Salmonella Sticks Better to Older Lettuce Leaves
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/salmonella-sticks-better-to-older-lettuce-leaves/
By Linda Larsen (May 10, 2015)
A new study has found that older leaves of lettuce support higher levels of Salmonella bacteria. The study, published in FEMS Microbiology Letters (ahead of print) in Oxford Journals, reinforces the concept of purchasing bagged lettuce that is as far away from the expiration date as possible.
Salmonella binds to leaves of salad crops and survives for “commercially relevant periods” according to the study. Scientists found that attachment levels were higher on older leaves than on younger ones. The differences were associated with leaf vein and stomatal densities, leaf surface hydrophobicity, and leaf surface soluble protein concentrations.
Foodborne illnesses from leafy greens are on the rise in this country. During the time period 1996 to 2005, leafy green consumption increased 9%, and leafy green-associated outbreaks increased 39%. Some of these outbreaks were widespread, suggesting that contamination occurred before the lettuce reached consumers.
In 2006, lettuce and tomatoes caused a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella that sickened hundreds of people in at least 19 states. In 2009, a Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 124 people was due to contaminated shredded lettuce. And lettuce was recalled for potential Salmonella contamination in April 2013.
Food safety cannot be taken for granted
Source : http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1791592/food-safety-cannot-be-taken-granted
By SCMP Editorial (May 10, 2015)
Food scares in Hong Kong are, thankfully, not a common occurrence. But with the population consuming 913 tonnes of rice, 2,270 tonnes of vegetables and copious amounts of meat every day, most of which is imported from elsewhere, the importance of food safety and monitoring cannot be overstated. While occasional incidents do shake public confidence from time to time, they help identify inadequacies in our surveillance mechanism and make improvements. What makes it to our dining table is, by and large, safe for consumption.
The suggestion by a lawmaker of a possible loophole for food arriving by sea is therefore discomforting. At present, food imported via Kwai Chung container terminal does not go through routine checks at the docks, as the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has no food inspection checkpoint there. Examination is done only when the food is moved to storage areas by importers, giving rise to delays and possible abuse, according to the lawmaker.
Whether that constitutes a serious loophole in our food surveillance remains to be seen. But there was a case in January where boxes of Japanese carrots from nuclear contaminated prefectures were found to have slipped through the mechanism. The food safety authority later said the produce had passed radioactivity tests.
Food arriving by air and cross-border land transport is currently subject to random inspections. Of the 240,000 samples taken for radioactive checks in the wake of the Japanese earthquake in 2011, only three were found to have exceeded the permitted levels. The system appears to be working well.
But as the January case showed, checks on sea imports are not as stringent. Although the amount of perishable produce arriving by sea is considerably lower than that by air and land, food safety cannot be taken for granted. It is good to hear that the department is aware of the problem and will study ways to step up inspection of food imported by sea.
Attorney Discusses Blue Bell FDA Inspection Reports
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/attorney-discusses-blue-bell-fda-inspection-reports/
By Linda Larsen (May 10, 2015)
Attorney Brendan Flaherty, who is representing people sickened in the Blue Bell ice cream Listeria outbreak, discusses the FDA inspection reports about the company’s facility. Since ice cream is a ready-to-eat food with no consumer “kill step” of cooking, any finding of Listeria in the plant is a serious issue.
Listeria bacteria was present in the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Blue Bell processing plant as early as March 2013, according to the report. Blue Bell was notified of its “improper cleaning” and continued to ship product from the facility.
The company knew they had a “pervasive Listeria infestation in their plant. In the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant, they sanitized using normal procedures, and subsequent tests found more Listeria. In other words, the cleaning processes were not sufficient. “The company had a problem, they knew they had a problem, and they didn’t correct it,” Flaherty said.
At least 10 people have developed listeriosis in conjunction with this outbreak. Three deaths of patients in Kansas occurred this year as a result of listeriosis linked to Blue Bell products. Last month Blue Bell recalled all of its products and stopped manufacturing.
The FDA publishes Form 483, the document produced after an FDA inspection of a regulated processing facility. It is the “essence” of violations of the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act during the inspection process, according to Flaherty.
