FoodHACCP Newsletter
04/07 2014 ISSUE:594


Canadian Cantaloupes are 99.8% Salmonella Free
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/canadian-cantaloupes-are-99-8-salmonella-free/
By Bill Marler (Apr 4, 2014)
As part of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) routine testing of various food products, a study released today found that 99.8 per cent of whole cantaloupe samples tested negative for the presence of Salmonella.
A total of 499 whole cantaloupe samples were collected and tested for Salmonella bacteria, which can cause a serious illness with long-lasting effects. One sample was found to be unsatisfactory due to the presence of Salmonella. The CFIA initiated a food safety investigation as a result of this unsatisfactory result, which led to a product recall (currently available at Library and Archives Canada). No illnesses associated with the consumption of any of this product were reported.
The CFIA has identified cantaloupes as one of the priority commodity groups of fresh fruits and vegetables for enhanced surveillance. This targeted survey focused on Salmonella and represents part of the collection of over 3,500 cantaloupe samples over five years (2008/2009 – 2012/2013). The CFIA continues its surveillance activities and will make public its findings when available.
The overall finding of this survey suggests that the vast majority of cantaloupes in the Canadian market are produced and handled under good agricultural and manufacturing practices. However, cantaloupe contamination with Salmonella could sporadically occur. Consumers should follow these safety tips when choosing to purchase and consume cantaloupes and other melons at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.

Raw Milk Debate: Food Safety or Business Interests?
Source : http://www.consumereagle.com/2014/04/06/raw-milk-debate-is-it-about-safety-or-business/
By Erica Sweeney (Apr 6, 2014)
The sale and consumption of raw, or unpasteurized, milk remains controversial, despite its legalization in 40 states and the introduction of two federal bills last month aiming to loosen regulations associated with the product. Raw milk advocates tout its health benefits, while many in the public health and traditional dairy industries say it’s unsafe.
Raw milk is “lifesaving,” with numerous health benefits, said Sally Fallon Morell, the founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education organization promoting the value of nutrient-rich foods, including raw milk.
Calling it “real milk,” because it comes from pastured animals and is unprocessed and full fat, she said it promotes overall health. European studies have shown that raw milk also protects against asthma, allergies, and eczema, and it is beneficial to babies, instead of formula, if mothers cannot produce enough breast milk.
But not everyone is convinced about raw milk’s benefits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many public health officials, and the dairy industry say raw milk is unsafe.
According to the FDA, raw milk contains numerous illness-causing pathogens, including E. coli, listeria, and salmonella, which they say are killed by pasteurization. The FDA states that raw milk is particularly dangerous for babies, young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.
“Raw milk is inherently dangerous, no matter how it is sold,” Theresa Eisenman, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said in an email statement. “Even those states which allow raw milk sales typically will warn consumers that, even while raw milk is regulated and allowed to be sold, it is still dangerous.”
Based on CDC data, the FDA reports that from 1987 to 2010, raw milk caused more than 2,600 illnesses and three deaths.
However, Morell and Pete Kennedy, an attorney and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, say the rate of illness related to other raw foods, such as oysters and lettuce, and pasteurized dairy products is much higher than that of raw milk products.
Since 2007, when his organization began tracking raw milk statistics, there have been three deaths attributed to pasteurized milk, five related to pasteurized cheese, and none based on raw milk or cheese, Kennedy said. And Morell, citing CDC statistics, said of the more than 10 million raw milk drinkers in this country, there are about 50 reported illnesses each year.
Aside from the health benefits of raw milk, advocates say consumers should be allowed to make their own decisions about which products they purchase and consume.
“Our mission is to protect the right of farmers and consumers to engage in direct commerce,” Kennedy said. “Locally produced food, whether licensed or regulated, has a better track record for safety [than that produced in the] industrial system.”
Morell produces and sells raw cheese at her dairy farm in Maryland, but the sale of raw milk is illegal in Maryland. A bill to legalize it was recently withdrawn from the state General Assembly to allow for a public health study.
Because raw milk sales are illegal in Maryland, Morell said many travel to Pennsylvania to obtain it. She says it’s unfair that some consumers have access to raw milk and others don’t. This is something she’s working to change in her state and nationwide.
Forty states currently allow the distribution of raw milk in some capacity, by retail sales, farm sales, or as pet food, according to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
While he recognizes that no food is completely safe, Kennedy said regulations often hinder consumers’ freedom of choice. He said raw milk is the only food banned in interstate commerce, and the FDA sets a double standard by allowing sale of products with more safety risks, like alcohol and cigarettes, but banning raw milk.
“People should have a fundamental right to consume the foods of their choice,” he said. His organization has successfully litigated several raw milk cases at the state level and has been fighting the FDA raw milk ban.
“There are all these horrible things in our food [system], but they won’t allow raw milk,” Morell said.
Public health officials largely have not recognized the health benefits of raw milk, and, she said, the dairy industry is “afraid of raw milk,” because raw milk farmers are paid more per gallon for their products than traditional dairy farmers.
The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation recently announced their opposition to two federal bills loosening raw milk regulations.
The bills, the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 and the Milk Freedom Act of 2014, would allow interstate distribution of raw milk and associated products. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced both bills on March 26, and they were referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Morell said she agrees with regulation of raw milk, but not to the point where it prohibits consumer access. She also does not object to warning labels on the products.
A number of states require warning labels on raw milk, but the FDA does not require labels. The agency states that labels do not sufficiently protect consumers, because label information may not be understood by those most susceptible to illness from raw milk, Eisenman said.
Morell said, if possible, consumers can evaluate the safety of their raw milk by visiting dairy farms and asking if farmers regularly test milk for somatic cell count, standard plate count, and coliform levels.
Ultimately, consumers have the right to make their own decisions about raw milk, Kennedy said. Like any other food, if an illness occurs, consumers may seek recourse from anyone in the distribution chain, including farmers and retail outlets, he said.
Kennedy said most of the opposition to raw milk is “politics and business interests disguised as science.”
“They can come up all the science they want to argue that it’s unhealthy, and we can come up with all the science we want [to say that it is],” he said.

