FoodHACCP Newsletter
10/14 2013 ISSUE:569

 

Foster Farms Fresno, Salmonella on 1/4 of Chicken
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/foster-farms-fresno-salmonella-on-14-of-chicken/
By Carla Gillespie (Oct 13, 2013)
Almost 27 percent of chicken samples from the Foster Farms plant in Fresno recently tested positive for Salmonella, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although that’s more than three and half times the federal standard, it’s not high enough to prompt the USDA to ask the company to issue a voluntary recall. And until someone, besides consumer advocates, “asks” for a recall, there likely won’t be one.
USDA won’t shutter a plant or ask for a recall solely on the basis of Salmonella rates that exceed the standard (which is set for whole chickens, not parts which the Fresno plants produces) and neither will the state of California. And if no one’s asking, Foster Farms isn’t offering. In the statement posted on the company’s website this week, Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster said there hasn’t been a recall because the state of California hasn’t told them to. This, despite the fact that its chicken has been linked to two multi-state Salmonella outbreaks this year, the ongoing outbreak, which ha sickened ast least 317 people and an outbreak that ended three months ago.
While consumers advocates including Food and Water Watch and Consumers Union cry foul, Kroger grocery stores took matters into its own hands this week and removed the chicken in question from all of its store locations. Consumers shopping at other stores should not purchase or eat Foster Farms chicken marked with the establishment numbers P6137, P6137A, or P7632. More than 40 percent of those sickened in this outbreak have been hospitalized as they battle infections from Salmonella strains that are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Small, organic farmers say new food safety rules would be costly, force them to change methods
Source : http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/227519981.html
By M.L. JOHNSON (Oct 12, 2013)
MILWAUKEE — Small and organic vegetable farmers who say proposed federal food safety rules could harm their businesses have organized dozens of events nationwide to inform people about the regulations and encourage them to write to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA proposed the rules in response to the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, a major update aimed at preventing foodborne illness instead of reacting to it. Among other measures, the rules would require farmers to take precautions against contamination, including ensuring that workers' hands are washed, irrigation water is clean and animals stay out of fields.
While small farmers agree with the law's goal of creating a safer food supply, they say the rules show a lack of understanding of agricultural practices and could be costly enough to force some out of business. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coaliton, National Young Farmers Coalition and other groups have started a campaign to encourage the public to write to the FDA before the comment period ends Nov. 15.
It's unclear whether the government shutdown will affect that timeline.
"I think the main thing is that it's really important for farmers and consumers both to make comments to the FDA because these rules will have a huge effect on local farms and their ability to provide," said Lindsey Shute, spokeswoman for the National Young Farmers Coalition.
Shute and her husband have a community-supported agriculture, or CSA, farm in Clermont, N.Y., where they use manure from their chickens and a neighboring farm as fertilizer to grow a variety of vegetables. The chickens are rotated from field to field in an accepted organic method. Shute said national organic standards allow them to harvest about four months after the animals leave a field. The new rules would stretch that to nine months, which is far longer than the growing season.
Shute said she's also concerned her farm would have to test water from its irrigation ponds every week, costing an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 per year and requiring regular hour-long, one-way drives to the nearest lab.
She and her husband are planning a letter that might say, "FDA, if you require me to test my water every week, I will go out of business."
In Wisconsin, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute has organized three letter-writing sessions — Oct. 21 in Madison, Oct. 23 in Milwaukee and Nov. 4 in Middleton. Margaret Krome, the nonprofit institute's public policy director, said there's a lot of confusion about the rules.
The law includes exemptions for farmers whose sales are under a certain amount, but food activists are concerned those waivers won't always apply.
For example, a farmer who buys produce from another farmer and delivers it in a CSA box could be classified as "facility" and subject to regulations aimed at big food businesses, said Brian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. In Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere, it's not uncommon for CSA farmers to buy from others in times of drought or heavy rain to satisfy customers who have paid in advance for weekly deliveries.
Synder said that's why it's also important for consumers to learn about the law and write to the FDA.
"They need to know that the exemptions that they might have heard about in the law are problematic and that the way they're applied is going to matter a lot to the local food vendors they are used to going to," he said.
Krome also said the risk with small farms is less than with big vegetable growers simply because they serve fewer people.
"Everybody wants food safety," she said. "The only thing people want is that it is proportionate to the risk and that it not be designed such that it puts their businesses at risk."

Lose Your Lunch: Congressional Food Fight Imperils Food Safety
Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-faber/government-shutdown-food-safety_b_4084950.html
By Scott Faber. (Oct 11, 2013)
You might want to put down your tuna sandwich before you read this. Especially if it has lettuce and tomatoes.
It turns out that it's not just the behavior of Congress that will make you sick to your stomach.
The Food and Drug Administration's food inspectors have also been deemed non-essential -- meaning that America's food manufacturing plants will not be inspected until Congress decides to pass legislation to reopen the government.
While the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service will continue to inspect meat and poultry, FDA's inspectors will be at home, presumably subsisting on the meat-heavy paleo diet.
-As the New York Times' Ron Nixon notes:
Offices are dark across the federal agencies charged with making sure that the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and a vast array of other domestically produced food are safe to consume. Inspectors, administrative staff, lab technicians, communications specialists and other support staff members have been sent home while lawmakers wrangle over government spending.-
Offices are dark across the federal agencies charged with making sure that the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and a vast array of other domestically produced food are safe to consume. Inspectors, administrative staff, lab technicians, communications specialists and other support staff members have been sent home while lawmakers wrangle over government spending.

USDA won't close plants in salmonella outbreak
Source : http://www.wbir.com/story/news/health/2013/10/11/foster-farms-salmonella-outbreak-california/2964887/
By Elizabeth Weise (Oct 11, 2013)
Of the people infected, 42% have been hospitalized — an unusually high percentage, according to the CDC.
The Department of Agriculture will not close the California chicken-processing plants linked to a nationwide outbreak of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, officials said.
"Foster Farms has submitted and implemented immediate substantive changes to their slaughter and processing to allow for continued operations," USDA spokesman Aaron Lavallee said Thursday evening.
USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors will verify that the changes are being implemented at the three plants linked to the outbreak one "a continuous and ongoing basis," he said.
USDA inspectors will also do "intensified sampling for at least the next 90 days," he said.
Foster Farms has not recalled chicken from the three implicated California plants, however grocery giant Kroger Co. has. The company has removed Foster Farms product from those plants, said spokesman Keith Dailey. In addition, Kroger has pulled the chicken from Food 4 Less stores on the West Coast and Smith's in southern Nevada and New Mexico, Dailey said.
Foster Farms is not obligated to recall chicken processed at the three plants because USDA investigators have not yet been able to tie the outbreak to specific products and lots.
In a statement issued Wednesday, company CEO Ron Foster said, "It should be noted that while no illness is ever acceptable, the time period for this issue was over the course of six months from March to mid-September. During that time, more than 25 million consumers safely consumed Foster Farms chicken."
Foster emphasized that raw chicken is not a ready-to-eat product and that it "must be prepared following safe handling procedures, avoiding cross-contamination, and must be fully cooked to 165 degrees to ensure safety."
Public health officials concurred. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said that he has not requested Foster Farms to recall chickens because, with proper handling and preparation, it is safe to eat.
"Chicken is a raw animal protein that is expected to have some level of naturally occurring bacteria present," Chapman said. If consumers cook it to 165 degrees, any salmonella bacteria in the chicken will be killed. "Provided that consumers do not cross-contaminate fully cooked chicken with raw chicken juices, it is safe to consume," he said.
Salmonella is presumed to be present and is acceptable in U.S. poultry under USDA rules. Up to 7.5% of chicken carcasses in a plant may test positive for the bacteria, according to USDA performance standards.
This outbreak differs in that the variety of salmonella is especially virulent.
There are seven strains of salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak. Several of them are antibiotic-resistant and "one of the strains that we've tested is resistant to seven antibiotics," said Christopher Braden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention division of foodborne diseases.
Of the people infected, 42% have been hospitalized — an unusually high percentage, according to the CDC.
"That's about twice what we would normally see for a salmonella outbreak," Braden said. "We think that's at least in part due to the fact that a number of these strains have resistance to one or more antibiotics."
Thirteen percent of those sickened have salmonella septicemia, a serious, life-threatening, whole-body inflammation, Braden said. Normal for salmonella would be "just a few percent," he said.
There have been no deaths linked to the outbreak. "The outbreak is ongoing," Braden said.
Common symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include diarrhea, cramps and fever that typically start eight to 72 hours after eating food with high levels of the bacteria. Some people get chills, nausea and vomiting, lasting up to seven days, CDC says.
Foster Farms is one of the nation's largest poultry processors and sellers. Most of the chicken was sold in California, Oregon and Washington, and 77% of the illnesses have been in California, the CDC said.
Products from the three plants have these packaging codes: P6137, P6137A and P7632.
While salmonella is not considered enough of a contaminant that it is illegal, in the case of the Foster Farms plants, "the frequency and level of contamination on chicken parts coming out of the three facilities affected by this action is substantively higher" than on another Foster Farm plant the agency inspected, said Dan Englejohn, FSIS deputy assistant administrator.
The USDA notified Foster Farms on Monday that the company had 72 hours to inform the agency how it would clean up the plants.
In a letter on the company's website Wednesday night, CEO Ron Foster said, "On behalf of my family I am sorry for any foodborne illness associated with Foster Farms chicken." He said his staff is "continuing to work around the clock to fully address this situation."

