09/23 2013 ISSUE:566
Emerging Pathogens: Vibrio Cases in Oysters Expected to Continue Increasing
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/emerging-pathogens-vibrio-cases-in-oysters-expected-to-continue-rising/
By Ben Miller (Sep 23,2013)
With a nearly 50-percent mortality rate, Vibrio vulnificus is the most deadly foodborne pathogen in the world, according to University of North Carolina at Charlotte Biology Professor Jim Oliver. And instances of infection in the U.S., however rare, are rapidly rising.
Fifteen years ago, there were 21 confirmed cases of Vibrio vulnificus and parahaemolyticus infections in the U.S. Last year, there were 193.
While infections from either of the pathogens are still rare compared with, say, Salmonella and Campylobacter, the incidence rate grew faster than any of the other five microbes tracked in the Centers for Disease Control’s 2012 Food Safety Progress Report. The vulnificus strain is responsible for 95 percent of seafood-related illness fatalities in the U.S., according to a 2013 study by Oliver and Joanna Nowakowska. Another Vibrio strain, parahaemolyticus, is milder, causing diarrhea, nausea, fever and chills, according to CDC.
Several studies have linked Vibrio’s quick growth rate with rising ocean temperatures, a critical condition favorable to the saltwater-based bacterium. Instances of Vibrio have started showing up in colder places where they were largely unheard-of before.
“Most notably, they’ve been [seeing cases] in places like the Baltic and Germany,” Oliver said.
While those cases usually involved Vibrio entering humans through wounds while they were swimming, a 2009 article by Oliver and Melissa Jones shows that about 93 percent of Vibrio cases in the U.S. manifest themselves in people who have consumed raw or undercooked oysters. Vibrio can also come from other undercooked seafood.
Vibrio doesn’t harm the oysters in any way, according to Rohinee Paranjpye, a research microbiologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“It appears to be a symbiotic relationship,” Paranjpye said.
Several post-harvest processing methods exist, which have varying degrees of success at killing Vibrio, but they have several drawbacks, said Chris Nelson, a trustee of the Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation. One of the largest barriers is cost.
“There’s a huge barrier in terms of capitalization,” Nelson said. “Let’s say you needed a million dollars — and some of the post-harvest processing pieces of equipment are upwards of a million dollars — you have to be a certain size operation.”
In addition to the costs of equipment, a 2011 report from the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference found that processing methods incur staff time and transportation costs. Because such costs are passed on to the consumer, Nelson said the price of oysters can multiply.
“Probably for every dollar spent processing, it’s going to result in at least three more dollars on the dinner plate,” he said. “And probably even more than that because, if you make the additional investment, you’re going to want an additional profit.”
The least-expensive method, which involves freezing the oysters, is typically not used during the summer months when the water is warmer and Vibrio cases are more likely to rise, Nelson said. During the winter, when oysters are plumper, they can take the beating of post-harvest processing. But, when it gets warmer, the reproduction cycle takes much of the meat out of oysters, and processing can reduce the product’s quality, he said.
However, the costs of processing vary depending on several factors, including the method used, the market intended for the oysters, and whether the company in question is using its own material or paying somebody else to process their catch.
For instance, processing can actually reduce the price of shucked oysters, according to the ISSC’s report. Certain methods will help open oysters up, which almost cuts in half the amount of time it takes to shuck them. However, the report also showed that only 40 percent of oysters are sold to the shucked market, while 60 percent are sold to the half-shell market.
Nelson said some regulations exist for post-harvest processing, but they vary by location and time of year.
Cooking oysters can kill Vibrio as well. But, as long as ocean temperatures continue to rise, Oliver said Vibrio will continue to be a problem.
“Vibrio cases in general, I’m very confident will increase,” he said.
Consumer Coalition Urges USDA to Cancel Proposed Poultry-Inspection Program
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/consumer-coalition-urges-usda-to-cancel-new-poultry-inspection-program/
By James Andrews (Sep 23, 2013)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture should withdraw a proposal to modify its poultry slaughter inspection program, the Safe Food Coalition urged on Friday.
The coalition members say they are concerned the proposal could have serious repercussion on food safety. They have also asked USDA to withdraw equivalency determinations of foreign inspection programs and re-evaluate the inspection programs in those countries.
The coalition consists of eight consumer organizations, including the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, the Consumer Federation of America, and Food & Water Watch.
On the heels of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found USDA had not thoroughly evaluated its pilot programs of the modified inspection plan, the consumer coalition expressed their concerns in an open letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. The new inspection program is known as HACCP-based Inspection Model Project, or HIMP.
That report raised questions about whether HIMP would ensure improved, or even equivalent, levels of food safety and quality than currently exist. USDA has also come under criticism for selecting data from the pilot study over tw0, two-year periods instead of basing its proposal on data from the pilot program’s entire 10 years.
“These criticisms cut to the heart of the data and analysis on which FSIS relied in developing its proposal,” the open letter reads. “While the poultry slaughter inspection program does need to be improved, the GAO report raises serious questions about whether the data actually supports the improvements that FSIS claims in its proposed rule.”
Implementation of HIMP would prevent an estimated 5,000 Salmonella and Campylobacter infections each year, stated a spokeswoman for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in an email to Food Safety News. An estimated 1 million Americans are infected with Salmonella each year and another 850,000 with Campylobacter, according to 2011 estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s proposal to modernize the way we inspect poultry is about making food safer,” the spokeswoman said.
Approximately 10 years ago, a panel of third-party poultry experts reviewed the inspection models and found them valid, according to Alfred Almanza, FSIS administrator, in an editorial published by Food Safety News earlier this month.
The GAO report identified similar problems with a USDA pilot hog-inspection program, including a lack of comparable data and an inability to generalize the data to hog plants nationwide.
USDA’s Office of the Inspector General released a report stating that, because USDA could not determine whether the hog pilot program’s goals were met, it could not adequately oversee the pilot programs. In turn, that cast further doubt on its ability to validate the effectiveness of HIMP.
The coalition also cited recent food-safety problems with meat plants operated by foreign importers with inspection programs deemed equivalent to the USDA’s. In September 2012, for example, a Canadian beef company recalled millions of pounds of beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, 2.5 million pounds of which entered the U.S.
