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FoodHACCP Newsletter
08/10 2015 ISSUE:664

Letter From the Editor: The Unexpected Food Safety Problem
Source :
By Dan Flynn (Aug 9, 2015)
The Controlled Substances Act, which is not being enforced in states with recreational and medical marijuana, should be amended by Congress to explicitly allow any state marijuana and hemp policies without federal interference.
That polite “butt out” request was made to the federal government last week in Seattle by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Until then, the states do not want the federal administration to “undermine” their own marijuana and hemp policies.
The states going on record with their desire to keep the federal government out of their drug business comes in the 20th month of the longest-running recreational marijuana experience in the country so far — Colorado. Washington, Oregon, and Alaska have since joined the party.
About half the states, according to NCSL, allow medical use of marijuana. Colorado became the first state with legal recreational pot because voters approved it in a ballot measure. It passed mostly because of Colorado’s wide libertarian streak. After all, the late John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is the state song.
Recreational marijuana then became an unexpected food safety issue because of the large percentage sold in food products, or “edibles,” as they’re called. Smoking went out of fashion before smoking pot crossed over to the legal side, and it’s resulted in edibles being as much as half the market.
Colorado currently has 134 manufacturers licensed to make “infused” food products. They rely on 480 cultivators for their weed supply — and the potent TCH needed for their products — and they, in turn, keep supply moving out to Colorado’s 380 recreational pot stores.
Colorado voters probably did not entirely understand what they were doing when the ballot initiative made the Department of Revenue the marijuana industry’s only regulator. To say that the tax man has been slow on the uptake on everything from pathogens to pesticides is putting it mildly. Colorado’s marijuana enforcement unit in the Department of Revenue is still trying to catch up with the whole food safety concept. It currently has five stakeholder groups working on a rewrite of its 126-page rulebook.
Revenue’s pot cops do allow state food safety officials to serve on some of their stakeholder groups. They’ve not yet been able to make edibles easily identifiable as pot products. To be sure, Washington state, and, hopefully, the other states following along, are probably doing a better job of making sure that pot food manufacturing is safe and that cultivation practices are sound.
Over the years, the combination of marketing and safety roles required of USDA has often come in for criticism and legislative fixes. But when the state is in the drug business, it really does gets interesting. When recreational pot sales began in Colorado, for example, health officials started a public education campaign aimed at young people around the theme, “Don’t Be a Lab Rat.” The pot barons went nuts, and this year’s campaign theme was changed to, “Good to Know.”
Talk about conflicted.
What seems certain is that this fun is very likely coming to a state near you. Many of the medical marijuana states are preparing to make the jump to recreational pot either by attempted legislative action or through ballot initiatives. Residents of those states would be well-advised — whether they’re for or against the measures — to be prepared to work on the food and agricultural safety issues that will follow if they succeed.
Colorado residents also have been repeatedly warned by the likes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, that recreational pot sales are now permitted only because the existing Controlled Substances Act is not being enforced by the Obama administration. And that could change in the wink of an eye unless Congress changes the law.
Currently, the states are relying on a restriction in the Appropriations Act that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from certain enforcement of medical marijuana. NCSL wants to move the federal government from the field entirely and let the states serve their purpose as “laboratories for democracy” to work out what’s best for marijuana use and hemp production.
Colorado’s “Lab Rats” are asked all the time about the state’s marijuana experiment. Personally, I haven’t noticed much difference — even at outdoor music venues. A hint of that familiar smell may be in the air, but it’s been there for about 50 years.
At this point, Colorado’s law limits pot use to private residences or accommodating hotels. There is a concern that the state is making it too hard for visitors older than 21 to indulge. Another ballot measure could fix that by making recreational pot use legal at certain 21-and-over premises.
That could make it more noticeable, but probably not by much. This experiment is likely coming to your state, and other than making sure about the food safety of those edibles, there’s not much more to do about it.

Boise Co-op Violates Safety Regulations after Salmonella Outbreak
Source :
By News Desk (Aug 9, 2015)
The Central District Health Department in Boise, Idaho has found three critical violations at the Boise Co-op, which was the site of a large Salmonella outbreak earlier this summer. The inspection was conducted on July 24, 2015. The violations were corrected while the inspector was still at the facility.
The violations included meat in the deli’s walk-in coolers that are undated or past their expiration date. Temperatures that were too warm were discovered in the deli salad bar. Several salads, including chopped chicken, caprese salad, and pasta with chicken were held at incorrect temperatures. And in the produce department, employees were using a multi-surface cleaner that was not approved for use on food contact surfaces. Ben Kuzma, Boise Co-op general manager said that the violations were habits that the employees were trying to break.
These violations were found before the investigation of the Salmonella outbreak has been completed by public health officials. In that outbreak, preliminary tests found Salmonella in raw turkey, tomatoes, and onions in the deli department of the Co-op.
Several employees tested positive for Salmonella bacteria. They will not return to work until they have tested negative for the pathogenic bacteria two times.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, chills, headache, muscle pains, and blood in the stool. This illness can be passed from person-to-person, but it most often spread through contaminated food or water. The symptoms appear six to seventy-two hours after exposure, and the illness lasts for about a week.
While most people recover without medical attention, some become so ill they must be hospitalized. The long term consequences of a Salmonella infection can be severe, including irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis. If you have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. This information should be on your medical records.

