FoodHACCP Newsletter
12/16 2013 ISSUE:578

What to Eat Now: Food safety
Source :
By Ian Marber (Dec 16, 2013)
Did you know that 1 in 10 of us suffer with a foodborne illness annually? Its not something that is uppermost in many people's minds, but we take risks when cooking and storing food that we don't really know much about. We can be a little lax when it comes to food safety, especially when we naturally believe our kitchens to clean and thus 'safe' places. There are some simple rules that we need reminding of in order to avoid food poisoning at home.
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READ: What To Eat Now: a vegan diet, but only with dedication
They may seem obvious and perhaps a little time-consuming, but the effort is worthwhile and preferable to allowing your meal to be contaminated with bacteria resulting in a Christmas that is memorable, but for the wrong reasons.
- Store raw foods away from cooked foods.
- Foods that could drip should be stored at the bottom of the fridge and must be well covered, or kept in food storage boxes.
- Eggs are best kept in the fridge, preferably in their boxes.
- Avoid storing tinned food after it is open, instead decant contents into a bowl and cover it securely and use within a couple of days.
- Allow frozen food plenty of time to defrost and keep the liquid that collects during defrosting away from all other foods; do not allow food to partially defrost and then refreeze it.
- If using a microwave to defrost food, cook it immediately after defrosting.
READ: 10 Best: health-boosting food swaps
- Ensure that what you cook is cooked all the way through. Preheat your oven to guarantee the correct cooking temperatures.
- Microwaved food should be stirred and then left to stand for a few minutes before eating.
- If you do eat ready meals, then follow the instructions on the label.
- Serve foods as soon as they are ready, don't allow them to stand around for too long.
- Try to avoid using your bare hands, especially when handling cooked and raw foods as you prepare your meal. Its best to use clean kitchen tongs and wash them after each use.
- Have two chopping boards, one for cooked food and one for raw food, and wash them thoroughly before placing a different food on them.

Update: Spaghetti Caused Food Poisoning at Hawaii Elementary School
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By News Desk (Dec 16, 2013)
State health officials have determined that the cause of a foodborne illness last week that sickened 30 students and two adults at an Oahu elementary school was bacteria-tainted spaghetti.
According to a Monday news article, the state Department of Health said spaghetti cooked the previous day at Waipahu Elementary School was not properly heated the day it was served, which created “an environment for bacteria growth.” The food also may not have been properly cooled the day it was cooked, the department said in a statement.
“An inspection and interviews with cafeteria employees revealed food preparation violations that could be corrected with proper training and follow through,” said Peter Oshiro, head of the department’s Sanitation Branch. “We understand the school closed the cafeteria to retrain their food service staff and ensure safe food practices.”
The department’s Food Safety Program is conducting food safety training for school cafeteria staff and management. Meanwhile, meals have brought in from a neighboring school.
Those sickened on Dec. 10 experienced dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and school officials immediately suspected food poisoning as the cause.
“While this was an isolated incident, our staff has and continues to fully cooperate with health officials in ensuring best practice,” said Waipahu Elementary School Principal Gary Chun. “We appreciate the patience and understanding of our school community and remain committed to proper meal preparation.”

FDA issues proposed rule to determine safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps
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By Bill Marler (Dec 16, 2013)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule to require manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to demonstrate that their products are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections. Under the proposal, if companies do not demonstrate such safety and effectiveness, these products would need to be reformulated or relabeled to remain on the market.
Today’s action is part of a larger, ongoing review of antibacterial active ingredients by the FDA to ensure these ingredients are proven to be safe and effective. This proposed rule does not affect hand sanitizers, wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.
Millions of Americans use antibacterial hand soap and body wash products. Although consumers generally view these products as effective tools to help prevent the spread of germs, there is currently no evidence that they are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Further, some data suggest that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products—for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps)—could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.
“Antibacterial soaps and body washes are used widely and frequently by consumers in everyday home, work, school, and public settings, where the risk of infection is relatively low,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “Due to consumers’ extensive exposure to the ingredients in antibacterial soaps, we believe there should be a clearly demonstrated benefit from using antibacterial soap to balance any potential risk.”
The widespread consumer use of antibacterial products, the accumulated scientific information and concerns raised by health care and consumer groups have prompted the FDA to reevaluate what data are needed to classify the active ingredients in consumer antibacterial products as “generally recognized as safe and effective” or GRASE.  Under the proposed rule, manufacturers who want to continue marketing antibacterial products will be required to provide the agency with additional data on the products’ safety and effectiveness, including data from clinical studies to demonstrate that these products are superior to non-antibacterial soaps in preventing human illness or reducing infection.
“While the FDA continues to collect additional information on antibacterial hand soaps and body washes, we encourage consumers to make an educated choice about what products they choose to use,” said Sandra Kweder, M.D., deputy director, Office of New Drugs at CDER. “Washing with plain soap and running water is one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others.”
Consumers should continue to be diligent about washing their hands. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol should be used.  More information on appropriate hand washing from the CDC may be found here.
Almost all soaps labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” contain at least one of the antibacterial ingredients addressed in the proposed rule. The most common active ingredients in antibacterial soaps are triclosan and triclocarban. Some soaps labeled “deodorant” may also contain these ingredients.
The proposed rule does not require the antibacterial soap products to be removed from the market at this time. When the proposed rule is finalized, as previously stated, either companies will have provided data to support an antibacterial claim, or if not, they will have to reformulate (remove antibacterial active ingredients) or relabel (remove the antibacterial claim from the product’s labeling) these products in order to continue marketing. The proposed rule is available for public comment for 180 days, with a concurrent one year period for companies to submit new data and information, followed by a 60-day rebuttal comment period.
For more information:
CDC: Handwashing
Proposed Rule Safety and Effectiveness of Consumer Antiseptics
Over-the-Counter Topical Antimicrobial Drug Products – Antibacterial Hand Soaps and Body Washes
Consumer Update: FDA Taking Closer Look at ‘Antibacterial’ Soap