The three strains related to the illnesses reported in Kansas, and four other rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found in samples of Blue Bell Creameries single serving Chocolate Chip County Cookie Sandwich and the Great Divide Bar ice cream products. The Texas Department of State Health Services collected product samples from the Blue Bell Creameries Brenham, Texas facility. Listeria monocytogenes was present in samples of Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream pints.
You can read the timeline of events at the FDA web site, and see how the outbreak and the investigation developed. Blue Bell has announced that they are carrying out an “intensive cleaning and training program” at all of its facilities.
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Global Food Safety Forum to Focus on Technology, Compliance
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/global-food-safety-forum-in-china-to-focus-on-technology-and-compliance/#.VVALxNiJjs1
By Cathy Siegner (May 7, 2015)
The third Global Food Safety Forum, being held June 13-14, 2015, in Beijing will explore ideas laid out in a newly released white paper entitled, “Food Safety Technologies: Key Tools for Compliance.” Chapters by authors in both the private and public sectors discuss recent technology development in food safety regulation and how technology intersects with enforcement and compliance.
The upcoming event is drawing officials from China’s food and agriculture agencies, along with representatives of research and industry groups, all with an eye toward further exploring that intersection and what it holds for the future.
Global Food Safety Forum logo copyChina makes perfect sense as a venue for such a forum since it’s possibly one of the largest food ingredient suppliers to the U.S., said Rick Gilmore, Ph.D., president and CEO of GIC Group, a Virginia-based company specializing in international agricultural and trade issues.
“Exporting there is a huge market, but we’re also using their ingredients for imports to the U.S. to third-market countries,” he told Food Safety News.
GIC Group and its Beijing partner, Bric Global Agricultural Consultants Ltd., founded the non-profit Global Food Safety Forum in 2010, which now has staff both here and in China with a mission to advance food safety in Asian markets.
Technology’s applications to food safety hold the promise of developing standards that can lead to more reliable food safety, Gilmore said.
“It’s a huge political, economic and technological issue, but given the complexity of the Chinese economy, it’s technology that’s critical,” he said, adding that mass spectrometers for pathogen detection and similar investments will enable China to leverage its regulatory agency resources to reach out to all the country’s provinces.
Other food safety considerations are tied to import/export markets and involve transparency, regulations and potential inspection obstacles. The volume of Chinese food exports is high, but Gilmore said the ratio is higher for rejection of those exports than for any other supplier.
“How do they avoid those cargo rejections? We are available to them, and we have workshops on it,” he said.
The Chinese are aware of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), particularly the foreign food safety verification aspect, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of implementing,
Gilmore noted that the Chinese government recently adopted some stringent amendments to the country’s food safety law in response to several high-profile scandals involving food products. The regulatory challenges there are greater because of the size of the population and the vast food production and distribution networks.
Then there’s China’s structure consisting of a central government and semi-autonomous provincial governments. While the U.S. has numerous agencies overseeing food safety, the Chinese now have the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), which was established in 2013 and replaced the former State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA).
Gilmore said that in the time he’s been involved with food safety issues, the Chinese government has made “a sea change” in its food safety regulatory architecture. They passed the food safety law amendments, toughened up enforcement, and found new modes of coordination with the provincial level, for example.
“They’re got a new pilot for food safety liability insurance that they’ll be implementing that we’re very pleased about, so there are some really important initiatives with these new amendments. They recognize that they have a long way to go, but they’ve made a lot of progress,” he said.
The forum will not shy away from issues such as food fraud or economically motivated adulteration of imported or domestic food products, Gilmore said, adding that such matters are important considerations for any food company operating in China.
The huge cultural differences between the U.S. and China make putting together a food safety forum an interesting experience, he acknowledged. One way the Chinese food culture varies from the American is that they cook all their vegetables, so the source of E. coli there is not likely to be fresh produce as it has sometimes been here, Gilmore said.
“Pathogen control in these open air markets is serious stuff. Avian flu and these things are very serious stuff. But human consumable products such as fresh fruits and vegetables or undercooked meat and poultry, you don’t get that as much,” Gilmore said.