Some Salmonella With Your Shutdown?
Source : http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/pat-garofalo/2013/10/10/the-government-shutdown-the-salmonella-outbreak-and-food-safety
By Pat Garofalo (Oct 10, 2013)
It's worth remembering, as Republicans desperately search for a way out of the tea-party-inspired shutdown that they initiated, that shuttering the government affects a lot more than panda cams, national parks and the Smithsonian. (And this poor kid who just wants to go to the zoo.) As I noted yesterday, a computer network that helps track food-borne illnesses was closed down during a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people in 18 states. And that's not even the full extent of the problem when it comes to the shutdown and your food, as the New York Times outlined today:
Offices are dark across the federal agencies charged with making sure that the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and a vast array of other domestically produced food are safe to consume. Inspectors, administrative staff, lab technicians, communications specialists and other support staff members have been sent home while lawmakers wrangle over government spending.
At the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for inspecting the bulk of food that Americans eat, the agency has gone from a goal of inspecting about 200 plants per week to none and has reduced inspections of imported food. At the Agriculture Department, a meat and poultry hot line that consumers can call for information about food safety or to report problems is closed. At the C.D.C., about 68 percent of staff members were furloughed, including several epidemiologists and dozens of other workers who oversee a database that tracks food-borne illness.
This problem has been made more acute by the shutdown, but it's not like the U.S. was doing such a bang-up job of food safety even when the government was operating at full capacity. Only about 2 percent of the food coming into the U.S. is inspected, but even then some very nasty stuff is found. (A random perusal of just this month's rejected seafood imports brought up a host of items turned away due to salmonella or marked with the rejection code "FILTHY.") Even as U.S. food imports have risen in recent years, inspections have fallen. A lot of domestic food, meanwhile, never gets inspected at all.
The upshot of such a lax regime is that, each year, 3,000 people die from food-borne illness, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Georgetown University's Produce Safety Project puts the cost of food-borne illness to the U.S. economy at $152 billion each year.
In 2010, Congress did pass the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was meant to address some of the system's current shortcomings and which President Obama signed in early 2011. But House Republicans have refused to fund the law's implementation, slowing it down considerably; that problem has only been made worse by the shutdown and the so-called sequester, the across-the-board spending cuts that resulted from the last time the GOP took the debt ceiling hostage.
Food safety is one of those government functions that, if it's working properly, no one notices, but when it goes wrong, has the capacity to cause a gigantic mess. How many more Americans will wind up sick from salmonella before the government is able to reopen its doors? And even after the government is up and running again, will food inspectors ever actually get the support they need to do their jobs? Hopefully it doesn't take a massive outbreak of some nasty illness to make lawmakers pay attention.

The Government Shutdown Is Not Decreasing Food Safety
Source : http://www.science20.com/science_20/government_shutdown_not_decreasing_food_safety-122163
By Hank Campbell (Oct 11 ,2013)
If you live in America and hadn't heard, the government is in a shutdown. We've had a full plate of political theater, with armed stand-offs at veteran's memorials and the National Zoo's Panda Cam going dark, presumably to convince us that government is funded on a daily basis - except for all those exempt and 'essential' employees, which number in the millions.
If you are asking, no, science is not considered essential to either party, that is why 97% of NASA is on vacation during this budget posturing.
While partisan nonsense is primarily a goldmine for mainstream media, science academia is not immune from taking political sides, it is as partisan today as politicians themselves. There's been no shortage of science bloggers and tweeters helping to sell the administration's message and a few objecting to the White House taking them for granted and adopting a 'you are going to vote for Democrats no matter what I do' attitude about their work.
But the cheerleading is only on the mostly left. For the full-on left, even a fully bloated federal government spending $600,000,000,000 more per year than it earns is not enough to keep them happy.(1)
I won't spend a lot of time on this article because it's mostly just nonsense and you'll want your 4 minutes back after you read it, but the opening merits a special highlight:
-Remember in the mid-1990s when USDA began telling people to wash their cutting boards and utensils after preparing meat and always use a meat thermometer? Because US meat and poultry is so full of pathogens, if you don't kill them they might kill you? That was the beginning of the government's move to pass food safety risks on to customers-
This writer thinks that people didn't know before the 1990s that all food has pathogens and that only the government kept us from killing ourselves in our kitchens.  Well, that is as wrong as can be. As we became a less agrarian society, things that were well known became less known to urban people, like progressive website bloggers, but most sentient beings in 2013 know that without the USDA reminding us. Yet the writer then implies that meat manufacturers are responsible for some huge increase in meat pathogens. It's a shocking lack of even middle school knowledge about microbiology and actual food production.
But she then makes a point that I have also made, minus the wacky conspiratorial paranoia; the government isn't making a big difference in actual food safety with the Centers for Disease Control being 68% on holiday.  My Twitter feed was lit up two days ago with lamentations about a 'major foodborne illness' outbreak that happened to occur, in the worst sort of coincidence, when the government was shut down. And it hasn't abated, now the government is claiming they needed to recall people and mobilize to handle this threat.
If you cook me, you won't get a salmonella infection, even if only 68% of the CDC is filling out paperwork about me. Link: Freepik.com
Major outbreak? A recall from furlough? Wow, that must be serious World War Z-type stuff.
Or not. As excited as I was when it was first announced, because finally this was a real issue for science and health writers, not making a molehill out of a few dead government mice and unparsed astronomy data and finding ways to blame Republicans because President Obama cares so little about science that only security guards at the National Science Foundation are "essential" while 83% of the rest of the federal government is, it turned out not to be a real issue at all.
Foster Farms was implicated in almost 300 illnesses related to salmonella.  300 illnesses may sound like a large number, unless you know that America has 48,000,000 foodborne illnesses every year - an average of 132,000 each day nationwide.  And we're no safer even when all those government people are around because plenty of products that get recalled are (a) recalled by the company and the government only knows about it after the fact and (b)are recalled by companies that got 'superior' ratings by food inspectors anyway.
They are making a show of recalling 30 people from furlough - of the 3,000 of their 9,000 employees that are on paid vacation - and all they are going to do is tell Foster Farms to clean up the three plants that are under suspicion.  The additional 30 people are going to "investigate" a group that has already been cited a dozen times this year. Since these plants had been cited a dozen times, why were the 30 people needed to watch them not essential but 6,000 other people were?  Couldn't they have used some of their 5,000 paid contractors too? 
And what about the risk? Well, there is no risk. You have to cook chicken properly and cooking it will kill salmonella. Your grandparents know that whether the USDA or the CDC tells them or not. And so should you.
The reality is that food is not safe and government can only do limited things to make you cook chicken properly. It never has been safe. Our ancient ancestors discovered manure helped plants grow better and then they discovered you have to clean the food because eating feces was dangerous. The human population only really started to grow once we understood we have to cook meat. This knowledge is not a government responsibility, nor is telling people to clean vegetables. If you go to an organic farmer's market and buy food there and just eat it, you need an IQ test, not a fully-staffed CDC.