Preparedness Facts: Holiday food-safety tips
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By Amanda Ballin (Dec 15, 2013)
Spending time together in the kitchen is a holiday tradition in my family. As a young child, I could never understand why some of the famous family recipes were not prepared year-round.
After a couple of years of regular kitchen duty, it became obvious that some traditional holiday recipes are prepared not only with a lot of love, but a lot of work and time.
Besides being conscientious of safe food handling as we prepare food, we should also take the time to consider food safety as we serve food — particularly when we serve food buffet-style. Whether your holiday gatherings are large or small this season, take the time to follow these safe food handling practices for the health of your loved ones.
Safe food handling
•Clean — Remember to wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Proper hand-washing technique is essential to preventing the spread of food-borne illness. Be sure to keep kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils clean and wash with hot water and soap.
•Separate — Prevent cross-contamination on cutting surfaces by using separate boards or mats for raw meats, poultry and seafood, a separate one for produce and a separate one for breads or other items. Keep fish and seafood, raw turkey, roasts, hams and other meats and their juices separate from other side dishes when preparing meals. Do not store raw meats above other ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator because the juices from raw meats can contaminate them.
•Cook — Cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature and use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to the appropriate minimum internal temperature. For whole meats (including beef, lamb, veal, pork and ham), this means cooking to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For ground meat and meat mixtures, this means cooking to at least 160 degrees. For all poultry (including ground poultry), this means cooking to at least 165 degrees. Pasteurized egg products can typically be substituted in recipes containing raw eggs such as eggnog, custard or key lime pie. Be sure that eggs and products containing eggs are thoroughly cooked when serving those at higher risk for food-borne illness. Individuals at higher risk include older adults, pregnant women or persons with chronic illnesses.
•Chill — Chill food promptly. Keep the fridge at 40 degrees or below to prevent bacteria from growing. Custard pies and other egg dishes should be kept cool. Remember to never defrost food at room temperature.
Considerations for parties/buffets
Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer before serving. Shallow containers will allow for more rapid and even cooling of foods.
Reheat hot foods to 165 degrees. Arrange and serve food on smaller platters rather than on one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in alternative heating methods such as in the oven (set at 200-250 degrees), or other heating methods at their serving temperatures of 140 degrees or warmer in slow cookers, warming trays or chafing dishes.
Cold foods should be held at 40 degrees in the refrigerator until serving time. Consider keeping foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice, or use small serving trays and replace them. Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to dishes that previously had food on them. Consider that many people may have been touching the dish and also that some remaining food may have been sitting out longer at room temperature.
Food should not sit at room temperature for longer than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard items that have been sitting out longer than two hours.
Food-borne bacteria
Bacteria are everywhere, but a few types especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people’s hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Prevention is safe food handling.
If illness occurs, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.
Staphylococcus aureus
Staphylococcus  (“staph”) bacterium is found on our skin, in infected cuts and pimples and in our noses and throats. It is spread by improper food handling. Prevention includes washing hands and utensils before preparing and handling foods and not letting prepared foods — particularly cooked and cured meats and cheese and meat salads — sit at room temperature more than two hours. Thorough cooking destroys “staph” bacteria, but staphylococcal enterotoxin is resistant to heat, refrigeration and freezing.
Clostridium perfringens
“Perfringens” is called the “cafeteria germ” because it may be found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods of time on inadequately maintained steam tables or at room temperature. Prevention is to divide large portions of cooked foods such as beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews and casseroles into smaller portions for serving and cooling. Keep cooked foods hot or cold, not lukewarm.
Listeria monocytogenes
Because Listeria bacteria multiplies, although slowly, at refrigeration temperatures, this bacterium can be found in cold foods typically served on buffets. To avoid serving foods containing Listeria, follow “keep refrigerated” label directions and carefully observe “sell by” and “use by” dates on processed products, and thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before consumption.
Follow these tips to keep your loved ones happy and safe after consuming holiday treats. These tips were provided from the USDA Food Safety Education resources. For more, visit
Amanda Ballin is a public health emergency planner for the Kings County Public Health Emergency Preparedness program.

