FoodHACCP Newsletter
09/30 2013 ISSUE:567


Horse traceability issues in Britain highlighted in study
Source :
By (Sep 30, 2013)
A survey of horse owners in Britain has highlighted issues around animal traceability in the country should there be an infectious disease outbreak.
The researchers said their findings, published in the journal, BMC Veterinary Research, illustrated the difficulties which exist with national horse traceability in Britain, despite the operation of the National Equine Database, which ran from 2006 to 2012, and the horse passport system.
Glasgow University researchers Lisa Boden, Tim Parkin, Julia Yates, Dominic Mellor, and Rowland Kao said contingency planning for potential equine infectious disease outbreaks relied on accurate information on horse location and movements to estimate the risk of spread of disease.
An online questionnaire was used to obtain unique information linking owner and horse location to characteristics of horse movements within and beyond Great Britain.
Boden and her colleagues said the online survey yielded a strong response, providing more than four times the target number of 1000 respondents living in all parts of Britain.
The 4298 respondents on which the analysis was based owned or were responsible for 17,858 horses.
Analysis indicated that horses who were kept at livery yards and riding schools were likely to be found in urban environments, some distance away from the owner’s home and vaccinated against influenza and herpes virus.
Survey respondents were likely to travel greater than 10 miles to attend activities such as eventing or endurance, but 58.6 per cent were also likely to travel and return home within a single day.
“This may affect the geographical extent and speed of disease spread, if large numbers of people from disparate parts of the country are attending the same event and the disease agent is highly infectious or virulent,” the researchers said.
“The greatest risk for disease introduction and spread may be represented by a small proportion of people who import or travel internationally with their horses.
“These respondents were likely to have foreign horse passports … making the location of these horses untraceable.”
Within Britain, these horses integrate with the local equine population during competition and breeding activities. If a local population became infected this would be an efficient mechanism for spread of disease due to the interconnectedness of the industry, the researchers said.
“However, these movements for competition and breeding purposes are reasonably infrequent and over greater distances and, fortunately, are well-recorded by the relevant competition organisations. As such, these horses are likely to be well-managed and under vigilant disease surveillance.”
The researchers said the introduction of mandatory horse passports in 2005 was viewed as an opportunity to improve horse traceability.
However, collecting accurate data on horse location and movements remained a problematic and important issue, particularly with respect to disease control.
Since 2006, the National Equine Database had received data on all equidae issued with a passport from any of the 80 passport-issuing organisations in Britain.
However, in September 2012, funding for the database ended. Plans to continue a centralised equine database have not been confirmed.
“There are several independently collected sources of data on horse location in Great Britain, but none is considered a ‘gold standard’ being representative of the whole equine population,” the authors said.
The researchers said location information was well-documented on horses registered with highly regulated organisations within the equestrian industry, but there was a lack of information on unregistered horses used for leisure activities or as pets, even though these horses may account for up to 60 per cent of Britain’s horse population.
“These least-well regulated animals may be most important in an outbreak, precisely because they are difficult to find and their impact on disease transmission unknown.”
Analysis showed that respondents usually transported horses in their own vehicles (64.5 percent); 14.8 percent shared their vehicles or others’ vehicles (31.9 percent) to transport horses from the same or different premises.
In the year preceding the questionnaire, most respondents would drive two hours or less to attend local events (90.6 percent) or to obtain horse care (84.1 percent). Most respondents – 70.5 pecent – would drive three hours or less to attend national events.
A small proportion of respondents, 6.3 percent, travelled with their horses internationally and/or imported horses from Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Poland.
“Compared to those who did not travel internationally, horse owners who did so were three times more likely to have at least one horse with a foreign passport than a British-issued horse passport.
“They were also more likely (than not) to be a riding instructor/professional equestrian, a breeder or involved in the thoroughbred industry and participate in activities such as breeding, show jumping or endurance.
“Consistent with previous findings, this study showed that horse-keeping on livery yards or riding schools was more likely to be near urban, semi-urban or industrial areas.
“In theory, these types of premises may pose the greatest risk for disease transmission due to large numbers of horses at the same site owned and cared for by different people.
“Although this study indicates that vaccination coverage for prevalent infectious equine diseases such as influenza virus, herpes virus and tetanus was not 100 percent, it was better than previously reported and horse owners associated with livery yards and riding schools were more likely than not to vaccinate for these diseases.
“Vaccination coverage may be a proxy measure for biosecurity awareness but horse owners need to appreciate the risks associated with keeping horses at these types of premises, particularly with regard to spread of emergent and exotic viruses for which there are no vaccines available.”
Respondents were likely to travel far to attend infrequent activities such as eventing or endurance. Most respondents would travel to and from an event in a single day.
“This may affect the geographical extent and speed of disease spread, if large numbers of people from disparate parts of the country are attending the same event and the disease agent is highly infectious or virulent.
“However, should a disease outbreak occur, the survey data suggest that only a small proportion of horses would be out of position (i.e. not at their premises of origin), should lengthy movement restrictions be implemented.
“Nevertheless, even if this proportion represented only 0.005 percent of the total Great Britain horse population, this would result in as many as 5000 horses being ‘out of position’.
“This is a significant consideration for policy makers when planning for disease control for horses compared to livestock.”
The authors said results of the study illustrated the difficulties that still existed with national horse traceability in Britain.
“This study also demonstrates that an online approach could be adopted to obtain important demographic data on Great Britain horse owners on a more routine and frequent basis to inform decisions or policy pertaining to equine disease control.
“This represents a reasonable alternative to collection of Great Britain horse location and movement data given that the NED no longer exists and there is no immediate plan to replace it.”

