FoodHACCP Newsletter
01/13 2014 ISSUE:582

Job Openings
01/10. Senior Sanitation and Safety Specialist – Tampa, FL
01/10. Faculty - Food Safety and QA – Syracuse, NY
01/10. Associate Scientist - Food Micro – Glenview, IL
01/08. Quality Specialist – El Segundo, CA
01/08. QA Supervisor – Fife, WA
01/08. Division Food Safety Manager – St. Louis, MO
01/06. Food Safety, Quality, and Reg Super – Ottumwa, IA
01/06. Food Safety Representative - Louisville, KY
01/06. Quality Assurance Manager – Hereford, TX
01/03. Quality/Food Safety Specialist – Pittsburgh, PA
01/03. Food Safety Field Specialist – Jacksonville, FL
01/03. Food Safety Manager – Topeka, KS

Tyson Chicken Linked to Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreak
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Jan 11, 2014)
The USDA has announced that Tyson mechanically separated chicken products have been linked to a Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was notified of a cluster of Salmonella Heidelberg illnesses in Tennessee on December 12, 2013.
There is a link between the mechanically separated chicken products from Tyson Foods and the illness cluster in a Tennessee correctional facility. Seven patients have been identified at the facility with illness. Two people have been hospitalized. Illness onset dates range from November 29, 2013 to December 5, 2013. An inmate sickened in this outbreak has the right to sue for Salmonella food poisoning.
A recall has been issued. More than 33,000 pounds of forty pound cases of “TYSON MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN”, containing four, 10-pound chubs have been recalled. The products are shipped for institutional use only. The product is not available for consumer purchase in retail stores. The product was produced on October 11, 2013. The products have the establishment number “P-13556″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. The case code is 2843SDL1412 – 18.
Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment, but some people can have diarrhea so severe hospitalization is required.
Always cook raw meat to a safe internal temperature. Chicken should be cooked to 165° F and tested with a food thermometer. Avoid cross-contamination of raw meats with uncooked foods. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, after changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food. Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours of purchase and within two hours of cooking.

E. coli Sources in Quebec, Windham and Willimantic, Connecticut unnamed; 14 Sick
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 11, 2014)
Unnamed City, unnamed restaurant in Quebec:  Quebec’s Health Ministry has confirmed that one restaurant is behind seven recent cases of E. coli O157:H7, but the name of the restaurant and the city it is in have yet to be released.
The illnesses occurred in early December.  Of the seven victims, only two are said to be from outside the province.
Inspectors have visited the restaurant in question.
Unknown Source Windham – Willimantic, Connecticut:  The North Central District Health Department has reported seven E. coli O157:H7 cases.  The Department of Public Health said it is investigating and believes all of the people were infected between mid-December and Christmas time.
All of them required the patients to be hospitalized, according to the department.
Health officials said five of them were mild cases, but two were a severe form of the bacterial infection known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or HUS.  They said the people with the mild cases have already been released, but one of the two with HUS remains in the hospital.
The source of the E. coli O157:H7 has not been found.

Salmonella Should be an Adulterant
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Jan 12, 2014)
In the world of food safety, many dangerous pathogens are controlled  through HACCP plans, regulation, and inspections by the FDA and USDA. Of course pathogens are ubiquitous in the world. But food should not be sold to the public that is so contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that it makes people sick.
At this time, just a few bacteria are considered “adulterants” in food. That means companies are not allowed to sell certain types of food that contain these bacteria. Those are E. coli O157:H7 and the other Big Six STEC bacteria; Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, and Salmonella in ready-to-eat foods. Salmonella in all other foods? Not an adulterant.
Salmonella outbreaks have become common in this country. In the latest outbreak involving Foster Farms chicken, the poultry was so contaminated with seven different types of drug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg that the hospitalization rate for patients was double the average.
Fred Pritzker, one of America’s leading food safety attorneys, represents victims of these outbreaks, including a young child who required brain surgery because of complications linked to salmonellosis. Pritzker said, “Young children, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are most at risk for serious Salmonella complications. It is nothing short of scandalous that our most vulnerable citizens are so at risk from Salmonella outbreaks.
“The Foster Farms multi drug-resistant Salmonella outbreak is a textbook example of the need for a wholesale revision of the laws and policies pertaining to control of this dangerous pathogen. Foster Farms is one of the largest poultry producers in the United States. Hundreds of people who consumed the company’s poultry products were sickened in two recent outbreaks. The first one lasted from June 2012 to April 2013. A second Salmonella outbreak started in March 2013 and may still be ongoing. More recently, one of the company’s plants was shut down for cockroach infestation.
“Two well-regarded food safety organizations have recently offered suggestions for improving Salmonella regulation in the U.S. The most recent was issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts in December 2013 and is entitled “Weaknesses in FSIS’s Salmonella Regulation. A few months prior to that, the Safe Food Coalition made a number of suggestions to the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture in a letter dated October 17, 2013. The recommendations from both organizations are comprehensive and fair and seek to remedy the gaping holes in the current regulatory scheme. There is no reason to delay the changes recommended by these two esteemed organizations.”