In a Twist, China Bans U.S. Shellfish
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By Linda Larsen (Dec 14, 2013)
We’re used to hearing about how food from China is banned from entering the U.S., or that consumer and food safety groups oppose measures to bring food from that country here. But now China has turned the tables by banning all imports of West coast shellfish from its borders.
The issue is paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins and arsenic found in geoduck clams harvested in Renton, Washington and Ketchikan in Alaska. No shellfish harvested on the entire West coast will be exported to China for the foreseeable future. The ban applies to clams, oysters, geoducks, and all bivalve shellfish harvested off Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and northern California. The health departments of those states routinely test for PSP and arsenic, as well as other parasites and bacteria.
Officials with the Washington Department of Health said this step is unusual. Shellfish from one or two areas have been found with elevated levels of PSP toxins and arsenic, but that is not the case with the entire coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is negotiating with the Chinese government about this issue.
China is the Northwest shellfish industry’s largest market. Geoducks alone account for $68 million in trade to China. Peak season for geoducks occur around the holiday season because they are traditionally served for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Understanding Small Farm Exemptions Under FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule
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By Kelly Damewood (Dec 13, 2013)
With the comment period finally closed on the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one step closer to implementing FSMA.
FDA must now review the comments as it considers final changes to the proposed rule, which sets standards for the safe production and harvesting of raw agricultural commodities. A heavily debated topic among commenters has been FDA’s framework for implementing exemptions for small farms.
When Congress decided to exempt certain small farms from FSMA, it was not without controversy. Those who supported the exemption argued that FSMA is too expensive, too burdensome, and unnecessary for small producers. Those who opposed the exemption argued that it creates a dangerous loophole in a law designed to protect consumers from unnecessary risks.
But the controversy surrounding the exemption did not end when FSMA was signed into law in 2011. As the comments on the produce rule show, food and farm advocates continue to debate how FDA should interpret and implement small farm exemptions.
On one hand, some commenters suggest that the Produce Safety Rule does not set forth clear enough standards to comply with the spirit of the statutory exemption. Others suggest that FDA should construe the exemption even more narrowly than it has thus far. Both sides, however, seem to agree that the exact framework for the exemption remains unclear.
Overall, this debate begs a key question: What exactly are the exemptions for small farms under the Produce Safety Rule?
Background on the exemptions
FSMA was signed into law in 2011 to create a comprehensive food safety framework that prevents, rather than only reacts to, foodborne illnesses.
As part of this framework, FSMA requires FDA to monitor and regulate food safety through each step of the food chain. Thus, FSMA gave FDA its first real mandate to regulate food safety at the farm level.
But bringing FDA food safety regulation to farms means that farmers will have to meet the costs and burdens of FSMA if they want to stay in business.
From the start of FSMA discussions, small farmers expressed concerns about how the additional costs would affect their economic viability. They also feared that the extra burdens of FSMA would further marginalize their ability to compete with larger farms. Moreover, small farm representatives argued that such intrusive technical regulation was unnecessary for producers who have more personal, direct oversight, as well as for products that are easily traced back to the farms of origin.
In the end, Congress compromised with small farms in two ways. First, it gave FDA flexibility to implement rules and standards that realistically address differently sized operations, as well as to take into account the distances food travels for sales. Second, Congress passed FSMA with a statutory exemption for certain small farms which sell local food under the Tester-Hagan Amendment.
According to Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, hammering out the definition of “small” and “local” farms was a painstaking process.
“We participated in countless debates, online forums, and conferences,” says Lovera, adding, “What may be a giant farm in Vermont is still a small farm in California.”
As a result of many long discussions, the Tester-Hagan Amendment consists of a two-part test to determine whether a farm qualifies for the exemption:
First, the farm must have average annual gross revenue of less than $500,000. The average is calculated based on the previous three-year period.
Second, the farm must sell the majority of its products to qualified end users. Qualified end users are consumers, restaurants, or grocery stores that are in the same state as the farm or that are within 275 miles of the farm.
Farms that qualify for an exemption under the Tester-Hagan Amendment must still give their customers notice of their business name and address at the point of sale. But they do not have to comply with the more stringent FSMA requirements such as record-keeping and plan development.
How FDA implements the small farm exemption
When FDA proposed the Produce Safety Rule, it created two categories of exemptions. In doing so, it exercised its discretion to create flexible standards, as well as incorporated the Tester-Hagan Amendment exemption.
While the two-part test under the amendment is a statutory mandate, FDA also has a degree of flexibility in how it chooses to implement it. For instance, FDA can define “farm” in such a way that affects who qualifies for the exemption.
Exemptions in the Produce Safety Rule
First of all, FSMA mandates that the produce rule applies to farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold produce for consumption in the U.S. But the rule does not apply to produce for personal or on-farm consumption, so the rule is completely irrelevant for home gardens or hobby farms.
Additionally, FDA used its discretion to establish exemptions for what it considers relatively low-risk produce. This includes two categories: 1) produce rarely consumed raw, such as squash, and 2) produce that receives commercial processing to kill microorganisms.
The third type of exemption is sometimes referred to as the “outright exemption.” Here, FDA used its discretion to exempt very small farms. To qualify, a farm must have an average annual value of food sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less, regardless of the type of produce sold.
In other words, to qualify for a complete exemption from FSMA requirements, a farmer needs to either not sell produce at all, sell only low-risk or processed produce, or meet the $25,000 revenue cap.
In addition to these complete exemptions, the produce rule also has a “qualified exemption.” This exemption directly implements the Tester-Hagan Amendment, and it includes the same two-part test as laid out above.
What does ‘exemption’ mean?
“People tend to use the term ‘exemption’ really loosely,” says Ariane Lotti, assistant policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
Lotti makes three points about the term “exemption.” First, under the qualified exemption, e.g., the Tester-Hagan Amendment, producers must give consumers their business address at the point of sale. This ensures that if a problem arises, the products can then be traced back to the farm, Lotti says.
Second, a farm that is exempt from the Produce Safety Rule might not be exempt from the Preventive Controls Rule. The Preventive Controls Rule is another proposed FSMA rule that focuses on processors rather than producers.
Lotti notes that the Produce and Preventive Controls Rules are interrelated, but many people believe FDA has not clarified when each rule will or will not apply. Groups such as NSAC want FDA to further define and clarify terms in the rules.
Finally, Lotti emphasizes that an exemption under the Produce Safety Rule only means that the producer or farmer will have to meet much less onerous requirements than the requirements of the full rule. But, no farmer, no matter how small, is lawfully allowed to sell adulterated food.
“It is an exemption from the majority of requirements of the produce rule,” she says. “It is not an exemption from having to provide safe food.”