“FSIS lacks substantial information on which to determine whether the pilot program improves food safety,” the coalition wrote. “Considering the problems with similar approaches in foreign countries, we question whether these inspection models are sufficiently protecting public health.”
Sandy Plains Baptist Church Salmonella Outbreak Case Count Increases
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/sandy-plains-baptist-church-salmonella-outbreak-case-count-increases/
By Linda Larsen (Sep 21, 2013)
The case count of those sickened with Salmonella after eating at the Sandy Plains Baptist Church earlier this month has increased to 71. Thirteen people have been hospitalized in this outbreak. Those who are ill live in Rutherford County and Cleveland County, North Carolina. Public health officials in Cleveland County still do not know the source of the bacteria.
Officials believe that the outbreak is not growing; more people are included in the outbreak because doctors are reporting the illnesses to the public health department, which takes time. However, people may still have some food from the event in their home freezers. If so, that food should be discarded immediately.
Salmonella infections are usually caused by eating contaminated food, such as undercooked chicken or meat or drinking unpasteurized milk or juice. Unfortunately, a public health nurse in Beaufort County has said that looking at food to see if it’s undercooked is something consumers should do to protect themselves against food poisoning. Color of food is not a good indicator of doneness. The only way to tell if food is properly cooked to a safe temperature is to use a reliable food thermometer during preparation. And food must kept above 140 degrees F or below 40 degrees F after cooking to ensure that bacteria do not grow.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, chills, headache, and muscle pains. If you attended that barbecue and have experienced those symptoms, please see your health care provider and tell her you ate at that venue.
Deadly Salmonella Outbreak in Hopkins County, Kentucky
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/deadly-salmonella-outbreak-in-hopkins-county-kentucky/
By News Desk (Sep 21 ,2013)
Several news outlets, including 14News.com, are reporting a Salmonella outbreak in Hopkins County, Kentucky. So far seven cases have been confirmed, four people have been hospitalized, and one person has died.
The investigation began on September 17, 2013 and is ongoing. Public health officials do not know how the outbreak began, or if it was caused by contaminated food, contact with animals, or contaminated water.
The symptoms of salmonellosis, the illness caused by Salmonella bacteria, include diarrhea, fever, headache, and abdominal cramps. Some people also experience vomiting, nausea, and loss of appetite. The illness begins 12 hours to three days after infection, and usually lasts four to seven days. Most people recover on their own, but some people, especially those in high risk groups, become so ill they must be hospitalized. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
Salmonella infections are usually linked to improperly handled and undercooked poultry, raw milk, undercooked eggs, and unpasteurized juice, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, spices, and nuts. Contact with animals, especially reptiles, birds, and amphibians can be another cause of the infection. there have been Salmonella outbreaks in the past linked to contaminated pet food and treats.
To help prevent these infections, do not eat high risk foods, such as raw or undercooked eggs, undercooked meat or poultry, and unpasteurized milk or juice. Wash your hands well before, during, and after cooking and after using the bathroom. Separate raw meat and poultry from foods to be eaten raw, and avoid cross-contamination. Finally, cook foods to a safe internal temperature and always use a food thermometer to check doneness of eggs, meat, and poultry.
One Dead, 7 Sick from Salmonella Outbreak in KY
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/one-dead-7-sick-from-salmonella-outbreak-in-ky/#.Uj7YO2ywet8
By News Desk (Sep 21, 2013)
A Salmonella outbreak in Hopkins County, Kentucky, has killed one person and caused another seven confirmed illnesses.
The cause of the outbreak is still unknown, according to county health officials. Investigators have begun interviewing victims to see where or what they might have eaten in the days leading up to their illnesses.
Officials from the health department tell TristateHomepage.com they hope to determine the cause in the coming weeks. Often in cases like this, investigators don’t have enough information to definitively identify an outbreak source.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. They generally develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure, and last between four and seven days.
Food Safety is Serious Business
Source : http://www.gbtribune.com/section/14/article/59810/
By Donna Krug (Sep 20, 2013)
Since September is designated as Food Safety Awareness Month it provides the perfect time to share reminders about this serious topic. Who out there hasn’t experienced flu like symptoms and blamed it on something they ate? The truth is that most of the food borne illnesses begin with symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and even fever. Taking a few minutes to reinforce some of the most important food safety rules will hopefully help you beat the odds of ever experiencing a foodborne illness.
The mis-handling of food is the most common reason for a foodborne illness to occur. This includes the result of consuming food that has been held at a temperature in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone for the growth of bacteria has changed slightly since my last food safety update. The new numbers for the danger zone are between 41 and 139 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that cold foods need to be kept at 41 degrees or colder and hot foods must be maintained at 139 degrees or higher. Any temperature in between is considered the danger zone because bacteria multiply at a surprisingly high rate at those temperatures.
Another common cause for foodborne illnesses to occur is the mis-handling of food by a person with a communicable illness or poor hygiene. I remember when I was on my high school debate team many years ago. After participating in a tournament in Topeka our school was contacted because the person who was serving chili at the food stand that day had hepatitis. We all got shots to prevent us from coming down with the disease but not before our coach was also diagnosed with hepatitis. That incident certainly impressed me with the importance of proper hand washing and other food handling habits.
Take time during September and visit with your family about the importance of proper hand washing. I have taken the glow germ activity to some of the pre-schools in our community. After looking at the germs on their hands under a black light I have the youngsters wash their hands with soap and water. It just takes twenty to thirty seconds to properly wash your hands so make sure to be a role model in your family. One thing we also checked was just how effective the hand sanitizers are that have become so popular. After experimenting with the glow germ I am convinced that soap and warm water is the way to go.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at (620)793-1910 or email@example.com
Update: 11 Salmonella Cases Now Confirmed, 54 Suspected After NC Church Barbecue
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/nine-salmonella-cases-confirmed-after-church-bbq/#.Uj7YY2ywet8
By News Desk (Sep 20, 2013)
County and state health officials in North Carolina are still investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 50 people and hospitalized five of them following a fundraising barbecue held Sept. 7 at a church in Shelby, NC.
On Thursday, officials said there are now 54 probable Salmonella cases, with 11 confirmed. All but one of the five hospitalized people have been released, according to the latest news reports.
Pastor Garin Hall said that 5,000 people typically attend the annual event at the Sandy Plains Baptist Church and that the food served there is always carefully prepared.
“We have cookers that keep meat hot all the time, and so we take a lot of pride in the way that we do it and try to do it well,” he said.