Successful tailgate parties include food safety
Source :
By (Sep 29, 2013)
Football season is in full swing. Part of the fun of attending a football game is the tailgate party. However, these gatherings can be potentially harmful if safe food handling practices are not followed.
Any time we transport and consume food in outdoor settings, we need to be vigilant about keeping food safe. Bacteria can spread from soiled hands to food because of improper hand washing. And hot foods may not be kept hot enough (above 140 degrees F) or cold foods kept chilled (below 40 degrees F).
Here are some tips to keep food safe at your next tailgate party:
- Wash hands with soap and water before handling food and then again before handling a different food. If a hand-washing sink is not available, make your own hand-washing station by putting warm water in a large insulated beverage container with a spigot. Designate it for hand washing only. Take soap, paper towels and a container to catch the waste water. If you like to use hand sanitizer, keep in mind hand gels kill the bacteria but they do not remove dirt and dead bacteria.
- Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches and salads must be kept on ice or in a refrigerator. These foods should not be kept at temperatures above 40 degrees F for more than two hours.
- Try to avoid cross-contamination by wrapping foods well and storing foods that require cooking separately from ready-to-eat foods.
- Pack cold food with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Fill ice chests completely, either with food or extra ice; a full cooler is likely to retain a more constant temperature that will protect foods. During the party, drain the cooler of melted ice.
- It's best to have two coolers - one for food and one for beverages. Having two ice chests is important because beverage chests usually are opened more frequently than food storage chests. Each time an ice chest is opened and exposed to outside air, the temperature in the chest can rise.
- Another trick to help keep foods cool is to cover coolers with blankets and keep them in the shade to help hold in the cold temperature.
- For those tailgaters who opt for takeout foods such as fried chicken, make sure it is eaten within two hours of being picked up. Another option is to purchase the food ahead of time. Allow it to chill in the refrigerator and then store it in a cooler when you take it to your tailgate party.
- Bake hot dishes right before leaving home. To keep them hot during traveling, secure the pan or casserole cover and place in an insulated carrying case or insulated cooler for hot foods.
- If preparing food to be eaten before and after the game, prepare two separate dishes and take separate utensils for each dish to prevent contamination.
For more information on safe food handling and preparation, call Penn State Extension in Lackawanna Country at 570-963-6842 for a free brochure titled "Food Safety Tailgating Tips - Be on the Offense Against Foodborne Illness."
KAREN THOMAS is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.

Jensen Farms Cantaloupe Owners Arrested, Charged
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 26, 2013)
Eric and Ryan Jensen, the owners of Jensen Farms that was the source of contaminated cantaloupe that caused a nationwide outbreak, were arrested today in Denver on charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FDA. The indictment charges the brothers with six counts of adulteration of a food and aiding and abetting.
The Justice Department claims that the cantaloupe produced at Jensen Farms was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and the fruit was “prepared, packed and held under conditions which rendered it injurious to health.” Documents state that the defendants had a processing center that did not clean bacteria from the product. A system was installed in May of 2011 that was originally designed to clean potatoes, which are cooked before consumption. The system was designed to include a chlorine spray to kill bacteria, which was never used.
The documents also state that defendants were aware that cantaloupes could be contaminated with harmful bacteria if not sufficiently washed. The FDA and CDC determined that the defendants failed to adequately clean the cantaloupes. At least six shipments of contaminated cantaloupe were shipped to 28 different states.
The final CDC report on the outbreak totaled 147 people sickened and 33 people who died. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of her illness had a miscarriage. Ten additional deaths not attributed to listeriosis occurred among persons who had been infected by eating outbreak-related cantaloupe.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a statement, “as this case so tragically reminds us, food processors play a critical role in ensuring that our food is safe. They bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public. Where they fail to live up to that responsibility, and as these charges demonstrate, this office and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to act forcefully to enforce the law.”
If convicted, each man faces not more than one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 per charge. The case was investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Consumer group fights with USDA over food safety
Source :
By (Sep 27 ,2013)
WASHINGTON - Modernizing the way meat is processed for your plate could gross you out, according to the group
The group took what it says were 500,000 signatures from an online petition to the White House Thursday urging President Obama to halt plans to expand a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to streamline and speed up the processing of poultry.
Rob Wohl, a campaigner at, an online consumer advocacy group, says the U.S. Agriculture Department's plans to expand it's HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Program) pilot program to poultry operations throughout the country could leave consumers at risk for diseases like salmonella.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service denies any claims that it's efforts to boost efficiency compromise health or safety. Cathy Cochran, public affairs specialist with the Food Safety and Inspection Service sent the following statement to WTOP regarding's statements:
These allegations are false. Groups claiming to be food safety focused are protesting modernization that would prevent at least 5,000 American illnesses every year. These food safety enhancements dramatically lower fecal contamination rates and positive Salmonella test results in poultry plants, not to mention that they would put in place stricter requirements for quality defects, such as bruises.
Cochran, speaking for the USDA, said an opinion piece that appeared on the website, sums up the USDA's position.
Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council, says it is not in companies' best interest to operate at speeds that cannot produce safe and high quality poultry products.
"USDA's proposal is about making poultry products safer. It is about shifting more federal resources to focus on things you can't see, like Salmonella and other food borne bacteria. This proposal has been tested, studied, debated and proven successful for 14 years," Super says.
This article has been modified to remove a Washington Post article that was about a USDA Inspector General audit of pork slaughter plants, not poultry plants.
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

