinyl lunch bags are most effective in keeping foods cool and fresh during the day, and when kids get home from school, parents or caregivers should clean the bags with warm soapy water, and allow them to dry completely overnight, said Rutgers University professor Don Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science.
This is just one way to ensure children's school lunches are safe enough to eat, noted Schaffner, who is also a spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists.
"When you're packing a school lunch, it's important to think about the perishability of the foods you're making," Schaffner said in an institute news release. "Perishable foods can remain at room temperature for no more than two hours -- one in the summer due to the heat. Properly refrigerated foods can last a long time, but most schoolchildren won't have access to a refrigerator where they can store their lunchbox."
Parents and caregivers can take other steps to make sure children's school lunches are safe, including the following:
•Consider packaging. Use sealable, disposable sandwich bags or dishwasher-safe reusable plastic to ensure a child's lunch is packed in a clean container.
•Opt for nonperishable items. If possible, pack foods that do not need to be refrigerated, such as single-serve fruit in prepackaged containers. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are another good option. "It's a kid favorite and neither ingredient is quickly perishable," Schaffner pointed out. "You don't have to worry about refrigerating it, and it will last from the time you prepare it in the morning until kids consume it at lunchtime."
•Pack ingredients separately. Older students may be able to assemble their own lunches at school. Packing bread in one container and placing meats and cheese in a separate container with a cold pack can help keep food fresh.
•Keep it cold. Cold packs can keep cold food cool, but can't sufficiently cool down food that is room temperature. To ensure that perishable food stays cold enough, make lunch the night before and keep it in the refrigerator. In the morning, pack it in a lunch box with a cold pack so it stays cool. Cold packs should also be placed directly next to any perishable foods, such as yogurt or meat. They should also be washed after every use.
•Keep it hot. Hot foods, like soup or stew, should be stored in an insulated container. Before placing the hot food in the container, fill it with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes. Then empty the container, add the hot food and be sure to seal it firmly.
"Not planning adequately, not thinking about the amount of time it's going to take, from the time that food is prepared until that food is eaten, is a common mistake," Schaffner said. "At night, wash the cold pack and make sure it goes back in the freezer so it's ready for the next day. Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to wash your hands thoroughly before handling food. And keep stressing to kids the importance of washing their own hands before they sit down to lunch each day."
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about food safety.
SOURCE: Institute of Food Technologists, news release, Aug. 27, 2013

CSPI Urges Food Safety Reform at Meat and Poultry Plants
Source :
By (Sep 12, 2013)
Legislation introduced today by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) calls for critically needed reform of federal programs for improving the safety of meat and poultry, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The bill would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to maintain adequate staffing and increase testing at the facilities that produce beef, pork, and poultry products, and update the agency's adulteration standards to protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In addition to improving safety at plants in the United States, the bill would require FSIS to audit foreign food safety systems at least annually.
"Consumers need to know that food safety inspectors have the tools they need to protect the public from serious illnesses. The Safe Meat and Poultry Act would give inspectors the authority and the resources they need to do their job," said CSPI senior food-safety attorney David Plunkett.
The federal Government Accountability Office recently reported on problems with a USDA proposal to change poultry and pork inspection so that plants could speed up production. CSPI has urged the agency to set aside the proposed changes.
"Speeding up inspection makes USDA look like an agency that is more concerned about boosting corporate profits than protecting consumers from foodborne diseases," Plunkett said. "This legislation would refocus the agency on its primary business of protecting consumers."
A number of provisions to modernize FSIS match the recent modernization of food safety programs at the Food and Drug Administration. For example, the bill gives the Under Secretary of Food Safety authority to recall food. Currently USDA can only ask companies voluntarily to recall meat and poultry products or totally shut plants down.

Canada Works To Improve Food Traceability
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Sep 12, 2013)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is working to improve food traceability on a national level by creating partnerships with provincial governments.  On  Tuesday, the CFIA and the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Forestry signed an information sharing agreement that will make it easier to track livestock.
“The ability to zero in on an animal that may be sick or a risk to food safety is important to protecting consumers and animals,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, said in a statement. “Locating animals faster and more efficiently can help lessen the impact of these types of events at the farm-level.”
“This system will provide valuable information to help emergency responders take precautionary measures to protect human and animal health,” said Prince Edward Island’s Agriculture and Forestry Minister George Webster in a statement.  Alberta and Manitoba have signed similar agreements.
The goal of the initiative, which is part of the National Agriculture and Food Traceability System, is to develop a system that can quickly and accurately track livestock from farm to slaughter. A system that provides this type of information can protect public health in the event of a food poisoning outbreak or an outbreak of animal disease. It can also help to avert a major recall like the 2012 XL Foods recall where 4,000 tons of beef were recalled for possible E.coli contamination.