Norovirus Outbreak at Edinburgh Golf Course in Brooklyn Park, MN
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By Linda Larsen (Dec 13, 2013)
An apparent norovirus outbreak at Edinburgh USA Golf Course in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota has occurred, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). At least 75 people have been sickened after attending a banquet for Totino Grace football players on Sunday, December 8, 2013. The food service for the event was Lancer Hospitality.
More than 270 people attended the banquet at the clubhouse restaurant. The private Catholic school rented the space for the event. At least 41 adults and 34 students have been sickened in this outbreak. People began experiencing vomiting and diarrhea over a period of two days after the event.
State health officials think norovirus is the culprit. The illness usually lasts a few days and most people recover without medical intervention. No hospitalizations were reported. Norovirus is highly contagious and is spread through contaminated food and drink, and by touching contaminated surfaces.
Dough Schultz, MDH spokesman said, “we are entering the peak season for norovirus in Minnesota, so it is important that everyone wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before handling food. Stay home if you are ill.” Make sure that anyone with diarrhea, especially children, wash their hands frequently with soap and water to prevent the virus from spreading. After being sick, you should not prepare or handle food for others for three days after a complete recovery.


Food Safety Microbiology ONLINE COURSE IS OPEN

Botulism Outbreak in Amarillo
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By Carla Gillespie (Dec 12, 2013)
Health officials in Amarillo are investigating an outbreak of botulism, a rare, paralytic illness that can be fatal. At least four people are believed to have eaten something contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that produces a nerve toxin that causes paralysis. All four remain hospitalized and are slowly recovering.
Botulism is not spread from person-to-person contact. Symptoms of foodborne botulism usually develop within 12 to 36 hours of exposure and include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness that usually begins at the shoulders and moves down. If the infection reaches the muscles that control breathing, botulism can be fatal without mechanical ventilation. Recovery can take weeks or months.
Treatment for botulism can include an antitoxin which is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two of the four patients in Amarillo have received the antitoxin.
A source of exposure has not yet been identified. Each of the four patients knows at least one of the others who became ill. Three of them have had social contact at a local residence. Food, environmental, and clinical samples are undergoing tests at state and federal laboratories. Results are expected in a few days.
The City of Amarillo DPH and Environmental Health (EH) are continuing to investigate these cases and are collaborating with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the CDC. Health official urge anyone experiencing symptoms to see a doctor right away.

Johns Hopkins Experts on FDA Antibiotic Guidance
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By Linda Larsen (Dec 12, 2013)
The experts at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future have released a statement on the FDA’s guidance document for reducing antibiotic use in farm animals. They say that “FDA’s voluntary guidelines on antibiotics fail to protect public health.”
Guidance for Industry #213 asks drug companies to voluntarily withdraw approvals to use antibiotics for growth promotion. Unfortunately, factory farms can still use antibiotics at a sub therapeutic level for disease prevention. And since 80% of antibiotics sold in this country are used in food animals, not to treat sick people, this is significant.
CDC has stated that just one antibiotic resistant pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes more than 94,000 resistant infections and kills more than 18,000 people in this country every single year. The cost to the US health system of antibiotic resistant infections is as much as $26 billion per year.
The issue is that giving health animals low doses of antibiotics is the perfect ground for bacteria to evolve resistance to the drugs. Most antibiotics in farm animals will still be used this way. Zoetis, former Pfizer Animal Health, told the Wall Street Journal that the guidelines “will not have a significant impact on our revenues.”
Johns Hopkins said that FDA has the regulatory authority to withdraw approvals for antibiotics used for growth promotion and disease prevention. Even though a judge ordered FDA to reconsider its denials of citizen petitions to withdraw these drug approvals, the FDA is appealing the decision.
Dr. Robert Lawrence, director of CLF said, “the widespread misuse of antibiotics in food animal production reduces the effectiveness of drugs we heavily rely on to keep the public and our families safe. An infection that is now considered relatively easy to treat could once again prove fatal should antibiotics continue to be misused in food animal production and exacerbate this growing public health crisis. Dr. Keeve Nachman, a CLF scientist, said, “The agency needs to change how antibiotics are used, but these guidelines will only change how they are labeled.”

TX Health Officials Investigating Four Suspected Botulism Cases
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By News Desk (Dec 12, 2013)
Public health officials in Amarillo, TX, are investigating a possible botulism outbreak after learning of four probable cases of the rare and potentially fatal foodborne illness on Friday, Dec. 6.
As of Wednesday, Dec. 11, officials reportedly had not yet identified a common source and were checking into what the four adult patients had eaten in the hours and days leading up to their illnesses. Two of the patients had been treated with botulism anti-toxin, and all four were hospitalized.
“All the patients are improving,” said Dr. Roger Smalligan, public health authority for Potter and Randall counties. “One patient required mechanical ventilation, but they’ve been taken off. Another is still on a ventilator, but is improving.”
According to a story published Wednesday in the Amarillo Globe-News, officials were warning other health professionals and the general public that there might be other cases.
“We don’t want to wait around and have other people affected,” Smalligan said.
Common symptoms of infection by the botulism toxin include blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, and heavy or droopy eyelids. Because the bacteria attacks the body’s nerve endings, it can lead to paralysis.
Symptoms usually appear 12 to 36 hours after being exposed to the toxin, but it may take up to eight days. The disease can only be spread by consuming a contaminated food source.
Most of the botulism cases reported in the U.S. are associated with home-canned foods that have not been safely processed. Very occasionally, however, commercially processed foods are implicated as the source of botulism, including sausages, beef stew, canned vegetables and seafood products.
Botulism cases are rare, with an average of 145 cases reported each year in the U.S.