Tennessee Inmates and Mechanically Separated Chicken = Salmonella
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 12, 2014)
The FSIS defines mechanically separated poultry as a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones with attached edible tissue through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. Mechanically separated poultry has been used in poultry products since 1969. In 1995, a final rule on mechanically separated poultry said it would be used without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as “mechanically separated chicken or mechanically separated turkey” (depending on the kind of poultry used) in the ingredients statement. The final rule became effective November 4, 1996.
The FSIS was notified of a Salmonella Heidelberg cluster of illnesses on Dec. 12, 2013. Working in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), FSIS determined that there is a link between the mechanically separated chicken products from Tyson Foods and the illness cluster in a Tennessee correctional facility. Based on epidemiological and traceback investigations, seven case-patients at the facility have been identified with illnesses, with two resulting in hospitalization. Illness onset dates range from Nov. 29, 2013 to Dec. 5, 2013. FSIS continues to work with TDH on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.
According to the CDC and the FSIS consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

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2013 shows fewer critical violations of food safety
Source :
By Aly Van Dyke (Jan 12, 2014)
Thirteen restaurants in Shawnee County had nine or more critical violations in 2012 and 2013.
Many of those violations are the same, but inspections, even over the course of a few years, still are just a snapshot of the restaurant’s operations, said Nicole Hamm, Kansas Department of Agriculture inspection manager.
“You’re still looking at a matter of hours over an entire year,” she said. “Even if you’re comparing a couple years, I think it can show maybe a trend in across a city, but I don’t know that it really captures what goes on day-in and day-out at a facility.”
In fact, inspection results show that the number of critical violations in a year doesn’t always point to the least safe restaurants.
To illustrate: Hong Kong Chinese, 1835 N.W. Topeka Blvd., Suite 191, has had among the highest number of critical violations in the past two years, but it hasn’t faced any legal consequences, be it cease and desist letters, fines or license suspensions. That is because the restaurant consistently has been able to pass follow-up inspections.
Arby’s No. 7744, 5930 S.W. Huntoon, on the other hand, had just four critical violations last year. However, on Oct. 21 and Nov. 8, the restaurant had live cockroaches. The citations ultimately earned the establishment a summary order, which essentially serves as a cease and desist letter. The restaurant had no violations on its Jan. 2 follow-up.
Of the 40 restaurants with the most violations last year, only seven faced legal consequences, but six restaurants that didn’t make the list did have legal trouble.
Not one of the top six restaurants, which had 18 or more violations, had anything worse than a Field Warning Letter last year. The warning letters started in December 2012 and serve as a notice of the violations but don’t require a follow-up visit. The KDA issued 418 such letters last year alone.
Repeat offenders
Hong Kong Chinese had the most critical violations last year at 35, more than half of which were earned in December. Including noncritical violations, that number jumps to 87.
The restaurant logged 25 critical violations in 2012, when it placed third on the most violations list.
Repeat violations include improper datemarking, failure to hold food temperatures and storing soiled dishes as clean.
Manager Wei Lin said things are getting better, but he added that the language barrier has been a challenge. Also, he pointed out, four of the restaurant’s violations relate to a broken walk-in cooler. Inspectors noted the problem on Dec. 2 during a complaint inspection, and the facility was closed for four days until it was repaired.
However, the restaurant failed its Dec. 20 follow-up inspection with three critical violations, two of which had been cited before. As of Jan. 11, there was no documentation of another follow-up visit.
New City Cafe, 4005 S.W. Gage Center Drive, also found itself on the top offender lists of the past two years, but owner and executive chef Luis Guillen said he wouldn’t serve anything in his restaurant he wouldn’t feed his own children.
“I know we’re not perfect, but we try,” he said. “We’re not a chain. I’ve got nobody backing me, but I try to give the best quality possible. I’m a small, local restaurant. My reputation is all I have.”
In the past two years, the bulk of the violations have come from one inspection. The facility had no problem passing either follow-up visit and almost every violation was corrected on site.
Guillen went through some of last year’s violations, which included not having paper towels by a hand sink, a pan of soup with no use-by date and unlabeled hand soap next to a sink.
“If I had to fire people for missing some of these things, I’d be firing people every day,” he said.
Guillen said he wished the inspection process could be more educational and friendly than the current focus, which appears to be on punishment and violations. That approach would be more beneficial both to the restaurant and the public, he said.
Hamm said the KDA had been working on spending more time on education at restaurants last year to help avoid and fix violations.
“The number of inspections probably will go down, but we’re hoping compliance will go up,” she said.
The effort is supported by the fact that the KDA performed fewer inspections in Shawnee County last year: 1,195 compared to 1,478 in 2012 and 1,290 in 2011.
Also, county restaurants logged 2,048 critical violations last year, down nearly 600 from 2012. Including noncritical violations, Shawnee County restaurants had 4,989 violations — down 20 percent from 2012, which had more than 6,300 total violations.
Legal issues
Fines to local restaurants also are up last year compared to 2012.
Six restaurants were fined a total of $5,350 compared to $4,000 to six establishments in 2012. However, KDA issued nine summary orders, compared to 34. As of Jan. 2, no further consent agreements for 2013 had been reached.
Legal issues noted last year included:
กแ Las Fuentes, 3656 S.W. Topeka Blvd., which was fined $750 after failing its June 12 inspection and ordered to suspend operations for four days after failing its Sept. 4 follow-up. A consent agreement reached Dec. 4 canceled the suspension but increased the fine to $2,500. The restaurant logged 17 critical violations last year.
กแ El Mezcal III, 5301 S.W. 21st., which negotiated its $250 fine to nothing, pending no repeat violations at its follow-up inspection. The restaurant on Sept. 4 was cited again for rotten food and improper temperatures, increasing the fine to $1,200. The new civil penalty order was issued Oct. 15. It logged 13 critical violations last year.
กแ Olde Mill Auction, 1401 N.E. Winfield Ave., which was ordered to cease operations after a May 23 inspection found the restaurant was operating on an expired license. In a consent agreement reached July 2, the civil penalty of $500 was reduced to $50, pending this year’s license procedure. If the establishment doesn’t renew its license by March 31, it faces the remaining fine of $450. The restaurant logged one critical violation last year.
กแ Other fines included $600 to China Pavilion, 5348 S.W. 17th, after failing its May 8 inspection; $500 to Panchos No. 2, 3506 S.W. Topeka Blvd., after failing its Feb. 13 inspection; and a $2,200 fine that was reduced to $500 to Mr. Stirfry.