Scientists Learn How Listeria Grows on Smoked Salmon
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Aug 8, 2015)
One of the biggest problems with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria is that it grows at refrigerator temperatures. That means that refrigeration, one of the methods traditionally used to control bacterial growth on food, does not work for this pathogen. Now scientists are learning how Listeria grows in vacuum-packed smoked salmon.
The study, published in the journal American Society for Microbiology discovered that Listeria uses different metabolic pathways when it grows on salmon than those used when cultured in the laboratory. Principle investigator Dr. Teresa Bergholz, who is the assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences at North Dakota State University-Fargo said, “there may be ways we can use this information to control the pathogen both in foods as well as in infected people.”
When the bacteria grows on salmon, it up regulates genes that let it use two compounds from cell membranes as sources of energy. Listeria and Salmonella use those genes to grow in human gastrointestinal tracts too.
Bergholz continued, “understanding how a foodborne pathogen adapts to environmental stresses it encounters on a specific food could allow food microbiologists to develop inhibitors of metabolic or stress response pathways that are necessary for the pathogen to grow or survive on that product.” The environmental stresses in smoked salmon that would affect bacteria are salt content and pH.
Even when lab cultures are modified to mimic the pH and salt content in smoked salmon, the bacteria still act differently in the fish. Bergholz also said, “in many cases, the addition of organic acids will slow or stop the growth of this pathogen on ready to eat meats and seafood.”
Food safety experts recommend that those in high risk groups, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems, avoid eating uncooked smoked salmon and other similar products. Those products can be heated to at least 165°F to kill the bacteria. Hot dogs, lunch meats, and cold cuts also fall into that category and should be cooked before serving.

Cyclospora Outbreak Spreads to Canada
Source :
By Patti Waller (Aug 8, 2015)
Public health officials are warning about an outbreak of the intestinal illness Cyclospora, with 83 cases are being investigated across Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a statement that says two people have been hospitalized from the parasite but no deaths have been reported.
The cases became known between May 9 and July 18 and are mainly in Ontario, but there are also some infections in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
The agency says the source is unknown but past outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.




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COOL Damages Much Lower Than First Thought
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Aug 8, 2015)
The legal wrangling over country of origin labeling (COOL) took a new turn this week, when the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) filed a brief in the World Trade Organization dispute over the issue. The brief states that the $3 billion sought by Mexico and Canada in retaliatory tariffs vastly overestimate damages.
The brief recommends that the damage limits be set at $43.22 million for Canada and $47.55 million for Mexico. USTR says that the methods used by the two countries to estimate damage was flawed and “severely overestimates the level of nullification or impairment attributable” to COOL.
Food & Water Watch’s Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, “the WTO has never certified Canada and Mexico’s absurdly high claims for damages from the COOL case and is only now considering what levels of penalties might be appropriate. The USTR filing demonstrates that the penalties could – indeed should – be a tiny fraction of the $3 billion penalty used by Congress to justify repealing or weakening COOL before the final penalty is assessed by the WTO.”
Most consumers want to see labels on their food, especially meats such as beef and poultry, that tells them where the product was grown, harvested, and processed.  Consumer protection agencies and watchdogs support this labeling. The WTO has consistently ruled against the United States on this issue. An arbitration hearing will be help in Geneva, Switzerland in September 2015 to consider the USTR brief

I want microbiologically safe, not ecologically clean food
Source :
By Ben Chapman (Aug 8, 2015)
Maybe something is lost in translation but according to the Bulgarian sheep-breeders association is telling folks not to eat raw meat or drink raw milk due to anthrax and brucellosis risks.
Biser Chilingirov, chairperson of Bulgaria’s National Sheep-breeding Association urged stock-breeders and farmers to wear wire mesh gloves when butchering animals to prevent themselves for getting cuts.shaun_the_sheep_wallpaper_border
Biser Chilingirov told people to purchase products directly from farms as they were “ecologically clean”.
Not sure what that means but I’d like to see some data.

CDC to Spend $110 Million Helping States with Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Source :
By Staff (Aug 07, 2015)
CDC to Spend $110 Million Helping States with Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Nearly $110 million has been set aside by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help states improve their ability to track and respond to infectious diseases. The funds have been made possible by the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement--an organization that helps states to fight and prevent outbreaks.
“These awards lay the foundation for those on the front lines--state and local health departments--to act quickly to prevent illness and deaths,” said Beth P. Bell, director of the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Approximately half of the funds were provided by the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. That portion is expected to pay for:
•Infectious disease surveillance
•Outbreak response
•Public health laboratories
•Health information systems
•Ways to fight zoonotic, vector-borne and foodborne diseases, vaccine-preventable infections, influenza and other infections
Some of the other line items awarded funding include:
•$17.4 million to track and prevent foodborne diseases, including increased support for the PulseNet surveillance system
•$9.2 million to help local, state and territorial health departments in building and maintaining disease detection, surveillance, and prevention programs in an effort to reduce the number of humans infected with the West Nile virus and other viruses caused by mosquitoes and ticks.
•$6 million to build teams of local, state and territorial health coordinators responsible for tracking vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and pertussis.
•$2 million+ will aid states in building their capacity for advanced molecular detection
•$1.5 million to help states fight the growing problem of Lyme and other tickborne diseases.
The $110 million awarded represents a $13 million increase over what was provided last fiscal year. The increased funding will go toward foodborne illness prevention, vaccine research, advanced molecular detection and other related projects.

