FoodHACCP Newsletter
11/03 2014 ISSUE:624

FSA Chastises UK Retailers for Resisting Release of Campylobacter Stats
Source :
By News Desk (Nov 4, 2014)
The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) Monday criticized British supermarkets for not wanting to be named in the results of its Campylobacter testing program, set to be released this this week.
The second round of findings, due out on Wednesday, will reveal which stores had the highest and lowest number of positive tests for Campylobacter, according to FSA.
In February of this year, FSA began testing samples from fresh, whole store-bought chickens for Campylobacter, the leading cause of foodborne illness in the UK, sickening 280,000 or more people each year. In August, the agency published its first-quarter results, which showed that 59 percent of the 853 birds tested were carrying Campylobacter. A further four percent of packaging tested positive for the bacteria.
The agency has said that the second-quarter results, set to be revealed Wednesday, will include the names of supermarkets where the bacteria was found, from highest concentration to lowest, information that was not included in the first round. The British Retail Consortium (BRC), has fought back, calling FSA’s plan a ‘name and shame’ approach. BRC has also accused the agency of not having enough data to get an accurate picture of where Campylobacter was most prevalent.
FSA chastised the industry Monday in the agenda for its November 5 board meeting.
“It is disappointing that the British Retail Consortium, which speaks on behalf of retailers, has written to us again pressing us not to release the results of the retail survey and seeking to call into question the validity of the sampling plan, which they were consulted about before the survey commenced,” reads item number 2.5 on the agency’s list of issues to discuss.
The agency says its sample size is now big enough to give an accurate picture of the Campylobacter problem among the UK’s fresh chickens.
“We published details about levels of campylobacter found in shop-bought chickens earlier this year, but chose not to name retailers because the data was not robust enough,” said Steve Warn, FSA policy director, in a September statement. “Since then, double the number of samples have been collected, which better reflects the situation across the country.”
FSA’s Campylobacter Campaign, set to go through February 2015 and ultimately include samples of 4,000 raw chickens from large retailers and independent butchers, is at the top of the agenda for Wednesday’s agency board meeting.

No Incidence of Food Contamination From RPCs
Source :
By Jerry Welcome (Nov 4, 2014)
(This open letter was sent Oct. 28, 2014, to all growers/shippers and retailers by Jerry Welcome, president of the Reusable Packaging Association, on behalf of the group’s members.)
Providing a safe food supply chain is a top concern for the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) and our members. In fact, there has never been a documented food safety issue associated with the use of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) in Canada or the U.S.
To help maintain this stellar record, we formed an RPC Food Safety Standards Committee earlier this year. This industry-wide committee, which includes the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and other stakeholders from Canada, has been researching and developing even stronger sanitation protocols for reusable containers based on HACCP, GMPs, and other food safety regimens identified by the U.S. FDA and its Canadian counterparts. The guidelines also draw from recognized international food safety standards and practices.
The Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association (CCCA) is distributing a report from the University of Guelph with questionable results about a study on the cleanliness of RPCs used by Canadian growers, shippers, and retailers. We believe that using the threat of food safety as a marketing tool is a disservice to the consumer and to the industries we serve.
Here are the facts: RPCs have been used to ship food products such as milk, eggs, and produce in the U.S. and Europe for more than 20 years without a single documented incidence of food contamination attributable to their use.
The guidelines being developed by the RPC Food Safety Standards Committee will strengthen the safety of reusable containers even more. When they are published later this year, we will encourage all manufacturers, service providers, users, and retailers to adopt and adhere to them. When fully vetted, the guidelines will become the best practices for reusables in the food supply chain.
The guidelines have been researched and discussed by a broad cross-section of representatives of the food supply chain. They include the manufacturers of reusable products and service providers, shippers and growers, label manufacturers, retailers, and industry trade groups such as United Fresh, CPMA, PMA, the Canadian Horticulture Association, and many other Canadian groups. They have been working diligently to make sure we are doing everything possible as an industry to address potential food safety concerns with real measurable solutions.
The use of returnable shipping containers is increasing in the food industry. This growth is occurring because reusables offer multiple documented benefits over expendable packaging, including cost reductions, less waste, better product protection, better transportation utilization, easier-to-handle containers, and a more environmental friendly and sustainable business for all users in the supply chain.
These benefits are challenging expendable products in the marketplace. The suppliers of those products are now turning to scare tactics and questionable studies to stem the incursion of reusables into an area where they have been the dominant supplier.