Food safety inspectors investigating horsemeat scandal find pizza with 35 ingredients from 60 countries
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2451619/Food-safety-inspectors-pizza-ingredients-60-countries.html
By Gerri Peev (Oct 10, 2013)
-The ready meal contained 35 different ingredients from all around the world
-It was used as an example to show how difficult it is to verify food's origins
-Watchdog the National Audit Office claims that 'food fraud' is rife
A pizza containing 35 ingredients from 60 different countries has been discovered by food safety testers investigating the horsemeat scandal.
The 35 exotic ingredients - drawn from five different continents - were used as an example by the National Audit Office to illustrate how difficult it was to verify the origins of the processed food eaten in the UK.
In a report on food safety and authenticity in the processed meat supply chain, the watchdog warned that ‘food fraud’ was rife.
In a report prompted by the scandal over horsemeat in British foods, the NAO said it had become even harder to determine what was actually in food because of the long, international supply chains.
The NAO report said: ‘Recent analysis of the components of a pizza, carried out for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, found that it was made from 35 different ingredients that passed through 60 countries, on five different continents.’
Irish authorities testing the processed meal did not name the brand.
The pizza box had the label: ‘country of origin: Ireland’.
The NAO also found that testing for the authenticity of food had become harder because of a split in responsibility between the Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Local authorities reported 1,380 cases of food fraud in 2012 - up by two thirds since 2010.
Just one third of local authorities recorded the laboratory results on the Food Standard Agency’s national database.
And the total number of food samples tested by official control laboratories in England has gone down by a quarter since 2009-10, the report said.
Many tests were now carried out by private food businesses but public authorities did not know the results.
The NAO recommended that some money be diverted away from checking slaughter houses to investigating the factories where processed meat was produced and the long supply chains involved.
However this change would require agreement at European Union level.
NAO head Amyas Morse said: ‘The January 2013 horsemeat incident has revealed a gap between what citizens expect of the controls over the authenticity of their food, and the effectiveness of those controls in reality.
‘The division of responsibilities for food safety and authenticity has created confusion.
‘The Government needs to remove this confusion, and improve its understanding of potential food fraud and how intelligence is brought together and shared.’
Richard Bacon, a Tory member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee said: ‘The public have every right to expect that government should be able to provide a system to ensure food safety, to investigate problems where they occur and to solve problems. In this case, taxpayers and consumers were let down.
‘Food fraud is a serious and growing problem. The government must grip this quickly and simplify the system, removing any confusion over who is responsible for what.’
Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: ‘The chaotic structure put in place after the election should urgently be reviewed, with serious consideration given to bringing responsibility for food safety and authenticity back together.’
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Our research shows a third of people say they are buying less meat following the horsemeat scandal so there’s still a way to go to restore consumer confidence in the food industry.
‘The scandal exposed a web of confusion, which is why we have been calling for the Government to move responsibilities for labelling and standards back to the FSA.’
There was outrage in January this year when it emerged horse meat was present in products from a number of UK supermarkets including ASDA, Tesco and Iceland.
It later emerged that horses from countries like Romania were being slaughtered after suffering appalling cruelty and then shipped into the UK as beef products.
Horsemeat was found in a number of popular products including Tesco burgers, Tesco’s everyday value spaghetti bolognaise and a Findus lasagne.

West Shore restaurants face food safety citations
Source : http://cumberlink.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/west-shore-restaurants-struggle-with-food-safety-compliance/article_350ab0b2-3205-11e3-a011-0019bb2963f4.html
By Samantha Madison (Oct 10, 2013)
Two restaurants on the West Shore were recently cited with 17 violations each during their latest inspections from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Brewhouse Grille in Lower Allen Township was inspected on Sept. 19, while Nick’s 114 Cafe in New Cumberland was inspected on Sept. 26. W. L. Kepler Seafood in Lemoyne was also cited for four violations on Oct. 4.
Inspections are completed only once a year by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, unless there is a complaint filed against the facility, said Lydia Johnson, director of the bureau of food safety and laboratories. The department responds to every complaint against a food facility, generally the next day, she said. Johnson said every food facility under the state’s jurisdiction is held to the same standards under the food code.
“Now the complexity will vary widely,” she said. “I always say we inspect the little a.m./p.m. mini-marts, hot dog roller down at the corner all the way up to a restaurant that has a few hundred sit-down meals and does catering. So we do the whole spectrum, but we have the same food code for every facility.”
On the report for the Brewhouse Grille, the inspector noted that dry wiping cloths were being used for multiple tasks, food in the reach-in cooler was held at 55 degrees rather than 41 degrees or below as required, and they observed old food residue on the food contact surface of the mixer and slicer.
At Nick’s 114 Cafe, the inspector noted that a fire extinguisher was stored beside food and equipment in the dry storage area, a food employee in the cooking area was observed changing tasks without proper hand sanitation in between, and food in the refrigeration units was stored without a covering.
The report for W. L. Kepler Seafood noted that the food facility used reduced oxygen packaging for salmon cakes without documenting or monitoring a food safety barrier. Doing so has the potential for Clostridium botulinum or Listeria monocytogenes. The restaurant was also cited for its food employees who were observed not wearing proper hair restraints.
Violations
There is no magic number for how many violations will automatically mark a facility out of compliance with the department. Johnson said that decision is ultimately left up to the inspector. The department gives each inspector a set of guidelines and trains them before sending them out on the job, she said.
If a restaurant fails an inspection, it will receive a letter of warning from the Department of Agriculture, Johnson said. The only time a facility will be shut down after failing an inspection is if the department sees an eminent health hazard to the public, such as an infestation of rats or cockroaches, she said.
After the inspection, the official will sit down with the person in charge, discuss what was out of compliance and give them a certain amount of time to fix each violation and then come back for a follow-up after the time has passed. If it fails again, there is a fee and a charge is filed with the court, Johnson said.
“It’s a non-traffic citation, it’s called,” she said. “We actually go before the magistrate, and we present our case in court, and then the magistrate makes a decision. If they’re found guilty, they have to pay the fine that the magistrate decides on, and they have to pay court costs. And if they continue to have issues, we will file a civil penalty, and we actually have a judge and a hearing at the department of agriculture, and those fines can go up to $10,000.”