Medical college patient gets dead snake in curry
Source :
By TNN (Sep 12, 2013)
THIRUVANATHAPURAM: A woman got the shock of her life on Wednesday morning when she found an unusual and nauseating ingredient in her pea curry: a dead snake hatchling.
The finding led to the closure of the Medical College Teachers' Co-operative Society canteen, which served the dish. After finding worms and millipedes from food items, it is the turn of snake.
The dead snake was found in the appam-curry set ordered (as parcel) by a patient at Medical College hospital here for the breakfast.Food safety officials closed down Medical College Teachers' Co-operative Society canteen following a complaint.
Nedumangadu-based V Omana found the snake in the curry only after her son ate some portion of the curry and left the rest for her. Shocked to see the worm-like creature in the curry, Omana approached a doctor at the hospital. The doctor informed that it was a young snake. Soon, Omana informed food safety officials.
The food safety wing led by Satish Kumar collected the samples and sent them to laboratory. "It looked like a worm at first. Later we confirmed that it was a young snake. We have inspected the canteen and sealed it. The samples and the snake were sent to laboratory for analysis," Satish Kumar said.
A food safety official said that the matter was serious and they won't allow the canteen to open. "Once we get the lab report, we will file a detailed report to food safety commissioner and Medical College superintend," the official said.
Barring the mental shock, Omana and her son did not complain of any health problems, the official said.
A senior doctor at the Medical College hospital said that some private parties were functioning under the name of Medical College teachers' society, but the teachers had no role in it.
"A number of unauthorised canteens is functioning on the campus. Most of them function with the support of local politicians. When Usha Titus was the special health secretary, some steps were taken to regularise canteens. The Medical College Teachers' Co-operative Society has nothing to do with Medical College teachers. Some local politicians are behind the canteen. The Medical College is planning to give IRCTC the contract to run the canteen on the campus," said a doctor on condition of anonymity.
The canteen was functioning near the old superintend office on the campus. The food safety official said the hygienic condition of the canteen and the premises was not satisfactory.

Food safety news: Pet treats infect 21 people with Salmonella
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After 79 E. coli Illnesses, Federico’s Gets Clean Bill of Health
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 10, 2013)
Federico’s Mexican Restaurant has gotten a clean bill of health from Maricopa County after 79 customers at their Litchfield Park, AZ, location fell ill with E. coli O157:H7 in July.
Over the course of the outbreak, nearly 30 people were hospitalized and two developed life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
After reports of illness tied the restaurant to the outbreak in August, the restaurant voluntarily closed for three days to clean all surfaces and bring in new food. The county then performed a full inspection and passed the restaurant, allowing it to reopen on Aug. 5. A routine inspection on Sept. 5 recorded one violation.
To encourage customers to return, Federico’s has announced that it will offer free breakfasts and dinners on Sept. 16 at all of its locations. And, in response to the impact E. coli can have on kidneys, the chain also plans to donate 20 percent of gross sales from Sept. 30 to the Arizona chapter of the National Kidney Foundation.
The exact source of the illness at the Litchfield Park Federico’s has not been identified. Findings from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health report are not expected for several months.
Food safety law firm Marler Clark has filed lawsuits on behalf of a number of Federico’s customers who fell ill in the outbreak, including two minors who were hospitalized and developed HUS. Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News.

Food safety news: Salmonella and a vaccine for Campylobacter
Source :
By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian (Sep 10, 2013)
At least 25 people at a university campus in Tennessee have been sickened by not just one, but two types of bacteria often associated with chicken.
Food Safety News reports that the outbreak was caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter, common contaminants in poultry. At least 25 people who ate at the University of Tennessee's Chattanooga campus have developed a range of gastrointestinal symptoms since Aug. 20.
Food Safety News reports that the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is investigating the six food-service outlets that supply food to the campus and the catering service at the university.
In more chicken news, researchers at Ohio State University have uncovered a way to control Campylobacter colonization in chickens.
The Poultry Site reports that a  potential vaccine to prevent the colonization of the chicken's gut by Campylobacter jejuni, administered subcutaneously, has been successfully tested by Ohio State scientists.
In vegetable news, North Carolina researchers are studying ways that Salmonella attacks tomatoes, according to The Packer.
The website reports that scientists at North Carolina State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hope to discover how Salmonella moves into tomato fields to help growers prevent infection.
The three-year study, started in August in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, will focus on  the relationship between Salmonella, potential bacteria storage places and commercial tomato production.
And in case you haven’t noticed, there have been six pet food recalls in the United States since March, the Shelton Herald reports. Various brands have pulled a variety of food, from the Northeast to the West Coast.
The prime suspect? You guessed it: Salmonella.
The bacteria harm both people and pets. The article reminds readers – as we have often done – to carefully wash their hands after handling pet food, just in case.