Salmonella bacteria can be transmitted via raw or undercooked meat and eggs, raw milk and contaminated water. Salmonella infection can cause intestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting. Health officials are advising anyone with those symptoms who attended the church barbecue to consult with a healthcare provider and to discard any food purchased at the event.
Sandy Plains Church Salmonella Outbreak Case Count Increases
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/sandy-plains-church-salmonella-outbreak-case-count-increases/
By Linda Larsen (Sep 20, 2103)
The outbreak of Salmonella at the Sandy Plains Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina has grown to include 54 people. As of Wednesday, September 18, nine cases have been confirmed by laboratory tests, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; that number is now eleven, according to other news reports. Five people have been hospitalized in this outbreak, and all but one have been released.
As many as 5,000 people attended the barbecue. Investigators have not determined the source of the bacteria. Foods that are most likely to contain Salmonella include undercooked chicken, raw or undercooked eggs, raw milk, contaminated water, and other improperly cooked meats.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea that may be bloody, muscle pain, headache, chills, and fever. Symptoms usually begin six to seventy-two hours after exposure, and the illness can last from two to seven days. While most people recover on their own, some, including those in high risk groups, require hospitalization. Some people can have lifelong aftereffects of this infection, including reactive arthritis and heart problems.
If you or anyone you know attended the event and have been sick, consult your healthcare provider and inform her that you were exposed at the barbecue. Your doctor should inform public health authorities about your illness.
Date Labels on Food are Unrelated to Food Safety and Lead to Massive Waste
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/date-labels-on-food-are-unrelated-to-food-safety-and-lead-to-massive-waste/#.Uj7iB2ywet9
By Peter Lehner (Sep 20,2013)
This originally appeared Sept. 18 on Switchboard, the staff blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Forty percent of the food we produce in this country never gets eaten. That’s nearly half our food, wasted – not just on our plates, but in our refrigerators and pantries, in our grocery stores and on our farms. Much of it is perfectly good, edible food – worth $165 billion annually – and it gets tossed in the trash instead feeding someone who’s hungry.
My colleague Dana Gunders has been exploring how, where, and why food gets wasted in America, from farm to store to table. One of the more surprising reasons, as she explains in a report just released by NRDC and Harvard Law School, is because of the inconsistent and incoherent way in which food is date labeled. Those “best by,” “sell by,” and “use by” dates that you see on food have nothing to do with food safety. They’re set by manufacturers, without federal oversight, and most often relate to what manufacturers feel is “peak” quality.
The date label on food does not tell you if your food is safe to eat.
Confusion over dates, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, leads nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food. For the average family of four, this could translate to several hundred dollars’ worth of food being thrown away every year – and, in all likelihood, more money spent purchasing the same food again – simply because of a misleading date stamp. When we’re all keeping a close eye on our household budgets, and when one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food, this is a senseless waste.
You might think that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for food safety, would be overseeing food expiration dates. It does not. FDA, in its own words, leaves date labels on food, except for infant formula, to “the discretion of the manufacturer.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees meat, poultry, and some egg products, also says date labels are voluntary. It does call for specific wording on a label, if a manufacturer chooses to use one, such as “packing” date, “sell by” date, or “use before” date. But the agency never defines what those terms mean or how they should be determined. So, according to the federal government, a date can be there, or not be there. And, if it is there, the manufacturer can decide what it means without any further explanation for consumers. Some state agencies do require date labels for certain products such as dairy items; others, including New York, have no requirements for food dates at all.
As a result of this hodgepodge of rules, the date on your milk might be a “use-by” date, a “sell-by” date, or a date with no explanation. If you live in Florida, your milk has to be labeled with a “sell-by” date, which means, well, nothing, if you’re a consumer. The sell-by date is usually a signal to retailers that the product still has shelf life left, which helps with stock rotation. Once that milk gets home, that date does not ensure that your milk is still good, nor does it means that it’s bad. It might be good for a week, or it might have spoiled yesterday because someone left it sitting out on the counter. The date can’t tell you that.
Our ineffective and misleading date-labeling system is contributing to the very costly problem of wasted food in this country. Wasting food is a systemic problem that’s a serious drain on our economy and our natural resources. We use 80 percent of our water and half our land for agriculture in this country — and yet we’re throwing away nearly half of what we produce with those precious resources. We waste four percent of our oil producing, transporting, and packaging food that never gets eaten. Food is the single biggest item in our landfills and a source of the powerful global-warming pollutant methane.
Overhauling our date-labeling system is a straightforward, concrete solution that will reduce food waste. We need a reliable, coherent, and uniform food-dating system that provides useful guidance to consumers. The words on date labels should have a standard definition across the country and across products. Labels should clearly differentiate between safety-based and quality-based dates. Manufacturers and retailers should have their own coded system for sharing information relevant to food display and shelf life, rather than a “sell by” date that confuses consumers.
The food industry and the federal government can, and should, start making these changes today.
Have you been flummoxed by a date label recently? Take a picture of the date label on your food and upload it to our collection at FixFoodDates.com. When you upload your photo, you’ll help us get the attention of manufacturers and also receive expert tips on food storage, as well more information on sorting out the date label mess. With better laws, more information, and smarter business practices, we can begin to reduce food waste and make our food system safer and more sustainable.
Salmonella in Kentucky and North Carolina – Dozens Sick and One Dead
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/salmonella-in-kentucky-and-north-carolina-dozens-sick-and-one-dead/#.Uj7dAWywet8
By Bill Marler (Sep 20, 2013)
Kentucky press reports, that there have been seven culture confirmed cases of Salmonella in Hopkins County including a death from the illness. Four people have been hospitalized including the person that died, said Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach.
“There are always cases of salmonella in the county,” said Beach. “Those cases are reported to the health department and we’re looking for anything is outside the norm.”
Beach said the outbreak is under investigation and names of the victims are privacy protected.
“We have our epidemiology nurse working on it, who has been since we first got reports,” said Beach. “Having seven cases in a week is definitely outside the norm.”
Beach said the cultures are also being typed for the subclasses of Salmonella.
According to North Carolina new reports, 71 people have now reported illnesses linked to the Sandy Plains Baptist Church barbecue fundraiser on Sept. 7.