Shutdown Salmonella Outbreak Continues. CDC Food Safety Chief: ‘We Have a Blind Spot.’
Source : http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/10/shutdown-salmonella-2/
By Maryn McKenna (Oct 10, 2013)
We’re 11 days now into the federal shutdown and four days since the announcement of a major foodborne outbreak in chicken that is challenging the shutdown-limited abilities of the food-safety and disease-detective personnel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture. Here’s an update.
The CDC has been able to bring back a few personnel to work on this — but only a few. Meanwhile, the Salmonella causing the outbreak has been shown to be multiple strains, several of which are resistant to multiple families of antibiotics.
I spoke to Dr. Chris Braden, director of the CDC’s division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, and here is what he said:
Under normal circumstances, his division totals 300 workers.
Once people were sent home by the shutdown, he was left with 40 people to operate that entire division. Crucially, that includes the program PulseNet, which is possibly the most important component of foodborne-illness investigation in the entire US government; it compares the molecular fingerprints of organisms sent in by state health labs to see whether an outbreak is making people sick in multiple places at once.
The CDC were required to send those workers home, even though the agency was aware at the time of more than 30 different outbreaks of foodborne illness, including the first signals of the Salmonella outbreak.
After some discussion with the Department of Health and Human Services — and after realizing that the shutdown would be not days, but possibly weeks — the CDC was able to wangle the return of 30 additional personnel. (That is, 30 additional people were declared “essential.”) Those 30 were distributed across the CDC, to influenza (it is flu season) and to polio (as part of the stressed global eradication program).
To cover all the programs in his division — not just this massive Salmonella outbreak — Braden got 10 people. Some, not all, have returning to working on PulseNet.
“There wasn’t a number that says, ‘You’re only allowed this many people,’” he told me. “The judgment was that we have to protect life and property during the shutdown. We knew that most of the routine stuff that we were going to do was not going to function, that there were a lot of things that could happen out there that we may not know about, but we did have to address what we knew were risks that were identified.”
With the few additional people that they now have, here is what is known (numbers as of Oct. 10):
The official case count still stands at 278, but no one believes the numbers will stop there.
The breakdown by state — 17 states, not 18 as we heard the other day — is: Alaska (2), Arkansas (1), Arizona (11), California (213), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (2), Michigan (2), North Carolina (1), Nevada (8), Oregon (8), Texas (5), Utah (2), Washington (15) and Wisconsin (1).
Out of the 278, the CDC has some data for 274 of them. Those people range in age from less than a year old to 93 years old. The median age is 20. (NB: The median is not the average of all the ages; it’s the middle of the range of all of them. That it is low suggests there may be lots of teen and child cases.)
Out of the 278, the CDC has medical information for 183 of them. Of those, 76, or 42 percent, have been admitted to hospitals — which, Braden said, is about double what the CDC usually expects.
Illnesses in this outbreak have been occurring since March 1. But, Braden said, CDC analysts don’t believe this is just a continuation of the earlier outbreak that Foster Farms was involved in last summer; rather, they think it is a different one. More on that lower down.
A statistically significant proportion of the people whom state health departments have managed to interview seem to have been made ill by chicken which they bought raw and cooked at home — which is to say, not chicken that was bought cooked, and not chicken from a restaurant or food-service provider.
Now, the organism itself: This is interesting and troubling.
There are seven strains of Salmonella circulating within this outbreak.
Within the limited testing they have been able to do, the CDC has determined that four of the seven strains are drug-resistant.
Two of the four are resistant to many antibiotics.
The antibiotics to which the strains are resistant are: ampicillin, chloramphenicol, gentamicin, kanamycin, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline.
This complex resistance pattern “is probably contributing to the high hospitalization rate,” Braden told me.
If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you’ll know that I’m interested in drug resistance in food, because it distributes drug-resistant infection more broadly through the world, and because it often indicates that the resistance arose from antibiotic use in agriculture. If you’re new to this topic, start with this: When people with a foodborne illness go to the doctor, they are often treated “empirically” — that is, they are given what is widely agreed to be the right drug for the organism most likely to be causing what is making them sick. But they often are not tested to see what the actual bacterial cause is, and it is even less likely that the bacterial cause, once cultured, will be tested for drug susceptibility. What all that comes down to: If someone is given a drug to which their organism is resistant, they will not get better — and the longer the infection lasts, the more likely they are to suffer serious long-term consequences down the road.
The pattern of resistance in these isolates is different from that in the earlier Foster Farms outbreak; there also was just one strain in that outbreak compared to seven in this one. In addition, that outbreak was centered on Foster Farms slaughterhouses in Washington State; this one appears to be centered in California.
“Presumably there is something (in the Foster Farms production chain) that is feeding into multiple facilities,” Braden said. And then he added something that made my heart skip a little:
The information that we’re getting from this outbreak — with so many strains, the fact that a number of them are multi-drug resistant, the fact that there’s some overlap with the previous outbreak, but there’s some new ones — is outstripping our understanding of what’s happening in those facilities and what’s happening in the production farms back upstream.
I asked Braden to talk about that a bit more, and what he said next made my jaw drop. The data that the strains in this outbreak are multi-drug resistant was achieved before the shutdown occurred. The program that achieved it, the CDC’s portion of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, or NARMS, remains shut down. At the moment, the CDC cannot do any more resistance analysis related to this outbreak, or any other one:
We were able to do that testing in NARMS before the furlough. We had four retail samples from Foster Farms chicken, and five human isolates from ill persons connected to this outbreak. We saw clinically relevant resistance in all four of the retail chicken samples and in four of the five human isolates. And that was done before the furlough.
This is specialized testing. We have a special laboratory that does it and we have people with specialized training that work in that laboratory. All that testing has stopped. There is no staff doing that type of testing, so that even if there were isolates coming in that might be associated with an outbreak, we wouldn’t know it and we wouldn’t know that they’re antibiotic resistant.
I asked Braden if that worried him.
There are other types of surveillance both in my division and around CDC that is not occurring now. So it has a number of us concerned that we may be missing something out there that could be a problem, but due to the fact that we have people furloughed and those systems are not functioning, we may be missing something. That’s a concern of mine.  All that stuff that we would normally do with the isolates that are normally sent to us, oftentimes because there’s something unusual or rare about what they’re seeing, those isolates are not being tested at this point. So we have a blind spot.
Updates from elsewhere in the outbreak:
Consumers Union has an ongoing project on meat safety. When they went into their stored samples, they found one came from one of the Foster Farms lots that have been associated with this outbreak. They tested it and found the outbreak strain of Salmonella. Consumer Reports, their magazine arm, has urged its readers not to buy — or use, if they have already bought — any Foster Farms chicken.
Under the US food-safety system, recalls are voluntary and the responsibility of the company. According to a statement posted yesterday, Foster Farms has not implemented a recall. But according to NPR’s food blog The Salt, the USDA has sent the company a “Notice of Intended Enforcement” telling the company that it will withdraw its onsite Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel if a plan to correct the problem is not submitted.
On Capitol Hill today, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) — a public health microbiologist and persistent champion of regulating overuse of antibiotics in agriculture — joined with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who has pressed for better food labelling, to make sure people understand how directly the continuing outbreak is tied to the shutdown.
“This outbreak should galvanize lawmakers to end the GOP shutdown and finally curb the overuse of antibiotics on the farm, a practice which is destroying the effectiveness of our most precious medical tool, the antibiotic,” Slaughter said. DeLauro added: “We need to re-open the government to address this and other potential outbreaks before more people end up in the hospital, and we need to stop shortchanging the agencies that protect the public health, and give them the resources they need to do their jobs.”