100-Plus Illnesses Linked to Japanese Restaurant in Michigan
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/04/100-plus-illnesses-linked-to-japanese-restaurant-in-michigan/
By News Desk (Apr 4, 2014)
Health officials in Ottawa County, MI, have linked more than 100 cases of gastrointestinal illness to a Japanese restaurant in Holland Township. After talking with some of those sickened, the source of the problem was reported as Wild Chef Japanese Steakhouse Grill and Bar.
Kristina Wieghmink of the Ottawa County Department of Public Health said officials were waiting for lab results to figure out the virus or bacteria behind the illnesses.
“It’s still currently in the investigation process,” she said.
Customers who ate at the restaurant between March 27 and April 1 reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, including  nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and low-grade fever.
Wieghmink said it’s hard to determine the exact time that symptoms began because it depends on the pathogen and person who becomes ill and can take up to 24 hours after food is consumed.
Once the health department was notified of the illnesses, Wieghmink said they contacted the restaurant, which voluntarily closed on Tuesday, April 1, so a full inspection could be launched. She said it is not clear when it will reopen.
Health officials are asking people who ate at the restaurant between March 27 and April 1, regardless if they have symptoms, to take an online questionnaire to aid the investigation. The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/s/wildchef.
This past fall, there was a Salmonella outbreak linked to a Muskegon-area business, Pints & Quarts Pub and Grill and C.F. Prime Chophouse, which share the same kitchen. That outbreak sickened 32 people this past fall.
The report from that outbreak stated “although no single source or act was specifically identified that caused this contamination, several practices were observed that could cause foodborne exposure to salmonella.” Salmonella is a foodborne illness acquired from eating contaminated eggs, raw poultry, and unpasteurized milk and cheese products.

 

 