As of Friday, 71 people had reported getting sick after visiting the barbecue. Among those, 37 people are Rutherford County residents and 34 are Cleveland County residents.
Thirteen people have been hospitalized, with nine of those in Cleveland County, according to a news release from the health department.
Health officials say the most recent date someone has reported first getting sick was Sept. 14.
Food expiration labels ‘are misleading’
Source : http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/health/2013/09/19/food-expiration-labels-are-misleading
By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (Sep 19, 2013)
PEOPLE around the world throw out billions of kilograms of food every year because they falsely believe "sell-by" and "best-before" dates on package labels indicate food safety, researchers have found.
A study published by Harvard Law School and the US Natural Resources Defence Council found that dates printed on packaged foods, which help retailers cycle through stocked products and allow manufacturers to indicate when a product is at its peak freshness, are inconsistent.
They confuse consumers, leading many to throw out food before it actually goes bad, say the researchers.
While the research is US-based, the findings have relevance for South Africa, as the Food Directorate of the Department of Health has been reformulating the country’s food labelling regulations in recent years.
The stated objective, according to experts, has been to create an equal platform for all products with labels that state facts only, and do not confuse the consumer either by word or implication.
Co-author Emily Broad Lieb, who led the report from the Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, says the labeling system is aimed at helping consumers understand freshness, but it fails because they think it’s about safety.
"And (consumers) are wasting money and wasting food because of this misunderstanding," she says.
Dr Broad Lieb and Natural Resources Defence Council scientist Dr Dana Gunders say that, while labels "appear to be a rational system", they are essentially meaningless to consumers. Manufacturers often decide on their own how to calculate shelf life and what the dates mean.
As a result, huge amounts of food, not to mention considerable natural resources and labour, go to waste in landfill and taxes, and harm the environment.
A lack of binding federal standards on labelling means the dates are governed by a patchwork of state and local laws.
"It’s like the Wild West," Dr Gunders says.
The authors have recommended that "sell-by" dates be invisible to consumers so they cannot be misinterpreted as safety labels; that a clear, uniform date label system be established; and that "smart labels" that rely on technology to provide food safety information be used more frequently.
David Fikes, a spokesman for the US Food Marketing Institute, which represents food retailers and wholesalers, says the group agrees there has to be a clearer way for the consumer to read dates. However, it disagrees the code should be hidden from consumers, because that would make it difficult for store employees to stock shelves.
US Democrat congresswoman Nita Lowey released a statement this pressing for a consistent federal food dating system.
"Under the current patchwork of state and federal laws, consumers are left in the lurch, forced to decipher the differences between ‘sell-by’ and ‘best if used by’, and too often food is either thrown out prematurely, or families wind up consuming dangerous or spoiled food," she said.
Yet lack of understanding about the labels is not necessarily a health hazard. Researchers say they found no significant difference in incidents of food-borne illness between states such as Massachusetts, which has very strict labelling rules, and others such as New York, which is more lax.
‘You can’t tie shelf life to a date’
In fact, University of Minnesota food safety scientist Dr Theodore Labuza, who reviewed the study, says that in his more than 30 years of researching date labels, he is unaware of any outbreaks of illness related to food being kept in the refrigerator or on the shelf past an expiration date, as long as it was stored properly.
"People think the use-by date means either the product is going to die or you’re going to die if you eat it. And it’s just not true. You can’t tie shelf life to a date," Dr Labuza says.
"If the food looks rotten and smells bad, you should throw it away, but just because it’s past the date on the package, it doesn’t mean it’s unsafe."
Reagan Reflects on Food-Safety Record at Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/reagan-reflects-on-food-safety-record-at-cattlemens-beef-association/#.Uj7iwWywet9
By James Andrews (Sep 19, 2013)
Looking back on his time at the the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, James “Bo” Reagan tends to focus on his work within the beef industry to help beat back the threat of E. coli. In the unending war between an entire industry and a single bacterium, he has likely led more battles than anyone else.
Reagan spent more than two decades as the senior vice president of research, education and innovation at the NCBA, the century-old marketing and trade association representing American cattle farmers and ranchers. Last month, he left the organization to pursue other opportunities.
During his tenure, Reagan helped steer the beef industry’s safety protocols during two of the worst food-safety crises in modern history: the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak of 1993 and a record-setting recall of E. coli-contaminated ConAgra ground beef a decade later.
The Jack in the Box outbreak sickened more than 700 people, killing four children and leaving another 178 victims with lifelong medical complications. It was the first outbreak of its kind, and it single-handedly made E. coli a household name.
At the time of the E. coli outbreak, Reagan worked for the National Livestock and Meat Board, which merged with the NCBA in 1996. When the outbreak hit, the beef industry appointed Reagan to lead a team of 10 specialists in a Blue Ribbon Task Force with the goal of examining every facet of the beef business and determining the best approaches for dealing with E. coli.
“We came up with a long list of stuff we didn’t know,” Reagan told Food Safety News. “We didn’t know anything about E. coli, basically.”
The 1993 outbreak was a wake-up call to the industry. A year later, E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef became the first pathogen to be declared an “adulterant” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Beef industry figures took the FSIS ruling to court and lost, so having E. coli in ground beef was suddenly illegal.
Industry research turned to studying and learning how to prevent E. coli contamination on meat. Engineers designed new pasteurization techniques, such as steam cabinets that killed microbial organisms without cooking the meat.
Then, in 1997, the biggest companies in the industry came together to form BIFSCo, the Beef Industry Food Safety Council, which Reagan worked to coordinate. Through BIFSCo, each year around March, representatives and safety specialists from all areas of the beef industry come together to share information on how to best fight microbial contamination in beef.
“We got everyone to come together and said, ‘Look, this is a huge issue and it’s impacting all of us,’” Reagan said. “We agreed that no one would use safety as a competitive issue or an economic advantage.”
Reflecting on his 22 years of representing the beef industry, Reagan said that the vast majority of industry research dollars has gone into fighting E. coli, and, more recently, Salmonella. That research is funded by beef “checkoff” dollars: $1 for every head of cattle sold in the United States, 50 cents of which goes directly to organizations such as the NCBA to fund industry research.
Reagan said he is proud of how far the industry has come in terms of safety in the past two decades. For one thing, he said, big, million-pound beef recalls don’t happen anymore, and the smaller ones have become less common.