The Global Food Safety Forum agenda and confirmed participants are available here.
German support for U.S-EU trade deal drops on food, safety worries: poll
Source : http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/05/07/us-usa-germany-trade-idUKKBN0NS0ZR20150507
By Krista Hughes, Richard Chang (May 7, 2015)
Support among Germans for a Europe-U.S. free trade deal has fallen sharply over the past year with many in Europe's biggest economy worrying about its impact on food standards, auto safety and the environment, a new opinion poll released on Thursday showed.
The Pew Research Center poll showed only 41 percent of Germans think the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a good thing, compared to 50 percent of Americans. While U.S. opinion was little changed over the last year, German support fell 14 percentage points, from 55 percent a year earlier.
The findings show the challenges European officials face in convincing citizens of the merits of the pact, which some experts say could generate $100 billion a year in additional economic output on both sides of the Atlantic.
More than a third of Germans, or 36 percent, think TTIP would be bad for their country, compared to 21 percent of Americans.
Six in 10 skeptics in Germany said they worried the deal would lower local food, environmental and auto safety
standards. Only 18 percent named controversial rules allowing firms to take cross-border legal action against governments as their top concern.
Half the American skeptics were most worried about the deal hurting jobs and wages, a concern that registered less with Germans.
The findings on TTIP were part of a broader poll on American and German attitudes toward each other, released on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
The U.S. interviews were conducted February 26 to March 1, among a national sample of 1,003 adults, with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.
The German interviews were conducted February 24-25, among a national sample of 963 adults. The margin of sampling error was +/- 4.7 percentage points.
China Proposes Tougher Punishments for Food Safety Violators
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/china-proposes-tougher-punishments-for-food-safety-violators/
By Staff (May 6, 2015)
China Proposes Tougher Punishments for Food Safety Violators
Last week, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted to amend its current food safety law in an effort to enforce stricter punishments for violations as well as more stringent rules and regulations regarding infant formula. The amendment is planned for enforcement on October 1, 2015.
The new food safety laws in China will contain 154 articles--about 50 more than the current version contains. There will be a special emphasis on sections that outline infant formula. Enforcement will also require additional resources and employee headcount--two necessities that insiders say are lacking.
In terms of discipline, food safety violators can expect more than fees, fines and license revocation. Now, anyone who adds inedible material to food items can be jailed, possibly up to 15 days. Other proposed punishments include fines of up to 30 times the implicated product’s value--the previous fine was up to 10 times. Stricter sanctions for others who may be aware of and do not report food safety violations--landlords, suppliers and food safety officials--are also in the works.
These new food safety efforts are part of China’s attempt to improve an already poor food safety reputation that has included the distribution and sale of contaminated meat and infant formula--the latter of which caused six infant deaths in 2008. China’s food safety scandals have involved major brands such as McDonald’s and Walmart.
K-State Food Safety Professor: Don’t Take Chances With Listeria
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/k-state-food-safety-professor-dont-take-chances-with-listeria/#.VVANONiJjs1
By News Desk (May 6, 2015)
Listeria contamination has caused 16 different recalls in just two months, and a Kansas State University food safety specialist has an explanation about why it is appearing in products typically not associated with the bacteria.
“Listeria is a group of bacteria that is found in cold, wet environments,” said Fadi Aramouni, Ph.D., Extension specialist and professor of food science. “What’s unusual about this type of bacterium is they actually grow and multiply under refrigerated conditions.”
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-dish-spumoni-ice-cream-dessert-italian-image31554372Listeria is typically found in ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs, refrigerated meat spreads, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, refrigerated smoked seafood, and raw sprouts.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, 16 different food products potentially containing Listeria have been recalled since March, including products such as hummus, frozen spinach, smoothie kits and, most notably, ice cream.
“A Listeria contamination in ice cream hasn’t happened for a very long time because the pasteurization process kills the pathogen,” Aramouni said. “However, Listeria may survive in the environment if there are not good sanitation procedures in place. Because it survives in cold, wet environments, it can be found in drains or other areas of condensation within a plant, such as the ceiling or light fixtures.”
He says the Listeria in ice cream also could be coming from the added ingredients.