New York Legionnaires Outbreak: 100 Sick, 10 Dead
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 07, 2015)
A Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in New York has sickened 100 people, killing ten of them. Although most of the case are concentrated in the South Bronx, the city has ordered owners and operators of cooling towers throughout the city to disinfect them if they haven’t done so within the last 30 days.
Legionnaires’ Disease is transmitted when water contaminated with legionella bacteria mist is inhaled. This water mist can come from showers, faucets, whirlpools, swimming pools, fountains or cooling towers in air conditioning systems. It cannot be transmitted from person to person.
“The order instructs the owners or managers to test and disinfect their cooling tower within the next 14 days,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, told CBS NewYork. “Failure to comply with the commissioner’s order is a misdemeanor. We are doing this out of an abundance of caution.”
The state is offering free legionella testing for all eligible buildings. “Providing free testing should help restore the public’s confidence that the government is taking every precaution possible,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CBS New York. “This expanded testing will also provide the state valuable data as to the amount of legionella in systems across the state and any potential dangers in surrounding neighborhoods in the Bronx or other parts of the state.”
Symptoms of Legionnaires Disease include pneumonia-like symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, confusion, aches and shortness of breath. These symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Blue Bell Builds Inventory for Return After Listeria Outbreak
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 07, 2015)
Blue Bell Creameries is building inventory for a return to retail sales after a deadly Listeria outbreak forced a temporary shutdown.  In a Facebook post, the company told customers to “stay tuned in the coming weeks for details of our return.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said several strains of Listeria were involved in the outbreak tied to the nation’s third-largest ice cream maker. At least 10 people were sickened, three people died.
Cultures of Listeria strains from patients were identical to those found in ice cream made at the company’s plants in Brenham, Texas and Broken Arrow, Okla. The earliest cases were identified in 2010.
After the ice cream was linked to the outbreak, Blue Bell began a series of product recalls, eventually recalling all of its products on April 20 and halting production at all of its locations.
The five-year span of the outbreak uncovered a longstanding Listeria problem at all of Blue Bell’s plants. On May 7th,  the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released reports that showed the company was aware of Listeria in its plants in 2013 but did not test the bacteria to discover if it was pathogenic or take measures to eradicate the  problem.
Also in in May, the national food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen filed a lawsuit stemming from the Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream. The suit was filed on behalf of David Philip Shockley, a 33-year-old Maryland man who developed Listeria meningitis that left him with severe neurological impairment.
Production of ice cream has resumed only at the company’s plant on Sylacauga, Ala. There is no word on when production at the other sites may begin.

Ohio Church Potluck Botulism Outbreak Nation’s Largest in 40 Years
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 07, 2015)
A botulism outbreak that sickened 29 people who attended a church potluck in Ohio is the largest botulism outbreak to strike the U.S. in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One person died
Botulism is caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which is found in soil and dust. Symptoms include: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, muscle weakness, descending paralysis, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath.
Most patients described onset of symptoms two days after attending a potluck at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church.Home-canned potatoes in potato salad were the likely source of the outbreak.