Food Safety and Clean Label Enhanced by New Ultrasonic Spray Coater
Source :
By (Sep 26, 2013)
Recent outbreaks of food borne diseases in developed countries around the world resulted in numerous deaths and hospitalizations. Manufacturers of food products and supermarket chains had to recall their products from the marketplace, and consequently suffered major economic impact and damage to their reputation. In response to these outbreaks, significant improvements to the manufacturing processes were introduced, with the objective of enhancing food product safety.
In the USA, the regulatory agencies FDA and USDA permit the use of certain anti-microbial agents to enhance food safety. Such anti-microbial agents can be spray-coated on the surface of various foods providing an added level of protection against bacterial contamination. As an example, for meat, poultry, and egg products, the USDA recognizes a long list of chemical actives with their recommended dosages:
A few of these antimicrobial agents are efficacious at extremely low dosage (e.g., Lauric Arginate LAE), provided they are applied uniformly on the entire surface of the food product. They are consistent with FDA labeling definition of "Processing Aid" and accordingly, exempted from being listed in the product ingredients label declaration.
This combination of enhanced safety coatings and "Clean Label" generated a significant and growing interest in these anti-microbial agents among food manufactures and in the spray coating equipment which can guarantee such uniform, low dose spray coating onto food products.
The new systems are ideal for spraying extremely small amounts of anti-microbial agents uniformly onto the surfaces of meat slices as they are descending off industrial slicers at high speeds. Such accurate low dose coating capability is unmatched by any air pressure assisted spraying system. Based on Sono-Tek's expertise and experience in FDA validated medical device coating applications, the company now offers meat manufacturers and slicing equipment manufacturers a unique capability for enhancing safety with a clean label.
Industrial scale meat slicers operate at range of speeds from 250 RPM to 1500 RPM. In order to effectively cover the entire throughput range, Sono-Tek's ultrasonic spray coater for anti-microbial applications is offered in a stand-alone model, where the controller of the equipment adjusts variables such as flow rate, spray plume shape, "no product – no spray", etc., or as an integrated system with that of the high speed slicer. Sono-Tek uses its patented ultrasonic nozzles, which provide an accurate, low flow spray plume of uniform size micro droplets. These nozzles produce minimum "bounce back" with a high transfer coefficient, resulting in a micronic layer of anti-microbial coating fully and uniformly covering both sides of each meat slice.
The new Sono-Tek antimicrobial ultrasonic spray coating system is designed in a modular fashion, with a minimum floor space requirement. The system is compatible with industrial slicers of various brands, and can spray a 4-parallel meat log arrangement, at slicing speeds exceeding 1300 slices per minute. For safety considerations, electrical and air handling components are enclosed in a separate stainless steel cabinet from the liquid handling and operational reservoir tank.
The standalone system's main features include:
A NEMA 4X food grade construction with 3 stainless steel cabinets and a flexible tubular arm for mounting the stainless steel manifold housing 4 vortex nozzles onto the meat slicer. The first stainless steel cabinet contains a Touch Screen Display with various security levels access, an E Stop, and a 3 color alarm light tower. The second stainless steel cabinet contains an Embedded Industrial Controller (EIC), with constant system health monitoring, data logging for validation and alarm interface to the plant. This control system operates subject to the meat slicer control system being turned ON. It is capable of a comprehensive programmable solutions for numerous slicing/coating scenarios including a "No Product – No Spray" feature. This cabinet also contains ultrasonic generators, pump control system with the ability to deliver repeatable flow to each nozzle and power supply units. The third stainless steel cabinet contains gear type micropumps, 3-way valves, air shaping flow control system that supplies air to the vortex nozzles, and an operational reservoir tank with level sensors and volume designed for 24 hour operation.
The flexible tubular arm is constructed from a combination of stainless steel and food grade flexible plastic tubing. It is attached to a stainless steel manifold and comes with a quick connect arrangement to the meat slicer, guaranteeing identical positioning of the ultrasonic nozzles every time, and allowing for easy cleaning within minutes. The manifold contains the vortex nozzles, and all plumbing, tubing and wiring to support the ultrasonic nozzles.
For further information, contact Dr. Christopher L. Coccio, at 845-795-2020, or visit our website at  To find out more visit .
Sono-Tek Corporation is a leading developer and manufacturer of liquid spray products based on its proprietary ultrasonic nozzle technology.  Founded in 1975, the Company's products have long been recognized for their performance, quality, and reliability.

Jensen Brothers Plead Not Guilty to Six Federal Counts in Cantaloupe Case
Source :
By Dan Flynn (Sep 26, 2013)
UPDATE: Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen were brought into federal court in Denver on Thursday afternoon in shackles, but they walked out their arraignment as free men, at least until their trial. The two men pleaded not guilty on all counts and were released on a $100,000 unsecured bond, meaning that they don’t have to put up any money unless they violate bail conditions imposed by the court.
Their trial date was set for Dec. 2, and government attorneys said they will need two weeks to present their case.
Eric, 37, and Ryan, 33, are charged with six federal criminal misdemeanor charges related to the 2011 Listeria outbreak blamed on their cantaloupe. It was one of the most deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness in U.S. history, killing at least 33 people and sending 150 to hospitals across the country.
Jensen Farms, owned by the brothers, already went bankrupt because of the numerous civil actions filed after the outbreak. They are accused of aiding and abetting in the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce.
If convicted on all six counts, each brother could potentially face a maximum penalty of six years in federal prison and a $1.5 million fine.
Jennifer Exley, the daughter of Herb Stevens, who died in July from outbreak-related complications, attended the arraignment, saying she wanted to see the Jensen brothers for herself.
DENVER–Eric Jensen, 37, and Ryan Jensen,  33, the brothers who owned and operated Jensen Farms, located in Granada, Colorado, surrendered to U.S. Marshals in Denver today in connection with one of the most deadly outbreaks of foodborne  illness in U.S. history.
They were taken into custody on federal charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce stemming from the 2011 multi-state Listeria outbreak sourced to cantaloupe grown in southeast Colorado near the Kansas border.
The federal misdemeanor charges were brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation, specifically by U.S. Attorney John Walsh and FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Patrick Holland.
The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. (MDT) before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty. At that hearing, they will be advised of their rights as well as the charges pending against them.
The government is not seeking pre-trial detention.
According to the six-count Information filed under restriction on Sept. 24, 2013, as well as other court records, Eric and Ryan Jensen allegedly introduced adulterated cantaloupe into interstate commerce.
Specifically, the cantaloupe bore the poisonous bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. The Information further states that the cantaloupe was prepared, packed and held under conditions that rendered it injurious to health.
Each of the six misdemeanor counts carries a penalty of up to one year imprisonment and fine of up to $250,000.
Court documents state that the defendants set up and maintained a processing center where cantaloupes were taken from the field and transferred to a conveyor system for cleaning, cooling and packaging. The equipment should have worked in such a way that the cantaloupe would be washed with sufficient anti-bacterial solutions so that the fruit was cleaned of bacteria in the process.
In May 2011, the Jensen brothers allegedly changed their cantaloupe cleaning system. The new system, built to clean potatoes, was installed and was to include a catch pan to which a chlorine spray could be included to clean the fruit of bacteria. The chlorine spray, however, was never used.
The defendants were aware, according to the charges, that their cantaloupes could be contaminated with harmful bacteria if not sufficiently washed. The chlorine spray, if used, would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of the fruit.
Investigation by FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that the defendants failed to adequately clean their cantaloupe. Their actions allegedly resulted in at least six shipments of cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes being sent to 28 different states.
CDC tracked the outbreak-associated illness and determined that people living in 28 states consumed contaminated cantaloupe, resulting in 33 deaths and 147 hospitalizations. Further, one woman pregnant at the time of her outbreak-related illness had a miscarriage. Ten additional deaths not attributed to Listeriosis occurred among persons who had been infected by eating outbreak-related cantaloupe.
“As this case so tragically reminds us, food processors play a critical role in ensuring that our food is safe,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “They bear a special responsibility to ensure that the food they produce and sell is not dangerous to the public.  Where they fail to live up to that responsibility, and as these charges demonstrate, this office and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to act forcefully to enforce the law.”
“U.S. consumers should demand the highest standards of food safety and integrity,” said Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Holland of FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Kansas City Field Office. “The filing of criminal charges in this deadly outbreak sends the message that absolute care must be taken to ensure that deadly pathogens do not enter our food supply chain.”
FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, CDC and the State of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena is prosecuting.

