Food Fraud: Money Scam and Health Hazard
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/11/food-fraud-money-scam-and-health-hazard/#.VHPgIk1WHs1
By Beth Krietsch (Nov 10, 2014)
Despite the common belief that food fraud in the United States is a rarity, the globalized nature of our food supply chain means many of our favorite foods and ingredients travel far and wide before they reach our plates, making adulteration and other types of food fraud a considerate problem here as well.
And it’s not just one food being called another (e.g. escolar as tuna) that we need to worry about. Many of the foods we consume every day are filled with ingredients that aren’t supposed to be there. Food fraud occurs with varying frequency in foods across the board—oils, dairy, meats, alcohol, sweeteners, spices and more.
As much as food fraud is a cost-driven economic issue, it’s important to remember that it is also a public health issue. Much adulteration involves unconventional contaminants that we know little about, making the health risks difficult to quantify yet still substantially problematic, and also hard to address.
“Food fraud is complex,” says John Spink, director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University, in an interview. “It happens because bad guys are good at finding small gaps.”
In a recent revision to Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, currently open for public comment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposes to address economically motivated adulteration (EMA) within the preventive controls rule rather than within the intentional adulteration rule. FDA suggests a focus on adulterants that are most likely to cause illness, as well as on circumstances where there has been a pattern of adulteration in the past.
The problem with this thinking, explains Karen Everstine, research associate at the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota, is that historically, many of the most impactful adulterants have been the ones that no one expected. After all, most cases of adulteration are organized by experienced criminals who work hard to avoid detection.
Take, for example, the Chinese milk scandal in 2008 when six people died and hundreds of thousands were sickened by milk products adulterated with melamine. Yet, prior to the incident, authorities and stakeholders were unaware of any potential problems surrounding the adulterant at hand. This is why proactive, rather than reactive, thinking is important in food fraud prevention efforts. Instead of simply testing products for adulterants, this could mean working to think more like a criminal, Everstine says.
U.S. companies looking to prevent food fraud in the products they source from overseas are increasingly turning to food fraud vulnerability assessments, which identify and investigate parts of a food supply chain most likely to be subject to food fraud incidents. These assessments look at factors including supply chain characteristics, relationships with suppliers’ quality assurance measures, fraud history, economic indicators and geopolitics, always looking to identify opportunities for fraud before it can happen.
“We try to determine why a criminal would perceive a crime opportunity,” Spink says. “When we understand that motivation we can try to put systems in place to prevent it.”
Vulnerability assessments sometimes involve looking at large amounts of data, such as hundreds of seemingly random incidents that when analyzed together may cluster into groups and help stakeholders focus on areas of concern.
Everstine believes big data has potential to play an important role in addressing food fraud in the future. For example, a protected data platform that facilitates data sharing between industry and government could be helpful for gathering intelligence.
“Its about finding a way to tackle the problem together and share the intelligence that will give people a way to proactively address things,” Everstine says.
A food fraud detection and prevention company called Inscatech conducts on-the-ground food fraud intelligence investigations as a way of getting closer to the root of the problem.
The company employs a network of undercover operatives around the world who discretely investigate food fraud on behalf of many large U.S.-based companies that are concerned about the authenticity and safety of the foods they import.
Some companies are proactive when it comes to making these investigations happen, but other companies remain more passive, worrying an investigation has the potential to open a costly and complex can of worms.
One way of reducing food fraud is to encourage companies to be more diligent about conducting background screenings of their suppliers, says Mitchell Weinberg, president and CEO at Inscatech. For example, if a commodity is cheaper than average, the buyer might want to figure out whether food fraud played a role in driving down that price.
“If companies were to source as much as possible in the U.S., our foods would be much safer,” Weinberg says. “But our industry is driven by costs, so they are going to markets outside the U.S.”
Campylobacter’s 2013 Toll: 845,000 Cases, $1 Billion, 162 Deaths
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/campylobacters-2013-toll-845000-cases-1-billion-162-deaths/
By Carla Gillespie (Nov 10, 2014)
When dozens of Wisconsin high school students developed Campylobacter infections after attending a football team banquet, it didn’t take health officials long to trace the source of the illness to raw milk provided by a parent who did not disclose its lack of pasteurization. Raw milk and poultry are often associated with Campylobacter, a pathogen that causes more damage than most people realize.
Campylobacter is transmitted when food or beverages contaminated with animal feces are consumed. Symptoms of an infection, called campylobacteriosis, include diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting. In rare cases, a complication called Guillain-Barré syndrome can develop. Guillain-Barré causes weakness and paralysis and can occur several weeks after the initial illness.
In 2013, just over 845,024 Americans contracted Campylobacter infections, at a cost- for medical treatment, loss of productivity and premature death, of $ 1 billion, according to a new report from the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Of the total cases, 790,930 did not see a doctor, 45,631 did, 8,643 were hospitalized and 76 died. In addition, 1,916 of the case patients developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, 86 of whom died.
To reduce your risk of contracting a Campylobacter infection, don’t drink raw milk, prevent cross contamination in the kitchen by using separate utensils and dishes for raw and cooked poultry and use a food thermometer and make sure poultry has reached an internal temperature of 165¢ªF before serving.
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Jiang pledges to eliminate food safety violations
Source : http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=223798&ctNode=445
By taiwantoday.tw (Nov 07, 2014)
The government will tighten oil monitoring procedures and crack down on violators as part of its commitment to safeguarding Taiwan’s food safety, according to Premier Jiang Yi-huah Nov. 6.
“Separate systems regulating local and imported edible, animal feed and industrial oils are now in place,” Jiang said. “We will leave no stone unturned in keeping problematic products away from consumers.”
“In addition, a comprehensive mechanism for managing waste oil products has been created, with the Environmental Protection Administration issuing permits to businesses for collecting used edible oil as a waste item.”