At Special Risk For Salmonella Poisoning: Children
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Jan 11, 2014)
Did you know children are more likely to get Salmonella poisoning than adults? And that they are among those most likely to develop severe infections from the bacteria?
Children, especially young children and infants are among those at special risk for food poisoning from Salmonella and other bacteria because their immune systems are not fully formed. Others at high risk include seniors, pregnant women, daily antacid users and those with compromised immune systems including people with HIV/AIDS, organ transplant patients and cancer patients.
Symtoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea that is sometimes bloody. These symptoms can cause dehydration in children and infants quickly. Complications include bacteremia, when bacteria eneters the bloodstream;  enterocolitis, when bacteria inflames the tissues of the digestive tract; meningitis, the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spine and osteomyelitis, a bone infection.
About 40 percent of the 419 people sickened in the current Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken have required hospitalization. One of them is a child who needed brain surgery to address serious complications from the infection.
Food Poisoning Bulletin Publisher and food safety attorney Fred Pritzker represents that child’s family. “Far too often, children bear the brunt of food safety failures,” Pritzker said.  ”They get sicker faster, their illness lasts longer and they’re frequently left with lifelong problems. A pathogen that produces minor illness in adults may cause profound problems in children. We cannot allow lax food safety policies to continue harming our most vulnerable citizens.”
Children and others in the high-risk group should avoid certain foods that present an elevated risk of Salmonella. These include foods that contain raw eggs such as: Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, chocolate mousse, eggnog, cookie dough, and some frostings or icings. Unpasteurized milk and juice should also be avoided.

After School Food Safety Tips for Kids
Source :
By Rita Hodges Extension Agent Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. (Jan 11, 2014)
Now that children are heading back to school to feed their hungry minds, parents are turning their attention to feeding hungry bodies with healthy and nutritious snacks at home. According to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), tips were issued to keep kids safe from food poisoning as they prepare their favorite treats, sometimes unsupervised by mom or dad.
“Consumers of all ages need to be aware that bacteria in food can make them sick, but there are ways to reduce their risk of food poisoning,” according to Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. Now is an excellent opportunity for parents and kids to review the importance of food safety in the kitchen.
Keep it clean:
•Keep books, book bags, and sporting equipment off of food preparation and eating surfaces, such as counters or the kitchen table where germs could be transferred to the food you eat.
•Wash your hands. Hands carry lots of germs, and not washing hands is a top cause of foodborne illness. This is especially important after greeting the family pet, giving it a treat, or even touching its toys.
•Always use clean spoons, forks, and plates.
•Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water before you eat them, even if you plan to peel them.
•Do not leave cold items, like milk, lunchmeat, hard cooked eggs or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put these foods back in the refrigerator as soon as you have fixed your snack.
Avoid these foods:
•Any perishable food left out overnight, such as pizza, even if it is not topped with meat. Food that has to be cooked or refrigerated should never be left out for more than two hours.
•Lunchbox leftovers, like perishable sandwiches or other foods that need refrigeration which were not eaten at school. Throw out these and their plastic or foil wrapping, instead of saving them for later use.
•Unbaked cookie dough, because it may contain raw eggs that can have Salmonella bacteria.
•Bread, cheese, or soft fruits or vegetables that look bad or have even small spots of mold.
Microwave food carefully:
•Use only microwave-safe plates, bowls, and utensils. Some containers can melt or warp, and they may leak harmful chemicals into your food. Ask your parents to keep microwave-safe dishes in a certain cabinet.
•Read package instructions carefully, or ask your parents what settings to use for your favorite snacks. If a microwaveable meal says to let the food “stand” after the timer goes off, don’t skip this step. The food is still cooking even though the microwave has stopped.
•Cover food with a lid, plastic wrap, or wax paper, turning up one corner to let steam escape. Also, rotate or stir the food halfway through cooking. This helps to heat food evenly and removes cold spots, which better destroys any bacteria that could be present.
•Microwave hot dogs, luncheon meats, fully cooked ham and leftovers until they are steaming hot. This indicates that they are at a temperature hot enough to destroy bacteria. Just let the food cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn your mouth!
Talking with children about these tips will keep them safe, when they stay home alone.