CDC Electronic Laboratory Reports Improve Outbreak Response
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 26, 2013)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been promoting its electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) by the 10,400 labs that send reportable data to health agencies. In the Cyclospora outbreak that is still ongoing, government health officials encouraged doctors and labs around the country to use telediagnosis to speed up diagnoses.
CDC has funded 57 state, local and territorial health departments to increase the use of ELR. The number of health departments that are using the system has more than doubled since 2005. State and local departments estimate that almost two-thirds of lab reports were received electronically. When information about a potential foodborne illness outbreak is received and disseminated quickly, the source can be identified more quickly and fewer people will become ill.
Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director, said in a statement, “infectious disease outbreaks will always be with us – and rapid recognition of an outbreak saves lives. Thanks to electronic laboratory reporting, we’re detecting outbreaks faster than ever. Unfortunately, only a quarter of the labs across the country use ELR. We must keep expanding use of ELR to help CDC and our partners save lives and reduce healthcare costs.”
The Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases (ELC) Cooperative Agreement protects the public health and safety of Americans. It strengthens epidemiological capacity, improves health information systems, and provides a platform for networks such as FoodNet and PulseNet that identify infectious diseases such as Salmonella and E. coli. FoodNet, for instance, tracks trends for infections commonly transmitted through food, and has an active surveillance system for lab-confirmed cases of infections such as Campylobacter, Listeria, Shigella, and Cyclospora.

Marin County Officials Confirm Three E. Coli Cases, Cause Still Unknown
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 26, 2103)
Health department officials in Marin County, CA, have confirmed three E. coli cases and a possible fourth. Three cases are reportedly children (two of whom have been hospitalized in stable condition), while the fourth person with a suspected case is an adult.
According to a Wednesday story in the Marin Independent Journal, no source for the infection has yet been found. Health officials said the individuals were exposed between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15 and that three of the victims live in Tiburon, and the fourth lives in Inverness.
Marin County public health officer Dr. Matthew Willis said E. coli most seriously affects children, elderly people and those with weak immune systems. He said the county is working with California Department of Public Health on potential links between the local cases and perhaps other, out-of-state ones.
“We contact the patients themselves to interview them about their food history. We try to determine where they’ve eaten and what they’ve eaten to see if there’s a common source,” Willis said.
E. coli infection typically affects people who eat raw dairy products or undercooked meat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people recover from the infection within a week, but some victims can die from E. coli if they develop a form of kidney failure known as “hemolytic uremic syndrome,” or HUS.
To limit the potential of getting an E. coli infection, practice good food hygiene practices such as washing hands with soap and water after changing diapers and using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Cook meats thoroughly and wash counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms is encouraged to visit their doctor.

Chinese FDA Looks Into Charges that Juice Makers Used Rotten Fruit
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 26, 2013)
Chinese food-safety officials have ordered two fruit juice companies to suspend operations and help with an investigation into reports that they used rotten or unripe fruit in their products.
A Reuters news article published Sept. 23 reported that the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) inspected Anhui Dangshan Haisheng Fruit Juice, a subsidiary of Shaanxi Haisheng Fresh Fruit Juice, and Wanbei Fruit Juice, of the Beijing Huiyuan Group. Inspectors have not found any rotten fruit at the company plants. according to an agency statement.
The Huiyuan Group reportedly denied using any rotten fruit and noted that all its stock was checked and production was in accordance with national standards.
Another story published Wednesday in the South China Morning Post reported that two other area juice firms besides the ones CFDA inspected had allegedly used rotten and substandard pears and apples from local farmers. They were named as a branch of Yantai North Andre Juice in Jiangsu province and a branch of Beijing Huiyuan in Shandong province.
Dangshan County, in Anhui Province in Western China, is reportedly well-known for its pears. However, the area suffered a cold spell earlier this year and a tornado in July that damaged more than 40 percent of the fruit.
The Chinese are taking food safety very seriously after recent scandals involving milk laced with industrial chemicals and recycled “gutter oil” for cooking left many consumers wary. A recent Pew Research report said almost four in 10 Chinese people felt that food safety was a “very big problem.”