33 with E. coli, most in California, Linked to Trader Joes and Glass Onion
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By Bill Marler (Dec 12, 2013)
A total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 were reported from four states.
The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Arizona (1), California (28), Texas (1), and Washington (3).
32% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths were reported.
The STEC O157:H7 PFGE pattern combination in this outbreak was new to the PulseNet database.
Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that consumption of two ready-to-eat salads, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, produced by Glass Onion Catering and sold at Trader Joe’s grocery store locations, was the likely source of this outbreak of STEC O157:H7 infections.
On November 10, 2013, Glass Onion Catering voluntarily recalled numerous ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products that may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7.
Read the list of recalled products regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
Read the list of recalled products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Pecan Shell Extracts May Protect Meat From Listeria
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By 10 ,2103)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.—Extracts from pecan shells may be effective at protecting meats from Listeria growth, and could provide an all-natural, organic antimicrobial for meat processing, according to a new study published in the Journal of Food Science.
Researchers at University of Arkansas subjected unroasted and roasted organic pecan shells to solvent-free extraction to produce antimicrobials that were tested against Listeria spp. and L. monocytogenes serotypes to determine the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of antimicrobials. The effectiveness of pecan shell extracts were further tested using a poultry skin model system; the growth inhibition of the Listeria cells adhered onto the skin model were quantified.
The researchers found that the solvent-free extracts of pecan shells inhibited Listeria strains at MICs as low as 0.38%. The antimicrobial effectiveness tests on a poultry skin model exhibited nearly a 2 log reduction of the inoculated cocktail mix of Listeria strains when extracts of pecan shell powder were used. The extracts also produced greater than a 4 log reduction of the indigenous spoilage bacteria on the chicken skin.
The researchers concluded that “pecan shell extracts may prove to be very effective alternative antimicrobials against food pathogens and supplement the demand for effective natural antimicrobials for use in organic meat processing."
Prior research found organic acids could be used to reduce foodborne pathogens in chicken—infusing combinations of the acids into chicken breast meat greatly reduces E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella Typhimurium.
IFT: Pecan shell extracts may offer organic antimicrobial option for meat

Dutch food safety inspectors enforce meat and water regulations
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By Doug Powell (Dec 10, 2013)
A professor once told this nubile food science graduate student that it was all about adding water and salt to protein and charging more.
He was right.
The Dutch food safety authority NNWA has made ‘several enforcement visits’ to Dutch factories where meat is tumbled with water to increase its weight in recent months, the Guardian newspaper reported on Saturday.
The aim of the visits was to stop the practice of adding water to imported chicken destined for resale as raw meat, the paper said. The NVWA told the paper chicken produced in this way is illegal.

Vibrio: Remember Vulnerable Guests When Serving Oysters
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By Carla Gillespie (Dec 10, 2013)
Oysters are on a lot of holiday menus. But if your’re thinking of serving them raw, be aware that oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can cause life-threatening illness or fatality for people with certain medical conditions, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Those who should never consume raw oysters include pregnant women and people with cancer, diabetes, stomach disorders, compromised immune systems, liver disease from hepatitis, cirrhosis, alcoholism and iron overload disease.  Those who consume two to three drinks daily should also avoid consumption of raw oysters.
What’s the danger?
Vibrio vulnificus infections for high-risk individuals have a 50 percent fatality rate, often within 48 hours. Symptoms of an infection usually develop within 24 to 48 hours of ingestion and include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shock and skin lesions. Anyone in the high risk group who develops these symptoms after eating raw oysters or other raw shellfish should see a doctor immediately.
Vibrio vulnificus are naturally occurring bacteria in saltwater and are not the result of pollution. (Those in the high-risk group can also contract Vibrio infections if they have cuts, burns or sores that come in contact with seawater containing the bacteria). Because oysters are filter feeders, Vibrio can get trapped in their issues.
An oyster contaminated with Vibrio won’t taste off or look unusual. Because Vibrio is not caused by pollution,  eating oysters from certain areas perceived as “clean” wil not reduce the risk, nor will eating them at a reputable restaurant with a high turnover rate. Hot sauce as a garnish does not kill the bacteria and neither does alcohol. The only thing that destroys Vibrio is heat. Pasteurized oysters or dishes that include fully cooked oysters are  the safest options for a holiday crowd.