How Safe Are Snack Foods?
Source :
By Richard F. Stier
If one listens to the “food police,” consumption of snack foods, be they salty snacks, crackers, cookies, cakes, nuts or fried foods, is risking your life because these things will cause diabetes, heart disease and a wide range of other illnesses. Food police working in school systems have tried to dictate what parents can place in their child’s lunchboxes. They have gone so far as to inspect what kids bring from home, confiscate cookies or other items and send the child home with a note telling the parents how terrible they are because they sent their child to school with cookies or chips. Schools have even gone so far as to ban bake sales, a time-honored fundraiser, or mandate what can be sold at said sales: no cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and such.
This is a nutritional debate that will linger for years. Yet, sometimes, the best messages are forgotten. Years ago when I was in grade school, I distinctly remember that the school nurse came into my class one day and emphasized the importance of a balanced diet and that moderation was the key to good health. This is something that people tend to forget: A little of something is not going to hurt you, especially, with children, if they are active and burning calories as fast as they take them in.
Another point the food police seem to forget is that we are people and have been gifted with the senses of taste and smell, plus an appreciation of textures of food. People must eat to live, but there are many who live to eat. Chips, crackers, cookies and other snacks appeal to the senses—they taste good and generally have a very pleasing texture, which is why people buy them again and again. This basic premise is the cornerstone of the food business: repeat purchases. Margins on most foods are quite low, so the manufacturers want people coming back. Personally, I enjoy the occasional snack item, whereas some of the alleged superfoods simply taste terrible, such as kale.
So, let’s put nutritional issues aside and simply acknowledge that snacks are and probably will remain an integral part of our diet simply because of their sensory attributes. Instead, let’s focus on whether snacks themselves pose any food safety risks.
Physical Characteristics
Let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of most snack foods. If we consider the following, what is the most common characteristic?
•    Chips (baked or fried)
•    Crackers
•    Cookies
•    Nuts
•    Breakfast bars
Answer: These products are all low in moisture. They have low water activity (see Table 1[1]) and simply will not support the growth of food pathogens or even spoilage organisms.
Snack foods are prone to oxidation and staling, but these are quality, not food safety, issues. These foods will simply not support the growth of pathogens. However, there are potential concerns that will be addressed later.
Ingredients, Including Allergens
Snacks are formulated with literally every ingredient under the sun. Most people tend to associate snacks with products such as wheat, rice, barley or other grains and seeds. How a snack food is formulated depends upon where in the world it is being produced and the target market. Here in the U.S., we are seeing more of the supposedly healthy grains and seeds going into snacks. Whether these new formulations will stand the test of time remains to be seen. Again, we get back to consumer acceptance. If a snack product tastes good and the company is committed to maintaining those qualities, the item will probably remain in the marketplace.
Because snacks are formulated with all kinds of ingredients, many contain allergens, so there are people who must avoid these items. The “Big Eight” allergens upon which the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act focuses must be clearly labeled on the package. There are two options:
•    In the body of the ingredient statement, such as “Contains whey (milk)”
•    In a separate statement, such as “Contains milk”
Of course, it is up to sensitive consumers to read the ingredients statement to protect themselves.
Processors manufacturing snack items have an obligation to develop, document, implement and maintain an allergen management program, which has long been an integral part of third-party audit schemes such as those approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and private schemes managed by consulting firms. Allergen management will also be an element in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls program. How this will finally shake out remains to be seen, but we should know more details by August 30, 2015.
A company’s allergen management program should include but need not be limited to the following elements:
•    Vendor approval
•    Product development
•    Proper labeling
•    Receiving
•    Warehousing and storage
•    Production control
•    Scheduling
•    Cleaning and sanitizing
•    Control of rework
•    Product identification and recalls
•    Education of management and staff
There have been a number of articles published in this magazine over the years that provide details on how to build and manage an allergen control program. Rather than discuss them here, the editor invites you to look to past editions.[2,3]
But how well is the industry as a whole doing when it comes to allergen management? Not as well as it should if one looks at the statistics gathered by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (see Figure 1[4]). There has been an upward trend in allergen recalls over the past 25 years, which indicates that the industry needs to do better. Fortunately, the majority of the recalls were initiated prior to anyone’s getting sick.
Chemical Safety
As discussed, many snack items are grain- or seed-based. Are there significant chemical hazards associated with such products and the ingredients used to manufacture them? Processors should address mycotoxins when they conduct their hazard assessment of ingredients and finished goods. Most processors would deem the risk to be minimal.
Almost all snacks are cooked in some manner: baked, fried or oven-cooked. The heating process reduces water activity, helping ensure stability, imparts desirable sensory characteristics such as color and texture, and is deemed a kill step in some operations. There are other effects, however: the formation of acrylamide. Acrylamide is a naturally occurring byproduct of the cooking process and forms in a wide variety of foods, including coffee, chocolate, french fries, potato chips, cereal and even some fruits and vegetables. While acrylamide has been present in the human diet ever since we began cooking with fire, it was not known to be in food until 2002, when a group of Swedish scientists presented research that detected it in some baked and fried foods. Acrylamide forms naturally when high-starch foods are fried, baked or roasted at high temperatures. It also forms when foods are cooked at home and in restaurants as well as when they are made commercially. Since its intial discovery, there has been a flurry of research throughout the world on acrylamide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization have not determined whether this compound poses a health risk to humans and have, therefore, made no recommendations with regards to changing diets, but the European Union has developed a toolbox on acrylamide.[5]
The European Commission has issued guidelines for minimizing the formation of acrylamide in foods, including heating products to lighter colors and washing or blanching products prior to cooking to remove sugars. It really doesn’t matter whether the materials are conventionally grown or organic; acrylamide will form.
So, anyone producing snacks that are baked, fried or cooked in an oven should consider acrylamide formation in their Hazard Analysis. Depending upon the composition of the product and how it is produced, they can minimize its formation.
Processors producing fried snacks also should examine potential risks posed by abused frying oil. The results of the Hazard Analysis should indicate that the risk is quite low, since producing products in frying oils that are badly abused will compromise product quality and shelf life. In industrial frying operations, oil abuse is very rare. In fact, the German Society for Fat Science issued recommendations in 2000 that stated, “No health concerns with consumption of fats and oils that have not been abused.”[6,7]
Microbiological Safety
Earlier, we discussed how snack foods will not support the growth of food pathogens and should, therefore, be safe. Food safety is more than just formulation, however. A perfectly safe food, in theory, can become hazardous through mishandling, abuse after processing, the incorporation of contaminated ingredients or failure to properly manage certain processing steps. The best example and one that has been in the news in 2015 due to the sentencing of the company’s principals is the peanut butter products from the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America. Peanut butter is a low-water activity product that will not support the growth of food pathogens, but if the pathogen gets into the product, the chances of getting it out are slim. The low water activity and high fat content will protect the organisms from heating and other challenges.