FDA food safety rules would cover the wrong crops, farmers say
Source :
By Stephen J. Lee (Sep 25, 2013)
Proposed new federal food safety laws will bring Big Brother down on the farm in a new way causing heartache, harm and big costs to growers, processors and consumers with little gain little in food safety, say North Dakota agricultural leaders.
The state’s top farm regulator and other agricultural interests began a push this month speaking out against proposed new rules with which the Food and Drug Administration plans a big overhaul of the nation’s food safety laws.
The rules were issued in January and are slated to go into effect shortly after a public comment period ends Nov. 15.
They would effectively put FDA into a new role regulating farm practices, acting as a new rival to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that traditionally has been the federal regulator of farmers and the first line of processing crops and livestock, said state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
“Now you have the FDA trying to impose rules and regulations on production agriculture and they have no idea how food is produced,” he said Wednesday from a trade conference in Saskatoon, Sask., where Mexican and Canadian ag officials commented on the significance of the new proposals
The main intent of the new rules is good, he said: to avoid food-borne illnesses, such as the bacteria-based ones coming from spinach and cantaloupe which recently killed and sickened many.
But the effect of the 3,000 pages of new rules will hit lots of unnecessary targets, Goehring said.
Sunflowers included
The main impact will be on growers of fruit and vegetables often sold raw in states in New England and on the West Coast.
Most major crops in North Dakota, including wheat, corn, potatoes and sugar beets, are exempted because of the way they are handled and processed into food.
 “But one shining example in North Dakota is sunflowers (which) they are trying to treat — because it’s a nut — much like tree nuts,” such as pecans in California, Goehring said.
 “But you are talking about something completely different,” he said.
He and other state ag commissioners earlier this month in North Carolina met with FDA officials and it became clear the agency had little idea of how sunflower production and processing works, he said.
That is a pretty big deal in North Dakota, the nation’s leading sunflower state, with South Dakota a close second.
 “We are trying to get growers, processors and grain handlers to understand that this is a set of proposed rules that if we do not have input to at this point in time, we are going to end up with rules that are going to have major unintended consequences for us to live with,” said Bob Majkrzak, president and CEO of Red River Commodities in Fargo, one of 156 ag processing plants in the state.
His company has plants in several states and the Netherlands, processing, packaging and marketing sunflowers for food — including peanut butter substitute SunButter and roasted seeds, shelled and unshelled — and as bird seed.
The new FDA rules promise to treat sunflowers like lettuce, strawberries and nuts, he said.
An FDA spokeswoman confirmed that Wednesday in an email.
Which is nuts, Majkrzak said, because sunflowers are grown and harvested and handled so differently from real produce crops.
Feed, too
Majkrzak points to a letter from Michael Taylor, the FDA’s point man on the new rules, published this week in the Bismarck Tribune, including the line that the “FDA does propose that growers not harvest produce with excrement.”
It appears a sunflower grower will need to “defend his crops” from birds, deer and gophers, Majkrzak said. “I don’t know how you do that.”
It would suggest a farmer drive his combine around any sunflower plant on which a blackbird had left its mark, he said.
He also buys field corn, cleans it and packages it as bird seed “for wild birds, to be put out into the same environment it came from, the field,” Majkrzak said.
But the proposed new FDA rules consider such feed products the same as human food, he said. That means if a customer found bacteria on birdseed, Majkrzak could be forced to recall all his supply, which would lead back to farmers, he said.
His bird seed, just like meat in a supermarket, already is sold as a raw farm product and buyers understand how to handle and use them safely, he said. Sterilizing field corn before it’s fed to wild birds is batty, he says.
“It’s this Big Brother attitude that we always have to fix everything and that is just not appropriate in this market.”
Liability threat
Woody Barth, president of North Dakota Farmers Union, said he and other Farmers Union officials will submit comments on sunflowers, especially, to FDA.
“We have some concerns, but overall we think they are good for the industry,” Barth said of the new FDA rules. “It’s been 80 years since they have been updated.”
A main concern is the threat of new liability to growers for problems that show up in food down the line, Barth said.
“If this farmer is sending off good sunflowers — and we know 99.99 percent of sunflowers going to get processed are in good condition — we need to make sure we limit the liability for food-borne diseases to the proper person in processing.”
Goehring said he and others will push Congress to delay implementation of the new FDA rules until they are improved.
“We are all about food safety,” Goehring said. “But this is something that is going to cost the consumer and the processor and the producer so much, without any appreciable value.”

Marin California has an E. coli Mystery
Source :
By Bill Marler (Sep 25, 2013)
According to press reports, Marin County health officials are investigating a potential E. coli outbreak after the bacterial infection was detected in three children and is suspected in an adult.
Three people sickened live in Tiburon; a fourth lives in Inverness. No definitive source for the bacteria has been identified, but health officials believe the residents were exposed to the bacteria between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15. There have been no new documented cases since the initial outbreak.
Dr. Matthew Willis, Marin County public health officer, said E. coli infections are most serious in children, elderly people and those with weak immune systems.
“Three of the four cases are children and two of them have been hospitalized, but are in stable condition,” Willis said.
He said Marin public health authorities are working with the California Department of Public Health to gather information from clinicians and patients to determine whether the cases are linked to each other or possibly to out-of-state cases.