South Korea Building National Food Cluster Around New Food Safety Center
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By Dan Flynn (Dec 10, 2013)
Two hours south of Seoul by comfortable and quiet train ride is Iksan City, where the Korea National Food Cluster is being built just east of town. JD Kim, assistant manager for the investment promotion team of the agency for the project also known as “Foodpolis,” stays busy running tours back and forth between the development site and Iksan City Hall.
His passengers are coming from around the world, mostly from the food industry, academia and foreign governments. They come to Iksan not only to kick the dirt upon which Foodpolis will rise, but to learn more about what might be a huge business opportunity. South Korea has already invested more than $500 million in the idea, which it has been working on since 2007.
Meeting with San-Jai Lee, director general of the Foodpolis promotion assistance agency, inside a chilly Iksan City Hall office quickly warmed by the flames around a large gas-heated teapot, visitors learn that road and utility construction is about to get under way on the nearly 900-acre site that is to become the center of Northeast Asia’s food market.
At the center of Foodpolis will be three research and development centers: one for food packaging, one to evaluate food functionality, and the third, which will be the centerpiece – a new national center for food quality and food safety. The R&D centers will give food companies operating out of Foodpolis a whole package of one-stop services.
For a project that has yet to rise out of the ground, Foodpolis is generating an amazing amount of interest. After meetings with Lee, 88 companies have signed agreements to explore development at Foodpolis.
Among the most recent to sign on is Netherlands-based TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute. It plans to establish an Asian headquarters or research center in the food cluster by 2015. Other Foodpolis enlistments already include 23 Asian companies, including nine from China.
Lee says the goal is to attract 160 domestic and international food companies and research institutes to Foodpolis. The country is making the investment in the project both to help its small- and medium-sized food companies find their legs in the export market and to expand South Korea’s exports.
In making its food cluster move now, South Korea is offering both Japan and China a timely option.
While a fading memory in the Western hemisphere, the March 11, 2011, earthquake that triggered a tsunami that heavily damaged Japan’s six-reactor Fukushima plant has remained in Asia’s news ever since. Cooling systems in the Fukushima reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactive water. These releases have created public doubts about the safety of fish and produce from the region in and beyond Japan.
China’s food safety mishaps have also stirred doubts among its own consumers and have certainly caused its exports to be shunned in outside markets. Foodpolis offers food companies from Japan and China the possibility of sourcing both product and process outside of the two countries at a location generally viewed as having the best food safety record in northeast Asia.
When a prospect is interested in Foodpolis, whether they’re from China, Japan or elsewhere around the world, South Korean executives are able to reach into a goodie bag of incentives. Foodpolis is in a Foreign Investment Zone, offering companies that locate there a 100-percent exemption from South Korea’s corporate income tax for three years, with a 50-percent reduction for two additional years.
Local taxes, including those for acquisition and registration and property taxes, can be waived for 15 years. The tariff on capital goods raised from acquisition of new stocks is also offered an exemption. Land leases will be reduced by 50 percent, or may possibly be provided without charge for periods of 50 to 100 years.
Iksan and the surrounding Jeollabuk-do Province are Foodpolis sponsors, along with the South Korea Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The two local governments also have incentives to offer, including 5-percent investment bonuses and up to $600,000 each in employment and education subsidies.
Lee said the Foodpolis location was chosen through a competitive process, and Iksan/Jeollabuk-do emerged as the winner. Now, if it all comes together, the region known for its rail, air, and seaport access, stands ready to benefit from the 23,000 jobs and the $4 billion in added gross national product that South Korea expects will follow.