We need to separate real issues from perceived ones. We need to identify real threats to the safety of our food supply system and stay focused on dealing with these issues in a collaborative and rational manner. RPA and its members remain committed to working with users and retailers to identify potential issues and resolve them together.
We welcome the participation of our detractors, as well as our supporters, to address real food safety issues and to continually strengthen reusable solutions and practices to create a safer food supply.


Raw Macadamia Nuts Are Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination
Source :
By News Desk (Nov 1, 2014)
Raw Macadamia nuts, some diced, and sold under the Shurfine, Western Family, Hyvee, Market Pantry, Pear’s Gourmet, Cash-Wa Distributing, Pegler Sysco, and Mayan Gold brands were recalled late Friday by Bellevue, NE-based Marathon Ventures Inc.
The recall came after the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Salmonella contamination during routine testing. It’s too early to know if there are any illnesses associated with the recall.
Marathon said it has informed the FDA of its actions and is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.
Consumers who have purchased the items listed below should not consume this product and should return it to the store of purchase for a full refund or replacement. The recalled raw Macadamia nuts were sold after March 11, 2014, through grocery, food service and other retail outlets throughout the country.




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Trick-or-Treat Food Safety Tips for Halloween
Source :
By News Desk (Oct 31, 2014)
Here are some simple steps, courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to help children and parents have a fun – and safe – Halloween:
•Children shouldn’t snack while they’re out trick-or-treating. Urge your children to wait until they get home and you have had a chance to inspect the contents of their “goody bags.”
•To help prevent children from snacking, give them a light meal or snack before they head out — don’t send them out on an empty stomach.
•Tell children not to accept — and especially not to eat — anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
•Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys.
•Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
Here are some tips for having fun and safe Halloween parties at home:
•If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. Juice or cider that has not been treated will state it on the label.
•No matter how tempting, don’t taste raw cookie dough or cake batter.
•Before going bobbing for apples, an all-time favorite Halloween game, reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
•“Scare” bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings. Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. And don’t leave the food at room temperature for more than two hours.
The increasing availability of marijuana-infused edibles that look like candy is prompting warnings from law enforcement in some parts of the country. There are treats out there now containing cannabis that look like gummy candy, as well as pot-infused chocolates, mints and others, so take a close look before eating unfamiliar treats or allowing your child to do so.
FDA is also reminding the public that consumption of too much black licorice can be bad for some people, particularly those older than 40 who have heart problems. The agency notes, however, that a person would have to eat quite a bit of it in order to develop serious issues.
The complete recall list with UPC and lot numbers can be found here.

GE Salmon Company Fined Over Permit Problems in Panama
Source :
By News Desk (Oct 31, 2014)
The government of Panama has revealed that, in July of this year, it levied a fine on AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts-based company seeking government approval to bring the first genetically modified salmon to market in the U.S.
AquaBounty apparently did not have the necessary water use and water discharge permits necessary for running its operations in Panama, where it has a pilot facility, and total coliform bacteria were allegedly above acceptable levels.
The Panamanian government determined that the company had repeatedly violated regulations and should be issued the maximum allowable fine of $9,500.
AquaBounty says that company officials immediately contacted the proper authorities in Panama after becoming aware of the permitting failures, and that everything was squared away by August. The company also paid the fine.
“The nature of the violations had no bearing on the containment or health of our fish, or the safety of our operations,” the company said in a statement.
AquaBounty added that its facility is frequently inspected by the Panamanian government and continues to operate without any restrictions. In addition, it said that the company’s facility was built and operating before some of the permit regulations were passed.
In response to the violations and fine, U.S. consumer groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deny AquaBounty’s application to sell GE salmon in grocery stores here.
AquaBounty’s CEO Ron Stotish told Seafoodsource that those groups were being “blatantly misleading” by implying that there is a safety issue concerning the fish when there is none.
FDA is still reviewing AquaBounty’s application. The fish is an Atlantic salmon that contains genes from a Pacific Chinook salmon and an ocean pout that allow the fish to grow to market size twice as fast.
For years, FDA has declined to provide a timeline for when the agency might make its decision. AquaBounty says it began the FDA application process in 1995.
A 2010 FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine review of the AquaBounty application concluded that the salmon was as safe to eat as Atlantic salmon and does not pose a threat to the environment. According to AquaBounty, the salmon will only grow in land-based, contained facilities and that all the fish are sterile females.