7 steps to ensuring restaurant food safety
Source :
By Robin Lee Allen and Alan J. Liddle (Sep 25, 2013)
Collaboration — both within restaurant companies and with suppliers and industry peers — is crucial to ensuring a food supply that’s safe from farm to fork, agreed attendees at the eighth annual Food Safety Symposium held in Denver this month.
During the two-day conference, sponsored by Ecolab and produced by Nation’s Restaurant News, nearly 40 food safety professionals discussed the many ways they build systems that encourage collaboration and vigilance, especially among employees.
Food safety “needs to be part of your core values,” William Moore, director of safety and security for Eat’n Park Hospitality Inc., the Homestead, Pa.-based parent of the 75-unit Eat’n Park family-dining chain, said during his keynote speech. “If it’s not in your core values, your mission statement, then it’s not a priority.”
The symposium occurred against the backdrop of a Cyclospora outbreak that had sickened 642 people in 25 states, leading to 45 hospitalizations but no deaths, throughout the summer. The cause of the outbreak was still under investigation at press time, although a salad mix from Taylor Farms de Mexico served at Darden Restaurants Inc. in two states had been implicated in about 240 of the illnesses.
In discussing the outbreak during the symposium, William Marler, an attorney specializing in food safety cases with Seattle-based MarlerClark, said he too was perplexed by the situation and had yet to file any lawsuits. The scope and complexity of the outbreak, however, underscored the responsibility of each player in the farm-to-fork chain.
Here are some other top takeaways from the symposium:
1. Make food safety training engaging. Hand washing and proper holding temperatures — the basics of food safety — have not changed in 30 years, said Moore of Eat’n Park. The key is keeping the message fresh so that employees pay attention.
With a workforce largely under the age of 25, employers need to make sure their messages are quick and easy to grasp. Moore said he relies on lots of colorful visuals, and customized posters, comics, video clips featuring celebrities, games like Pandemic 2, and stuffed-animal germs and microbes are among his favorites.
Tugging at the heartstrings doesn’t hurt either, said several attendees. Al Baroudi, Ph.D., vice president, quality assurance and food safety for The Cheesecake Factory Inc., the Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based operator of 175 upscale casual-dining restaurants, shows his audiences an image of the hundreds of children and adults that have died during foodborne illness outbreaks to drive home the point that lives are stake.
2. Speak the language of your audience. Food safety messages must be crafted differently for different constituents — especially to encourage collaboration, said Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president, food safety and quality assurance for US Foods, a foodservice distributor based in Rosemont, Ill. For instance, unit-level employees at Chick-fil-A are given a summary of their health department inspections that eliminates agency speak and highlights the actions they need to take immediately, said Hal King, Ph.D., the 1,670-unit Atlanta-based chain’s director of food and product safety.
At US Foods, Hernandez hired a former regulator to talk effectively with inspectors. And senior executives need to hear numbers — including sales at risk should a food safety event occur, as well as the costs associated with potential lawsuits — to capture their attention.
“We have to show an ROI,” King said. “I can show how $10,000 invested will save $1 million.”
3. Emphasize that food safety is a shared responsibility. Quality assurance officials may be a brand’s food safety face, but making sure food safety standards are upheld is a shared responsibility. Third-party assessments can be a powerful way to drive that message home.
Chick-fil-A begins with daily self-assessments conducted in a downloadable self-assessment app. Those results are reviewed instantly at the unit level and weekly at the corporate level to pinpoint potential issues. “We leverage smartphones to leverage behavior on the employees,” King said.
Similarly, third-party assessments are conducted one-on-one with real-time corrective action. “We find a violation and we stay there and coach them through,” King said.
The 560-unit Bob Evans Farms family-dining chain sets its units up for audit success with an internal website that includes, among other information, sample audits so unit-level employees have the tools to pass real audits. Employees also have several references on food safety, sick workers and cleaning on site.
Bob Evans publishes audit results weekly, and gives incentives, such as gifts, money and year-end bonuses, for outstanding performance. “The best part of my job is when I go out to see the managers and reward them,” said Richard McKinney, senior director, food safety and quality assurance for the Columbus, Ohio-based chain.
4. Pay attention to product holding temperatures. Between 1998 and 2008, improper holding of food was the biggest risk factor for foodborne illness outbreaks, said Ecolab’s Petran, citing Centers for Disease Control & Prevention research findings. During that time, the CDC linked 504 restaurant outbreaks to improperly cooled foods, she said.
Operators can help reduce food-safety risks by making sure that the holding equipment they use is designed and maintained to keep foods below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and above 135 degrees, and that employees regularly monitor foods in holding with calibrated thermometers, Petran said.
But while that may sound easy to accomplish, Petran cited data collected at 420 restaurants, including chain and independent venues, that showed that that the ambient temperature in equipment holding cold food measured greater than 41 degrees 16 percent of the time. Further, related observations indicated that cooling pans were not shallow enough to ensure good contact between food and surfaces in direct contact with cold baths; that there was limited ventilation in cold storage areas; that foods were improperly stacked on top of each other in coolers; that there was an insufficient amount of ice in cold baths; and that managers who said they were trained did not properly monitor time or temperatures 41 percent of the time and had thermometer calibration issues 31 percent of the time.
5. Practice internal and external crisis-management procedures. At Texas Roadhouse, crisis simulations run with the help of a consultant give employees a chance to test procedures in a real-time manner and identify and correct shortcomings, said Patrick Sterling, director of risk management for Louisville, Ky.-based Texas Roadhouse, a 400-plus-unit casual-dining chain.
Simulations should incorporate all aspects of the management plan being tested, Sterling said. For example, if the simulation is to test your company’s reaction to a major foodborne illness outbreak, don’t start with an understanding that an outbreak is underway and launch right into the reaction of corporate executives, but rather begin the drill by having simulated calls come in from restaurants or health departments to a corporate hotline, if that is the procedure.
“You can’t prepare for every crisis,” Sterling said. “So you have to have smoldering crisis and surprise crisis templates. Because each crisis is unique, tabletop exercises test the system. [Your plan] may look great on paper, but you need to test the system.”
6. Look for the signs of potential problems and act on them. Closely monitor internal communications and public health developments for indications of possible food-safety problems, advised attorney Marler.
“I can't think of a foodborne illness outbreak that I’ve been involved in that — and I always get the benefit of hindsight — that when you look back over what happened before the outbreak, there wasn’t always a sign or two that you could have done something to turn the bus around before it went off the cliff,” the veteran litigator remarked.
Marler obtained many millions of dollars in compensation for victims of the deadly 1992-93 multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak from undercooked burgers sold by Jack in the Box. In that case, he cited an unheeded pre-outbreak notification from the Washington state department of health about the need to cook burgers to an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit, versus the 140-degree standard indicated by the federal Food Code at the time. He also pointed to a suggestion faxed from a store-level employee with the idea of grilling burgers longer because some were not being fully cooked and customers were complaining.
Marler, who advocates a full range of disease screening and reporting by public health agencies, as well as additional pathogen testing at the manufacturing level to prevent oubreaks, added that if California had been among the handful of states in 1992 that publicly reported O157:H7 illnesses, the Jack in the Box outbreak might have been significantly blunted because a smaller cluster of illnesses there preceded a much larger outbreak in Washington. Marler noted that social media makes such evidence even easier to secure nowadays.
7. Do the right thing. During a norovirus outbreak, Texas Roadhouse officials set up a hotline staffed with nurses to take calls from sick patrons. They alerted the media that medical advice was available and were able to dull the negative publicity and assure customers that their well being was front of mind.  
“The key is doing the right thing,” Sterling said.