Botulism – a Very, Very Nasty Bug
Source :
By Bill Marler (Dec 8, 2013)
Botulism is a rare, life-threatening paralytic illness caused by neurotoxins produced by an anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium, Clostridium botulinum. Unlike Clostridium perfringens, which requires the ingestion of large numbers of viable cells to cause symptoms, the symptoms of botulism are caused by the ingestion of highly toxic, soluble exotoxins produced by C. botulinum while growing in foods.
These rod-shaped bacteria grow best under anaerobic (or, low oxygen), low-salt, and low-acid conditions. Bacterial growth is inhibited by refrigeration below 4° C., heating above 121° C, and high water-activity or acidity. And although the toxin is destroyed by heating to 85° C. for at least five minutes, the spores formed by the bacteria are not inactivated unless the food is heated under high pressure to 121° C. for at least twenty minutes.
The incidence of foodborne botulism is extremely low. Nonetheless, the extreme danger posed by the bacteria has required that “intensive surveillance is maintained for botulism cases in the United States, and every case is treated as a public health emergency.” This danger includes a mortality rate of up to 65% when victims are not treated immediately and properly. Most of the botulism events that are reported annually in the United States are associated with home-canned foods that have not been safely processed. Very occasionally, however, commercially- processed foods are implicated as the source of a botulism events, including sausages, beef stew, canned vegetables, and seafood products.
After their ingestion, botulinum neurotoxins are absorbed primarily in the duodenum and jejunum, and pass into the bloodstream and travel to synapses in the nervous system. There, the neurotoxins cause flaccid paralysis by preventing the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, at neuromuscular junctions, thereby preventing motor-fiber stimulation. The flaccid paralysis progresses symmetrically downward, usually starting with the eyes and face, and then moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When the diaphragm and chest muscles become fully involved, respiration is inhibited and, unless the patient is ventilated, death from asphyxia results. Classic symptoms of botulism include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, double vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and dryness of skin, mouth, and throat, lack of fever, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, and have a weak cry and poor muscle tone. Throughout all such symptoms, the victims are fully alert and the results of sensory examination are normal.
In foodborne botulism cases, symptoms usually begin anywhere between 12 and 72 hours after the ingestion of toxin-containing food. Longer incubation periods—up to 10 days—are not unknown, however. The duration of the illness is from 1 to 10 (or more) days, depending on host-resistance, the amount of toxin ingested, and other factors. Full recovery often takes from weeks to months. And, as earlier indicated, mortality rate can be from 30% to 65%, with rates generally lower in European countries than in the United States.
Detection and treatment
Although botulism can be diagnosed based on clinical symptoms, its differentiation from other diseases is often difficult—especially in the absence of other known persons affected by the condition. Once suspected, the most direct and effective way to confirm the diagnosis of botulism in the laboratory is testing for the presence of the botulinum toxin in the serum, stool, or gastric secretions of the patient. The food consumed by the patient can also be tested for the presence of toxins. Currently, the most sensitive and widely used method for the detection of the toxins is the mouse neutralization test, which involves injecting serum into mice and looking for signs of botulism. This test typically takes 48 hours, while the direct culturing of specimens takes 5-7 days. Some cases of botulism may go undiagnosed because symptoms are transient or mild, or are misdiagnosed as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
If diagnosed early, foodborne botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks the action of toxin circulating in the blood. This can prevent patients from worsening, but recovery still takes many weeks. The mainstay of therapy is supportive treatment in intensive care, and mechanical ventilation in case of respiratory failure, which is common.
Long-Term and Permanent Injury
Although a minority of botulism patients eventually recovers their pre-infection health, the majority does not. For those who fully recover, the greatest improvement in muscle strength occurs in the first three months after the acute phase of illness. The outside limit for such improvement appears, however, to be one year. Consequently, physical limitations that still exist beyond the one-year mark are more probably than not permanent. Recovery from acute botulism symptoms may also be followed by persistent psychological dysfunction that may require intervention.
According to a recently published study that tracked the long-term outcomes of 217 cases of botulism, a large majority of patients reported “significant health, functional, and psychosocial limitations that are likely the consequences of the illness.” These limitations included: fatigue, weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty lifting things. The victims also reported difficulty breathing caused by moderate exertions, such as walking or lifting heavy items. They were also more likely to have limitations in vigorous activities, like running or playing sports, climbing up three flights of stairs, or carrying groceries. Summarizing its finding, the study concluded that:
Even several years after acute illness, patients who had botulism were more likely than control subjects to experience fatigue, generalized weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, difficulty lifting things, and difficulty breathing caused by moderate exertion. In addition, patients reported worse overall psycho-social status than did control subjects, with patients being significantly less likely to report feeling happy, calm and peaceful, or full of pep.
There is, as a result, no question that the damaging effects of botulism are life-long.
Some background information on canning
The canning process dates back to the late 18th century in France when the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, concerned about keeping his armies fed, offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Nicholas Appert conceived the idea of preserving food in bottles, like wine. After fifteen years of experimentation, he realized if food is sufficiently heated and sealed in an airtight container, it would not spoil. More than fifty years later, Louis Pasteur provided the explanation for effectiveness of canning when he was able to demonstrate that the growth of microorganisms is the cause of food spoilage.
An Englishman, Peter Durand, took the idea one step further and replaced the breakable glass bottles with cylindrical tinplate canisters (later shortened to “cans”). Durand did not can foods himself, but sold his patent to two other Englishmen, Bryan Donkin and John Hall, who set up a commercial canning factory. By 1813, Donkin and Hall were busily producing their first canned goods for the British army, thus continuing the connection of canning to the military.
The basic principles of canning have not changed dramatically since Nicholas Appert and Peter Durand developed the process. Heat sufficient to destroy microorganisms is applied to foods packed into sealed, or “airtight” containers. The canned foods are then heated under steam pressure at temperatures of 240-250°F (116-121°C). The amount of time needed for processing is different for each food, depending on the food’s acidity, density and ability to transfer heat.
Processing conditions are chosen and designed to be the minimum needed to ensure that the foods are made “commercially sterile,” while still retaining the greatest flavor and nutrition. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must first approve all canning-processes. Once the cans are sealed and heat processed, the resulting canned food must maintain its high eating quality for more than two years and be safe to eat as long as the can is not damaged in any way. Historically, commercially canned food has a near-perfect track record, having caused only four outbreaks in over forty years. The last outbreak occurred in 1974 and involving beef stew.
Bill Marler is an accomplished personal injury and products liability attorney. He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Bill settled Brianne’s case for $15.6 million, creating a Washington state record for an individual personal injury action.
Bleck, supra note 15, at 2547. See also P. Wilcox, et al., Recovery of Ventilatory and Upper Airway Muscles and Exercise Performance After Type-A Botulism, Chest, 98:620-26 (1990); J. Mann, et al., Patient Recovery From Type-A Botulism: Morbidity Assessment Following a Large Outbreak, Am. J. Public Health, 71 (3): 266-69 (Mar. 1981).
Bleck, supra note 15, at 2547. See also F. Cohen, et al., Physical and Psychosocial Health Status 3 Years After Catastrophic Illness—Botulism, Issues Mental Health Nurs., 9:387098 (1988).
S. Gottlieb, et al., Long-Term Outcomes of 217 Botulism Cases in the Republic of Georgia, Clin. Infectious Disease, 45: 174-80, at 180 (220).
St Louis ME, Peck SH, Bowering D, et al. Botulism from chopped garlic: delayed recognition of a major outbreak. Ann Intern Med 1998;108:363.
Morse DL, Pickard LK, Guzewich JJ, et al. Garlic-in-oil associated botulism: episode leads to product modification. Am J Public Health 1990; 80:1372.
See J. Sobel, et al., Foodborne Botulism in the United States, 1990-2000, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 10, No. 9, at 1606 (Sept. 2004).
James M. Jay, MODERN FOOD MICROBIOLOGY, 466 (6th Ed. 2000).
Id. at 469-71; see also Sobel, supra note 2, at 1606.
Jay, supra note 3, at 467-69. See also, generally H. Houschild, Clostridium Botulinum, in FOODBORNE BACTERIAL PATHOGENS, at 112-89 (M. Doyle Ed. 1989). With botulism, the broader term “event” is used to encompass both outbreaks—i.e., two or more cases of botulism caused by a common-source, as well as individual (or sporadic) cases.
Thomas P. Bleck, Clostridium botulinum (Botulism), in MANDELL, DOUGLAS AND BENNETT’S PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE 2543, 2544 (5th ed. 2000). see also BOTULISM FACT SHEET, National Agricultural Bio-Security Center, Kansas State University, online at
R. Shapiro, et al., Botulism in the United States: A Clinical and Epidemiologic Review, Ann. Intern. Med. 1998; 129:221-28.
FDA/CFSAN Bad Bug Book, Clostridium Botulinum, available at
The following introductory material is based on information from the Wikipedia entry on canning, online at, and the sources there cited.
Tony Baird-Packer, The Production of Microbiologically Safe and Stable Foods, in Volume 1 of THE MICROBIOLOGICAL SAFETY AND QUALITY OF FOOD, 4 (B. Lund, et al. Eds. 2000).
See, e.g. MMWWR, supra note 1, at 3 (citing P. Blake, et al., Type A Botulism from Commercially-Canned Beef Stew, South. Med. J. 1977; 70:5-7).
The information about the outbreak comes primarily from the CDC-published report issued July 30, 2007. See MMWR, supra note 1, at 1-2.