Government Shutdown Puts Food Safety at Risk
Source : http://www.latinospost.com/articles/29427/20131010/government-shutdown-puts-food-safety-risk.htm
By Jessica Michele Herring (Oct 10, 2013)
The government shutdown could adversely affect Americans' health as well as their pocketbooks.
The government shutdown is endangering what Americans consume, as all inspections of domestic food except meat and poultry have been halted, The New York Times reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have brought back furloughed workers to handle a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds of people in 18 states.
The individuals who ensure that fruit, vegetables, dairy products and other domestically produced food are safe to consume have been furloughed. Food inspectors, lab technicians, administrative staff and communications specialists have been sent home due to the shutdown over government spending.
"This is a self-inflicted wound that is putting people's health at risk," said Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, a Democrat of Connecticut and activist for food safety.
She said that because the shutdown occurred after budget cuts to the agencies, "you're creating the potential for a real public health crisis."
The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for inspecting most of the food that ends up on American tables, has gone from inspecting around 200 plants per week to none. It has also reduced the inspection of imported food. A meat and poultry hot line that consumers can call about food safety or to report problems has been closed.
At the C.D.C, about 68 percent of staff members have been furloughed, including epidemiologists and other workers that track food-borne illnesses. Such staff members identify sickness linked to dangerous strains of bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, and their absences reduce the C.D.C's ability to respond to outbreaks.
Although the agency has brought back about 30 furloughed workers to handle the salmonella outbreak, which is linked to raw chicken, the agency is still short-staffed. Barbara Reynolds, a center spokeswoman, said, "We're still down to a skeleton crew."
Others are worried about the agency's ability to disseminate information about outbreaks. "When you have an outbreak and health alert like this, you have to get this information into the hands of consumers," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington research group. "The C.D.C. may have brought back some staffers, but their communications staff is working at reduced capacity and that's a concern. The agency's ability to get information out is limited."
Many important agricultural reports used by farmers and traders have also been canceled due to the shutdown, which impedes decision-making about planting and is disruptive for the commodities market, The Times reports. A significant report that was canceled is the World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates, which provides statistics on the global production of crops like corn and cotton and data about meat and sugar.
"It leaves the commodities market in a bit of a fog," said Christopher Narayan, an analyst with the bank Société Générale in New York. He also said investors will not be able to obtain accurate information.
At the F.D.A., about 45 percent of the agency's staff members have been furloughed. "F.D.A. is doing what it can under this difficult situation to protect public health," said Steven Immergut, the agency's assistant commissioner for media affairs.
The F.D.A currently inspects less than 2 percent of imported food, even when the government is open. About 20 percent of the food Americans eat is imported, including 85 percent of seafood and a great deal of produce. The current inspection of imported food will be limited because of the shutdown.
A new food safety law passed in 2011, which enhances the power of the F.D.A, has been delayed because of sequester budget cuts, and is now delayed further because of the shutdown.

Foster Farms to Customers: You Made Yourself Sick with Our Salmonella Chicken
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/foster-farms-to-customers-you-made-yourself-sick-with-our-salmonella-chicken/
By Bill Marler (Oct 10, 2013)
No Recall is in Effect. Products are Safe to Consume if Properly Handled and Fully Cooked.
Food safety is Foster Farms’ highest priority. Foster Farms is working in partnership with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS and Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control CDC to reduce incidence of Salmonella Heidelberg on raw chicken products produced at three company facilities in Central California. Only raw chicken products are involved. This activity is in response to an FSIS-issued alert regarding the increased incidence of Salmonella Heidelberg infection caused by eating undercooked or improperly handled chicken. While the company, FSIS and CDC continue to investigate the issue, Foster Farms has instituted a number of additional food safety practices, processes and technology throughout company facilities that have already proven effective in controlling Salmonella in its Pacific Northwest operations earlier this year. No recall is in effect.
The FSIS alert states: “FSIS further reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh chicken products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry…. All poultry products should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as determined by a food thermometer. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know that food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.”
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family-owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its near 80-year history,” said Foster Farms President Ron Foster. “We deeply regret any foodborne illness that may be associated with any of our products. Food safety is at the very heart of our business. It is a continuous process of improvement. In addition to collaborating with FSIS and CDC, the company has retained national experts in epidemiology and food safety technology to assess current practices and identify opportunities for further improvement.”
“Salmonella is naturally occurring in poultry and can be fully eradicated if raw product is properly handled and fully cooked,” said Dr. Robert O’Connor, the company’s food safety chief and head veterinarian. “All poultry producers strive to reduce bacterial presence, including Salmonella. We take food safety very seriously. When the incidence of illnesses linked to Salmonella increased, we wanted to know why and we have worked quickly to identify and implement additional controls. It is also important to reassure the public that the FSIS process has not been affected by the recent government shutdown.”
Salmonella Heidelberg is the nation’s third most common strain of the Salmonella pathogen, which can result in foodborne illness if not destroyed by the heat of proper cooking.
Foster Farms reminds consumers to follow the Poultry ABCs – Always Be Careful. Raw poultry must be handled and cooked in accordance with the safe handling guidelines on all packages of chicken. These include: keeping the product refrigerated or frozen thawing in refrigerator or microwave keeping raw meat and poultry separate from other foods washing working surfaces including cutting boards, utensils and hands after touching raw meat or poultry keeping hot foods hot and refrigerating leftovers immediately or discarding. All fresh poultry products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Visit www.fosterfarms.com or call Foster Farms at 800-338-8051 to learn more.

Risk to Food Safety Seen in Furloughs
Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/10/us/politics/risk-to-food-safety-seen-in-furloughs.html?_r=1&
By RON NIXON (Oct 09, 2013)
WASHINGTON — The government shutdown is endangering what America eats, food safety experts said this week, as all inspections of domestic food except meat and poultry have halted and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recalled furloughed workers to handle a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people in 18 states.
Offices are dark across the federal agencies charged with making sure that the fruit, vegetables, dairy products and a vast array of other domestically produced food are safe to consume. Inspectors, administrative staff, lab technicians, communications specialists and other support staff members have been sent home while lawmakers wrangle over government spending.
“This is a self-inflicted wound that is putting people’s health at risk,” said Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, a longtime food safety advocate.
Because the shutdown comes on top of earlier budget cuts to the agencies, she said, “you’re creating the potential for a real public health crisis.”
At the same time, several crucial agriculture reports used by traders and farmers have been canceled because of the shutdown, seriously hampering decision making about planting and disrupting commodities markets. The highest-profile report canceled because of the shutdown is World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates, which supplies statistics on the worldwide production of crops from cotton to corn. It also provides data on other agricultural products, including meat and sugar.
“It leaves the commodities market in a bit of a fog,” said Christopher Narayan, an analyst with the bank Société Générale in New York, who said investors would face difficulties in obtaining accurate information.
At the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for inspecting the bulk of food that Americans eat, the agency has gone from a goal of inspecting about 200 plants per week to none and has reduced inspections of imported food. At the Agriculture Department, a meat and poultry hot line that consumers can call for information about food safety or to report problems is closed. At the C.D.C., about 68 percent of staff members were furloughed, including several epidemiologists and dozens of other workers who oversee a database that tracks food-borne illness.
These staff members identify clusters of sickness linked to potentially dangerous strains of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, and their absences have significantly reduced the center’s ability to respond to an outbreak.
Even though the agency has brought back about 30 furloughed workers to handle the salmonella outbreak, which has been linked to raw chicken, the C.D.C. remains short-handed, said Barbara Reynolds, a center spokeswoman. “We’re still down to a skeleton crew,” she said.
Others worry that the agency is not getting its message out.
“When you have an outbreak and health alert like this, you have to get this information into the hands of consumers,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington research group. “The C.D.C. may have brought back some staffers, but their communications staff is working at reduced capacity and that’s a concern. The agency’s ability to get information out is limited.”
The Agriculture Department, which traced the salmonella outbreak to a poultry producer in California, has been spared the brunt of the sequestration cuts and the government shutdown. Since Upton Sinclair’s classic 1906 novel “The Jungle” exposed unsanitary conditions at meatpacking plants, federal law has required inspectors at meat and poultry processing plants.
“We’re up and running,” said David Goldman, assistant administrator with the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which inspects meat and poultry plants. “Our inspectors, labs and field investigators are still on the job.”
At the F.D.A., about 45 percent of the agency’s staff members are furloughed. “F.D.A. is doing what it can under this difficult situation to protect public health,” said Steven Immergut, the agency’s assistant commissioner for media affairs.
Food safety advocates say that even without the government shutdown and budget cuts, the agency is limited in what it can do. Under normal circumstances, it inspects less than 2 percent of most imported food. (Imported meat and poultry are inspected by the Agriculture Department.)
The F.D.A. will not say what percentage of imported food is now inspected, only that it is less than 2 percent. The agency continues to deploy staff members at the nation’s ports to inspect some of the millions of pounds of food that come in each day from abroad, officials said.
About 20 percent of the food Americans eat is imported, including 85 percent of seafood and a significant amount of produce. But officials said the inspections consisted mainly of routine paperwork checks. The agency will conduct physical inspection of food and take samples but will be limited because of staff reductions, the agency said.
The F.D.A. does have contracts with states to continue some inspections because those inspections were paid for with money from the previous fiscal year, officials say. But nearly 9,000 inspections that were to be done by the states for the current fiscal year have been put on hold because of a lack of money.
A new food safety law, passed in 2011, that was supposed to give the F.D.A. greater enforcement powers had already been delayed because of the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. It will now be further delayed because of the shutdown.
“This puts a strain on an already strained system and raises serious concern about the safety of the food we eat,” said Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a food safety advocacy group in Washington.