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Food safety rule threatens cows’ ‘happy hour’
Source : http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/fda-regulation-cow-happy-hour-105349.html
By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH (Apr 3, 2014)
The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a regulation that could threaten happy hour. For cows.
Though few Americans realize it, the byproducts of their booze consumption actually help feed dairy cows and beef cattle across the country. And if you drink beer from Flying Dog Brewery, your habit helps feed bulls used in professional rodeos.
But a proposed rule from the FDA that aims to ensure the safety of animal feed and pet food — part of a sweeping new food safety reform law signed by President Barack Obama in 2011 — includes new regulatory requirements that could make the practice cost-prohibitive, sending grains left over from beer and whiskey into landfills.
(POLITICO Pro podcast: Nutrition edition)
The proposal has brewers, distillers and some members of Congress up in arms.
The relationship between alcohol-makers and farmers is a centuries-old symbiotic partnership that even George Washington took part in. Brewers and distillers have tons of wet grain left over from making alcohol, and cows just happen to love it.
They love it so much that many farmers call it “happy hour” when they feed their animals spent grain, whether it’s the byproduct of bourbon or IPA. The arrangement makes beer, bourbon and other alcohol producers happy, too, as they avoid paying to dispose of massive quantities of grain while also helping reduce farmers’ feed costs.
The proposed rule, which would require new preventive safety practices and more record keeping, has caught the attention of several lawmakers, particularly those who represent states with burgeoning craft beer industries.
This week, 13 senators, led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), expressed their concerns to the FDA and urged the agency to not unduly burden the beer industry. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), whose state is known as “the Napa Valley of beer,” as it is home to a long list of craft producers and major breweries, like MillerCoors, wrote his own letter to the agency this week seeking a risk assessment before any proposal moves forward.
On average, one gallon of beer will yield about a pound of spent grain. One gallon of bourbon yields more than nine pounds.
The Brewers Association is concerned that the FDA’s proposal might force the 2,000 craft breweries it represents to dry or package up their spent grain — a resource-intensive process — instead of allowing farmers to just pick up the wet grains in trucks, as most operations do now.
The group estimates that 80 percent of its members currently give away their spent grain to livestock farmers.
The FDA’s regulations could cause the craft brewing industry to spend nearly $43 million per year to send its spent grains to landfills instead, according to the Brewers Association.
Large brewers, who usually sell their used grains to brokers, would be affected, too. The Beer Institute, which represents the heavyweights of the industry, including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and others, estimates that the proposal could end up initially costing each large brewer $11 million and more than $1 million a year to implement audits, employee training and testing for pathogens.
Both the small and large beer associations argue that the FDA’s changes are unnecessary because there is no record of a food safety issue caused by spent grain fed to animals. It’s also not an issue food safety or consumer advocates seem concerned about, as they are much more focused on other major new food safety rules aimed at produce farms and food manufacturers.
“This is a practice that’s been going on for centuries without any incident or risk to human health,” said Chris Thorne, vice president of communications for the Beer Institute. Thorne said his association is “cautiously optimistic” that the FDA will address the issue and said several lawmakers have been receptive to its concerns.
Distillers are already using food-grade ingredients, and, on top of that, everything is boiled during the process, which would kill any bacteria that could be present, said a Virginia whiskey distiller, who asked to not be named.
“We routinely give our spent grains to local farmers, and they find great value in it. Feed prices are very high,” he said. “The cows love it. We have a waiting list.”
Flying Dog Brewery, in Frederick, Md., currently donates 150,000 pounds of spent grain per week to a farm that raises bulls for the Professional Bull Riders tour and is looking to expand to give its grain to local dairy farms, as well.
“It’s mutually beneficial,” said Ben Chambers, the quality manager at Flying Dog, who formerly worked in quality assurance at a Coors plant in Colorado. “I don’t know what we’d do if a truck weren’t able to take it to a farm. It would probably end up in a landfill.”
“I’m an advocate for making sure everything is as safe as possible for consumers,” added Chambers. “But there’s no way this can fly.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) brought up concerns about the “absurd” rule during a recent appropriations hearing and urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to consider the impact on breweries and farmers.
“I think there is a reasonable solution that can be found,” Hamburg said.
“We do plan to reopen comment in some targeted areas of particular concern,” she added. “We think this can be taken up in that context, and I hope we can find a meaningful, viable solution.”
At another hearing in February, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) told Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, he’s concerned the feed rule would have the same negative impact on Kentucky distillers, which manufacture 95 percent of all bourbon, and ultimately lead to more food waste. Taylor assured the committee the agency would resolve their concerns in a “practical way.”
Pingree, whose state is home to more than 50 breweries, told POLITICO she is “hopeful” the spent grain issue will be reconsidered.
“I felt really good about the conversation we had with FDA last week,” she said in an interview, adding that she plans to lobby her colleagues to garner support for exempting brewers from the proposal.
Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said he thinks the FDA was probably aiming to bring ethanol byproducts used in feed under the rule, in part, because that product often uses antibiotics to keep bacteria growth at bay.
“We just don’t want to get swept in as collateral damage,” said Gatza. “It seems kind of silly.”
Other groups, however, think some of the concerns raised by the smaller brewers are overblown. The Beer Institute and the American Feed Industry Association both contend that the FDA’s proposal wouldn’t actually require that breweries dry and package their grains. Still, the Beer Institute wants its members’ byproducts to be exempt from the whole proposal.
The feed industry, meanwhile, disagrees with making any exemptions to the rule.
“We hear what they’re saying,” said Richard Sellers, senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for AFIA, a group that recently logged a 100-page comment on the FDA’s proposed rule. “But I don’t think we can accept a broad-based exemption.”