Why does FSIS close a plant for cockroaches but not Salmonella?
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 9, 2014)
Lynne Terry of the Portland Oregonian broke the story tonight that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Services suspended poultry processing at one of the biggest Foster Farms plants in California over “egregious” unsanitary conditions.
The agency said in a suspension notice that the company’s plant in Livingston, California is infested with live cockroaches, posing a public health threat.
The suspension comes after USDA/FSIS investigations of three Foster Farms plants in central California, including the one in Livingston, over two nationwide Salmonella outbreaks reported in July and December 2013 that sickened more than 550 people.
The question I have is why does USDA/FSIS have the authority to shutter a plant for cockroaches but not for poisoning 550 with Salmonella?
As I said to USA Today – tonight:
Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler found it odd that USDA “has the power to shut a plant down when they found cockroaches but doesn’t have the power to shut them down when they poison hundreds of people with antibiotic-resistant salmonella.”
In two outbreak in 2013 at least 550 sickened and it could be 38.5 times that.*
In the second Foster Farms outbreak of 2013, the CDC reports a total of 416 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico. Most of the ill persons (74%) have been reported from California. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alaska (1), Arkansas (1), Arizona (18), California (310), Colorado (9), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Florida (4), Idaho (4), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (1), Michigan (3), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Nevada (10), New Mexico (2), Oregon (10), Puerto Rico (1), Texas (10), Utah (2), Virginia (3), Washington (16), and Wisconsin (1).
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.
An earlier outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg linked to Foster Farms was first announced February 14, 2013.  That outbreak sickened 134.  The current outbreak was first announced October 8, 2013 when the number of ill was only 278.  It is now 418.  At that time FSIS threatened Foster Farms with removing inspectors because sanitary conditions at its three facilities were so poor that they posed a “serious ongoing threat to public health.”  FSIS officials had found a “high frequency of Salmonella Heidelberg positives and specifically a high frequency of one or more outbreak strains” in the three plants. The letters also cited “fecal material on carcasses” and “findings of poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary non food contact surfaces and direct product contamination” at the plants.  See Notices of Intended Enforcement: ONE, TWO and THREE that FSIS sent to Foster Farms.
Neither Foster Farms nor FSIS have recalled any chicken despite illnesses beginning in February and continuing through the end of November.
See also Consumer Report’s chicken testing and the Pew Charitable Trusts, FSIS’s Weakness in Salmonella Regulation.
If you want a little insight into the legal history of Salmonella as a non-adulterant, read these:
FSIS’s and Foster Farms’ Reason for NOT Recalling Salmonella Chicken: “Shit Happens!”
Butz, Supreme Beef and FSIS’s Salmonella Policy – A Bit(e) of History
And, why some meat with Salmonella gets recalled and some not:
Why does the FSIS like Foster Farm’s Salmonella better than Cargill’s Salmonella?
*According to the CDC, for every one person who is a stool-culture confirmed positive victim of Salmonella in the United States, there a multiple of 38.5 who are also sick, but remain uncounted. (See, AC Voetsch, “FoodNet estimate of the burden of illness caused by nontyphoidal Salmonella infections in the United States,” Clinical Infectious Diseases 2004; 38 (Suppl 3): S127-34).
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

Over 350 fall sick in Japan after eating tainted food
Source :
By (Jan 08, 2014)
TOKYO: More than 350 people across Japan have fallen ill after eating pesticide-contaminated frozen food produced by the nation’s largest seafood firm, national broadcaster NHK said Tuesday.
People have reported vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of food poisoning after eating products including pizza and lasagne made by a subsidiary of Maruha Nichiro Holdings, according to surveys carried out by NHK and local media.
Police began investigating the company last month after it revealed that some of its frozen food had been tainted with malathion, an agricultural chemical often used to kill aphids in corn and rice fields.
NHK said that 359 people had become ill, while the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said it found the number of people who fell sick “exceeded 300.”
Maruha Nichiro said that it had received about 460,000 phone calls from consumers in connection with the incident, including complaints from customers who ate the tainted products and some reporting an unusual odor, a company spokesman said.
According to local media, police suspect the pesticide was mixed into products at the plant in Gunma, north of Tokyo.
The food maker has recalled 6.4 million potentially tainted products, with 1.2 million packages recovered so far, it said.
Maruha Nichiro said that the products in question had not been shipped overseas.
The spokesman declined to comment on how the incident may affect the company’s earnings, saying only: “We have to specify the cause first.”
Separately, Japan’s leading bread maker Pasco Shikishima Corp. was to recall about 445,000 packages of sweets after complaints that they had a strong chlorine smell, Jiji Press reported Tuesday.
A company spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm the report.
While incidents of food poisoning have occurred in Japan, including in August 2012 when cabbage contaminated with E. coli bacteria killed seven people and sickened dozens, food standards are relatively high.
However, the country’s reputation for safe and high quality food suffered a body-blow from the after-effects of the Fukushima atomic disaster, in which acres of farmland were polluted by nuclear fall-out.