Scientists test ideas in bird botulism outbreaks
Source :
By JOHN FLESHER AP Environmental Writer (Dec 08, 2013)
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- For more than a decade, people walking along Great Lakes beaches have come upon a heartrending sight: dozens, or even hundreds, of dead loons, gulls and other waterfowl — victims of food poisoning that paralyzed their muscles and eventually caused them to drown.
Scientists have long known the primary cause is Type E botulism, which the U.S. Geological Survey says may have killed 100,000 birds in the region since 2000. They have ideas, but no proof, about how the toxin works its way up the food chain.
Now, using time-tested methods and new technologies, they're coming closer to solving the mystery — a crucial step toward determining whether anything can be done to prevent future die-offs.
Florida Atlantic University recently reported progress in a first-of-its-kind effort to determine the paths of birds that washed onto beaches after dying in open water. Experts with the university's Institute for Ocean Systems Engineering placed stuffed bird carcasses into a laboratory tank and took water resistance measurements. The information will be combined with current and wind data in computer models that attempt to retrace the birds' floating routes.
Meanwhile, several USGS labs are studying waterfowl distribution and sampling sediments collected from Great Lakes bottomlands, hoping to pinpoint where the toxin is produced. Initial findings suggest loons and other species that plunge into the water to catch fish may be getting infected at deeper levels than previously thought.
"It's kind of like a detective story," said David Blehert, a microbiologist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. "You find a body somewhere. You want to find out where the incident took place. You look for clues on the body, you find a piece of hair, a piece of fiber, and trace it back to the location and hopefully find your culprit."
Scientists first documented a Great Lakes Type E botulism outbreak in 1963. But they've become more frequent and intense since 2000. Some areas are hot spots, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan, where 600 dead loons washed ashore in 2012. The previous year, about 6,000 bird carcasses were beached along Lake Huron's Georgian Bay.
Research into where, why and how the die-offs happen has picked up in recent years, supported by more than $2 million in grants through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Obama administration program designed to deal with some of the region's most pressing ecological threats.
"We haven't got there yet, but we're getting closer," said Stephen Riley, a fishery biologist with the USGS Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor.
What scientists consider the most plausible theory involves several environmental villains, including invasive species, climate change and nutrient runoff from farms and sewers.
Zebra and quagga mussels, ferried to the lakes from Europe in cargo ship ballast tanks in the 1980s, filter the water, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper and stimulate growth of a green algae known as cladophora. Phosphorus runoff from land and warmer water temperatures promote cladophora.
As thick mats of the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose, which sucks up oxygen — an ideal condition for Type E botulism bacteria. Invertebrates such as fly larvae and worms consume the bacteria and in turn are eaten by fish including the round goby, another invader that's popular prey for waterfowl.
If correct, the theory explains why so many diving birds such as loons, cormorants and merganser ducks are dying of botulism. They go far beneath the surface to gobble fish — up to 150 feet deep in the case of loons, said Kevin Kenow, a wildlife biologist with the USGS's Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, Wis. Kenow has fitted them with radio tags to record their movements.
He also conducts aerial surveys over Lake Michigan to observe bird distribution. During those flights, he saw bird carcasses onshore and got the idea of developing a computer model that could simulate the path they took. Florida Atlantic won the contract to produce the water resistance measurements after doing similar work predicting drift patterns of floating items in oceans.
The experiments thus far have been conducted in calm water, said Karl von Ellenrieder, an associate professor of ocean and mechanical engineering. The next step: creating waves in the tank and taking new measurements to further refine the data.
If researchers can nail down where and how the poisonings are happening, they could look for ways to prevent the toxin from being produced or to keep birds away from danger zones. Regulators could step up efforts to reduce phosphorus runoff near botulism hot spots, Blehert said. Attempts might be made to remove rotting cladophora from the water, although Riley admitted that might just spread the poisons more widely.
"There may be very little we can actually do," he said.



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