Radio Waves Kill Salmonella Bacteria in Raw Eggs
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/radio-waves-kill-salmonella-bacteria-in-raw-eggs/
By Linda Larsen (Apr 3, 2014)
A study published in Agricultural Research magazine has found that radio waves can kill Salmonella bacteria in raw eggs without affecting taste or texture. Since one of every 20,000 eggs produced in the U.S. has a high risk of being contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria, and since many people eat raw or undercooked eggs, this is an important finding. At least 3,750,000 contaminated eggs are sold every year in this country.
Salmonella bacteria are killed by heat. Pasteurized eggs are safer, but they can be difficult to use, especially since the egg whites do not whip to the same volume as untreated eggs. Pasteurized eggs are immersed in hot water and held at a minimum temperature for about an hour to kill the pathogenic bacteria.
In the study, scientists tested 4,000 fresh shell eggs by heating them with the energy from radio waves, followed by a brief hot-water bath. Each egg is placed between two electrodes that send radio waves through it. The egg is rotated and the shell is cooled by spraying it with water. That stops denaturing of the egg proteins, which affects taste and performance. RF heating warms the egg from the inside out. A hot water bath after the radio wave treatment helps the yolk retain heat to complete pasteurization.
Start to finish, this treatment takes 20 minutes. Tests using eggs infected with a research strain of Salmonella found that the RF-based processed killed 99.999% of Salmonella.
The new process is not only effective, but cost efficient. And RF technology is already used in the food industry. Commercial use of this treatment is about a year away. Pilot tests will begin in 2014.

Smart tags for food spoilage; viruses used to kill bacteria: food safety roundup
Source : http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/04/smart_tags_for_food_spoilage_f.html
By Lynne Terry lterry@oregonian.com (Apr 3, 2014)
A Chinese scientist, who considers himself a germaphobe, has come up with a smart tag that alerts consumers when food is spoiled.
The tags could do away with the smell test for milk.
The small square gel tags which can be placed on the outside of a container are made of compounds that change color over time, in line with expiration dates. CBS News reports that the tags are inexpensive and can be stuck to cans and bottles to indicate  spoilage, even before the package is opened.
The inventors have tested the tags on milk, by exposing it to different temperatures and bacteria until it spoiled. They say the tags can be customized to work on canned goods and even medication bottles.
Initially red, the tags change color to orange, yellow, green and even blue and violet, when the food has gone bad.
They’re not yet in use. The Chinese are trying to sell them to manufacturers.
And in a study by Purdue University, researchers are experimenting with using a type of virus to kill a particularly virulent foodborne pathogen: E. coli O157:H7.
The report, in R&D Magazine, says that injecting contaminated food with these viruses, known as bacteriophages or phages for short, nearly eradicated E. coli O157:H7 in spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing concentrations by about 99 percent.
The study suggests that this treatment could help ensure the safety of food products, according to Paul Ebner, associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue
"Phage treatment is a way of harnessing the natural antibacterial properties of phages to limit E. coli and other important foodborne pathogens," Ebner said. "Applying this kind of therapy to contaminated foods will make them safer."
While most strains of E. coli are harmless and live happily in our intestines, some can cause severe illness and even death. E. coli O157:H7 is one of the worst, causing more than 63,000 illnesses, 2,100 hospitalizations and 20 deaths in the United States in 2011 alone. Only a few organisms can produce symptoms.
Well, that's it for now. Keep your appetite and eat safely.

Oklahoma Families Hospitalized With E. Coli After Attending Youth Expo
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/04/oklahoma-families-hospitalized-with-e-coli-after-attending-youth-expo/
By News Desk (Apr 3, 2014)
Several Oklahoma families have been hospitalized with E. coli infections after attending the Oklahoma Youth Expo held from March 12-20 at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. Reports stated that at least one eight-year-old was in intensive care, while others had been treated and released.
The Oklahoma Department of Health confirmed the culprit as a Shiga toxin-producing type of E. coli, including O157:H7, and is now investigating to determine the source of the bacteria, said Lauri Smithee, Ph.D., head of the infectious disease department.
“At this time we are not able to definitively say we have a contaminated this or that, or stall or barn or food vendor,” she said. “These particular organisms are really only found in the intestinal tract of ruminant animals, which are cows, sheep, goats and perhaps deer.”
The department is also checking out the livestock and food trucks that were at the expo.
Anyone who has attended events on at the state fairgrounds since the Oklahoma Youth Expo is being advised not ignore any flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
 