“One of the things people may not know about ice cream is that it is not pasteurized after the inclusions are put in,” he said. “After they pasteurize the milk and make the ice cream, they add things like cookie dough or pecans. The ice cream is then placed in the freezer and does not go through any other type of pasteurization, so if the additional products are contaminated, Listeria may survive that process.”
Unfortunately, there is no way for consumers to tell if a product is contaminated with Listeria. But Aramouni said not to panic. Instead, pay close attention to food recalls and return the product or throw it out if it has been recalled because consuming the product can be dangerous.
“This bacterium can be deadly, especially for older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems,” he explained. “About 75 percent of these individuals who get listeriosis end up in the hospital, and about 25 percent of them die, so it is quite virulent for this group. Don’t take chances. Anytime there’s a recall, respect that recall and do not consume the food.”
Jeni’s Traces Listeria Problem to One Ice Cream Machine
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/jenis-traces-listeria-problem-to-one-ice-cream-machine/
By Carla Gillespie (May 6, 2015)
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has traced the source of Listeria problems at its Columbus, Ohio manufacturing facility to one machine used to fill pints, according to the latest update on the company’s website. On April 23, the company recalled all of its ice cream after a sample tested positive for Listeria.
The machine was not used to fill buckets for the company’s ice cream shops, but all the ice cream made prior to the discovery of Listeria will still be destroyed, said CEO John Lowe in the update.
“We’ll never be 100% certain how Listeria got onto the machine. Our job now is to rework our production kitchen into a facility that provides the best defenses against any contamination, and we have enlisted some of the world’s top food safety experts to help in that effort,” said Lowe, in the statement. “So far the conservative estimate of new investment in the transformation of our kitchen is $200,000, but we expect that number to increase. We will spend whatever it takes.”
The company is starting a testing and sampling program and will now process fruits and vegetables at a separate location. Other changes include more cooler space, color-coded hygienic zones to limit the potential for cross contamination, antibacterial foam spray systems for footpaths, and sanitary crystals placed around drain pipes.
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Hospital coffee shop among eight food safety closures
Source : http://utv.ie/News/2015/05/06/Hospital-coffee-shop-among-eight-food-safety-closures-36746
By Anita McSorley, utv.ie Health, Business (May 06, 2015)
A coffee shop in a hospital canteen and a Mace grocery store were among eight premises shut by food safety officials in April.
C.C’s Coffee Dock, based in the restaurant of Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co Meath, was closed for three days in April under the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations 2010.
The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) also closed a Mace grocery store based in Dunleek Service Station in Co Meath for one day under the same act.
A further three premises remain closed under the same act.
Joe’s Family Butchers in Johnstown, Co Meath was closed on 29 April in relation to the mincing of meat in the premises; BiaBox, a premises occupied by Growing Enterprise Together Ltd. at Jim O’Donnell’s Yard on Dock Road in Limerick, was closed on 24 April; and Polski Sklep Miesny, a butchers in New Ross, Co Wexford, was closed on 1 April in relation to the handling and cutting of raw meat.
Two more closures were ordered under the FSAI Act 1998.
Hartley’s Fish and Food, a fishmonger in Tramore, Co Waterford, was closed on 30 April in relation to an enclosed area to the rear, while Star Pizza, a takeaway on Denmark Street, Co Limerick, was closed on 29 April. Both these premises remain closed.
Closure orders are issued by the FSAI if there is, or there is likely to be, a grave and immediate danger to public health at the food premises.
The orders can be lifted when the premises have improved to the satisfaction of the authorised officer.
One prohibition order was issued by sea-fisheries protection officers on Shellfish De La Mer, a fish processing business on Dinish Island, Castletownbere, Co Cork. Scallops had to be withdrawn.
Prohibition orders are issued if the activities, such as the handling, processing, disposal, manufacturing, storage, distribution or selling of food involve, or are likely to involve, a serious risk to public health from a particular product, class, batch or item of food.
The effect is to prohibit the sale of the product, either temporarily or permanently.
Commenting on the latest closures, director of service contracts at the FSAI, Dr Bernard Hegarty, said that businesses need to be vigilant at all times in relation to food safety to ensure full compliance with food legislation.