Push to modernize plant inspections threatens food safety, report says
Source :
By Michael Pizzi (Sep 09, 2013)
A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that agriculture regulators pushing to streamline food-safety inspection have not thoroughly evaluated pilot projects that are expected to serve as models for poultry slaughterhouses across the country, which could jeopardize food safety.
The GAO report, released Sept. 4, also criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to disclose accurate information about the data it used to promote what it calls "modernization" changes at the plants, which are aimed at saving taxpayer money.
The government plan, which includes speeding up processing lines while cutting back on the number of government inspectors, has sparked significant opposition from those concerned that dangerous pathogens like salmonella could go undetected under the new system.
Opponents of the plan argue that greater emphasis needs to be placed on holding the companies that produce contaminated food accountable.
If the government is to actually improve poultry inspection, "the Obama Administration needs to get the legal authority from Congress to hold companies accountable for putting contaminated food into commerce, not deregulate inspection," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a leading critic of the plan.
But the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service, or FSIS, said there are several inaccuracies contained in the GAO report. It added that the findings miss the main objective of the government effort, which is to reduce overlapping inspections by plant employees and government inspectors and allow government inspectors to focus on areas of greatest risk to food safety.
In 2011, the USDA said operation of the pilot project at 20 chicken plants showed that the streamlined inspection program would ensure equivalent, if not better, levels of food safety and quality than currently provided at plants not in the pilot project. In early 2012, the USDA indicated that it would extend the pilot program for poultry to all U.S. poultry plants, which could dramatically speed up processing lines.
But the GAO report said it found that the USDA relied on limited snapshots of data, rather than from the duration of the entire pilot project, and did not complete any evaluation for the pilot projects at five turkey plants, as it suggested it had done in a publication on the project.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., requested the GAO report after several food and environmental groups expressed concerns about the pilot programs.
The senator sent a letter Wednesday to the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees funding for food-inspection operations, urging it to ensure that the new plan for modifying poultry inspection does not go forward "until further action is taken to protect food safety." The letter was made available to Reuters by Gillibrand's office.
The GAO report, Gillibrand said, shows that the FSIS' evaluation of the pilot program is "deeply flawed" and "not formulated on a strong scientific basis."
Proponents say the new system, which would be the first major overhaul of poultry inspection in 50 years, will allow government inspectors to spend more time focused on microbiological testing and other food-safety activities rather than on quality control.
Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world's largest poultry companies, has been piloting the plan at some of its poultry plants and is a supporter of the changes.
Opponents of the USDA's modernization project have drawn attention to two recent salmonella outbreaks as evidence of its inability to curb dangerous pathogens.
In the aftermath of a 2008 salmonella outbreak spread by canned salsa that caused at least 1,442 people to be hospitalized, the George W. Bush administration was criticized for its failure to enact stricter regulation, namely a plan that would have forced food producers to implement electronic tracing that could be used to trace contaminated ingredients through the supply chain.
Salmonella contaminated eggs originating in two Iowa plants caused approximately 1,939 illnesses between May and November 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spurring an even wider push for regulation.
The food industry has traditionally been vocal in its opposition to costly and burdensome regulation, but public outrage in response to these high-profile outbreaks has eroded their stance. Now, many companies are in favor of more efficient regulation so long as they are included in developing new processes.
"The food industry is learning the hard way that having a strong FDA and common sense regulation makes good financial sense," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who was the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee during the 2008 outbreak.
In January 2010, a Democratic Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act with the goal of expanding regulation and increasing focus on prevention of outbreaks, rather than simply containment. The Act fell short of establishing an electronic tracking system or any other mechanism for tracing the origin of food products in the event of contamination.

Suspect Food Poisoning? State Contact List is a Good Place to Start
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 09, 2013)
If you or someone you know has been exhibiting the symptoms of food poisoning, you (or your doctor) should contact your state or city health department. has a map with links to all of the state, commonwealth, and territory health departments to get you started. When two or more people have the same illness from the same contamianted food or drink, the illnesses are officially classified as an outbreak.
Since most cases of foodborne illness are not reported, it’s crucial that if you did get sick from food served at a restaurant or event, you tell public health officials about it. For instance, Salmonella outbreaks are usually underreported by a factor of 30. If an official Salmonella outbreak case count stands at 100, there are likely 3,000 people who are actually sick in that outbreak. Your case may provide the clues that can help solve an outbreak.
When public health officials discover an outbreak, they move quickly to investigate so more people don’t get sick. They also use this information to help prevent outbreaks from happening in the future. The CDC has good information about how a foodborne outbreak is investigated, from farm to fork. Food Poisoning Bulletin has also detailed the investigation of an E. coli outbreak that happened in Montgomery County, Ohio in July 2012.