Outbreak Case Counts: Why Official Numbers Fall Far Below Estimates
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/04/outbreak-case-counts-why-official-numbers-fall-far-below-estimates/
By James Andrews (Apr 3, 2014)
When news broke this past fall of two separate Salmonella outbreaks tied to Foster Farms chicken, one of the most noteworthy aspects of each outbreak was the number of patients sickened. To date, the outbreaks have been connected to 615 reported Salmonella infections altogether, making Foster Farms chicken the largest known source of foodborne Salmonella in 2013.
But what isn’t as readily apparent from reading outbreak reports is the number of people estimated to be sickened beyond those confirmed in official case counts. According to methods used by epidemiologists to estimate the true impact of foodborne illness, the Foster Farms outbreaks may have sickened closer to 18,500 people.
That’s because, for each case of Salmonella that gets identified through clinical laboratory analysis, another 29 illnesses are estimated to go unreported. While there are numerous factors that play into those estimates, one thing is certain: For every person officially counted as part of an outbreak, far more cases go unnoticed.
The Big Picture
When epidemiologists and food-safety professionals speak about the burden of foodborne illness, they often cite the statistic that 48 million Americans are sickened each year with a foodborne pathogen from domestic food. That number doesn’t come from the total number of people reported to health departments with foodborne infections, but instead is an estimate based on what epidemiologists know about how each pathogen functions and affects humans.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the most recent estimation in 2011 in an attempt to measure the impact of foodborne disease on public health and the U.S. economy and put the agency’s rulemaking in a food-safety context. The estimation of 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths is based on what health officials know about 31 known foodborne pathogens, as well as unspecified agents such as microbes and chemicals.
To make those estimates, epidemiologists considered a range of variables about each particular pathogen: How severe are most infections from it? How many doctors test for it? How sensitive are the latest testing methods?
“It’s so complex that it’s somewhat easy to explain,” said Elaine Scallan, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health and lead author of the 2011 foodborne illness estimates compiled by CDC.
One of the main challenges in estimated foodborne illness is that no pathogens can be judged equally. Some cause more severe illnesses, while some are less common and might not be diagnosed by as many healthcare providers. For example, while only one out of every 31 Campylobacter cases is estimated to be reported, health departments are believed to track one of every three cases of Listeria monocytogenes, which causes much more severe illnesses and therefore hospitalizes a greater number of those who are infected.
Only those patients who seek medical care stand a chance of ending up on an official case count for an outbreak. But visiting a doctor is just one link in the long chain between exposure to a pathogen and an eventual reported foodborne illness.
The Hurdles to Diagnosing and Reporting
For a patient to become counted as an official case in a foodborne illness outbreak, a number of factors need to line up just right. It all depends on how the patient reacts to their symptoms and how well their healthcare provider diagnoses those symptoms.
First, even if someone is exposed to an outbreak pathogen, they need to become sick enough to notice the effects. Many people exposed to a pathogen may not fall ill, or may not suffer severe enough symptoms to suspect something is amiss.
If a patient does come down with symptoms, the symptoms also need to be severe enough for them to seek medical care. This fact alone eliminates a large percentage of cases from ever getting reported, said Carlota Medus, Ph.D., principal epidemiologist with the Foodborne, Waterborne and Zoonic Disease Unit of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Consider how often people come down with diarrhea, cramping or vomiting without visiting a clinic. By the nature of disease reporting, health agencies never become aware of the people who get a foodborne bug but stay at home to tough it out.
Because of that, epidemiologists anticipate that more severe pathogens – or more severe strains of pathogens – will hospitalize a higher percentage of those exposed.
The type of food source causing the outbreak could also play a role in determining the percentage of patients who ultimately end up as reported cases. If the food product is aimed at children, for example, a higher percentage of cases could end up hospitalized simply because children’s immune systems are more susceptible to infection.
But even if a patient makes it to a healthcare provider, their infection is still far from being guaranteed to be reported. They still need to have a stool sample taken, which may only happen if the patient agrees to provide one and the doctor decides it’s worth taking in the first place.
The healthcare provider’s opinions and tendencies could very well be the deciding factor in whether or not a patient’s foodborne infection is identified, Medus said. Some doctors may believe it’s not worth the effort to test a diarrheal stool sample because it will likely be a brief illness, while others may decide it is worth testing such samples to contribute to outbreak surveillance efforts.
Even if the patient does produce a stool sample, the pathogen might not be present in their system– perhaps due to having taken antibiotics or because too much time has passed. The doctor would also need to order the right tests to be looking for the right bugs.
With each successive step, more and more illnesses are excluded from joining the official case count, which requires a clinical laboratory to positively confirm a test sample and report it to a health department.
“Just a fraction of people seek care, and then just a fraction of those people submit a stool specimen for testing, and then a smaller fraction of those samples are tested for the right pathogen,” Scallan said.
Then, even if a test result makes it through all the hurdles at the healthcare stage, the laboratory sometimes doesn’t report it, or they may not be required to report it, depending on state law. Under federal reporting laws, laboratories are asked to report cases of Salmonella, Listeria, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Shigella, Vibrio and botulism. Some states may also monitor for additional pathogens, such as Campylobacter and Toxoplasma, but they are not required to do so under federal law.
“There are so many factors that go into whether your illness gets reported, including what state you live in,” Medus said.
Even less likely to be reported is Norovirus, which sickens an estimated 5 million people per year but generally is not tested for because illnesses typically only last a day or two.
In total, here’s the breakdown of how many cases of a given pathogen are estimated to go unreported for every diagnosed case:
•     Salmonella: 29 cases unreported for every diagnosed case
•     E. coli O157:H7: 26 cases unreported for every diagnosed case
•     Listeria monocytogenes: Two cases unreported for every diagnosed case
•     Campylobacter: 30 cases unreported for every diagnosed case
•     Vibrio: 142 cases unreported for every diagnosed case
Challenging Detective Work
Scallan described the work of estimating illness numbers as incredibly challenging.
The publication of the 2011 estimates were an update to estimates published in 1999, which projected foodborne illness to affect 78 million Americans per year.
However, just because the estimates have dropped from 78 million to 48 million, health officials do not give all the credit to new prevention efforts to reduce foodborne illness. The methods for making the estimates have been refined since 1999, and so comparing two data sets would be disingenuous.
Officials do, however, believe that the 2011 estimates are more precise. That’s due in part to efforts made through FoodNet, a foodborne illness surveillance network of state and local health departments in 10 states. Data collected by FoodNet are seen as creating the foundation for foodborne illness estimates and subsequent policy and prevention efforts based on them.
And, in the end, decision-makers can only work with the data available, which is why epidemiologists can only accurately report the small fraction of cases that are confirmed in the lab.
“As a general rule, we report what we know, because we get criticized if we start reporting on speculation,” Medus said. “But if someone asks me if I think there are more cases in an outbreak, I’ll say, ‘Yeah, it’s very likely there are more cases.’”