“Food safety must be paramount. Time and time again, there are instances where food businesses are potentially putting their customers’ health at risk by not complying with their legal obligations for food safety and hygiene,” he said.
“Food businesses must recognise that the legal onus is on them to make sure that the food they serve is safe to eat. This requires ongoing compliance with food safety and hygiene standards,” he added
Whatcom County WA Updates Milk Makers Fest E. coli Outbreak
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/whatcom-county-wa-updates-milk-makers-fest-e-coli-outbreak/
By Linda Larsen (May 6, 2015)
Whatcom County Health Department has updated their investigation into the outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 associated with the Milk Makers Fest held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21/15 – 4/23/15. More than a thousand primary school children attended the event from all school districts in the county. Most of the cases are children.
Whatcom County E. coli lawsuitThe cumulative total as of 5/5/15 is 22 cases, with 7 hospitalized; and 20 probable cases, which is an increase of one probable case from Monday. The 22 cases include those with positive lab results, and clinical cases with close contact with a confirmed case. Public health officials are interviewing cases to discover if there was a common food or water source or activity in this outbreak.
The children did pet farm animals, and those animals have been the source of E. coli outbreaks in the past. The state public health lab is testing confirmed E. coli O157 cases to determine the serogroup. Public health officials should get the first results this week.
The symptoms of an E. coli illness include abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be watery and/or bloody, and a mild fever. Anyone who attended that event in Lynden, Washington and has experienced these symptoms should see a doctor immediately. An E. coli infection can worsen and become hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) if antibiotics are given to patients.
Washington’s Milk Makers Fest E. coli Outbreak Numbers Rise
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/washingtons-milk-makers-fest-e-coli-outbreak-numbers-rise/#.VVAQSNiJjs1
By Bill Marler (May 6, 2015)
Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 2.41.12 AM42 sick with 7 hospitalized – At least 1 with acute kidney failure – E. coli source, likely animal contact.
The Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 associated with the Milk Makers Fest that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21 – 4/23/15. Over a thousand primary school children from all of the school districts in Whatcom County attended the event. Most of the cases involve children who attended the event. Several older children involved with the event and some adults and close contacts of cases have also become ill.
WCHD is continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock. Washington State Department of Health Communicable Disease Epidemiology is assisting with the outbreak investigation.
Cumulative total: 22 cases* (7 cases have been hospitalized), 20 probable cases ** Change since last report of 5/2/15: no new cases, +1 probable cases, no new hospitalizations
*Cases include those with positive labs (preliminary presumptive positive O157 and final confirmed positives), and clinical cases with close contact with a case with positive or presumptive positive labs.
** Probable cases are cases with clinical symptoms and were associated with the event, but lab results are not available or labs were not done.
The state public health lab is testing confirmed E. coli O157 isolates for serogroup (to determine if O157:H7 or another related serogroup). Preliminary positive O157 isolates are regrown and have further testing done at a commercial lab to confirm O157.
All sound painfully familiar:
2005 washington fair assoc from Bill Marler
It is certainly not like we have not seen this before:
•AgVenture Farms Petting Zoo E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Lawsuits – Florida (2005)
•Big Fresno Fair E. coli Outbreak Lawsuit – California (2005)
•Cleveland County Fair E. coli Outbreak – North Carolina (2012)
•Crossroads Farm Petting Zoo E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – North Carolina (2004)
•Cuyahoga County E. coli outbreak – Ohio (2009)
•Lane County Fair E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Oregon (2002)
•White Water Water Park E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits – Georgia (1998)
For more information on the risks of zoonotic exposures, see Fair Safety Dot Com.
Court Update: Vermont's GE Labeling Requirements
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/court-update-vermonts-ge-labeling-requirements/
By David L. Ter Molen (May 5, 215)
Two months ago, I wrote about the lawsuit filed by several food industry trade groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to prevent Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) foods labeling law (“Act 120”) from going into effect on July 1, 2016. That article detailed both sides’ arguments over alleged health and safety concerns of foods made with GE ingredients.