Due to consumer demand, a number of U.S. grocery retailers, including Kroger, Safeway and Target, have already pledged not to sell the AquaBounty salmon should it be approved by FDA.

Farming and Deforestation Could be Behind Ebola Outbreak
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By Linda Larsen (Oct 31, 2014)
According to an article in The Conversation, deforestation and industrial-scale farming could have been a contributing factor in the Ebola outbreak in Africa. The global palm oil industry has been deep-cutting into forests; this helps spread pathogens by opening areas formerly untouched to human exploration. And land grabs force animals out of forests where they come into more frequent contact with humans.
The Ebola virus occurs in fruit bats, which are natural hosts. When people in very poor communities face scarcity of food, they go further into the forest to hunt and butcher wildlife, known as bush meat. Bush meat is a major source of the virus.
These changes lead to something called an Allee effect, which occurs when changes in one part of the ecology cause populations in equilibrium to shift, increasing the chances that diseases affecting those populations will spill over to other animals and to people. Other diseases such as Dengue Fever have spread through deforestation, which forced animals out of their natural habitat. The virus then quickly adapted to secondary hosts and made the jump to humans.
Inadequate health care, poor health care facilities, non-existence infrastructure, and urban sprawl then help take the virus through human populations. Governments in turmoil, refugee influx, and other issues in the affected areas help contribute to the epidemic.
The World Health Organization has not been able to determine where the Ebola epidemic began. The first cases were diagnosed in 1976 near the Ebola River in Democratic Republic of Congo, which gave the virus its name. The current outbreak is the largest the world has seen since then.
To control this epidemic, governments need to reduce the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission by telling people to handle bush meat with gloves and thoroughly cook it before eating it. Outbreak containment measures and ways to reduce human-to-human transmission, which only occur with direct contact with bodily fluids, are also being put into place in the affected areas.

Plan to tighten food safety regulations after 'gutter oil' scandal
Source :
By Emily Tsang (Oct 30, 2014)
Hong Kong's health authorities plan to tighten controls over food safety following the Taiwanese "gutter oil" scandal, lawmakers heard yesterday.
The new regulations will be stringently enforced on traders who import, sell or produce edible oil, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said.
The city currently does not check imports of edible oil, instead relying only on food safety certificates that are issued by authorities in the exporting countries.
"We will ensure the exporting countries understand Hong Kong's food safety requirements and issue official certificates that meet our needs," Ko told the Legislative Council yesterday.
He said the relevant departments would discuss details of the government plan before a public consultation is launched early next year.
Earlier this month, the Centre for Food Safety banned all animal fat and oil imports from Taiwan after Kaohsiung oil supplier Chang Guann was found to have sold "edible" oils containing industrial lard oil and so-called gutter oil - oil recycled from restaurants and leather processing. It also ordered a recall of all animal-oil-related products.
Ko had said: "To protect Hong Kong citizens' health, it is necessary that we call back [the products] pre-emptively."
The ban covered lard, beef tallow, margarine and shortening.
Lawmaker Steven Ho Chun-yin said the food tracing mechanism now in place had failed to find the sources and distribution of Chang Guann's substandard lard quickly, undermining confidence in food safety.
Ko said: "The government is very concerned about these incidents and has been taking follow-up actions proactively."
Yesterday, another order came into effect prohibiting the import and supply of all food products whose ingredients included fats and oils produced by two other Taiwanese firms, Cheng I Food and Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial.
Food traders must recall and dispose of affected products supplied by them within 14 days.
Anyone who fails to comply with the order would be liable to a maximum fine of HK$100,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 months.
Ko did not say when the ban on imports of all Taiwanese fat and oil products would be lifted.

Traceback Investigations: Mapping the Maze
Source :
By Douglas Karas (Oct 29, 2014)
(This article by Douglas Karas was first published in the October/November 2014 issue of Food Safety Magazine and is reposted here with permission.)
In the spring of 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to hear from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health partners about cases of Salmonellosis. The case count grew quickly. In the first week of April, 93 illnesses were reported. The next week, there were 116, and, a week later, there were 139. By early May, the number of cases had nearly doubled. The final count: 425 people had been reported ill by the end of the outbreak. But by using traceback analysis, FDA was able to follow a trail of tuna shipments to its source, leading to the recall of 58,000 pounds of frozen tuna and helping to prevent additional illnesses.