Backyard Poultry? Reduce Salmonella Risk With CDC Tips
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/backyard-poultry-reduce-salmonella-risk-with-cdc-tips/
By Carla Gillespie (Apr 2, 2014)
Are you tending a backyard flock of chicks or ducklings this spring? If so, consider these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on reducing your risk of Salmonella poisoning.
Salmonella from live poultry sickened more than 450 people in 2012. Generally, children are disproportionately affected in these outbreaks. Why? Their immunes systems are not fully developed, they are less likely than adults to wash their hands properly and more likely than adults to put their fingers in their mouths and to snuggle or kiss the small birds.
The CDC recommends that children under 5 and others with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women, not handle young birds. Older children should be supervised with the birds and while washing their hands afterward.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they are kept. Keeps all live birds and the equipment used to care for and feed them outside of the house. When cleaning equipment or materials used to tend the flock, use a  dedicated set of cleaning materials.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Symptoms usually develop within one to three days of exposure and last up to a week.

U.S. Army Developing Handheld Food Safety Tool
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/u-s-army-developing-handheld-food-safety-tool/
By Linda Larsen (Apr 2, 2014)
The U.S. Army is developing a handheld inspection tool to increase food safety for soldiers. The Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center is making a small, sensitive, hand-held device that will “both capture and detect dangerous pathogens that can cause food-related illness.”
Scientists at the Natick Center are collaborating with the FDA, Winchester Engineering and Analytical Center, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after receiving a 2013 FDA leveraging and collaboration award. The award is for “Designing Handheld Resistance Based Biosensors Utilizing Conducting Nonwoven Fibers for In-Field Microbial Pathogen Detection.”
Since food safety is critical to combat readiness, this tool will reduce the danger faced by troops. Andre Senecal, one of the scientists in the project said in a statement, “military operations at some overseas locations where food is procured locally and food safety laws are lenient, are especially problematic. Soldiers can lose a lot of time from work because they get sick from pathogens present in water and food. We are starting our work with E. coli O157:H7, but the goal is to look at all microbial pathogens and toxins they produce.” The leading cause of illness among troops is gastroenteritis, and one of the primary causes is the E. coli bacterium.
The tool works because bacteria impede the flow of electricity from one side to the other. This change in the electrical connection indicates the presence sod pathogens. Current methods for detecting bacterial pathogens use heavy and cumbersome equipment such as tubing and reagents. The device will also be reusable, and the detection membranes disposable. The biosensor concentrates pathogens, eliminating the need to grow bacteria before testing.
Conductive polymers will be put on nano fibers, which work well at detection. Kris Senecal, another scientists working on the project said, “nano fibers are one-billionth of a meter and nano materials are cheap, one-use, and super lightweight.” The scientists also say that this technology can be used elsewhere after it is developed.

Senators Request ‘Robust’ Funding for Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/04/senators-request-robust-funding-for-food-safety/
By News Desk (Apr 2, 2014)
Ahead of Thursday’s coinciding congressional hearings on budgets for the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to their colleagues, asking them to support “robust” food-safety funding.
“We ask that the [Senate Appropriations] Subcommittee provide robust funding for food safety activities to continue efforts to reduce the risk of food-borne illness,” they wrote. “The safety of our nation’s food supply is of concern to every American.”
The request was that full funding go to FSIS “to ensure all human capital resources involved in critical ante-mortem inspections have received robust national training” and FDA’s  Office of Foods & Veterinary Medicine receive additional funds “towards the goal of implementing FSMA,” as well as the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), the Food Animal Residue Avoidance & Depletion (FARAD) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN).
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., appears before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies at 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday.
Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm and FSIS Deputy Administrator Phil Derfler are set to appear before the equivalent House subcommittee, also at 10 a.m. EDT on Thursday.