On April 27, 2015, the federal court in that lawsuit made a very significant ruling. First, the court refused to delay implementation of the GE disclosure requirements of Act 120, which is mandated to go into effect July 1, 2016. In this regard, the court held that this requirement simply pertains to the disclosure of a “fact” and that deference was owed to the Vermont General Assembly’s finding that GE foods “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture, and the environment.” Based on these and other findings, the court easily rejected arguments that the GE disclosure requirement was preempted by federal law and that it violated the Commerce Clause and First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The only bright spot for the food industry trade groups was the court’s ruling that Act 120’s restriction on “natural” claims was unconstitutional.
Act 120 and the Lawsuit
Act 120 includes two key provisions—a GE disclosure requirement and a restriction on “natural” claims. The first provides that packaged processed food must be labeled with the words: “partially produced with genetic engineering,” “may be produced with genetic engineering” or “produced with genetic engineering.” The second prohibits food companies from using labeling, advertising or signage indicating that a GE food product is “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” “all natural” or “any words of similar import that would have a tendency to mislead a consumer.” Significantly, the Vermont General Assembly declared, in its “Findings” related to Act 120, that GE foods “potentially pose risks to health, safety, agriculture and the environment.”
Act 120 is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016. Accordingly, product changes and packaging redesign need to be finalized well before that date to account for lead times in the production and distribution of the products.
Shortly after Act 120 was signed into law on May 8, 2014, GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down the act on a variety of constitutional grounds. At the same time, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to delay implementation of Act 120 until a full trial on the merits of the Plaintiffs’ claims. In response, the State filed a motion to dismiss each of the Plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that they were all insufficient to state a claim as a matter of law.
The Court’s Ruling
The court ruled on both parties’ motions in an opinion spanning 84 pages that includes highly technical legal arguments. Although the GMA won a victory with respect to Act 120’s restriction on “natural” claims, the court rejected its request to delay implementation of GE labeling requirements. In this regard, the ruling is most notable for its First Amendment analysis, which discusses issues relating to the safety of GE foods and sets a very low bar in determining whether the government’s interest in mandating GE labeling is sufficient to justify compelling commercial speech. The foregoing points are detailed below. As for other aspects of the ruling, the court:
• Granted the State’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim that Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution
• Granted the State’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ claim that the GE disclosure requirement is expressly preempted or conflict preempted, in whole or in part, by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act
• Denied the State’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ claim that both key provisions of Act 120 are expressly preempted under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act, but noting that the Plaintiffs will need to demonstrate that their members include businesses regulated under these acts
Critical to upholding Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement was the court’s rejection of the Plaintiff’s argument that the requirement creates the impression that GE foods are unsafe or materially different from non-GE foods. In the court’s words, Act 120 “makes no statement regarding food safety, and thus any ‘overall impression’ that GE ingredients are ‘unsafe’ owes nothing to the purely factual information provided by it.” In addition, the court noted that food producers may, if they believe the GE disclosure requirement creates “a negative connotation regarding the safety of GE foods,” disclose additional information to correct “this allegedly erroneous impression.”
Act 120’s GE Disclosure Requirement Upheld
In light of the foregoing findings, the Plaintiffs faced an uphill battle in arguing that the GE labeling requirement violates the First Amendment because it forces companies to say things they don’t want to say and that are allegedly controversial without sufficient justification. In rejecting this argument, the court refused to apply the “strict scrutiny” or “intermediate scrutiny” standard. Instead, the court applied the far more lenient “reasonable relationship” test. Notably, in making this determination, the court stated that, to the extent any purposes or interests of the act “border on appeasement of consumer curiosity,” those requirements “enhance consumer decision making” and thereby further First Amendment interests. In other words, the court was supportive of compelling “factual” information from companies in the context of offering goods to consumers.
Then, in applying the “reasonable relationship” test, the court found a reasonable relationship existed between the compelled speech and the “substantial government interest” of alleged safety concerns of GE foods, along with the asserted purposes of accommodating religious beliefs and practices regarding GE and GE food, promoting “informed consumer decision-making” and addressing “the potential ‘unintended’ consequences from GE food production to non-GE crops and the environment.” And with respect to safety, the court deferred to the Vermont legislature’s findings and rejected the Plaintiffs’ assertion that the alleged harms relating to GE foods were not “real” by noting that, while the Plaintiffs might not find the relevant studies “persuasive,” studies did in fact exist on both sides of the issue.