But the work is far from over. Reagan said that future industry leaders will always have a new safety threat down the road, much like the way E. coli exploded onto the industry’s radar in 1993.
“One thing I’ve learned is, with your safety program, you’ve always got to have your finger on the pulse,” he said. “You can’t let up.”
Organic Industry Watchdog: FDA Food Safety Rules Threaten to Crush the Good Food Movement
Source : http://www.opednews.com/articles/Organic-Industry-Watchdog-by-Will-Fantle-Fda-Poisoning-Food_Food_Food_Food-Contamination-130919-505.html
By Will Fantle (Sep 19, 2013)
CORNUCOPIA, WI : After years of deliberation in Congress, inter-agency meetings, lobbyist activity, and a never-ending stream of food poisoning outbreaks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally poised to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
However, according to a just released white paper by The Cornucopia Institute, the FDA's draft rules are so off the mark that they might economically crush the country's safest farmers while ignoring the root threats to human health: manure contaminated with deadly infectious pathogens generated on "factory" livestock farms and high-risk produce-processing practices.
"In response to deadly outbreaks involving spinach, peanut butter and eggs, Congress acted decisively three years ago to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act," said Mark A. Kastel, Co-director at The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group based in Wisconsin. "Better oversight is needed but it looks like regulators and corporate agribusiness lobbyists are simultaneously using the FSMA to crush competition from the organic and local farming movement."
Cornucopia's report closely examines the FDA's draft regulations for implementing the new food safety law, and a new FDA guidance designed to control Salmonella in eggs produced by outdoor flocks. The report concludes that the new proposals would ensnare some of the country's safest family farmers in costly and burdensome regulations in a misdirected attempt to rein in abuses that are mostly emanating from industrial-scale farms and giant agribusiness food-processing facilities.
Family farm advocates, and groups representing consumers interested in high-quality food, thought they had won a victory when the Tester/Hagan amendment was adopted by Congress exempting farmers doing less than $500,000 in business from the new rules. But Cornucopia's report suggests the FDA seems more interested in a "one-size-fits-all" approach to food safety regulation.
In reality, the report suggests that small farms are not really exempt. The FDA is proposing that the agency can, without any due process, almost immediately force small farms to comply with the same expensive testing and record-keeping requirements as factory farms.
" In practical terms," explains Judith McGeary, a member of The Cornucopia Institute's policy advisory panel and Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, " the FDA will be able to target small farms one-by-one and put them out of business, with little to no recourse for the farmers."
The FDA's economic analysis also shows that farms over $500,000 (still small in the produce industry) will be significantly impacted with some being driven out of business.
"The added expense and record-keeping time will potentially force many small and medium-sized local farms -- owner-operated, selling at farmers markets directly to consumers or to local grocers and natural food co-ops -- out of business," Kastel added.
The Cornucopia Institute is encouraging concerned farmers and consumers to visit its website and download a proxy letter to be sent to the FDA encouraging the agency to reconsider some of the key deficiencies in the proposed regulations.
The Institute's analysis points out that the FDA has wildly inflated the number of food borne illnesses that originate from farm production (seed to harvest rather than contamination that occurs later in processing and distribution).
It also alleges that the FDA has failed to recognize that specific processed crops such as fresh-cut , or produce grown in certain regions are the genesis of 90% of dangerous outbreaks in fruits and vegetables. In addition to imports from countries like Mexico, where the most recent Taylor Farms Cyclospora outbreak originated, the evidence indicates that fresh-cut bagged/boxed salad mix and greens, other pre-cut vegetables and sprouts are much more prone to contamination.
"The proposed rule is a mess," said Daniel Cohen, owner of Maccabee Seed Company, a longtime industry observer. "The FDA has much greater expertise on food safety issues from harvest to the consumer, but focused instead on farming issues from planting to harvest. Limited, modest, and more focused steps to improve on-farm food-safety could have produced simple, affordable, effective, and enforceable regulation."
According to Cornucopia, the most important lost opportunity in the collaborative process between Congress, the FDA and the USDA is the lack of attention directed at the giant concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs (factory farms) raising livestock. The massive amount of manure stored at these factory farms is commonly tainted by highly infectious bacteria that have been polluting America's air, water and farmlands.
"Federal regulators propose nothing to address sick livestock in animal factories and their pathogen-laden manure that is contaminating surrounding rural communities, nearby produce farms and our food supply," Kastel lamented..
More Organic Eggs?
The 2010 salmonella outbreak in eggs, centered in Iowa, shone a spotlight on industrial-scale egg houses confining thousands of hens in filthy and dangerous conditions.
The salmonella outbreak led to comprehensive regulation and new guidance for organic farmers. Organic farmers are required by federal law to provide outdoor access to their hens and the new FDA guidance, according to Cornucopia, materially undermines this management practice. And they are doing this despite scientific evidence tying higher rates of pathogenic contamination to older, massive factory farms with cages and forced molting (practices banned in organics) rather than raising birds outside.
"Their new guidance, on one hand, will make it difficult, expensive and maybe even impossible to have medium-sized flocks of birds outside," Kastel stated. "At the same time, the FDA has colluded with the USDA's National Organic Program to say that tiny 'porches', which hold only a minute fraction of the flock, will now legally constitute 'outdoor access.' This is a giveaway to conventional egg companies that are confining as many as 100,000 birds in a building and calling these 'organic.'"
The Cornucopia Institute has publicly stated that they are investigating legal action against regulators if enforcement action is not taken, under the Organic Foods Production Act , against the large industrial operations confining laying hens and broilers indoors.
The issue of food safety in Washington has been a contentious one, causing rifts even between nonprofits representing the interest of consumers and family farm organizations that have been historically aligned in support of organic and local food. Some consumer advocates pressed for no exemptions, even as farm policy experts have supplied evidence indicating smaller, family-operated farms are inherently safer.
"Only an idiot would not be concerned with food safety," said Tom Willey, a Madera, California, organic vegetable producer and longtime organic advocate.
Added Willey: "The antibiotic resistant and increasingly virulent organisms contaminating produce, from time to time, are mutant creatures introduced into the larger environment from confined industrial animal operations across the American countryside. The FDA's misguided approach could derail achievements in biological agriculture and a greater promise of food made safe through respect for and cooperation with the microbial community which owns and operates this planet upon which we are merely guests."