FDA, CDC, and state and local agencies worked together in a huge effort to determine whether tuna imported from India was the culprit. During a multistate foodborne disease outbreak, public health partners conduct surveillance to identify and interview people who have become ill. CDC serves as lead coordinator to help detect the outbreak, define its size and extent, and to identify the source.
Investigators determined that this outbreak involved two strains of Salmonella — Salmonella Bareilly [1] and Salmonella Nchanga (Figures 1 and 2). Once the interviews with case patients began to point toward sushi as a possible carrier of the outbreak strains of Salmonella, there remained the complex task of figuring out what ingredient in the sushi might have been contaminated.
Because the evidence pointed to an FDA-regulated product, FDA took the lead on determining how the outbreak occurred, looking for ways to control it and identifying ways to prevent future outbreaks, which included testing foods, assessing food safety measures in restaurants and food processing facilities, and announcing food recalls.
FDA also traces foods to their origins, and, in this investigation, the traceback was a key means of identifying the food carrying Salmonella. Such tracebacks are painstaking efforts that require investigators to be both detectives and scientists. Teams must track a contaminated food or ingredient back to its source so that it can be taken off the market, preventing future illnesses. This process often requires collecting, reviewing and analyzing hundreds — sometimes thousands — of invoices and shipping documents. Investigators then connect that information to other bits and pieces gained from interviewing staff working at firms in the supply chain and from observations of investigators visiting the firms.
Searching for Clues in the Maze
All investigators know traceback is laborious. They might as well be looking for clues in a maze. First, the investigator must enter the labyrinth. But which of the hundreds of entrances is the right choice? Once inside, investigators have even more decisions to make. From the very beginning until the end, scientific methods and investigative skills must be harnessed to identify the source of the outbreak. And, once they reach the center of the maze, investigators must still find their way back, carefully choosing between pathways with more offshoots, dead ends, twists and turns. If they do everything right, investigators exit the maze with a map, new knowledge and understanding that can be used to prevent additional illnesses.
But the size of the outbreak can have a dramatic impact on the complexity of the investigation. Imagine standing before a maze, one that begins with just a few entrances but grows to have 425 entrances, each representing a reported illness in the outbreak tally. That was essentially the challenge presented to investigators during the 2012 investigation of the Salmonellosis outbreak linked to tuna. To determine how these people got sick, investigators stepped through certain doorways and followed clues. Analysts identified clusters of illnesses, selecting clusters at four restaurants to trace back. Then investigators painstakingly reviewed thousands of invoices and records from 45 companies that could have supplied the tuna to the restaurants. This allowed them to rule out 44 firms. The one remaining company supplied all four restaurants. They had navigated the maze and created a map, which we call traceback.
Inside the Investigation
It is hard to grasp the effort and difficulties involved in a traceback investigation. Before the restaurants and the supplier at the heart of the 2012 investigation were identified, this is what happened:
State and local health officials on the front lines identified and interviewed patients, working with CDC to determine what food was making people sick. The outbreak grew, and, as more information became available, the leading suspect became seafood, specifically spicy tuna sushi. But if people were made ill by sushi, what ingredient in the sushi might be carrying Salmonella? The candidates included mayonnaise, sesame seeds, fresh and frozen tuna, hot sauce, seaweed and rice.
FDA worked with state agencies to identify the brands of ingredients in common use at restaurants. The effort excluded all but tuna as the most likely candidate, and the traceback began.
During this step, the traceback team looks for clusters of patients who reported eating or shopping at a common location. It is important that the patients have a good memory of what they ate, or their purchases were documented in some way, such as with a grocery store shopper card or a purchase receipt.
Ideally, the team will identify at least three pathways to trace in different geographic areas. They must also determine what time period to investigate. If the time frame is too wide, it could bog down the investigation and collection of records. If it is too narrow, the team may miss vital information.
“It takes a team effort to stop an outbreak,” says Kathleen Gensheimer, M.D., director of FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network. “The FDA district offices, the federal, state and local authorities, scientists at FDA headquarters and in the field, and members of industry, everyone brings something to the table. Without that teamwork, it just couldn’t happen.”
During the investigation, investigators had to gain an understanding of each supplier’s handling of the tuna. Practices such as stock rotation and inventory control can help narrow which suppliers to follow. The availability and accuracy of records can make or break a traceback investigation at this point.
“Recordkeeping varies from one company to the next, so with each supplier you have to learn and understand a new record system and new operating practices,” says Gensheimer. “Many companies keep excellent records, but when recordkeeping is not good, it can lead to a dead end.”