Canada's Food Inspection Agency Given Lowest Passing Grade in U.S. Audit
Source :
By James Andrews (Jan 8, 2014)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) received an “adequate” rating – the lowest passing grade – in the latest audit by the U.S. government to determine its equivalency on food safety standards, according to documents recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to the audit, the CFIA needs to improve oversight of practices at meat facilities related to hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), as well as sanitation and humane handling of animals.
The CFIA is said to have taken immediate corrective action after being informed of sub-standard issues with establishments and oversight. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducted the audit from October 22 to November 9, 2012, but did not release the audit report to the public until December 2013.
The audit aimed to verify the ability of the CFIA to regulate red meat, poultry and egg products in a way that ensured an equivalent level of safety when compared to U.S. products, the report states.
As part of the audit, FSIS personnel visited two red meat slaughter establishments, four meat processing establishments producing ready-to-eat meat products, and one egg processing facility. U.S. inspectors also visited five Canadian government food safety agencies and two private laboratories conducting food testing for microbiological and chemical contaminants.
At a beef slaughter facility involved with a large recall in 2010, U.S. inspectors found a lack of compliance with HACCP protocols, as well as concerns related to sanitation and humane handling of animals. Inspectors also found sub-standard sanitation practices at a swine slaughter plant.
In addition, auditors requested further clarification on the CFIA’s ready-to-eat policy and the agency’s E. coli program. Those requests are pending, according to the report.
The CFIA has reportedly implemented a wide-reaching plan to “develop and implement a sustainable internal inspection oversight role that allows for continuous system improvement.”
Because of the audit grade, food imported to the U.S. from Canada will be subject to closer scrutiny than food from countries with food safety systems rated as “average” or “well-performing.”
Lax food safety standards led to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 and a massive recall at Canadian beef packer XL Foods in September 2012. At least 18 people were sickened in that outbreak – with more likely uncounted – and 8 million pounds of beef were recalled.
A Canadian government review panel blamed the XL Foods incident on food safety oversights by both the company and by CFIA staff working at the facility.
Along with the government of Mexico, the Canadian government is contesting rules for country-of-origin labeling on meat that recently became mandatory in the U.S. Tyson Foods has said it will no longer take Canadian cattle for processing due to the new rules, which require labels on most meat products indicating where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently said the dispute over origin labeling should be settled by the World Trade Organization.

New Positive Test for H7N9 Bird Flu in China
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Jan 7, 2014)
According to reports from the Xinhua news agency, a new positive test of the H7N9 bird flu was taken as an environmental sample at a live poultry market in southern China. That country has banned the sale of live birds in 110 markets around the country. The sample was taken from the Nanchao Market in the Doumen District of Zhuhai City in Guangdong Province.
Last month a woman tested positive for the H7N9 virus, also called avian influenza A. She also lived in Guangdong and died from her illness. That strain of bird flu is new in human beings.
Six cases of the H7N9 virus in humans have been confirmed in that province since August 2013. Local agricultural, health, and forestry officials are being urged to test local markets and encourage daily disinfection of the poultry markets.
The CDC has issued a recommendation about the avian flu in China for anyone traveling there. That advisory states that since there is no vaccine to prevent H7N9, travelers to China must take special precautions. Do not touch animals, whether they are alive or dead. Avoid live bird or poultry markets, and avoid other markets or farms with animals. Always eat food that is fully cooked and served hot. Do not eat undercooked eggs. Don’t eat food from street vendors or any dish that includes blood from any animal. Wash your hands often, don’t touch your eyes or mouth, and try to avoid close contact with people who are sick. Finally, see a doctor right away if you become sick during or after travel to China.