Now, peanut butter and other nut butters might not be considered a snack item, but they are ingredients in many snack foods. If one looks at the recalls prompted by the problems at the Peanut Corporation of America and Sunland, a review of these records will show that many of the companies that were forced to conduct recalls produced snacks. There have been a number of food poisoning outbreaks associated with seemingly safe snack items (see Table 2[8]).
There are a number of lessons to be learned from these different outbreaks, and the food industry has taken them to heart. The lessons learned from the Salmonella outbreaks attributed to raw almonds in 2001 and 2004 were quite profound. In response to these outbreaks, the Almond Board of California (ABC) mandated that all California almonds be processed to ensure that they are Salmonella-free. Products that are treated to achieve a 4-log reduction may be labeled as treated and those given a 5-log treatment may be called pasteurized. Most important, the processes necessary to achieve these reductions must be established by a process authority approved by the ABC and must be approved by a Technical Experts Review Panel (TERP), a group of food safety experts appointed by the ABC. At the moment, TERP has approved several methods for ensuring the lethality of processes for almonds,[9] which include oil roasting,[10] dry roasting, treatment with propylene oxide and steam processing.
The methods developed by the ABC were all based on solid scientific principles. The program has been extremely successful and has been copied by producers of other nuts. There has been one gap in this technology transfer, however. One simply cannot transfer a technology established for almonds to another nut without due diligence, that is, without fully validating the technology for that industry. That includes ensuring that bacteria used as surrogates for Salmonella on almonds are the correct surrogate for another nut.
Vendor Approval and Quality
One of the key elements of the third-party audit schemes approved by GFSI, ISO 22000 and private audit schemes is vendor quality. This is also an element of FSMA. A vendor quality program should consist of a means for identifying, evaluating, approving, maintaining an ongoing relationship and evaluating performance. If there is an area where processors slip up, it is in the evaluation phase or during maintenance.
The outbreak cited earlier in potato chips (see Table 2[8]) was due to contaminated paprika used as a seasoning. Since potato chips are fried in hot oil at temperatures in excess of 300 °F, they are basically sterile when they leave the fryer. Improper handling or application of contaminated seasonings could create an unsafe product. This is why processors need to pay attention to ingredient quality and to their vendors. I have been unable to discover any information on whether the potato chip manufacturer involved in this outbreak had a rigid vendor quality program, but given the year, 1993, I would have my doubts. Would such a program have prevented the outbreak? Maybe, maybe not. It would have certainly reduced the risk.
An integral part of the vendor quality program is identifying and evaluating potential vendors. A risk assessment should be done to evaluate not only the ingredient, but also its source and how the supplier handles those ingredients. Suppliers must provide specifications for all ingredients, but the buyer should also have established guidelines for what they will and will not accept. Basic acceptance criteria might be “Salmonella-free at a certain sample size” and that the material be passed through a metal detector either in the final package or immediately before packaging. Today, most buyers mandate that the supplier provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) with each lot that they purchase. This is one area where vendor programs differ. Some buyers mandate that the COA for each ingredient be verified upon receipt. What is done to verify the COA should be based on risk. A high-risk ingredient might be tested for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes prior to its being allowed onto the production floor. An incident like the paprika contamination would raise the risk rating and should move the ingredient into a category where it is tested more often.
So, the bottom line is that snack food producers, especially those that use seasonings on products after cooking or frying, must have a well-documented vendor quality program. Yes, something could sneak through, but the odds are much less if one has a program, the more rigid and demanding the better.
Processing and Process Validation
The programs that have been established by the ABC to ensure the safety of almonds were discussed earlier. The goal of the ABC is to ensure that all California almonds receive a process sufficient to achieve a 5-log reduction of Salmonella Enteritidis. Almonds are only one type of the many snacks that have been alluded to in this article. What about cookies, fried chips, crackers, breakfast bars and the many other snacks that are produced? As we have said, most of these products have been heated in some way, shape or form. For many years, processors operated under the assumption that the products were safe since they were heated. But is this a valid assumption to make? Probably not for all products in the snack category. And processors are aware that this is the case. There is an ongoing effort in the snack industry to evaluate current processes and determine their efficacy when it comes to pathogen control. Process validation is one element that FDA will look at when the regulations for enforcement of FSMA are finalized. Will the processes given to snacks receive the same scrutiny as those given to products deemed to be higher-risk items? That is unknown at the moment.
If one looks at the processes currently used in the industry—frying, baking, continuous oven cooking and dry roasting—it is probably safe to say that if a company is frying or oil-roasting their products, they are safe. The Almond Board’s “Guidelines for Oil Roasting” are 260 °F for 2 minutes.[10] Most oil-roasting or frying operations use considerably higher temperatures that will enhance lethality.
However, what about the other products and processes? Some of these products may be a challenge, especially those products that incorporate inclusions such as chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, nuts or other pieces. Will these inclusions heat at the same rate as the rest of the snack? Processors also need to consider how the product will affect the death rate of pathogens. We have already talked about how peanut butter can protect Salmonella. Pathogens tend to be more resistant in products with lower water activity and those that contain higher levels of fats or oils, so these questions need to be considered when evaluating a process.
If one is producing such products, the manufacturer may have to focus more on vendor quality so that they are confident that all the components making up their snack food are safe and that their processes are designed to minimize the potential for contamination at all points in the process from batching through to packaging.
So, are snacks safe? Even though parts of this article point out potential hazards in this product category, snacks are one of the safest foods in the market. However, processors must make a commitment to ensuring that their products remain so. Food safety is not simply a function of the product and the process, but must include a commitment to ensuring the safety and quality of raw materials and ingredients, working to better understand and preferably develop data to validate processes and to developing, documenting, implementing and maintaining the food safety systems to protect your customers, your company and your brand. Maintenance of these systems falls squarely on the heads of top management. They are the ones who must provide the resources to ensure that every employee understands the importance of safe food and that the company has the tools to carry out this task. When management fails to adhere to this rule, problems may occur. All we need to do is look at what occurred at the Peanut Corporation of America to see what a management failure can do.  
Richard F. Stier is a consulting food scientist with international experience in food safety. He is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine. He can be reached at
2. Stier, RF. 2008. Building a world-class allergen control program: Part 1. Food Safety Magazine 14(5):28–31, 56.
3. Stier, RF. 2008. Building a world-class allergen control program: Part 2. Food Safety Magazine 14(6):24–27, 50.
4. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. 2015. USFDA Food Allergen Recall Incidents 1988–2015. Table used with the permission of FARRP.
6. Stier, RF. 2007. Ensuring the safety and quality of fried foods. Food Safety Magazine 13(3):30–35, 66–68.
7. German Society for Fat Science. 2000. Recommendations for the 3rd International Symposium on deep-fat frying – Optimal operation. Euro J Lipid Sci Tech 102(8–9):594.
8. Lehmacher, A, J Bockemuhl and S Aleksic. 1995. Nationwide outbreak of human salmonellosis in Germany due to contaminated paprika and paprika-powdered potato chips. Epidemiol Infect 115, 501–511.