Ultimately, this ruling suggests that the government could mandate disclosure of any “fact” that consumers express an interest in knowing about with respect to food products. This is a low bar. Significantly, the ruling reflects a lack of clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court on compelled commercial speech cases. Here, the court interpreted a Supreme Court case as providing a more relaxed standard of review when the government is compelling speech as opposed to when it is restricting speech. Other courts, however, have not made such a distinction.
Act 102’s “Natural” Claim Restrictions Rejected
Act 102’s restrictions on “natural” claims, however, were stricken down on First Amendment grounds. In contrast to the GE disclosures, this provision restricts, rather than compels, speech. Accordingly, the court applied “intermediate scrutiny” in its determination. The State argued that it may freely regulate and even ban the use of “natural” and similar words to describe GE food products because that usage is inherently or actually misleading. The State further asserted that GE foods are not “natural” because GE “techniques are, by definition, not ‘brought about by’ or ‘existing in’ nature, but instead are ‘manmade’ and brought about by ‘purposeful interference’ and ‘artificial’ means.”
The court, however, did not accept that argument:
[G]reen houses, fertilizers, pesticides, and even the watering, weeding, and pruning of plants are “manmade,” “purposeful interference” in plant production, not “existing in nature,” and thus can readily and reasonably be deemed an “artificial means” of food production. More particularly, altering seeds and plants from their “natural” state has occurred for centuries through techniques such as selective breeding, hybridization, cross pollination, and grafting. Act 120’s “natural” restriction thus subjects GE manufacturers to a standardless restriction that virtually no food manufacturer could satisfy.
Accordingly, the court found that “the potential benefits of prohibiting the use of undefined terms by only some food manufacturers [who sell GE foods] and the likelihood those benefits will be achieved remains remote, contingent, and speculative, turning almost entirely on how “natural” terminology is defined and which commercial speakers are banned from using it.” Thus, the court held that this restriction violated the First Amendment.
The “natural” claims restriction was also ejected as a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In this regard, the court observed that, “Without limitation and for no stated purpose, Act 120 purports to prohibit GE manufacturers’ use of “natural” terminology in signage and advertising regardless of where or how those activities take place.” Thus, the provision impermissibly regulated commerce outside of Vermont.
For obvious reasons, this ruling has severe implications for all food companies involved with producing food with GE ingredients. Although there are weaknesses in the court’s ruling and the Plaintiffs will likely move quickly to appeal the ruling, the appeals process will likely last 2 years. By that time, food companies will already need to comply with the GE labeling requirement. Accordingly, food companies will have to move forward now with plans for how to label GE foods sold in Vermont.
David L. Ter Molen is partner and member of the Food Industry Team at Freeborn & Peters LLP (Chicago).
Coffee, Tea, or Diarrhea? How to Handle Food on Flights
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/coffee-tea-or-diarrhea-how-to-handle-food-on-flights/#.VVAPTdiJjs1
By Sydney Ross Singer (May 5, 2015)
(This article by Sydney Ross Singer was originally posted on his blog May 1, 2015, and is reposted here with his permission.)
Airplane food has been under scrutiny for food safety breaches. But even the best prepared food can become a vector of disease when it is consumed using contaminated hands. Airline travel exposes people to extremely germ-infested conditions, making the inflight meal one of the most hazardous aspects of flying.
Besides the exposure in airports to international germs, the aircraft itself is a reservoir of bacteria and viruses. Thousands of people touch armrests and headrests, especially the reclining button. But the most infectious surface is the food tray, which people open and close with dirty hands, sneeze on, eat on, and talk over.
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-airplane-cabin-interior-passengers-entertainment-food-movie-image47528040Then there’s the bathroom. You certainly wouldn’t want to go there to wash up before eating. You’d probably come back with more germs than before you washed.
This environment is ripe for foodborne illness. Even if the food is fine, eating becomes an infectious process. What can a fearful flyer do? Here are some suggestions.