FSIS to Foster Farms: Your Salmonella Chicken is a “serious ongoing threat to public health.”
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/fsis-to-foster-farms-your-salmonella-chicken-is-a-serious-ongoing-threat-to-public-health/
By Bill Marler (Oct 09, 2013)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is threatening to close three California poultry plants operated by Foster Farms blamed for an outbreak of salmonella poisoning that has sickened at least 278 people nationwide.
In a letter sent Monday to Foster Farms, the USDA said sanitary conditions at the facilities were so poor that they posed a “serious ongoing threat to public health.”
The agency has ordered Foster Farms, one of the nation’s largest privately owned poultry producers, to develop a plan by Thursday to clean up the plants. Two of those facilities are in Fresno and one is in Livingston, Calif., where the company is based.
The CDC reports as of October 7, 2013, a total of 278 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 17 states. Most of the ill persons (77%) have been reported from California. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alaska (2), Arkansas (1), Arizona (11), California (213), Colorado (4), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (2), Michigan (2), North Carolina (1), Nevada (8), Oregon (8), Texas (5), Utah (2), Washington (15) and Wisconsin (1).
42% of ill persons have been hospitalized.
Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections.
The CDC reported in July of 2013, a total of 134 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg reported from 13 states. 31% of ill persons were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.  Most of the ill persons were reported from two states, Oregon (40) and Washington (57).  Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that Foster Farms brand chicken was the most likely source of this outbreak. Testing conducted by the Washington State Public Health Laboratories identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in four intact samples of chicken collected from three ill persons’ homes in Washington, which were traced back to two Foster Farms slaughter establishments.
As of October 7, 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg is associated with chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California.
This investigation is ongoing. USDA-FSIS is prepared to take additional actions or expand the investigation based on new evidence.
The outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg are resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance may be associated with an increased risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.

Is it Time to Ban Chicken Shit from Our Chicken?
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/is-it-time-to-ban-chicken-shit-from-our-chicken/
By  Bill Marler (Oct 08, 2013)
Well, we are having yet another Salmonella outbreak linked to birds, this time chickens.
The USDA FSIS has a (oddly termed) “Performance standard” for Salmonella in young chickens at 7.5 percent, and the reality is that what you will find in the store is likely even higher.
Although many consumers know that chicken should be handled with care, most have no idea just how risky chicken can be.  That is because it is technically legal to sell chicken that is tainted with Salmonella.  According to our own government (when it is operating), for 2010, some 35 Salmonella Serotypes were distributed among 400 Salmonella positive samples in random retail testing. Of the 400 Salmonella positive samples, 171 (42%) were in found in Chicken Breasts, 202 (50.5%) were found in Ground Turkey, 7 (1.8%) were found in Ground Beef and 20 (5%) were found in Pork Chops. Of note, 43.3% of Chicken Breasts and 33.7% of Ground Turkey were resistant to more than 3 antibiotics.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates poultry manufacturers and tests samples harmful bacteria. But it does not have a zero tolerance policy for Salmonella, unlike E. coli O157:H7 (and six others), which is/are the deadliest food borne pathogens. Instead, the agency allows manufacturers to distribute raw poultry provided samples don’t turn up more than a 10 percent rate of Salmonella contamination.
Perhaps it is time to redefine Salmonella as illegal like its nasty E. coli cousins.  It is not like these outbreaks are rare – they are not.  Two years ago, in May 2011, as the number of illnesses were mounting in a Cargill ground turkey Salmonella Heildelberg outbreak and recall, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a regulatory petition asking the USDA to declare antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg, Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Hadar, and Salmonella Typhimurium “adulterants” under federal law, making products that contain them illegal to sell.
Perhaps it is time for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to fulfill its public health mission and to at least get antibiotic-resistant Salmonella out of the American chicken supply.  The danger of antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the food supply is well-documented and has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and by USDA itself.  Even the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) own rules seem to require it:
(m) The term ”adulterated” shall apply to any carcass, part thereof, meat or meat food product under one or more of the following circumstances:
(1) if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health
See, 21 USC §601.  Yet, FSIS deems only one pathogen – E. coli O157:H7 (and, again six other E. coli’s) – as adulterants. Seriously, if Salmonella is found on chicken in a plant or in the drumbstick you bought at the store for the barbecue, the FSIS’s position is that it is perfectly fine – until people start getting sick.  But,  even then, a recall is prompted only when the bird or beef product is a ground product, not a whole product?
Given FSIS’s Mission Statement this makes little sense:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
How is Salmonella on chicken – or anything else for that matter – wholesome?

Government shutdown: Federal furloughs not hurting food safety in Oregon -- yet
Source : http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/10/government_shutdown_food_safet.html
By Lynne Terry (Oct 07, 2013)
Many federal food safety officials have been furloughed by the government shutdown but there's no cause for alarm yet, according to Oregon health officials.
"At the moment, it is not affecting us," said Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the Oregon Public Health Division. "If the federal furloughs last longer than a few weeks, we'll need to reassess. At this point, there are a lot of unknowns."
The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has sent 45 percent of its staff home. That means the FDA is not carrying out most of its food safety activities, according to a contingency plan of the Department of Health and Human Services. The memo says the agency will not be able to perform routine plant inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, import monitoring and the majority of lab research.
Steven Immergut, the sole FDA spokesman who's not been furloughed, said the agency has had to postpone the 200 domestic and foreign routine inspections it performs each week. He said inspectors are reviewing information and data on food imports, which account for 15 percent of the food Americans eat. Basically, they're looking at paperwork for red flags but examination, sampling and lab testing has ground to a halt.
Immergut said investigators can respond to any imminent public health threats. The problem is that the agency needs to know about them to investigate. A large number of scientists employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Inspection have been sent home.
According to the contingency plan, the CDC has furloughed 68 percent of its staff. That means that many epidemiologists who would normally be tracking down reports of food poisoning are not on the job. If any multi-state outbreaks occur, they're unlikely to be noticed, experts say.
"If we had an overt public health emergency, they'd be all over it," said David Acheson, former food safety chief at the FDA and now head of The Acheson Group, a consulting company. "But they've taken all the batteries out of the smoke detectors. We won't know if we have a fire until the place burns down."
The longer the furloughs continue, the higher the threat, Acheson said.
"We can manage a few days, but this is now extending into week 2," Acheson said. "As time rolls on, our risks will continue to mount."
A national food safety group called on the U.S. House on Monday not to pass a resolution that would only fund the FDA. Resolution 77 would not provide appropriations for any other agency.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a letter to House leaders that limited funding would not protect the public's health because federal agencies, such as the FDA, CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture, work together.
Unlike the FDA, USDA inspectors are still in meat and poultry plants. By law, manufacturers cannot operate without their presence.
And in Oregon three CDC officers working in the Oregon Public Health Division are still on the job, helping to track infectious diseases. Oregon health officials are looking into reports of gastrointestinal illness as is usual this time of year. Modie said officials are looking into some foodborne outbreaks but declined to provide more details.
Modie said there are plenty of local staff to handle anything that might pop up.
"Management of a lot of outbreaks here in Oregon is done at the local and state level," he said. "We still operate as a well-oiled machine in terms of our relationships with the counties."