To access The Cornucopia Institute's white paper on food safety regulation, background on the FDA salmonella rule guidance for outdoor flocks, information on submitting comments directly to the FDA, or executing Cornucopia's proxy letter, visit their website: http://www.cornucopia.org/food-safety/.
Cornucopia's webpage above also includes links to the full draft regulations for the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act and the agency's salmonella guidance.
Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Unnecessary Food Waste
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/confusing-food-date-labels-lead-to-food-waste-in-america/
By Dana Gunders (Sep 19, 2013)
This originally appeared on Switchboard, the staff blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council, on Sept. 18.
Here’s a surprising little secret: You know all those dates you see on food products — sell by, use by, best before? Those dates do not indicate the safety of your food, and, generally speaking, they’re not regulated.
If this is news to you, you’re not alone. In fact, according to one industry study, 90 percent of Americans at least occasionally throw food away prematurely because they mistakenly interpret the date label to mean that their food is unsafe. And 25 percent of them do so every time.
In the U.K., they’ve estimated about 20 percent of food wasted in households is due to confusion over expiration dates. If this same estimate were true here, it would mean that the average household of four could be spending $275-450 on food that ends up being discarded even though it’s perfectly fine, just because they misinterpret the label date.
In partnership with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, we are releasing a new report called The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America. We took a deep dive into the intricacies of U.S. date labeling laws in order to figure out what is behind those dates on food. And, after all that, I can tell you this:
The U.S. food-dating system is not a system at all. It’s a mess. And that mess is leading to a whole lot of perfectly good food going to waste.
While to most people it seems that there is a rationale, objective system behind the dates we see on our food, it’s really more like the Wild West. Take orange juice, for instance. In most states, there are no laws requiring that orange juice have a date stamped on it. It is then up to the manufacturer to figure the whole thing out on their own, and there is a whole series of decisions they might go through, such as:
Should the product have a date displayed at all? Their retail customers might demand this of them; otherwise, it’s up to them.
Which words to use? Will it be “use by” or “best before” or even “sell by”? Up to them.
What does the date convey? Is it that the taste might change a little, or perhaps the color, or do they just want you to see it as a fresh product even if it will last quite a while longer? There’s no definition, so, in fact, a range of factors can feed into this decision.
How is the date calculated? They might use lab tests, do consumer taste tests, look at literature values, or just sales data. Anything goes here.
You might think that there is similarity in the dates, at least across orange juice brands, so that when you’re looking at two containers of orange juice, the dates are comparable, right? Nope. Not the case.
If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. Go into your favorite grocery store and peruse the milk section and its dates. You could also check out the OJ; I just happened to do it with milk not all that long ago. At Trader Joe’s, I found milk with no words, different words, and different types of dates – all within the same Trader Joe’s brand. In fact, even a half-gallon and a quart of the same fat-free milk had different dates.
Seriously? How are these things supposed to mean anything? When there’s that much variation, they don’t. And yet, somehow, we all operate on the premise that those dates know better than we do whether our food is still good to eat.
The main thing to understand is that foodborne illness comes from contamination, not spoilage. A pathogen has to be on your food to begin with in order for you to get sick, and it has to grow to levels that will make you sick. Handling your food safely is more important than its age. In fact, when interviewed on this topic, the president of the Institute of Food Technologists told NPR, “In 40 years, in eight countries, if I think of major product recalls and food poisoning outbreaks, I can’t think of [one] that was driven by a shelf-life issue.”
So, as consumers, the most important thing we can do is handle our food safely. Both business and government can be partners in this by providing education, but also by helping to make our food-dating system more intelligible. We need a reliable, coherent and uniform system of date labels that actually communicates what the dates are trying to convey.
You can learn more about the changes we recommend at www.fixfooddates.com and even find a neat infographic demystifying those little levers on your fridge drawers. You can also help us collect examples of confusing dates by sending a photo of one that has perplexed you (along with a description of the product) to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeting it to @NRDCFood, or posting it on our Facebook page. In return, we’ll make sure to send you information to help you figure out whether that product may still have some life left.
From the United Kingdom to the European Union, the United Nations, and even NRDC in last year’s food waste report – every entity that has investigated food waste has highlighted reducing confusion around expiration dates as one of the key “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for reducing food waste. Let’s turn that opportunity into action.
One Dead, 16 Sickened in B.C. E. coli Outbreak Linked to Raw Cheese
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/one-dead-16-sick-in-bc-e-coli-outbreak-from-raw-cheese/#.Uj7YlGywet8
By News Desk (Sep 18, 2013)
The outbreak of E. coli linked to Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Canada has resulted in one death, as well as 10 confirmed and six suspected illnesses, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The victim who died was from British Columbia. Three more B.C. residents fell ill, while the other seven cases are in Alberta. The agency is investigating another six illnesses that appear to be connected.
Health officials have linked the outbreak to unpasteurized cheese products sold by B.C.-based Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm. The Public Health Agency has recalled 14 of the farm’s cheese items, which were sold at the farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., in retail stores in B.C. and Alberta, and over the Internet between May 27 and Sept. 14.
The farm agreed to stop selling its cheese.
Victims fell ill between late July and early September. The deceased victim passed away in August.
Reaching Out to Europe on Food Safety
Source : http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2013/09/reaching-out-to-europe-on-food-safety/
By Michael R. Taylor (Sep 17, 2013)
After trips to the Pacific Northwest and New England to connect with growers and state partners on produce safety, I traveled last week to Europe to talk with our regulatory counterparts and others about what the proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mean for countries that export food to the United States. In Europe, the focus was on all four of the rules we have proposed so far, including two rules proposed in July that implement the Congressional vision of achieving greater importer accountability for food safety.
Food safety is a critical issue for all of us in today’s global food system. For consumers in the U.S., there’s a good chance that the food they are eating is imported. Fifteen percent of all the food we eat each year comes from other countries and the percentage is much higher for certain commodities, like fruits and vegetables, seafood and spices. American consumers want to know that imported food is as safe as food produced here.
U.S. food producers and processors also have a stake in the safety of food and ingredients from overseas and rightly want to know that there’s a level playing field – that imported food would have to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the U.S. under the new food safety rules. And it makes sense that European firms and governments are interested in the FSMA requirements we are developing because they want to maintain market access in the U.S.