Food safety rules for the microwave
Source :
By (Jan 07, 2014)
Have you thought about that box in your kitchen … you know the one that you use to re-heat left overs or thaw out that chunk of rock solid meat from the freezer?
Did you know there are specific food safety rules that pertain to the microwave?
When cooking in a microwave it is important to arrange food items evenly in a covered dish to allow for even cooking. Stir or rotate food midway through the microwaving time to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
Use a food thermometer or the oven’s temperature probe to verify the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. Cooking times may vary because ovens may differ in power and efficiency. Remember to allow standing time, which completes the cooking, before checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
Here are the safe minimum internal temperatures;
• For steaks, chops, roasts (beef, pork, lamb, veal) cook to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees F
• For ground beef, pork, lamb and veal cook to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees F
• Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F
• Cook egg dishes and casseroles to 160 degrees F
• Reheat all leftovers to 165 degrees F.
Cooking whole, stuffed poultry in a microwave oven is not recommended. The stuffing might not reach the temperature needed to destroy harmful bacteria.
So what is the best way to defrost food in your microwave? Did you know that the foam trays that meat is packaged on are not heat stable in the microwave? If you haven’t done it, I am sure one of your kids has microwaved a Styrofoam cup or tray into an unrecognizable white glob. This warping or melting of the foam may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into your food, so we recommend that you take the food to be defrosted out of its packaging, place it on a microwave safe plate or bowl and cover it with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in the moisture and provide safe, even heating.
If you are defrosting meat, poultry, egg casseroles or fish in the microwave it is important to cook them immediately after defrosting. Some areas of a frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting process, so it is important not to hold the food for cooking later. The very best method for defrosting is to use the refrigerator, but as you know that takes time, so if you use the microwave to defrost, cook your food right away.
Ready to eat foods such as hot dogs, luncheon meats, fully cooked ham and leftovers should be heated in the microwave until they are steaming hot.
Only use cookware specifically manufactured for use in the microwave.
Glass, ceramic and all plastics should be labeled for use in the microwave. Microwave plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels should be safe to use. Do not let plastic wrap touch foods during microwaving. Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil in the microwave oven. Also remember that plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, whipped topping bowls and other one-time use containers should not be used in the microwave. These containers can warp or melt, possibly causing harmful chemicals to migrate into the food.
It is important also to remember to keep your microwave clean. Food that is left sticking to the inside of the microwave can cause a food safety hazard. It should be cleaned regularly.
Now that you have the rules of the road for microwaving safely, do you want to have some fun? Get some marshmallows – only 1 or 2 is all you need, place them in your microwave on a paper plate, set you microwave to cook for about 1 minute , turn out the lights and watch the magic. What started out as a ping pong ball sized marshmallow will expand into a baseball sized creation. It is truly amazing if you haven’t seen it before. One word of caution though, watch the marshmallows very carefully, they can burn rather quickly. Always remember to be safe whether it be cooking, defrosting, reheating or simply watching marshmallows transform in the microwave. Have Fun!

U.S. auditors give Canada's food safety system low rating, citing deficiencies
Source :
By Andrea Janus, (Jan 07, 2014)
U.S. auditors found enough deficiencies in Canada’s food safety system in 2012 to give it an "adequate" rating, the lowest allowed in order for Canada to continue to export meat products south of the border.
Inspectors called on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to improve oversight in areas including sanitation and the humane handling of animals.
The audit, completed in 2012 but released only last month, evaluated the systems that govern the processing of meat products being prepared for export to the United States. Inspectors with the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) visited two red-meat slaughter houses, four meat-processing plants, an egg processing plant, five government offices including CFIA headquarters, and two private laboratories between Oct. 22 and Nov. 9, 2012.
In a report sent to the CFIA on Dec. 9, auditors said the CFIA’s performance is "adequate" in maintaining slaughter and processing systems equivalent to that in the U.S., the lowest of three possible ratings required to be allowed to continue exporting meat south of the border.
The audit found that the CFIA has to improve its oversight of hazard identification at plants, as well as sanitation and the humane treatment of animals.
Some issues identified in the report:
-Pieces of meat and fat in wall crevices
-Steel frames falling on and injuring animals
-Flaking paint and rust
-Dust on ventilation systems
Among the facilities that U.S. investigators visited was the XL Foods plant in Alberta that was the subject of the largest meat recall in Canadian history over e. coli contamination. Auditors found "non-compliances" there in humane animal handling and sanitation.
At the XL plant, auditors found a contamination risk in dust on ventilators and blowers, while at a pig slaughter and processing facility in Langley, B.C., auditors found paint and rust flakes on overhead rails and pipes.
Other problems found during the site visits included cages and grates used to herd cattle to slaughter were falling on and injuring the animals.
The audit noted that on all of the “non-compliances” it found, the CFIA “took immediate corrective actions and instituted long-term preventive measures” to strengthen regulatory oversight.
"CFIA’s plan is clearly described with thirty actions that are already underway to develop and implement a sustainable internal inspection oversight role that allows continuous system improvement," the audit says, noting also the creation of a central office to co-ordinate decision-making in the food-inspection system.
"If these actions continue to be effectively implemented, the system weaknesses should be remedied and equivalence maintained," the report says.
What does an "adequate" rating mean?
Canadian officials told CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson that the FSIS brought in its new rating system last year, so this is the first time Canada has received this new rating of “adequate.”
Dr. Richard Arsenault, director of the CFIA’s meat programs division, says while the findings are taken "very seriously," it's important for people to realize that the system did get a "passing grade."
"We’re as confident in the (U.S.'s) system as we are in ours," Arsenault told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “The system is working and the system will and can continue to improve.”
He added that since the audit in 2012, a lot of changes have been made. "I would say the system is in much better shape than last year."
The XL plant was in fact delisted on Sept. 13, 2012, before this audit, and reinstated on Dec. 7 of that year. Auditors were able to still observe operations there as processing continued for products destined for the domestic market.