Food Safety Talk 79: You’re Into Botulism Country (with Merlin Mann)
Source :
By Ben Chapman (Aug 7, 2015)
Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.3024499-poster-p-meat
Merlin Mann joins Don and Ben for a discussion on food safety and cooking using science at home.
The episode starts off with a discussion on sous vide and time/temperature combinations for pathogen reduction.
The discussion goes to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and the science of cooking, sensory and how heat changes food quality and safety. The guys talk about ground meats risks compared to intact muscle meats and then deconstruct risk assessments with bullet analogies. The guys move into pork and trichinosis and how risks have changed but messages stay sticky.
The show ends with a discussion on food safety myths, including confusing food safety and spoilage; storing butter on the counter and  ketchup in the refrigerator.
They decided to leave an in-depth discussion of Sloan for another day.





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Stronger Penalties for Food Safety Law Violators
Source :
By Luo Bin, (Aug 06, 2015)
Chinese prosecutors have announced much stronger penalties are in-store for those who break new food safety laws, which are set to take effect on October 1st.
CRI's Luo Bin has more.
The revised laws will include much stronger civil, administrative and criminal penalties for both offenders and their supervisors.
Those who violate the new food safety laws will face fines of up to 30 times the value of their products.
The current penalties have a maximum of 10 times the value of their products sold.
Food safety scandals have become far-too commonplace in China in recent years, including clenbuterol in pork, recycled cooking oil, pork harvested from sick pigs, medicine made with toxic gelatin and rat and fox meat passed off as being fit for human consumption... to name just a few.
Xiao Wei with China's Supreme People's Procuratorate says cases like this have created unease among Chinese consumers.
"Food safety is a major concern for the people's life and health. In recent years, all levels of law enforcement have been trying to intensify their efforts to crack down the crimes that produce fake or poisonous food and medicine."
The new amendments to the food safety laws also have specific language to deal with production supervisors who turn a blind-eye on illegal activities, as well as those who sell products to those producers who know it’s going to be illegally added to foods.
Huo Yapeng, an inspector with the Supreme People's Procuratorate, says regulators are going to have zero tolerance for government officials who also break the rules.
"Law enforcement is going to be paying special attention to food producing license and the use of food additives. We also have held zero tolerance and strictly investigate any malpractice by food safety regulators."
From the start of last year, around 650 government officials have come under investigation for violations of food safety rules.
Of them, around 430 cases involve charges of dereliction of duty, abuse of power, embezzlement and taking bribes.
Xiao Wei with the Supreme People's Procuratorate says issues connected to food safety are always evolving.
"Apart from issuing heavy penalties on food safety crimes, we are also hoping to strengthen crime prevention. We are planning to launch an educational drive to help better inform food producers about the need to put food safety as the priority to ensure people's health."
Prosecutors are also promising a new focus on food additives in the future.
For CRI, I'm Luo Bin.

Norovirus Outbreak at Bali Hai in San Diego
Source :
By News Desk (Aug 06, 2015)
A norovirus outbreak has been confirmed at the Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego at a Shelter Island journalism banquet on July 29, 2015. The awards ceremony was for the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists. At least 61 people were sickened, but officials haven’t identified the source of the virus.
Officials don’t know yet if contaminated food was the cause, or if the virus was spread person-to-person. Someone who prepared the food may have been ill and spread the virus. The symptoms of a norovirus outbreak include vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.
Three samples have come back from patients that were positive for “Genotype 1″ strain of norovirus. This is a less common strain than Type 2, which causes most of these illnesses.
The restaurant was inspected last week and about 65 people who had been ill had been interviewed. One patient was hospitalized in this outbreak. The food was served buffet style, with some warm foods such as roasted chicken, and salads.
The restaurant has been cleaned. No one who was not at the banquet, but ate at the restaurant, has been sick. The restaurant has an A grade from county health inspections, but it did have “major” violations during inspections. There was a problem with the holding temperature of food at an inspection on July 22, 2015, which must be below 40°F or above 140°F, and shellfish tags were not in the right place.