Our first stop was in Grange, Ireland, just outside Dublin, where the European Union’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) is housed. FVO oversees the national food safety inspection programs conducted by the EU’s 28 member states. We had a full day of detailed discussion with FVO director Michael Scannell and his team about FSMA and the opportunity to collaborate on its implementation. The opportunities are great and are important for the U.S. and Europe if we’re to achieve both effectiveness and efficiency in food safety oversight.
There are some differences in how Europe approaches food safety oversight but what was striking to me was that many of the overarching principles that guide us are so similar. In the Netherlands, our second stop, a presentation by Dr. Ron Dwinger from that country’s Food and Consumer Product Authority emphasized basic principles that are very familiar to all of us – a focus on prevention, the importance of addressing food safety from farm to table, the need to base strategies on risk, and the importance of industry responsibility. It was obvious to me that all of us are talking the same language and that food safety reform is a global movement.
While in the Netherlands, my FDA colleagues and I visited the Port of Rotterdam, which is the largest seaport in Europe. The fact that it is a major gateway to the European market for food commodities from around the globe really showed the scale and complexity of today’s modern food system. We were briefed by Jack Vera, head of the Import Inspection Division, Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Authority, about their procedures and strong safety controls over what comes into the country, and we witnessed the sampling of frozen tuna from a large container that originated in Ecuador.
We moved on to Brussels for a critical meeting with our EU regulatory counterparts from DG Sanco, an arm of the European Commission that sets food safety policy and standards for the EU. FDA has had a very positive, ongoing relationship with Paola Testori, the head of DG Sanco. She is a strong leader for consumer protection and a staunch proponent of trans-Atlantic partnership on food safety, including FSMA implementation. Her direct and candid style will help ensure we fulfill our common vision.
We then held a public listening session in Brussels, where we found the same diversity of stakeholders and questions that we expect back home – from government, industry, and consumer groups. Those participating at the meeting represented both the EC and some of the EU member states.
Finally, after traveling to three countries in three days, we left Brussels for Geneva, where we visited our colleagues in the food safety program at the World Health Organization, who play a key role in assuring the scientific quality of international food safety standards, established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the United Nations, and in building the food safety capacity of developing countries.
The last stop of our trip was at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters, which sits on the shore of the beautiful lake straddled by the “old” and “new” Geneva. We met there with Gretchen Stanton, who oversees implementation of WTO agreements related to trade in food, and her colleague Melvin Spreij. Trade is important to the economies of developed countries but also for less developed ones, many of which want to strengthen their food safety systems so they can export to markets in the U.S. and Europe. We discussed our international outreach efforts on FSMA and how to help developing countries build their food safety capacity.
With each visit, meeting and listening session we participate in, both in the U.S. or abroad, it becomes clearer and clearer how important partnerships will be to successful food safety reform and how many willing partners we have.
The aspiration for partnership is of course the easy part. Actually building meaningful operational partnerships is much more difficult and will require sustained investment of effort and significant resources. It will be worth it though if the end result is a modern food safety system suited for our global food economy and capable of maintaining the public confidence essential to trade in food, whether domestic or international.
Food Safety Myth: Just Running Water is Enough to Clean Hands
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/food-safety-myth-just-running-water-is-enough-to-clean-hands/
By Linda Larsen (Sep 16, 2013)
The Partnership for Food Safety Education held a webinar last week all about fighting myths about food safety and kids. We’re running a series on those myths, since believing them can make you sick.
The first myth is that just putting your hands under running water is enough to clean them before eating or preparing foods. Here’s the truth: rubbing hands with soap and water is the way to go. Make sure to scrub thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.. A recent study found that the most frequently missed areas are the fingernails, the backs of your hands, the thumbs, and the area between the fingers.
Dirty hands spread infections. In fact, infections spread by unclean hands account for 50% of respiratory illnesses and 60% of gastrointestinal illnesses every school year. Other problems in schools include inappropriate placement of sinks, lack of access to hand hygiene products, and tsraffic flow problems.
To wash your hands effectively, wet hands with warm, clean running water and add soap. Rub hands together to make a lather. Continue rubbing for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice for an accurate count), then rinse under warm running water. It’s important to also dry your hands, using clean towels, disposable towels, or air dry. Multiple use towels are not safe.
Hand sanitizers aren’t the best option, because they don’t disinfect heavily soiled hands and aren’t effective at eliminating norovirus. But when running water and soap aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Towelettes with sanitizer are a good option, but still not as good as soap and water.
Remember to wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food; before eating; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a cut or round; after using the bathroom, and after changing a diaper. And here’s something most people don’t think about: wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after contact with animals or pet food, and after handling garbage.
Emerging Pathogens: Antibiotic Resistance Slowly Growing in Salmonella
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/09/antibiotic-resistance-slowly-growing-in-salmonella/#.Uj7lPmywet8
By Beth Krietsch (Sep 16, 2013)
The number of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella serotypes hasn’t increased drastically in recent years, but drug-resistant Salmonella continues to pose a public health threat in the United States, particularly as resistance spreads across classes of drugs, necessitates the use of more expensive drugs, makes treatment less effective, and, in worse-case scenarios, leaves infections untreatable.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study identified increasing resistance to a class of drugs called Cephalosporins, which are commonly used to treat severe Salmonella infections in adults and are the main drug of choice when treating children, for whom the fluoroquinolone class of drugs is not recommended. Currently, about five percent of Salmonella strains are resistant to Cephalosporins, mostly in cases of Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Newport.
Cephalosporin resistance is the biggest current issue in drug-resistant Salmonella, said Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC.
Bhushan Jayarao, director of the Animal Diagnostic Lab at Pennsylvania State University, echoed that sentiment, adding that Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Heidelberg are at risk of acquiring CTX-M resistance to cephalosporins. CTX-M is one form of the beta-lactamase enzymes that breaks down cephalosporins (which are used to treat severe Salmonella infections in humans) and thereby confers resistance to the bacteria that produces this enzyme.
The CDC study found that the main mechanism of resistance to cephalosporins is the production of beta-lactamases, which are enzymes that manage to inactivate the antimicrobial agent. Of concern to the researchers is the fact that the genes related to antimicrobial resistance are often mobile, moving between bacteria and Salmonella serotypes, humans and animals.
“The same genes were seen in several different kinds of Salmonella and in Salmonella collected from meat, animal and human samples, which shows that this gene is now pretty widespread,” said Maria Karlsson, research microbiologist with the National Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance team at CDC. “The Salmonella are sharing this gene.”