USDA issues food safety alert for salmonella-tainted Foster Farms chicken
Source : http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/10/usda_issues_food_safety_alert.html
By Lynne Terry (Oct 07, 2013)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned the public on Monday about a salmonella outbreak traced to Foster Farms chicken.
The agency said nearly 280 illnesses in 18 states had been traced to raw poultry from three Foster Farms facilities in  California. The chicken was distributed mainly to stores in Oregon, Washington and California. The USDA said most of those sickened live in California.
Foster Farms said in a statement that it had bolstered food safety practices at the three plants in central California. 
"We deeply regret any foodborne illness that may be associated with any of our products," Ron Foster, Foster Farms president said in a statement. "We are committed to ensuring the safety of our products, and our family owned company has maintained an excellent food safety record during its 80-year history."
Salmonella, like other foodborne bacteria, can cause a range of gastrointestional symptoms, including cramps, diarrhea and fever within eight to 72 hours after consumption. It can also be deadly.
The USDA allows producers to sell raw poultry with a nearly 10 percent incidence rate of salmonella. Foster Farms says it's always met that standard.
The company said it is not issuing a recall. But the USDA said the suspect packages have one of these establishment numbers -- P6137, P6137A or P7632 -- inside the USDA mark of inspection.
Earlier this year, Oregon and Washington health authorities issued a similar health alert, after a spike in cases in 2012. Oregon health officials have been tracking a specific strain of Salmonella found in Foster Farms chicken since 2003. The first illnesses in Oregon popped up in 2004.
Oregon epidemiologists alerted the company and the USDA in 2004 or 2005. The USDA told The Oregonian it's been investigating the company since this past February.
So far this year, Oregon health authorities have confirmed two cases of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with Foster Farms chicken, according to Susan Wickstrom, a Public Health Division spokeswoman. One case was in Multnomah County and the other was in Marion County. Those two cases compare with 43 in Oregon in 2012.
Salmonella, the number one foodborne pathogen in the United States, is killed by  thorough cooking. Foster Farms advised consumers to cook raw poultry to 165 degrees.

Food Labs Integral to Changing World of Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/10/food-labs-integral-to-changing-world-of-food-safety/
By Dan Flynn (Oct 07, 2013)
The work of its laboratories has long been ubiquitous in the world of food safety. Public or private, their work is usually in the background, unseen but almost always unchallenged.
Those days, however, may be changing. The landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mentions food laboratories 57 times and says something about laboratory tests 29 times. And, there is an entire section on lab standards.
Over the summer, several of the food-safety laboratories noticed how often their work was coming up in the FSMA, so they decided what the private sector often decides to do when confronted with government complexities — they formed a new association.
The Food Laboratory Alliance was born “to promote collectively food safety and the quality of food laboratory testing.” Formed in July and expanded in September, the Food Laboratory Alliance now includes Eurofins Scientific, Cherney Microbiological Services, Ltd., the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, American Proficiency Institute, Microbiologics and Roka Bioscience.
Very quickly, the coalition of organizations has come to represent hundreds of food laboratories across the country providing many of the products and services demanded daily by the food industry.
And the food lab executives say they are not just dealing with more government complexity. They say their relationships with their food-industry customers are also demanding more.
“We understand how devastating product recalls are to both the manufacturer and to the industry as a whole,” says Debra Cherney, president and director at Cherney Microbiological Services, Ltd. “Such events erode consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply.”
Cherney said the new group wants to “focus together on key components like the quality of food laboratory testing to avoid potential problems.”
The growing food lab association says its mission is to promote food safety and quality of food laboratory testing, educate its members on regulatory and legislative issues pertaining to food labs, and advocate for more testing to ensure a safe food supply.
Food laboratories already are involved in a dizzying array of accreditations and certifications. The top tier among those are the International Standard Organization (ISO) awards earned in the U.S. through the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA).
Obtaining its ISO 17025 accreditation was enough to put Exact Scientific in Bellingham, WA, on the front page of the local newspaper for its skill in testing food for E. coli and Staphylococcus. Locally owned, Exact began seven years ago doing tests for local berry growers and steadily expanded until becoming one of only a handful of ISO 17025 certified labs in the Evergreen State.
Exact’s growth is a sign of increased food-industry demand for third-party (rather than in-house) labs to lessen concerns about conflicts of interest and for ISO certifications for assurance on testing procedures.
“We are seeing more companies including CFA (Chick-fil-A)  look to accredited food labs for verification of our specifications including food safety requirements (a good thing),” says Dr. Hal King, who heads food and product safety at Chick-fil-A. “At CFA, we use this (food labs) as part of a surveillance system from within various parts of the supply chain to help us catch product defects before they get to the restaurant.”
There’s debate within the food industry about how much that demand is changing. Advantage Business Media’s Food Manufacturing publication recently surveyed food processors about their use of food laboratories. They found 32.5 percent use both in-house and outside labs; 28.9 percent use only in-house testing, and 24.1 percent send samples only to outside labs. And 14.5 percent said they don’t require testing.
The Food Manufacturing survey also found most tests are for quality (70.6 percent) and consistency (57.7 percent), with food-safety tests for pathogens coming in third at 56.5 percent. Tests for accuracy in packaging claims and allergens were reported, respectively, by 29.4 and 23.5 percent of those surveyed.
Among the responding food processors, Food Manufacturing found 78.2 percent hold food in batches until clean lab reports are returned. Among lab-related difficulties facing the food industry, the processors expressed concerns about the length of time it takes for results (25 percent); changing regulations (23.8 percent), difficulty finding qualified staff (18.5 percent); problems with buy-in from management (10 percent), test accuracy (10 percent) and deciding what to test for (6.3 percent) and other concerns (6.3 percent.)
Finally, the survey found 93.8 percent of food processors have confidence in their own food-safety testing procedures.