Food safety concerns
Source :
By Dadrian Robinson, Associate Producer (Jan 07, 2014)
A new study from the University of Florida finds that food safety is one of the biggest concerns for most Floridians.
Researchers at the University of Florida questioned more than 500 people, and what they found was that many people have concerns about food in general.
People were given a list of 15 issues to choose from, and what researchers found was that 85%t of those surveyed ranked "food safety" as the third most important issue.
"Food production practices" came in 9th, with 74%.
The issue of "genetically modified foods" was 14th on the list, with 57% calling it important.
According to the research, Floridians also say they believe many children and adults go hungry every day in the U.S. because they can't afford a balanced diet.

How to Break a Foodborne Illness Story
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 4, 2014)
Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, people get sick from eating food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 48 million of us get sick each year, with 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
Many of those sickened are the “canaries in the coal mine” – people who are the first to become ill in an outbreak.
Promptly, but accurately, announcing early illnesses and the cause of those illnesses can help prevent more illnesses from happening. Letting consumers know what products are poisoning them helps the free market work. Simply put, transparency allows consumers to make decisions about what products to avoid based on which manufacturers and products have a history of problems.
But, how, when, or if ever public health officials announce outbreaks and recalls remains a mystery to many reporters who cover food-related pathogen outbreaks.
After practicing in this area for more than 20 years – yes, it has been more than 20 years since the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak – I think I have learned a few things about how the foodborne illness surveillance system operates and how to get information to consumers that allows them to protect themselves and their families and to make better choices about the food they choose to buy.
Bugs are now reportable.
In November 1992, there was an ominous uptick of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in the San Diego area. Ultimately, by the end of December of that year, there would be at least 40 sickened and a child dead. However, since E. coli O157:H7 infections were not reportable at the time, no one knew the cause of the outbreak, and the same tainted meat served at San Diego-area Jack in the Box restaurants was shipped to other Jack in the Box restaurants in the Western U.S., eventually sickening several hundred and killing three more children.
That outbreak launched both a legal career and mandatory reporting of the most common foodborne pathogens: E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and Shigella, to name a few.
Foodborne surveillance operates, but a bit slowly.
Think of the foodborne illness surveillance system as a large funnel. At the opening on top are all of us who eat food and get sick, and at the very bottom are those who get diagnosed, reported and linked to others so that the events become an outbreak.
One thing to remember is that, for every person who gets counted as part of an outbreak, sometimes dozens of others are actually sick, but remain undiagnosed and therefore uncounted. Here are some startling statistics: for every one E. coli O157:H7 case counted in an outbreak, 26.1 go undiagnosed; for Salmonella, that ratio is 1:29.3; for Campylobacter, it is 1:30.3; for Listeria, it is 1:2.1, and for Shigella, it is 1:33.3. That amounts to a lot of uncounted ill people.
If you are uncounted, no one asks you what you ate or drank or when. 
First, why do sick people remain uncounted? Well, in order to be counted, you need to be stool-culture positive for a reportable pathogen.
If you are not sick enough to go to the doctor, you do not get counted.
If the doctor does not order a stool culture, you do not get counted.
If you do not test positive for a reportable pathogen due to lack of testing, there is no reporting requirement.
If you are not counted, your local health department will never call you to ask what made you ill.
Without that intervention, whatever made you sick may well remain on the market to sicken others.
Hint No. 1:
Ask your local, state and national health authorities frequently about unusual upticks in reportable illnesses.
When a stool culture returns positive for a reportable illness, that lab is required to contact the local health department in the location where the ill person lives. The length of time it takes for a positive culture to be reported can vary widely, location to location, state to state, potentially slowing the process of local health authorities even beginning an investigation.
Often a state’s Department of Health will become involved. The stool culture isolate will be provided to the state’s lab, which may perform Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE), or genetic fingerprinting. The genetic fingerprinting allows for comparison between individual isolates (that may also include food samples). PFGE, along with good epidemiology, may well begin the process of finding connections between people and the food they consumed.
Again, this takes time, and time that keeps potentially tainted products on store shelves or allows a bad manufacturing process is continuing to sicken customers.
Hint No. 2:
CDC is important, but most of the real investigation happens at the state and local level.
If a PFGE is performed at the state lab, the digital image (it looks like the bar code on the back of a cereal box) is uploaded to CDC’s PulseNet. PulseNet, along with CDC’s OutbreakNet, are potentially seeing these uploads from a variety of states. If the PFGE patterns are “indistinguishable,” and if patients can be linked in time and by a product, there is likely a multi-state outbreak occurring.
Remember, CDC is compiling the information from the states that are supplying the information. They are leaders among equals, but they are only as good as the information they receive. Again, each state has its own interests and time constraints. These either enhance or detract from the ability of a state public health agency or CDC to move more or less promptly on a potential foodborne illness outbreak.
Once local, state and national health authorities determine that an outbreak is happening, or has happened, what next – Part One?
Here is where transparency may get a bit tricky. My bias is full disclosure, but only after it is clear which product or manufacturer is the likely source of the contamination. In my view, once a public health official determines the likely cause of an outbreak, transparency demands that the public be notified.
At this point, there are no legitimate reasons for nondisclosure, only excuses. That the business may lose business is not a reason. That the product is no longer out in the market is not a reason. The public has a right to know – period.
Hint No. 3:
If a health official refuses to name “nationwide fast-food Mexican restaurant A,” ask them under what legal authority they are making that decision. If they continue to refuse, file a Freedom of Information Act request and do not back down.
Once local, state and national health authorities determine that an outbreak is or has happened, what next – Part Two?
Traceback – once a product has been identified as the source of illnesses, a potentially complex agency process begins. Side note: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is generally in charge of all meat – cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lamb. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deals with fish (except catfish; FSIS does that), dairy and all other food items. FDA now also does eggs. There is joint jurisdiction on meat pizzas with cheese.
Depending on the food involved, FSIS or FDA (sometimes both) will take the outbreak information from CDC and/or state health officials and attempt to trace the outbreak to the source or “root cause.” The idea is to both stop the outbreak and to learn the cause to prevent the next outbreak. Again, transparency becomes paramount. Of course, state Departments of Agriculture will be involved in partnership with FSIS and FDA as “boots on the ground.”
If the outbreak is local in nature – a local restaurant or church picnic, for example – CDC, FSIS or FDA may never be involved. Local health and environment health professionals will likely do all the real work.
Food that causes an outbreak seldom tests positive for the pathogen that caused the outbreak.
Simply put, the victims ate the evidence. That is why they became ill and why leftovers did not test positive for the same pathogen. Although there have been some successes – the spinach E. coli outbreak of 2006 and the peanut butter Salmonella outbreak of 2009 – most often there is no food left over to test.
Even if there is food from the same lot available to test, pathogens are not uniformly spread throughout a lot, or, by the time food is tested, other bacteria may have out-competed the pathogens.
Bottom line, even without a positive food sample, the good work of epidemiologists can link people locally, nationally and even internationally to a common pathogen and the food on which it hooked a ride.
Hint No. 4: 
Develop relationships with local, state and national public health and environmental officials. Do the same with people at FSIS, FDA, CDC and state Departments of Agriculture. Help them tell the story about how important what they do is to the health of the public.
Hint No. 5:
Develop relationships with reporters who know what they are doing. Talk to the good people at Food Safety News, Lynne Terry of The Oregonian, JoNel Aleccia at NBC and Elizabeth Weise of USA Today. Spend a few moments with the experts.