Assessing the genetic structure of resistance to provide evidence that the exact same genes are flowing from animal to food to humans and between types of Salmonella is an advanced method of public-health surveillance and is something the CDC hopes to do more of in the future, Tauxe said.
It is typically difficult to trace the transmission of Salmonella strains within and between animal and human populations because of the rapidly changing nature of resistance patterns in bacteria. However, researchers from Penn State recently developed a way to identify and track Salmonella Typhimurium as it evolves and spreads.
The research centers on virulence genes and regions of the bacteria’s DNA called CRISPRs, short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. CRISPRs are present in a large number of foodborne pathogens and can be used to identify antibiotic-resistance patterns within Salmonella Typhimurium.
The researchers chose to study resistance and spread within Salmonella Typhimurium because it is the most frequently isolated serotype in humans, food, animals and the environment. Information garnered from the study of Salmonella Typhimurium isolates is now being applied to other serotypes, including Kentucky, Heidelberg, Enteritidis and Infantis.
Additionally, Penn State researchers are engaged in studying antimicrobial resistance in pathogens other than Salmonella that are significant to animal and human health. The research includes looking at mechanisms associated with antimicrobial resistance and undertaking genome sequence analysis in order to determine which genetic determinants, aside from antibiotic0resistant genes, influence the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
“I am very certain that, in the next couple of years, we will be able to identify key global genetic determinants in bacteria that make them more susceptible or drug-resistant,” Jayarao said. “The science of genomics and proper interpretation of the genome data will truly be able to find and answer for us.”
Drug resistance within serotype Salmonella Kentucky has largely increased overseas in recent years, posing a significant problem in Africa and the Middle East and sounding an alarm among researchers, food-safety professionals and public health specialists in the U.S.
“If it comes to this country and gets into our poultry farms, we will run out of antibiotics to treat it,” said Susan Vaughn Grooters, food-safety research and policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Improper agricultural use of antibiotics is often pegged as a main contributor to the problem of drug-resistant Salmonella, but other studies have failed to find evidence that these practices contribute to increased antibiotic resistance. Other theories for the development of resistance exist, such as improper use of antibiotics among humans, or even, as Jayarao noted, the spread of antibiotic-resistant clonal types not influenced by antibiotic use in animals or humans.
“The most recent evidence is to suggest the spread of CTX-M resistance that was first observed in Indonesia, then in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, which then spread to Europe and very recently has emerged in Canada and the U.S.,” Jayarao said.
Consumer awareness of resistance and a demand for transparency surrounding it is important, as is increased regulation regarding antibiotic use.
“This is a public-health crisis and a key area for interest for CSPI and food-safety advocates and should be on the radar screen of consumers far above issues that have been getting more attention but are actually much less urgent,” Grooters said. “We have to act before it’s too late. It’s not if a multi-drug-resistant outbreak that’s too deadly to treat will occur, but when.”
Schumer Urges USDA to Increase Vigilance Relating to Chinese Chicken Exports
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/09/schumer-urges-usda-to-increase-vigilance-relating.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (July 16, 2013)
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take additional measures to ensure the safety of chicken that is exported from China to the United States.
The agency should conduct annual audits of China's inspection system and approved processing facilities as well as re-inspect Chinese processed poultry, Schumer wrote in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
USDA last month gave China approval to export processed, cooked chicken to the United States. Chickens raised in the United States will soon be allowed to be processed at four plants in China and sold to U.S. consumers, Schumer observed.
In a news release, Schumer expressed concerns that "lax enforcement" could expose Americans to foodborne illness. The senator cited several examples of contaminated food in China including more than 2,000 complaints that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has logged, referencing dogs that have fallen ill or died from eating chicken-jerky dog treats made in China.
Schumer also cited a 2010 audit of China's food-safety system in which USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found a number of problems, including failure to test for microbiological contamination.
"Without ongoing and adequate inspectors on site at these processing plants, there is no way to be certain that these recent issues do not still exist or will not reemerge," Schumer wrote in the letter. "China’s history of weak enforcement of food safety regulations and laws makes it deeply troubling that U.S. poultry will be processed in Chinese plants absent … onsite U.S. inspectors to guarantee that food safety laws and regulations are in fact equivalent to the United States. Consumers must be assured that not only is chicken processed according to U.S. standards, but that the chicken they consume does not contain any Chinese poultry and entirely comes from approved sources."
Responding to Schumer's letter, a spokesperson for FSIS said the agency will conduct re-inspections at the port of entry for processed chicken coming from China into the United States.
"FSIS is committed to ensuring the safety of processed poultry from China and the agency will make sure imported product is safe by conducting annual audits of China's food-safety system for processed poultry," the spokesperson added.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) also has questioned Vilsack over measures to ensure the safety of chicken coming from China. In a letter to him, she stated she remained "deeply concerned that your department is moving toward potentially granting equivalence to China’s slaughtering plants, which would ultimately lead to the export of Chinese poultry to the United States."
FSIS recently revealed that it "has determined that China's poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States, and cooked chicken imported from China would be processed under equivalent conditions as in the United States." The agency has noted it will monitor China's poultry processing system every year as part of its measures to ensure the chicken meets food-safety standards.
FSIS's findings are documented in an audit report stemming from a March 4-19 audit of China's poultry processing inspection system. FSIS examined China's food-safety program in the areas of government oversight, statutory authority and food-safety regulations, sanitation, hazard analysis and critical control points, chemical residue programs and microbiological testing programs.
"Based on the analysis of the corrective actions submitted by the PRC [People's Republic of China] in response to the 2010 audit and the results of the 2013 audit, FSIS concludes that the CCA [Central Competent Authority] has adequately addressed all previously identified concerns," FSIS stated in an executive summary of the audit report.
Although China is eligible to export chicken, the food must be fully cooked before it is exported and chickens that are raised or slaughtered in China are ineligible for exports to the United States even if such chickens have been processed.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a public interest group, contends USDA's decision puts American consumers at risk. Not only is China's "food-safety system" still permeated "with serious deficiencies", Americans won't know where the chicken came from because there is no country of origin labeling requirement for the processed food, she said in a prepared statement Aug. 30.
“It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease," Hauter declared. "Today’s audit report reveals yet again that USDA is willing to allow trade to trump food safety."
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