Ultimately, FDA followed the trail of tuna shipments from the four restaurants through 45 separate suppliers before finding the source of the bad tuna.
Going Back to Move Forward
Finding the common supplier, though, is only half the battle. When FDA knows where the food came from, there’s still another question. Where else did this food go?
The next step is a trace-forward analysis, which can identify new pathways of exposure that need to be blocked. Analysts examined shipping records, invoices and information on product-handling practices to track shipments from the common tuna supplier to 20 additional restaurants that served tuna to customers who reported becoming ill during this outbreak.
The results of these traceback and trace-forward investigations quickly led to the recall of 58,000 pounds of frozen tuna and an alert to FDA inspectors at U.S. points of entry to detain further shipments of frozen tuna from this supplier to prevent future illness.
The Evolving Process
Although the traceback method was used as far back as the 1920s during a typhoid outbreak linked to fresh oysters in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the increasingly global marketplace makes the technique both more important and more challenging. FDA began to place more emphasis on traceback in the late 1980s and 1990s, as Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks were linked to fresh shell eggs, and relied on it in the late 1990s as more outbreaks were detected.
“The FDA’s focus on traceback really goes hand in hand with the evolution of FDA’s mission from one focused primarily on enforcement to a mission focused more on prevention,” says Jack Guzewich, a former senior adviser on environmental health at FDA. “We began to broaden our view of what evidence we could act upon — going beyond positive laboratory samples to acting on epidemiological evidence. That made a huge change.”
Historically, you can chart the rapid development of FDA’s traceback process from outbreaks of Cyclosporiasis linked to raspberries in the late 1990s. Prior to that, FDA traceback investigations were for packaged products, in which much of the needed information is on the package label, and, because these types of product have a longer shelf life, the risk of illness is prolonged.
“This meant a fairly straightforward traceback process could be followed,” says Guzewich. “Fresh produce, on the other hand, often has no such label, so a much more complex and difficult traceback effort is required.”
FDA adopted a traceback process in use by CDC and state regulatory and public health agencies at the time and developed it further. Shortly afterward, FDA issued its first guidance to its staff for conducting traceback investigations related to produce, which led to the development of a traceback course in the late 1990s.
In 1995, following the advent of PulseNet, a database of the DNA information from bacteria related to illnesses across the country, health officials could identify multistate outbreaks that might previously have gone unrecognized.
“FDA depends on close collaboration with partners at CDC, state and local public health, and food safety agencies to identify the outbreaks and to provide much of the information used in tracebacks,” notes Guzewich. “They could not be accomplished without this cooperation.”
Into the Future
Over time, FDA’s traceback methods have become more refined, and the agency has offered a course so that its staff and members of state and local agencies can learn about the techniques and methods developed and standardized over the past few decades.
“With this course, we want to formalize the traceback process and make what we’ve learned available to health officials across the country,” says Katie Vierk, a developer of the course and a team leader at CORE. “Responding to an outbreak is a very collaborative effort. If everyone is aware of and using the same process, it is a tremendous help during an outbreak response.”
The course covers all the steps in the process, from logistics to the information that must be collected, and how to best analyze and present the data.
“All of this is important, because our goal is to be able to document the traceback and, if needed, take appropriate action,” adds Vierk. “At the end of the course, students participate in a simulated traceback exercise using real data. We’re teaching practical, usable skills and we want to demonstrate that right away.”
Congress also had the intention of improving product tracing when the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was developed. In that legislation, Congress directed FDA to establish pilot projects for produce and processed food to explore and evaluate fast, effective food-tracing methods and technologies.
The pilot projects were completed by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), under contract with FDA, culminating in March 2013 with the release of a final report.[2]
IFT consulted with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agencies, consumer groups, and the processed food and produce industries on proposed foods and ingredients and product-tracing technologies for the pilot projects.
The 45 companies volunteering to participate in the pilots included tomato growers in the U.S. and Mexico, an import company, tomato processors, ingredient suppliers, processed food manufacturers, food distributors, retailers and foodservice chains.
Tomatoes were among several foods chosen for testing because they have been involved in a number of significant outbreaks, have a complex food supply chain, and were identified by most industry associations as a top candidate for inclusion.
A frozen Kung Pao-style meal containing domestic peanut products, red pepper spice and chicken was also chosen for testing, as were dry versions of this type of meal into which consumers would add their own chicken. Jarred peanut butter was also tested.