One of Two New HUS Cases Might be Related to E. coli
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 09, 2013)
The Rome, GA-based Northwest Georgia Health Department has determined that one of two Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) cases currently being investigated by the public health agency may have started with an E. coli infection.
A health department spokesman says an HUS case out of Catoosa County is not linked to E. coli, but it is possible that a second HUS case being investigated out of Walker County might be E. coli-related. The department is seeking the source of both illnesses.
HUS is a potentially deadly kidney-damaging disease that largely impacts children after they are infected with E. coli bacteria.
Walker and Catoosa counties make up the northwest corner of Georgia, both being adjacent to Chattanooga, TN. There have been no reports of E. coli cases in Tennessee by either the state health department or its southeastern health district.

Boil all imported frozen berries, they could contain hepatitis A – FSAI
Source :
By Amy Croffey (Sep 09, 2013)
THE FOOD SAFETY Authority of Ireland (FSAI) are advising people to boil all imported frozen berries again.
It’s the second time the FSAI have asked people to boil the fruit for at least one minute before eating as it continues its investigation into a food poisoning outbreak of hepatitis A virus.
According to Prof Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, boiling imported frozen berries for at least one minute destroys the virus if it is present.
So far in Ireland, there have been 15 primary cases of hepatitis A linked to the consumption of the frozen fruit.
The outbreak in Ireland – and the link to frozen imported berries – coincides with a similar outbreak in Italy.
The FSAI continues to work in close collaboration with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the Health Service Executive and the National Virus Reference Laboratory focusing on tracking and tracing the foods that those infected with the virus say they have eaten and cross referencing this information with similar investigations in Italy.
The FSAI added that it was unlikely that fresh Irish or fresh imported berries are a cause of the outbreak.
What is hepatitis A?
It is a disease that can be relatively mild, lasting one to two weeks, or more severe lasting months. Symptoms increase with age. The most common symptoms are fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and abdominal pain, followed within a few days by jaundice.
The incubation period (time from exposure to onset of illness) ranges from 15 to 50 days, the average being 28 days.

Food & Water Watch on FSIS Audit of Chinese Poultry Safety System
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 02, 2013)
Last week, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service approved certain Chinese chicken processing facilities to export product to the United States. Their audit says that China’s processed poultry inspection system safety system is equivalent to the U.S. system. The report states that “the Central Competent Authority (CCA) has adequately addressed all previously identified concerns. Therefore, the People’s Republic of China’s processed poultry inspection system meets the equivalence components for FSIS equivalence criteria.”
The People’s Republic of China can now certify a list of establishments that are eligible to export heat treated and cooked poultry products to the U.S. The caveat is that this will be allowed as long as raw poultry is sourced from countries that FSIS has determined to have a poultry slaughter inspection system equivalent to the U.S. system, since China’s does not at this time. An audit to determined if China can export its own chicken to the U.S. is underway and will be completed soon.
Food and Water Watch has released a statement from Wenonah Hauter, their Executive Director, about this decision. She said, “it’s common practice for government agencies to release information they hope to sneak past consumers on Friday afternoons before a holiday weekend.”
Hauter says that her agency objects to several loopholes in the audit report. First, there will be no USDA inspector in the Chinese poultry processing facilities to verify that the poultry is coming only from “approved sources”. In other words, there is no way to check if the Chinese facilities are importing raw poultry or using their own.
Second, Hauter states that the Chinese food safety system is still riddled with serious deficiencies. For instance, in July, a factory in Kunming was using pond water used for washing feet to make rice vermicelli. And an investigation in July revealed that ice served at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in China had 13 times more bacteria than toilet water. The Council on Foreign Relations says that China doesn’t systematically sample its food products for safety and regulation, and the country’s system has fewer and lower food safety standards than the rest of the world.
Finally, because the poultry is processed, Hauter says there will be no label on the finished product telling consumers that the meat is imported from China. No Country of Origin labeling required.
Food & Water Watch is also concerned about the bird flu, which has been a huge problem in China. Hauter concludes, “today’s audit report reveals yet again that USDA is willing to allow trade to trump food safety.”



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