Chicken Safety and Cross-Contamination Issues in Restaurants
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Jan 6, 2014)
A study published in the Journal of Food Protection has found there is a big problem in restaurants and chicken preparation. The study found that many restaurants do not follow the FDA Food Code guidance about cross-contamination prevention and proper cooking, and that managers do not have the basic food safety knowledge about chicken.
Forty percent of managers said they “never, rarely, or only sometimes designate certain cutting boards for raw meat.” One-third of managers said they did not wash and rinse surfaces before sanitizing them. Over half of managers said thermometers weren’t used to determine the final internal temperature of chicken. And more than 50% of managers did not know the safe final internal temperature of cooked chicken. Finally, more than half of the managers rinsed or washed raw chicken, which creates cross-contamination in the area
Poultry is the fourth most common food associated with foodborne illness, and the number one food associated with deaths from foodborne illness in the U.S. From 1998 through 2008, 61% of food poisoning outbreaks linked with poultry were also linked with restaurants or delis. Eating chicken outside the home is an important risk factor for foodborne illness.
Illness can be caused through cross-contamination, improper preparation, and unsafe holding. The FDA provides the basis for state and local food codes. The Food Code states that raw chicken should be cooked to 165°F or above for at least 15 seconds, and that the final temperature should be measured with a food thermometer.
The study was conducted by the Environmental health Specialists Network (EHS-NET), in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. Data was obtained from about 50 restaurants at each site. Kitchen managers in 448 restaurants participated in the study.
When cooking the chicken, 54% of managers said these methods were used to check doneness: appearance, feel or touch, a timer, and experience and skill. Of those who used thermometers, 28% said the tools were never calibrated or calibrated less often than once every week.
The study indicates that training and intervention efforts should be focused on restaurants and delis. Focus should be placed on identifying and addressing barriers to safe chicken preparation and cooking. Customers should ask how chicken is prepared and if it is cooked to a safe temperature as verified by a reliable food thermometer.




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