Jensen Farms Brothers Have Few Defenses in Cantaloupe Prosecution
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2013/10/jensen-farms-brothers-have-few-defenses-in-cantal.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (Oct 07, 2013)
DENVER—Federal prosecutors who have charged two brothers with misdemeanor crimes for their alleged roles in a deadly outbreak of foodborne illness wield a powerful weapon that dates back 38 years.
It is known as the "Park Doctrine", referencing a 1975 Supreme Court decision that examined the prosecution of a chief executive officer who was accused of violating the Federal, Food Drug & Cosmetic (FD&C) Act by failing to keep a Baltimore, Md., facility sanitary (free of rats).
In the prosecution against Colorado cantaloupe farmers Eric and Ryan Jensen whose business was linked to 33 deaths and 147 illnesses, the U.S. Attorney's Office need not prove that the men intended to violate the law, legal experts said. Instead, prosecutors must show the food was "adulterated", placed into interstate commerce, and the defendant "knew or should have known and was in a position to prevent the violation from happening," said Frederick Ball, vice-chair of the white-collar criminal defense division of Duane Morris LLP.
In such a case, prosecutors don't even have to prove the defendants were aware that they were violating the law, sources said. Establishing "negligence" is not even required, according to an FDA procedures manual on the Park Doctrine. 
"It's a strict liability offense," said Ronald Friedman, a former federal prosecutor in Seattle and current co-chair of the white collar criminal defense, regulatory compliance and special investigations practice group of Lane Powell PC. 
Consequently, a defendant has few defenses in such a case, he said.
"My strong suspicion is that those that produce and sell food are now paying attention," Bill Marler, a food-safety lawyer representing victims of the Jensen Farms outbreak in civil lawsuits, wrote last week in a blog, commenting on the seldom used Park Doctrine.
The Jensen Farms misdemeanor cases are distinguishable from the pending felony cases against Peanut Corp. of America executives for an outbreak of Salmonella in which prosecutors must establish intent, lawyers said.
In documents filed last month with the U.S. District Court, prosecutors characterized the Jensens as the "primary principals" of the farming operation in Granada, Colo. The family-owned business was first incorporated in 1979, according to records from the Colorado Secretary of State.
If convicted of all the misdemeanor counts, the Jensens could face up to six years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. A misdemeanor conviction also could lead to the brothers being barred from working in the industry.
Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and didn't intend to plant any crops this year, James Markus, a bankruptcy lawyer representing the business, told Food Product Design in June.  
On Sept. 26, Denver-based attorneys for the brothers entered pleas of not guilty, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty set a tentative trial date of Dec. 2. The brothers were both released from custody on a $100,000 unsecured bond, and Hegarty recently granted 33-year-old Ryan Jensen permission to travel between Colorado and Kansas as part of his current employment.
"The charges against Eric and Ryan Jensen do not imply that they knew, or even should have known, that the cantaloupes had been contaminated," according to a press release from Ryan's Denver-based attorney, Richard Banta. "The Jensens acknowledge that producers and processors of food must be strictly liable for the safety of our food supply. As they were from the first day of this tragedy, the Jensens remain shocked, saddened, and in prayerful remembrance of the victims and their families."
Prosecutors announced the charges about two years after victims began falling ill from cantaloupes that state and federal officials traced back to Jensen Farms. The fruit was found to be contaminated with Listeria moncytogenes, which causes the human illness listeriosis.
The outbreak caused 147 illnesses in 28 states and claimed the lives of 33 people, including former podiatrist Mike Hauser. The elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems were particularly vulnerable.
In an Oct. 19, 2011 report, FDA cited a number of potential causes for the spate of foodborne illnesses. According to prosecutors, Jensen Farms could have mitigated the risk of contamination had they washed the fruit with chlorine. A guidance document from FDA had recommended using such an anti-microbial solution.
The Jensens "had the power and authority to maintain the packing equipment at Jensen Farms in such a way that the cantaloupes produced, packed and shipped from Jensen Farms would be washed with sufficient anti-bacterial solutions so that the fruit was not adulterated in the process," prosecutors allege in court documents.
Lawyers for the brothers did not respond to requests for comment on whether they are in negotiations with prosecutors to enter into plea agreements.
Ball said this is the first case being prosecuted under the Park Doctrine that he can recall in some time.
"FDA has said they were planning on doing it more," he added. "I think they are doing it because Congress has put a lot of pressure on them to bring criminal charges [against] companies subject to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act."
An FDA manual specifies several factors officials should consider in deciding whether to recommend a criminal prosecution under the Park Doctrine. Some of those factors include the potential or actual harm to the public, whether the official could have prevented or corrected the violation of federal law, whether the infraction was widespread and whether it was obvious.
The manual makes clear that high-level officials with FDA and U.S. Department of Justice should vet recommendations for such a prosecution.
At least one attorney has argued the factors cited by FDA are not particularly helpful.  
"These criteria are the same as those considered in any decision of whether to proceed criminally, misdemeanor or felony," Anne Walsh of Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C. wrote in a 2011 blog after the FDA released the criteria . "They are hardly unique to this incredibly stringent strict liability standard against responsible corporate officials."  

Practice take-out food safety
Source : http://www.athensnews.com/ohio/article-40792-practice-take-out-food-safety.html
By athensnews.com (Oct 07, 2013)
Grabbing a quick bite to eat on the way home from work or kids' sports practices is a blessing for many time-strapped families. However, improper handling of take-out food can put family members at risk for foodborne illness.
According to a survey from the Institute of Food Technologists, less than one-third of American families are cooking their evening meals from scratch. While the majority of families eat their meals at home, survey findings indicated nearly half of those meals are fast food, delivery or takeout from restaurants or other eateries. More and more people are turning to fast food as restaurants have increased their offerings of healthy meals.
As with any other type of meal, take-out must be handled properly to avoid food-borne illness. Whether items are delivered or carried home, care should be given to handling and storage.
Maintain consistent temperature. Hot foods should remain hot, ideally at 140 F or above. That tepid delivered pizza may not taste good cold, and it may be unsafe to eat as well. Cold food should be kept chilled. Bacteria can grow quickly between the temperatures of 40 F and 140 F. Foods should not be left at room temperature longer than two hours. If it is hot outside, then food should not remain out for more than one hour or it could begin to spoil.
Eat food promptly. There is no guaranteed way to calculate just how long take-out food has been in transit or at an inconsistent temperature. Therefore, it is advisable to eat such food as soon as possible. If you will be dining later, separate the foods into smaller containers and put them in the refrigerator so they will cool down quickly and resist bacteria growth. Then reheat food again prior to eating.
Store leftovers in small containers. If you purchase a roast, turkey, chicken, or ham, slice and cut it into smaller portions before storing. This enables the food to freeze or cool evenly and more quickly. Date doggie bags and leftovers so you know when they were purchased. Discard leftovers within three to five days of storing them in the refrigerator.
Heat foods evenly in the microwave. Take-out foods and microwaves seem to go hand-in-hand. When quickly heating up take-out foods and leftovers in the microwave, be sure to heat everything evenly. If your microwave does not have a turntable, stir and rotate food midway through the heating process. This will eliminate cold spots that allow bacteria to survive.
Keep in mind that pizza is a perishable food. Pizza cannot be left on the counter for a long period of time and then safely eaten. As with any other food, pizza that has remained at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be thrown out.
Store a cooler in your car. For those who dine out frequently and bring home leftovers, having an insulated lunch bag or small cooler in your vehicle to preserve the food on the way home.
People routinely turn to take-out food and restaurant dining as a convenient means of sustenance on busy days. Ensuring the foods eaten are safe can help prevent food-based illness

Salmonella and Listeria Produce Field Contamination Risk Factors
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2013/salmonella-and-listeria-produce-field-contamination-risk-factors/
By Linda Larsen (Oct 07, 2013)
Red and green bell peppers have been recalled in California for possible Salmonella contamination. That makes this study even more relevant. Applied and Environmental Microbiology has published research about identified risk factors associated with contamination of produce fields with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
The study found that management practices are crucial to development of effective Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Twenty one produce farms in New York state were visited over a five week period for this study. Soil, draw swab, and water samples were collected. In addition, field-management practices were recorded.
They found Salmonella in 6.1% of fields, and Listeria in 18.5%. Most of the pathogen-positive water samples were from non-irrigation surface water sources. Salmonella was found in 11% of those water samples, and Listeria was found in 30%.
In addition, the scientists found that manure application within a year of harvest increased the odds of a Salmonella-positive field. Irrigation within three days of sample collection, wildlife observed in the field, and soil cultivation within seven days of sample collection also increased the likelihood of a field positive for Listeria monocytogenes. A buffer zone around the field did have a protective effect. Growers need to evaluate their GAPS with science-based evaluation and implement preventive controls that will reduce the risk of pre-harvest contamination.

 

 


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