In the final report, IFT noted that the pilot participants appeared to have many of the tools and processes in place to contribute to a successful traceback by regulatory agencies, though there were challenges. For instance, most participating firms provided documents that could not be electronically manipulated. The formats of the documents allowed for easy transmittal of information, but forced those trying to use the data to either extract them manually or use an optical character reader. This slowed the analysis of the data and opened it to the potential for errors to be introduced.
In addition, inconsistencies in the terminology, numbering systems, formatting, legibility and language meant that traceback analysts had to spend additional time following up with the firms to make sure the data were accurate.
“The IFT experienced exactly what the FDA experiences in real outbreaks. During an outbreak, people are getting sick and we need to act fast but are stymied by these challenges,” says Sherri McGarry, the manager of this project and a senior adviser in FDA’s Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine.
The IFT final report also noted that some participating firms had never considered how their records would need to be pieced together with those of their suppliers in a traceback investigation. The report noted that the participants were surprised by the process used and expected an experience more like a mock recall, in which they would be provided with a lot number and asked to identify where the product was sent.
“Most firms have a good handle on what comes in and a good handle on what goes out, but there’s a gap in the middle,” says McGarry. “Here’s an example. Let’s say you have five shipments of a type of fruit from five different growers. Some of that fruit was repackaged and sent out unprocessed, while some of it was put into fruit salads. If a firm can tell you how the incoming shipments link to the specific outgoing shipment, it would speed traceback dramatically as we link shipments again and again through the supply chain.”
An added advantage was that industry participants were able to identify benefits from improved record-keeping. They reported that, depending on their place in the supply chain, better record-keeping could potentially improve internal processes, help expand distribution, reduce insurance costs and improve consumer confidence and brand reputation.
The findings of the pilot projects and input from stakeholders will help FDA recommend product-tracing improvements in a report to Congress, as required by FSMA. Also, FDA will use the information from these pilot projects and earlier studies to draft a proposed regulation, also required by FSMA, to establish record-keeping requirements for facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold high-risk foods to help in tracing products more quickly, reducing illnesses in the event of food contamination.
“Traceback is an important part of any foodborne outbreak response. Once epidemiology identifies a common food as the vehicle for the bacteria or virus, we still may not know what specific ingredient is causing the problem,” says Gensheimer. “At that point, traceback can be used to help identify the sources of ingredients and, potentially, the source of the ingredient carrying the contamination. Once we know that, we can get the product off the market.”

CDC Shares Data on E. Coli and Salmonella in Beef
Source :
By James Andrews (Oct 29, 2014)
A widely held belief among food safety experts is that the U.S. beef industry has made enormous strides in the past two decades to reduce outbreaks and recalls associated with beef. One of the many measures initiated by industry to help reduce illness associated with beef has been the Beef Safety Conference, held each year by the North American Meat Association.
This year’s conference occurred earlier this month in Chicago, and the organizers didn’t shy away from the hard statistics regarding how much more room for improvement is left when it comes to beef and harmful pathogens.
The conference included a presentation on beef-related illness data by L. Hannah Gould, Ph.D., leader of the National Outbreak Reporting System Team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite the two decades of progress made to reduce beef-related outbreaks, beef is still the third most common food commodity to be associated with illness, just behind fish and dairy, Gould said.
Anywhere from 11 to 28 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to consume ground beef raw or uncooked, Gould said. And, with 25 billion pounds of beef consumed in the U.S. each year, there is ample opportunity for foodborne illness.
CDC counted at least 75 outbreaks associated with beef over the five-year period between 2009 and 2013. Of those, 35 percent were caused by E. coli O157:H7 and 23 percent by Salmonella, leading Gould to focus on both of those pathogens in her presentation.
The presentation was split into two parts based on two separate papers CDC plans to publish in the coming months. The first is a 10-year update to CDC’s previous 10-year summary of E. coli outbreaks, while the other summarizes a history of Salmonella outbreaks caused by beef dating back to 1973.
Because neither paper has been released yet, Gould told Food Safety News that the data reported in the presentation should be considered preliminary and unpublished.
E. coli
E. coli O157:H7, the pathogen most commonly associated with ground beef, causes an estimated 96,000 illnesses, 3,200 hospitalizations and 31 deaths in the U.S. each year, adding up to $405 million in annual healthcare expenses.
CDC tracked 391 E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the 10 years between 2003 and 2012. Between those outbreaks, the agency confirmed 4,930 cases of illness, with 1,274 (26 percent) hospitalizations, 300 (6 percent) cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and 34 deaths.