IAFP 2015: Pet Food Safety, Deadly Jerky Pet Treats, and Government Regulations
Source :
By Cathy Siegner (Aug 06, 2015)
Salmonella contamination of pet food and pet treats is challenging the industry and leading to major operational changes, according to Robert Buchanan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems at the University of Maryland.
Buchanan, followed by a veterinary medical officer from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a pet food regulatory attorney and consultant, spoke July 26, 2015, at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual meeting held this year in Portland, OR.
With decades of food safety experience at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FDA (he was a senior science advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition for 10 years), Buchanan knows about pathogens in pet food. (He’s also a dog lover and has two West Highland White Terriers.)
“Our pets have actually been one of the predictors of what has happened to humans,” he said, mentioning the contamination of pet foods with mycotoxins and melamine. Buchanan also said that the “inherent connections” between public health, animal health and environmental health present advantageous synergies for scientific research.
About 25 percent of dogs can be asymptomatic carriers of salmonellosis, Buchanan said, adding that pets can transmit the infection to humans via physical contact (e.g., petting zoos), environmental contamination (such as rainwater runoff), fecal material (handling cat litter, etc.), scratches and bites, and vector-borne routes (such as fleas and ticks).
Buchanan noted the changing public health status of pet foods, recalling the 2006 Salmonella Schwarzengrund outbreak associated with dry pet food and another one two years later in the same facility.
“In 2012, Salmonella Infantis caused a multistate outbreak involving 49 patients (people, not pets),” he said, adding that between all these outbreaks, about 53,000 tons of dry pet foods had to be recalled.
Salmonella bacteria can be brought into the home on a pet’s fur, via pet food or fecal material, or, in some cases, through direct consumption of pet food by the owner or by others in the household, Buchanan said.
“My brother’s favorite snack was a Milk-Bone when he was little. That’s actually done by more people than I would have thought,” he noted.
Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which FDA is in the process of implementing, there is going to be a “distinct difference in how pet foods are treated,” Buchanan predicted. “There’s been more testing of animal feeds and pet foods to assess the extent of contamination,” he said.
Salmonella data collection shows a substantial drop in prevalence after 2006, when it went from 13 percent to less than 9.8 percent now, he noted. Additional data on the long-term survival of Salmonella in pet food show that “it lasts for a very, very long time,” he said. treats have been identified as another Salmonella source, he said, adding that dog food and dog treats containing meat ingredients are much more likely to have Salmonella than those which are vegetarian.
He also said that switching from a dry pet food diet to one featuring raw foods was more likely to bring Salmonella into your house.
Buchanan said he had tallied up pet food-related recalls from August 2014 to July 2015 and found 11 separate recalls of pet foods and treats. “This is now a routine thing going on within the pet food industry,” he said.
The Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella outbreak in 2008-2009 prompted the recall of more than 3,000 products containing peanut butter, peanut paste and peanut meal, he said.
“About a third were actually pet foods or treats. So anybody in the pet food industry has to look at recalls and figure out whether they used any of those ingredients in pet foods,” Buchanan said.
Increasing consumer concern about pet food safety is finding its way into changing regulatory requirements for the industry, Buchanan noted, adding that companion animals aren’t viewed as just animals anymore, but as members of the family. He also said that FDA traditionally received more public comments regarding pet issues than anything except babies.
Since 2007, FDA has received more than 5,100 complaints about illnesses in dogs, along with 26 cats and three people, linked to jerky pet treats, said Lee Anne Palmer, VMD, MPH, supervisory veterinary medical officer at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). To date, there have been reports of more than 1,100 deaths, mostly of dogs, she added.
In her presentation, “The Deadly Jerky Pet Treats Mystery: Are We Close to Solving the Case?,” Palmer said the problem is linked to chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats from China, which she said are irradiated and shelf-stable for months at room temperature.
“The outbreak came to our attention in the summer of 2007 after the melamine incident was coming to a close,” Palmer recounted.
She noted that cases of Fanconi’s syndrome were also showing up (a normally rare kidney problem in dogs which people can also get), or a Fanconi’s syndrome-like disease, and that the American Veterinary Medical Association issued a safety alert about jerky treats made in China in September 2007 as a result.
Exposures associated with this disease are heavy metals, Palmer said, including cadmium, mercury and lead, plus ethylene glycol, Lysol, nitrobenzene and maleic acid. Affected dogs will exhibit extreme thirst and urination, but, “This is not a diabetes thing,” she said.
Laboratory testing of the products hasn’t resulted in anything definite, although FDA has found that the problem seems to affect smaller dogs and doesn’t seem to have a genetic component.
She compared the cases of two Pugs: One, age 10, who ate the jerky pet treats, developed renal failure, and had to be euthanized. The other, a 5-month-old puppy, ate the jerky pet treats, was promptly treated by a vet, and survived.
CVM now has about 400 samples from 230 cases that are still being tested, Palmer said. “The results show residues from five different antibiotics, and they found antiviral drugs, ethylene glycol, and xylitol,” she said. Some of the products contain glycerol, she added, and one test picked up propylene glycol. has been tracking Chinese jerky pet treat-related complaints by quarter and Palmer said that the agency wants people to continue voluntarily reporting information about their potentially affected pets and for veterinarians who may have related cases to submit pet urine samples for testing through the agency’s safety reporting portal.
“Are we really close to solving the mystery? I’d say we’re really not quite where we’d like to be. We’ve learned a lot about the processing of the product and hopefully we will get there,” she said.
Karl Nobert of The Nobert Group LLC, a regulatory attorney, talked about the impact of FSMA on pet food manufacturing and said that the basic regulations for pet food are that it must be “safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances and be truthfully labeled.”
Pet food manufacturing and distribution in the U.S. is regulated by FDA, USDA, Federal Trade Commission, the states, plus the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Advertising Division (subscription-based).
One pet peeve attorneys have with FDA is that the agency “is regulating from guidance documents,” Nobert said. As a result, “What you have is the agency’s interpretation of the regulation,” he said.
There is no pre-market approval required for pet food product development and formulation, so, “You are not putting your food in front of the agency,” Nobert noted.
Claims that can get pet food companies into trouble if there isn’t any science to support them include that a product maintains urinary tract health or offers low magnesium, tartar control, hairball control, and/or improved digestibility.
“Claims must be truthful and accurate; they may not be false or misleading,” he said.
Changes due to FSMA that he sees on the pet food industry horizon include government regulators being more proactive rather than reactive, inspecting foreign facilities, and requiring maintenance of certain records.
Pet_food2_406x250New enforcement tools under FSMA give FDA mandatory recall authority when there is a “reasonable probability” that food is adulterated or misbranded by failing to disclose major food allergens and/or a reasonable probability the food will cause serious adverse health consequences or deaths, and the responsible party pays for all FDA recall activity expenses, Nobert said.
He mentioned FDA’s “expanded reliance” on the Park Doctrine, established by U.S. Supreme Court case law, which states that a responsible corporate official can be held liable for a first-time misdemeanor (and a possible subsequent felony) under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act without proof that the corporate official acted with intent or even negligence, and even if such corporate official did not have any actual knowledge of, or participation in, the specific offense.
Nobert said this means that “those in a position to know [about a food safety problem] should have known,” signaling a likely increase in responsibilities and oversight by industry executives going forward.
He noted that FDA warning letters to pet food manufacturers typically involve missing ingredients, deviations from low-acid canned food regulations, misbranded product, and issues relating to allegations of illegal drug residues/adulterated/misbranded.
“You actually see very few letters going to pet food companies,” Nobert said.