The airline can provide disposable hand wipes with each meal. There should be two, one for before you eat and one for afterward. But unless the wipe is bactericidal, don’t expect this to remove more than the visible dirt.
Wear gloves in the airport and throughout the flight and remove the gloves only to eat. Wear a separate pair of gloves if you need to use the restroom. Dermatological cotton gloves are comfortable, disposable, and available in drugstores.
Bring your own food and drink, including cups. Flight attendants routinely handle the rims of cups as they serve beverages, and they touch everything on the plane. They also have one of the highest illness rates of any profession.
To completely avoid the issue of getting sick from eating on a plane, try not eating. This also is a good idea since eating when flying can create uncomfortable intestinal gas and make you need to use the restroom, which is something you want to avoid if possible. But bring your own bottled water to keep from dehydrating, either by buying it, or by bringing an empty water bottle and filling it up, once you’re past the security checkpoints.
The best food safety practices can be undone by eating with dirty hands. Hand hygiene, especially in public areas such as airplanes, is key to avoiding infectious disease.
Urban farming food safety issues
Source : http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/urban_farming_food_safety_issues
By Phil Tocco, Michigan State University Extension (May 4, 2105)
Urban agriculture is becoming increasingly more popular. In many cases, growing safe, nutritious food can be achieved equally as well in an urban environment as it can be in a rural one. The process is similar in urban settings as they are in rural settings, but some special risks exist that are unique to the urban setting.
Beyond biological soil contaminants, urban areas may have significant concentrations of lead or other heavy metals in the soil. Former industrial sites may also have various chemicals contaminating the soil. It is very important to have a history of the use of the land where produce is being grown. Soil tests for heavy metals will begin to show the extent of the contamination. These two items will allow a clear picture of risk. When in doubt, creating raised beds and planting in imported soil may reduce the chances of chemical contamination of the produce.
Many resources present themselves in cities for use and creative re-use. Not all of these resources are of food grade quality. Anything that produce touches, from picking buckets to harvest preparation tables, needs to be of food grade quality. Though it may be convenient and cost effective to use recycled things, the equipment needs to be kept sanitary with frequent washing and sanitizing.
In the broadest sense, both stray animals as well as neighbors and homeless people can pose a threat to human health. The range of diseases stray animals and homeless people carry are broader and more diverse simply because both populations lack the means to adequately address their health issues. In an urban setting, it is important to consider the risks posed by homeless people and stray animals, especially in those areas that offer shelter as well as food, like hoophouses. Hoophouses may need to be periodically checked for evidence of entry and locked to ensure entry of only authorized personnel.
If you would like more information on the specific food safety risks posed by urban farming, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Workgroup at 517-788-4292 or email@example.com.
Do you Know How the Food Safety and Standards Act protects you
Source : http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/do-you-know-how-the-food-safety-and-standards-act-protects-you/article7169738.ece
By Deepa H. Ramakrishnan (May 4, 2015)
It has been over three years since the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 ame into force in the State. Complaints regarding any substance intended for human consumption can be sent to the Department of Safety and Drug Administration
What are the items about which users can complain?
Food items including biscuits, chocolates etc purchased from supermarkets, infant food, packaged drinking water, alcoholic drinks, chewing gum, meat, milk, vitamin and protein supplements among others. Issues with water used during the manufacture, preparation or treatment of food can be reported
What happens when a complaint is filed?
On receipt of complaint, the designated officer of the respective district lifts a sample and sends it to the one of the six food analysis laboratories approved under the Act. The laboratories are situated in Chennai, Salem, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore, Thanjavur and Madurai.
If the food item is not found up to standards the owner of the establishment is given due warning and asked to rectify the issue. The premises is inspected again and if the problem is set right, no action is taken.
Can consumers themselves lift samples?
Yes, they can, after informing the owner of the establishment about lifting samples. There are certain specifications regarding the samples though. For instance, at least 250 ml of milk is required to run various tests
What are the common complaints received by the department?
Complaints regarding food served in restaurants are very common. Sometimes, customers call the authorities concerned from the restaurant itself and officials reach the spot immediately and lift samples.
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