Cryptosporidium Outbreak Nearly 10 Years Old
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/legal-cases/cryptosporidium-outbreak-nearly-10-years-old/
By Bill Marler (Apr 1, 2014)
John Caher of the New York Law Journal reported a few days ago on “Park Patrons Made Sick in 2005 Await Overdue Day in Court.”  To quote British politician William Gladstone –“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”  This is nearly the oldest case we have in the office.  As Mr. Caher reports:
Nine years after a parasite (cryptosporidium) invaded a Finger Lakes water park and turned a summertime outing into stomach-wrenching agony for thousands of visitors, 2,501 claimants are still waiting for their day in court.
And they may have to wait even longer.
Although Syracuse Court of Claims Judge Nicholas Midey Jr. has scheduled a trial for May 5, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking a delay until 2015 to challenge several pretrial rulings. Midey has refused to dismiss the case, or to disqualify an expert witness and bar one of the plaintiff firms from continuing to work for claimants it has represented since the case began in 2005.
Assistant Attorney General Edward McArdle, who is defending the case, said in a March 14 motion that the state needed time to pursue an appeal and deal with some trial logistics and last-minute evidentiary issues.
But an attorney for the claimants said the state is simply stalling.
“If a private company had done the things the state has done, the state would be the first to protect the interests of the boys and girls who were made terribly sick during the summer of 2005,” said Paul Nunes, a partner at Underberg & Kessler in Rochester (our cocounsel).  “They would be champions for these innocent kids, and their parents. I have a lot of respect for the AG’s office and [Attorney General Eric] Schneiderman. However, the handling of this case has made me very sad.”
Schneiderman’s office declined comment.

Possible Foodborne Illness Outbreak at Minnesota Lion’s Club
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/possible-foodborne-illness-outbreak-at-minnesota-lions-club/
ByLinda Larsen (Apr 1, 2014)
The Minnesota Department of Health is investigating a possible foodborne illness outbreak at a Nisswa Lion’s Club meeting held at the Nisswa Community Center on March 24, 2014. The investigation is ongoing and not much information is available, according to the Brainerd Dispatch.
The meal was catered by Red, White and Blue Catering of Nisswa. About 35 people ate the buffet meal, and some reported vomiting and/or diarrhea after the event. The DOH does not have a complete list of food items served at the event.
Investigations can take a few weeks. Investigators must interview those sickened, take environmental samples, collect food samples, if any, test food for possible bacteria or viruses, and look at samples from patients to determine the outbreak cause. If they do find a common pathogen, they investigate to see whether the problem was caused at the event or, by using traceback, if a contaminated food further up the chain caused the outbreak.

Farm Rich E. coli Outbreak Sickened 35
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/farm-rich-e-coli-outbreak-sickened-35/
By Carla Gillespie (Apr 1, 2014)
One year ago, an E. coli outbreak linked to Farm Rich frozen products was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 19-state outbreak,  the seventh-largest, multi-state food poisoning outbreak of 2013, sickened 35 people, most of them under the age of 21.
A number of Farm Rich products were recalled in association with the outbreak including Mozzarella Bites, Mini Pizza Slices, Mini Quesadillas and Philly Cheese Steaks which were all distributed nationwide. Retailers that sold the products included: Alco, Food Lion, Food City, Price Chopper Ralph’s, Safeway, Schnuck’s, Supervalu, Target, and Winn Dixie. Of the 10 million pounds products recalled, about 300,000 pounds were sold to schools.
About 82 percent of those infected with the E.coli outbreak strain were 21 or younger. The outbreak called attention to two important food safety issues: processed foods can be contaminated with bacteria and the kill step role of the consumer. Many pre-packaged frozen foods require thorough cooking, before they are safe to eat, not just thawing or warming. Particular attention should be paid to foods that can’t be stirred, such as pizza, burgers and snack food items, which can be tricky to heat thoroughly and evenly in a microwave. When cooking foods in the microwave, it’s best to know the wattage and follow directions carefully. This information is usually on the top or side of the door.
Just under a third of those sickened, about 31 percent, were hospitalized including two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition that develops after some E.coli infections.
Ohio and New York were hardest hit by the outbreak with six and four cases respectively. Total cases by state were: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Indiana (2), Michigan (3), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), New York (4), Ohio (6), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (3), Utah (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2).