The premier made the remarks during a Cabinet news conference in which he delivered updates on the government’s campaign against illegal food practices. He also highlighted progress by the Office of Food Safety in the implementation of eight key measures for food safety.
According to Jiang, the government expects to finish examining 258 edible oil production factories in Taiwan by year-end. “The next phase will focus on inspecting raw materials for commonly used food ingredients,” he said.
On the lawmaking front, the premier said the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, which increases jail terms and fines for violators, has been sent to the Legislature. The Ministry of Health and Welfare also amended Article 4 of the Regulation Governing Rewards for Reporting of Food Sanitation Offenses to enhance incentives for whistleblowers.
This approach is supported by a three-tier quality control system: self-inspection by businesses, third-party assessments and government spot check and review. The initiative, which kicked off Nov. 7, will be carried out with the assistance of an additional 70 inspectors working with local governments.
At the same time, a food source tracking and management system was put in place Oct. 31 requiring edible oil production, processing, mixing and importing firms to establish their own food history record. Other food-related companies are required to follow suit at a later date.
“The government will devote maximum resources to the implementation, supervision and enforcement of the three-tier quality control system,” Jiang said. “It also invites food businesses to demand higher self-inspection standards, closer monitoring and stricter enforcement of laws.” (YHC-JSM)
5 Sick with 2 Dead from Listeria Tainted Bean Sprouts in Illinois and Michigan
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/5-sick-with-2-dead-from-listeria-tainted-bean-sprouts-in-illinois-and-michigan/#.VHPg0E1WHs1
By Bill Marler (Nov 7, 2014)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported tonight than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from mung bean sprouts and sprout irrigation water samples obtained during a routine assignment on August 13, 2014, at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Based on this finding, FDA conducted an inspection of the facility from August 12, 2014, through September 3, 2014, and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from 25 environmental swabs obtained during the inspection. FDA also issued a report with 12 inspectional observations, citing the firm for numerous unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance.
On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. agreed to conduct a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts and notified customers by telephone. Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of sprouts on August 28, 2014, and resumed production on September 15, 2014 after Listeria monocytogenes was not identified in finished product. From October 7, 2014, to October 31, 2014, FDA re-inspected the facility and identified Listeria monocytogenes in nine environmental swabs. FDA investigators issued another report to the firm, noting 12 inspectional observations involving unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance. Nine of these observations had persisted from the previous inspection.
On October 14, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of all products except mung bean and soy bean sprouts. FDA is working with the company to ensure that they do not produce sprouts until FDA has adequate assurances that this persistent and dangerous strain of Listeria monocytogenes is sufficiently controlled. Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is working to embargo all product at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and the other wholesalers that presently have product. In addition, IDPH has asked local health departments to contact facilities in their jurisdictions that have received the product to have the facilities either hold the product or destroy per the CDC recommendations.
FDA performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) on the isolates from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. to further characterize the Listeria isolates. Compared with PFGE, WGS provides a clearer distinction of genetic differences among Listeria isolates (strains that are highly related by WGS are more likely to have a common source).
Public health investigators used PFGE and WGS to identify cases of illness that were caused by highly related strains and therefore possibly related to products made at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. This included data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network of state and local public health laboratories, CDC, and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.
Whole-genome sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five ill people were found to be highly related to sequences of the Listeria strain isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. These ill people have been reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1). They became ill from June through August 2014. All five people were hospitalized, and two deaths were reported. Two of the five people were interviewed, and both reported consuming bean sprouts in the month before becoming ill.
The high degree of genetic similarity between isolates from ill people and from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples collected at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. shows that the food was contaminated with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that can cause serious illness. Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that the ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.
CDC, the states involved, and FDA continue to work closely on this ongoing investigation, and new information will be provided when available.
My friends at Barf Blog document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.
Listeria: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.
Mixed Results For Food Issues in Midterm Elections
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/11/election-recap/#.VHPhDE1WHs1
By Lydia Zuraw (Nov 5, 2014)
The national headline of Tuesday’s elections is that Republicans have taken control of the U.S. Senate.
This shift means that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will take over as Majority Leader for the 114th Congress and that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), who won a hotly contested race, will become Senate Agriculture Committee chairman.
One of the greatest surprises of the night was the race for New York’s U.S. House District 25. Democratic incumbent Louise Slaughter was not expected to have any trouble defeating Republican challenger Mark Assini, but in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the outcome was still too close to call.
With all precincts reporting and a partial count of absentee ballots, Slaughter was ahead of Assini by only about 600 votes. Slaughter declared victory around midnight, but with another 2,800 absentee ballots still to be tallied, Assini refused to concede the race.
Slaughter, a microbiologist who gives great weight to food safety issues and is an avid defender of medically important antibiotics, has served in the House of Representatives since 1987.
Races aside, there were four ballot measures Food Safety News was paying particular attention to — two city soda tax proposals and two statewide measures to require the labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods.
Berkeley passed its local measure to impose a 1-cent-per-ounce general tax on the distribution of sugar?sweetened beverages by a wide margin, while San Francisco’s proposed 2-cent tax failed to reach the required two-thirds majority.
Berkeley becomes the first city to impose such a tax after other initiatives in New York, California, Maine and Washington have failed. The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Voters in Colorado and Oregon both rejected GMO labeling. Colorado’s Proposition 105 failed by a 2-to-1 margin while Oregon’s Ballot Measure No. 92 failed by a little over 1 percent. Ballot initiatives for labeling genetically engineered foods have now been rejected by voters in four states since 2012.
FSA Chastises UK Retailers for Resisting Release of Campylobacter Stats
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 : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/11/no-incidence-of-food-contamination-from-rpcs/#.VHPh101WHs1
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.
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