Food is by far the most common source of E. coli O157:H7, accounting for 65 percent of cases. The other major sources of E. coli are animal contact (10 percent) and person-to-person transmission (10 percent).
The most common food source for E. coli turns out to be beef, which has been implicated in 55 percent of E. coli outbreaks. The next closest commodities are leafy greens (21 percent) and dairy (11 percent). All other meats and poultry together account for 6 percent.
Breaking those beef sources down even further reveals that ground beef causes 69 percent of related outbreaks, while steak is linked to 14 percent and “other” beef to 17 percent.
E. coli outbreaks tend to peak in July each year, which matches up perfectly with the time of year that cattle shed the most E. coli.
Beef was also found to be much more likely to sicken people who cooked it at home compared to eating out. According to the data, private home cooking accounted for 33 percent of all E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks, but it accounted for 56 percent of all beef-related E. coli outbreaks.
The major takeaway, Gould said, is that beef is still the most common source of E. coli, and young children are the most impacted age group. CDC also tracked more E. coli outbreaks from 2003-2012 than in the previous 20 years.
Despite serious efforts to control Salmonella, rates of Salmonella infection have remained steady for the past 15 years. And, in recent years, industry has taken a heightened interest in finding ways to reduce Salmonella contamination in beef.
According to CDC, beef is the fourth most common cause of Salmonella outbreaks. Salmonella, however, is not considered an adulterant in beef the way several strains of E. coli are considered adulterants in ground beef.
CDC tracked at least 95 outbreaks of Salmonella from beef between 1973 and 2011, resulting in 3,643 confirmed illnesses and 318 (9 percent) hospitalizations.
While roast beef seemed to be the predominant cause of beef-related Salmonella outbreaks in the 1970s and 1980s, ground beef has become the dominant source since 1990, and the data show a sharp increase in ground beef-related Salmonella outbreaks after 2000.
With antimicrobial resistance data available in 14 outbreaks, isolates from eight of those outbreaks (57 percent) were found to be resistant to at least one class of antimicrobial agent. Ground beef was the food source in all eight of those outbreaks.
Those antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella outbreaks were also found to be more virulent: While 9 percent of patients were hospitalized in outbreaks involving strains with no resistance, antimicrobial-resistant strains hospitalized 23 percent of patients.
The takeaway here, Gould said, is that outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground beef appear to be a growing problem.
“More needs to be done with Salmonella and beef,” she said.
Avoiding outbreaks caused by beef
Gould ended her presentation with some recommendations for reducing the number of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by beef. Namely, she said, consumers and food handlers need to be educated on the dangers of undercooked beef, including mechanically tenderized steak.
She also called for more judicious use of antibiotics in human medicine and animal husbandry, as well as tighter controls to prevent the contamination of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella in ground beef.
Gould added that she values the opportunity to share these data with the beef industry.
“Any time we have a chance to collaborate with industry is great,” Gould told Food Safety News. “There’s a shared desire to not have illnesses and outbreaks associated with beef and other meat products.”

Dung Beetles: Future Heroes of Organic Food Safety?
Source :
By James Andrews (Oct 28, 2014)
In 2011, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Oregon killed one person and sickened more than a dozen people. The outbreak was eventually traced back to organic strawberries grown at an Oregon farm, but how E. coli had managed to contaminate the strawberries remained a mystery for some time afterward.
Eventually, state health officials traced the outbreak to deer that had been rummaging through the fields and leaving behind droppings that contaminated some of the strawberries. And animal feces on the farm have been implicated or strongly suspected in a number of other outbreaks.
Perhaps most notably, in 1996, the organic juice company Odwalla recalled all of its bottled juices containing apple juice after the products sickened more than a dozen people with E. coli, found to be most likely originating from deer. Wild pigs were also suspected as the cause of the massive 2006 E. coli outbreak from spinach.
But what if organic farmers had a natural, unobtrusive way to help reduce the risk of contamination from animal feces on the farm? Enter the dung beetle.
Researchers at Washington State University have just embarked on a study looking into how effectively dung beetles can suppress harmful pathogens on farms by managing the contaminated feces of animals. The study is spread over 45 farms in Washington, Oregon and California and is being supported by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Research Extension Initiative.
The idea came from WSU entomology doctoral student Matt Jones, who told Food Safety News he was working on a study involving organic blueberry fields in Maine. The main concern on the farm was making sure that whitetail deer didn’t contaminate any blueberries with feces, and so Jones started to wonder if any feces-eating insects could be strategically used to reduce that risk.