Wegmans increases its food-safety standards
Source :
By (Sep 25, 2013)
As of Sept. 30, Wegmans Food Markets is requiring all growers who furnish fresh produce to the supermarket chain to show they’ve passed a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.
Beginning in 2008, Wegmans phased in this requirement, first for growers of crops thought to be high risk — like spinach or melons — that had been linked to past outbreaks of illness. Over the next several years, Wegmans expanded the requirement to apply to more kinds of fresh produce, and alerted farmers that the company would eventually require all of its produce partners to pass a GAP audit.
Leading up to this requirement by Wegmans, the company began hosting food-safety education training sessions for growers in 2005, and several hundred growers to date have participated in these programs.
“The good news is that nearly all of the growers we work with have already passed a GAP audit,” Bill Pool, food safety manager for produce at Wegmans, said in a press release. “And if a grower misses this deadline, we’ll look at reinstatement after they’ve passed an inspection.”
“These audits are the best way we have to know that a grower is following practices to minimize the chance of pathogens getting into the food supply,” Pool said. “We all want to keep earning our customers’ trust in the safety of the fresh foods we offer.”
Most of the larger growers Wegmans deals with completed audits soon after they became available. “Some of the smaller local growers we work with didn’t have the same resources, so it took them longer," he said. "We’ve partnered with research universities and held training sessions to help educate smaller growers. Food safety concerns apply to farms of all sizes, and it doesn’t really matter if the farm is conventional or organic. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with.”
Wegmans hosted day-long education sessions, inviting the growers and picking up costs for training, materials, and food.
“We got the growers and the extension educators in the same room at the same time,” Pool said.
The training materials helped growers understand the food-safety issues behind the GAP recommendations and how to get ready for an audit. Wegmans has also reimbursed small growers $400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit, a policy the company reviews annually.
The training sessions have been offered regularly during the off-season in states where Wegmans stores are found, and Pool expects that the company will continue offering such opportunities in the future.
 “We’re a growing company, and as we expand we want all of the growers we deal with to be on board with rigorous standards,” he said.

Wegmans To Require Best Food Safety Practices From All Produce Growers
Source :
By News Desk (Sep 24, 2013)
Wegmans has announced that as of Sept. 30, the grocery store chain will require all of its fresh produce growers to pass a Good Agricultural Practices inspection.
In 2008, the chain began phasing in the requirement for growers of high-risk crops like spinach and melons and has expanded the program in recent years. The inspection will now be required of all growers supplying the company.
Bill Pool, Wegmans’ food safety manager for produce, said that nearly all of the chain’s growers have already passed GAP audits.
Larger growers completed them soon after they became available, but the smaller ones didn’t have the same resources so the company worked with research universities to educate the smaller growers on the audits and food safety issues behind GAP recommendations.
Wegmans has also reimbursed them $400 to help offset costs associated with a completed and verified audit.
“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has an exemption for small farms, but we believe that rigorous food safety standards should apply to all farms we work with,” Pool said.

E. coli Found in Lyons CO Drinking Water
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 24, 2013)
After the massive flooding in Colorado, the state and several cities and municipalities warned residents to avoid flood water and issued boil orders. Now E. coli bacteria has been found in the water system in Lyons, Colorado. The town is in the foothills north of Boulder.
The news was streamed over the internet on the Longmont Channel because City Hall is shut down. City administrator Victoria Simonsen said in that meeting, “we don’t want you using any of the water, so it was turned off. It is critical we get that back up and get it disinfected before we would want any of you to be back.” Officials said it could take up to six months before the town is livable. Lyons was previously under a “boil water” order.
The contamination is most likely from raw sewage and livestock waste. For more information and resources on how to handle flooding, disaster recovery, and safe food handling, please visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Shuanghui Buyout of Smithfield Foods Approved
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Sep 24, 2013)
Shareholders just approved the buyout of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International of China. More than 96% of shareholders voted in favor. Smithfield executives will make millions on the sale, and the company will become private, which means it doesn’t have to report details of its operations to the Security and Exchange Commission. Shuanghui is partially owned by Chinese businessmen and the U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Food & Water Watch released a statement about this buyout. Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said, “the recent USDA decision to allow processed chicken imports from China, coupled with news of the Smithfield-Shaunghui merger approval by shareholders and a federal review commission, shows that U.S. regulators are paving the way for meat imported from China – a country with a terrible food safety record. Smithfield wants the public to believe this merger is just about exporting pork to China. And the USDA is trying to soothe consumers by promising that imported poultry products will be made from U.S.-origin birds. But it is only a matter of time until these initial conditions ease and we are importing meat and poultry from China.”
Food & Water Water reported in 2008 that Smithfield dominated the pork production and processing business in the United States and the world well before this buyout. In that report, they recommended that Congress ensure competition in the marketplace, enforce anti-trust laws, and that Smithfield’s factory farms be regulated. Smithfield brand names and products include Armour, Farmland, Butterball, Lykes, Cook’s Ham, Curly’s Foods, and Gwaitney.