FDA Seeking Information on Raw Milk Cheese
Source :
By News Desk (Aug 4, 2015)
On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started collecting public comments on cheese made from unpasteurized milk.
Agency officials want any information or scientific data that would help them identify and evaluate measures that might minimize the impact of pathogens in raw milk cheese.
The action is partly based on the findings from a joint FDA/Health Canada Quantitative Risk Assessment released Friday that included estimates for both countries of the number of servings resulting in one case of invasive listeriosis, prevalence of contaminated servings, and level of increased risk of invasive listeriosis per serving of raw milk cheese.
The potential health risks associated with consumption of cheese made from unpasteurized milk are greatest for people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women and children.
“The FDA recognizes that there is broad diversity in cheese manufacturing operations and approaches and that many factors go into ensuring the safety of the food,” the agency stated Friday in announcing the data call. “In issuing this call for data and information, we are interested in learning more about the standards and practices in use by a wide variety of producers, including the growing artisanal cheese manufacturing community.”
The public comment period will remain open for 90 days from Aug. 3.

Almond Board validates firm's food safety system
Source :
By Business Journal Staff (Aug 04, 2015)
The Almond Board of California’s Technical Expert Review Panel (TERP) announced this week that it has validated RF Biocidics’ state-of-the-art food safety equipment.
 The decision confirms third-party test results that show RF Biocidics’ chemical-free process in use at Madera-based Ready Roast Nut Company effectively eliminates pathogens like Salmonella from almonds.
“RF Biocidics prides itself on helping growers and processors navigate a new era of food safety,” said RF Biocidics Chief Executive Officer Craig Powell. “We are proud to be a part of the almond industry’s continued efforts to provide high quality and safe almond products for consumers to enjoy.”
Ready Roast is a leading supplier of dry roasted and oil roasted almonds and pistachios. The company purchased RF Biocidics’ Generation 3 APEX system in November 2014 and the system is RF Biocidics’ first Generation 3 APEX to receive TERP validation.
All almond pasteurization techniques used in California are evaluated by the Almond Board’s TERP.
After thorough testing and third-party laboratory validation, TERP reviewed results submitted by Ready Roast for the RF Biocidics Generation 3 APEX machine and found that it exceeded the Board’s requirements.
Unlike traditional pasteurization methods that use chemicals and may diminish foods’ nutritional value, RF Biocidics employs volumetric heating to remove pests and bacteria using radio frequency waves.
Essentially an energy absorption process, the RF process targets dipoles, or molecules with separated positive and negative charges, and exposes them to an oscillating electrical field. The dipoles rotate and create friction, which generates heat.
Application of the electric field also leads to the polarization of cells, which alters the cells’ metabolism, effectively removing bacteria, molds, insects and other undesirable elements often found in foods, without changing the nutrient content and taste.
The APEX system is specifically designed for use in the tree nut industry to eliminate harmful contaminants. Easy to use and operate, the APEX system is environmentally friendly and is suitable for use on both conventionally and organically grown products.
Sacramento-based RF Biocidics was featured in the March 20, 2015 issue of The Business Journal.
The company’s patented food safety process was developed at the University of California, Davis.
A subsidiary of Boston-based Allied Minds, RF Biocidics serves clients in food and commodities industries in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, South America and Australia.

California Fines Companies Selling Pesticide-Laden Food
Source :
By News Desk (Aug 3, 2015)
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has fined six companies that are charged with selling fruits and vegetables with illegal pesticide residues to predominantly ethnic minority customers. The fines range from $10,000 to more than $20,000.
Brian Leahy, DPR director, said in a statement, “These companies were importing and selling produce to stores that primarily cater to California’s ethnic communities. They were given ample opportunities to change their methods but chose not to do so.”
DPR inspects farmers markets, chain stores, distribution centers, and other facilities as part of its Residue Monitoring Program. Fruits and vegetables are randomly selected an tested to ensure that the pesticide levels on the produce falls within legal limits. You can see photos of the destroyed tainted produce at the web site.
The six companies fined are Top Quality Produce, that sold lychees from China, Burdock Root from Taiwan, and Longan from Thailand with illegal pesticide residues. Yi Bao Produce Group sold tainted produce, as did Primary Export International. Marquez Produce sold cactus leaves, tomatillos, and squash imported from Mexico with high pesticide residues. La Sucursal Produce did the same, as did V&L Produce. International countries may have pesticide limits higher than the United States, but produce sold in California and elsewhere in the country must meet limits set by the United States government.
The importers were warned about the illegal pesticide content of their products when the tainted produce was traced back to them. But the companies continued to import produce from the same suspect sources and sell the food. The produce was destroyed or quarantined.
Pesticides on food are a public health issue. These chemicals remain in the human body for years. Babies are born with pesticides in their bodies. Pesticide exposures can cause birth defects, Parkinson’s Disease, and may be linked to cancers and reproductive disorders.








Internet Journal of Food Safety (Operated by FoodHACCP)
[2015] Current Issues

Vol 17.25-31
Combined Effect Of Disinfectant And Phage On The Survivality Of S. Typhimurium And Its Biofilm Phenotype
Mudit Chandra, Sunita Thakur, Satish S Chougule, Deepti Narang, Gurpreet Kaur and N S Sharma

Vol 17.21-24
Quality analysis of milk and milk products collected from Jalandhar, Punjab, India
Shalini Singh, Vinay Chandel, Pranav Soni

Vol 17.10-20
Functional and Nutraceutical Bread prepared by using Aqueous Garlic Extract
H.A.R. Suleria, N. Khalid, S. Sultan, A. Raza, A. Muhammad and M. Abbas

Vol 17.6-9
Microbiological Assessment of Street Foods of Gangtok And Nainital, Popular Hill Resorts of India
Niki Kharel, Uma Palni and Jyoti Prakash Tamang

Vol 17.1-5
Assessment of the Microbial Quality of Locally Produced Meat (Beef and Pork) in Bolgatanga Municipal of Ghana
Innocent Allan Anachinaba, Frederick Adzitey and Gabriel Ayum Teye

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