“Organic farmers have so few options for reducing their risk of E. coli,” Jones said. “They fund an awful lot of post-harvest work for food safety, but relatively less is being done right on the farm, trying to work with what eats poop and what eats E. coli.”
In an earlier study, Jones and WSU Entomology Professor Bill Snyder inoculated animal feces with E. coli and monitored how dung beetles reduced the presence of E. coli on the feces after feeding. While they couldn’t say exactly how much of a reduction was made, they said it was statistically significant.
So how do dung beetles kill E. coli? Beyond eating it and using it to lay eggs, they also bury some of it, and some of the insects may even carry antimicrobials in their exoskeletons, Jones said, citing a study by a South Korean entomologist who found a species of dung beetle with exterior bacteria-killing properties.
A lot of the potential bacteria-killing capabilities of dung beetles simply haven’t been studied yet, Snyder said. This new research aims to fill in some of that informational gap.
Snyder noted that there’s little evidence for the effectiveness of some of the more expensive strategies farmers have taken to reduce the risk of fecal contamination, including extensive fence systems and poison rodent traps.
Instead, Jones and Snyder hope their research may demonstrate to farmers ways to use the natural organisms in their environment to mitigate fecal contamination.
Dung beetles have already been deployed in agriculture for other reasons. Australia, for example, has no native dung beetles, but cattle producers imported them to help manage manure.
In the field, Jones will monitor insect activity at a variety of integrated livestock/produce farms to see how feces are managed by the farm’s insects over time. In the lab, he’ll measure the survival rates of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria on feces and in soils collected by those farms while in the presence of various species of dung beetles.
“From a research perspective, it’s sort of an untapped area,” Jones said. “No one has really looked at a form of natural suppression for these foodborne pathogens.”
The research process is still too early in development to draw any conclusions for potential management strategies involving dung beetles, but the project includes funding for educational field days for farmers to learn how they might use the insects naturally occurring on their land.
In total, the research project is scheduled to proceed over three years.
“All different types of growers want to make sure people don’t get sick,” Jones said. “We want to try out some new ideas — introduce a new conversation.”

Humane Society Launches Whistleblower Program
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Oct 27, 2014)
The Humane Society of the United States has launched a whistleblower program for factory farm workers. The hotline will let employees at those farms, in slaughterhouses, and at livestock auctions report cruelty and animal abuse.
The hotline (1-888-209-7177) offers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who have committed acts of cruelty to farm animals. The hotline will be distributed to factory farm workers with the help of the United Farm Workers union. Hotline callers can remain anonymous if they want.
Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the HSUS said in a statement, “the bleak conditions endured by animals on factory farms are often made worse by overt violence an neglect. Pigs are often beaten. Chickens are stomped on. Lame cows are left for dead. We want whistleblowers to know that help is just a phone call away.”
Whistleblowers have uncovered abuse on factory farms for years. But big agribusiness, with the help of politicians, have passed “ag gag” laws in several states in recent years that make it almost impossible to document cruelty on factory farms. The laws criminalize undercover investigations of agricultural facilities, such as the HSUS expose of calf abuse at a Vermont slaughter plant that led to the plant’s closure.
These acts of abuse not only violate laws, but they put consumers at risk. Animals under severe stress are more susceptible to bacterial contamination. And those pathogenic microorganisms can be passed along to consumers.
Animal cruelty laws vary among the states, but usually make acts such as punching and kicking animals illegal. Some farms deny adequate food, waster, shelter, and veterinary care to animals.

Food safety loses; Australian sausage sizzle laws wound back for community and non-profit groups raising funds
Source :
By Doug Powell (Oct 27, 2014)
A sausage sizzle is a sausage with all the crap cooked out of it, served on a piece of white bread, sometimes with onions.
No idea why they can’t use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, or whole grain rolls, but it’s a different country.
Changes to ACT law will see fund-raising activities by community and non-profit groups exempted from onerous food safety regulations and a new category created for large events with a higher health risks for consumers.
Laws introduced in September 2013 sparked a community backlash, including over requirements that organisations holding more than five food sales each year appoint a trained food safety officer to prevent hygiene problems and food poisoning.
Organisers of sausage sizzles and other food sales in Canberra said expensive training and compliance threatened their viability.
Microorganisms don’t care a lot about politics.
Parents should care a lot about microorganisms.



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