Smart Spending: Navigating supermarket meat labels
Source :
By Candice Choi (Sep 24, 2013)
NEW YORK — Browsing the meat section at the supermarket, labels abound for organic meat, kosher meat and meat raised without antibiotics or hormones.
They're almost guaranteed to carry a higher price tag, but it's not always obvious what the labels even mean. It may be that you wouldn't pay extra if you knew what the terms signified.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is responsible for ensuring that labels for meat and poultry products are truthful. Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman for the division, says that any label on a meat product has to be approved.
Still, terms such as “antibiotic-free," “kosher," “natural" and “organic" blur together in many shoppers' minds, even though they mean very different things.
To help you decide whether to pay more, here's a look at what some common meat labels mean.
Organic meat comes from animals that weren't given any antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified feed.
Synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals also can't be used on the pastures for the animals or the land where their feed is grown, says Mark Kastel, founder of the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based group that advocates for organic farming. Put more simply, the animal itself was raised on an organic diet.
Organic labeling, which is overseen by the USDA's National Organic Program, also dictates certain living conditions for the animal that promote “natural, instinctive behaviors," Kastel said. For example, cattle have to be raised on pastures, rather than in a confined area.
People sometimes assume that kosher meat is healthier than conventional varieties. In fact, the label means is that a rabbi was on site to ensure certain guidelines were followed in the animal's slaughter. It's not an indicator of how the animal was raised.
In other words, meat doesn't have to be organic or free of antibiotics and hormones to be labeled as kosher.
For those interested in humane methods of slaughter, it's worth noting that a federal regulation requires certain farm animals, such as cows and pigs, to be rendered insensible to pain before they're killed, whether it's by a single blow, gunshot or another “rapid and effective" method.
But the law states that slaughtering in accordance with religious requirements, such as for kosher and halal meat, is considered humane as well.
Because kosher guidelines require an animal to be fully conscious when it's slaughtered, this may be problematic for those interested in humane methods of slaughters, notes Paul Shapiro, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.
According to the USDA, meat labeled as “natural" must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients or added color. In essence, the definition is focused on the final packaging of the meat, rather than the methods used to raise the animal.
Meat labeled as natural doesn't have to be organic and may have come from an animal given antibiotics and hormones.
An example of meat that isn't natural is beef injected with certain ingredients that are considered artificial, such as sodium phosphate. But the labels should note if meat has been injected with a solution or tenderized with an ingredient, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
There are some exceptions. Uncooked corned beef brisket, for example, can contain solutions to cure the meat up to a certain point without saying so on the label.
The widespread use of antibiotics has become a concern, with farmers feeding them to animals to fatten them up or prevent diseases in crowded feedlots. The problem is that the practice leads to the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs.
Organic meat by definition should have been raised without antibiotics and the USDA also offers a verified “No Antibiotics Administered" label.
But keep in mind that the antibiotic label doesn't automatically carry other benefits.
A good illustration of this is Chipotle, which touts the fact that its meat is “responsibly raised." A spokesman for the chain, Chris Arnold, says this means the meat wasn't treated with antibiotics or hormones. But the meat Chipotle uses isn't organic.
The Denver-based company also created a minor backlash last month when it said it was considering allowing the use of antibiotics in select circumstances to treat an animal for an illness. That isn't permitted under the definitions for organic and the USDA verified label for meat raised without antibiotics.
The USDA says companies have to demonstrate that free-range poultry was given access to the outdoors. But there are no specifications on what exactly that entails, and there could be a lot of variance in what it means.
“There's a lot of perversion of the spirit of the rule," said Shapiro of the Humane Society.
For example, Shapiro said this could entail a door that is open for less than one day a week, with the door leading out to a concrete patio.
Although there are no regulations around the term, the Food Safety Inspection Service says a company's description of the poultry's housing conditions in the application for label approval is reviewed to ensure that birds have continuous, free access to the outdoors for more than half their lives.
The cage-free label, meanwhile, is meaningful when applied to eggs, not chicken. Chickens raised for meat may be kept in crowded conditions, but most aren't kept in cages anyway.
By contrast, most chickens raised for eggs are kept in cages, often is such a way that “they can't even spread their wings," Shapiro said.

Food safety news: U.S. senator worried about Chinese chicken
Source :
By Lynne Terry (Sep 23, 2013)
A U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to allow Chinese food manufacturers to export unmarked and uninspected cooked chicken meat to the United States has drawn opposition from a U.S. senator from Ohio.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown called on the U.S. agricultural secretary to reconsider the decision.
In a letter last week to Tom Vilsack, Brown wrote: “Given the well-documented shortcoming of the Chinese food safety system, we shouldn’t allow unmarked meat into our markets that is processed in Chinese facilities that are not subject to food safety inspections. This action could endanger the health and safety of American consumers and potentially undermines confidence in our nation’s food safety standards.”
The USDA recently agreed to allow four Chinese poultry processors to ship processed and cooked meat to the United States. Under new guidelines, no USDA inspector will be present in Chinese facilities and products will lack country of origin labeling. Consumers will be unable to identify whether the chicken in their nuggets, patties or canned soups is from Chinese processors.
Chicken is commonly contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter two of the most common foodborne pathogens. 
In other news, in China on Monday the English edition of the People’s Daily reported that national health authorities called on local health departments to crack down on food safety. A health commission told the departments to study and evaluate food safety standards, including the registration of food manufacturers.
China has had a number of food poisoning outbreaks. Perhaps the most dramatic was in 2008 when six babies died and 300,000 children were sickened by milk products tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical used in plastics. Melamine-tainted wheat gluten that was used in dog food also killed scores of pets in North America in 2007. That same year, U.S. authorities warned pet owners that chicken jerky treats from China had sickened scores of animals.
Specialists at the Food and Drug Administration have yet to figure out what the problem with the treats are. They warned owners, as recently as this past August, to avoid them.



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