Judge Declines to Dismiss 'Pink Slime' Beef Lawsuit Against ABC News
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2014/03/judge-declines-to-dismiss-pink-slime-beef-lawsuit.aspx
By foodproductdesign.com (Mar 31, 2014)
YANKTON, S.D.—A South Dakota judge has mostly denied requests by ABC News and its journalists to dismiss claims filed against them in a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit that was brought by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI).
The March 27, 2014 decision gives BPI and affiliated entities the green light to move forward in the 2012 lawsuit filed against ABC News, its journalists including Diane Sawyer and former officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"We are pleased with the ruling, which rejected nearly all of the Defendants' arguments. We look forward to starting discovery and ultimately presenting our case to a jury," said Erik Connolly, a Winston & Strawn lawyer representing BPI.
Cheryle Gering, a judge in the First Judicial Circuit Court, ruled that a South Dakota statute barred certain common law causes of action for disparagement. Otherwise, she denied the defendants' requests to toss out the various claims in the First Amendment case.
In her ruling on the motions to dismiss, Gering was required to view the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.
Legal experts have said BPI faces high hurdles in proving its case due to the strong protections of the First Amendment.
"We will defend our reporting vigorously on the merits," ABC News senior vice president Jeffrey Schneider said in a written statement to The Associated Press following the ruling.
BPI has accused ABC and former USDA officials of misleading consumers into believing its lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is unsafe, costing about 700 employees their jobs, resulting in the closure of three BPI facilities and pummeling sales.
Gering held the court properly had "personal jurisdiction" over two out-of-state defendants who worked for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Gerald Zirnstein and Carl Custer. Another defendant remaining in the case is Kit Foshee, a former BPI employee.
ABC argued certain statements such as those relating to "pink slime" were not actionable because they were hyperbolic language and not actually statements of fact.
Gering wasn't persuaded.
"For example, the use of the term 'pink slime' with a food product can be reasonably interpreted as implying that that food product is not meat and is not fit to eat, which are objective facts which can be proven," the judge wrote. "The same holds true of the other alleged tortious statements that LFTB is a 'filler', is a 'substitute,' is made from 'waste' and scraps', is an 'adulterant', and was 'once only used in dog food and cooking oil.' A reasonable factfinder could find that each of these statements, as well as the others allegedly made by the Defendants, imply that LFTB is not beef and is not proper or fit to eat, which are objective facts which can be proven true or not true."
Among the other arguments the judge rejected:
·        that two plaintiffs affiliated with BPI, BPI Technology, Inc. and Freezing Machines, Inc., could not bring common law disparagement claims;
·        that various statements made by ABC News are true, barring a cause of action for defamation or disparagement;
·        that plaintiffs cannot bring both disparagement and defamation claims;
·        and that BPI could not bring a claim for tortious interference with a business relationship against ABC because of the impact it would have on news gathering operations. According to the lawsuit, grocery stores stopped selling BPI's beef in response to consumers' concerns following the negative news coverage.
"There is no basis for the ABC Defendants' assertion that the First Amendment bars a claim for tortious interference," Gering wrote.

Study: No Health Concerns in Food Tested for Acrylamide
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/study-no-health-concerns-in-food-tested-for-acrylamide/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 31, 2014)
A study conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that some high carbohydrate foods did not have acrylamide levels at levels that “would be considered unsafe for consumption.” The agency tested 897 high carb food samples from Canadian retail stores, including dried fruits and vegetables, crackers, condiments, soup powder, taco seasonings, molasses, syrups, adult and infant breakfast cereals, and nut butters. The lowest levels of acrylamides were observed in jams, while the highest average acrylamide levels were found in molasses, at 901 ppb.
Acrylamides are chemicals used for industrial purposes, used to make paper, dyes, and plastics. The chemical is formed in foods heated to temperatures above 248°F. The foods that produce the most acrylamides are potato chips and French fries.
When high carb foods are cooked at high temperatures, asparagine, an amino acid, combines with sugars to form acrylamide. Dry heat methods of cooking, such as frying, baking, and broiling produce more acrylamides, while microwaving and boiling are less likely to produce the chemical. Decreasing cooking time and blanching potatoes before frying can  reduce acrylamide levels.
The World Health Organization has stated that acrylamide levels in foods are a “major concern” because they may increase the risk of cancer. A study conducted in Holland found a “small, but significantly increased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer associated with acrylamide intake.” A second study found a statistically significant positive result between “hemoglobin markers for acrylamide and estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.”
It is interesting that the study did not test potato chips and French fries. A 2002 FDA list of acrylamide levels in foods found that levels in French fries can be as high as 1300 ppb, while potato chips levels can be as high as  2700 ppb. Health Canada advises consumers to “eat fried or deep-fried foods such as French fries and potato chips less often, while enjoying a variety of foods.”

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