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5/30, 2003
ISSUE:67

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Advice on SARS and Potential for Food Transmission

Due to the heightened interest in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the concerns regarding the public health, the FDA is informing the public that there is no information that suggests food is unsafe for consumption and can transmit SARS.

SARS appears to be a respiratory disease spread by a coronavirus. There is information that indicates that SARS may remain on hands and surfaces for several hours. Based on this knowledge, FDA recommends strict hand-hygiene be enforced among food handlers and within the food processing industry. Strict hand-hygiene, includes washing hands with soap and water after using the restroom and after sneezing or coughing. In addition, food workers should not handle ready-to-eat foods, such as sandwiches, vegetables and cut fruits, with bare hands, but should use gloves or utensils for an extra level of protection. Strict hand-hygiene should be followed when preparing the food in individual homes as well.

The importance of hand washing cannot be overstated as a prevention method for SARS and other diseases. Proper hand washing, as described in the FDA Food Code continues to serve as a vital and necessary public health practice to eliminate the spread of food borne illnesses in retail food stores and food service. Contamination factors common in retail and food service environments inhibit the effectiveness of alcohol-based hand sanitizers when used in place of hand washing. They can be used as an additional safeguard following hand washing.

FDA is working closely with national and international public health and agricultural organizations to ensure that foods consumed in the United States remain safe as well as wholesome. As more information is acquired, the FDA will update its advice accordingly.

US survey reveals most Americans unaware of antibiotics in meat

source from: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/news/news.asp?id=2888
30/05/03 - A US survey, sponsored by a leading organic produce supermarket, has revealed that almost three quarters (74 per cent) of Americans are concerned about the presence of antibiotics in meat production, yet less than half (48 per cent) are aware that the meat they buy is commonly raised on feed that contains antibiotics.

The survey report went on to highlight that only 27 per cent of those surveyed are aware of the scientific dialogue documenting problems caused by overuse of antibiotics in animals raised for food. Once they learn of the reports showing a connection between the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed and its effect on humans, the majority (59 per cent) has a high desire to avoid these products and want meat and poultry raised without such antibiotics, the report reveals.
The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by Synovate (formerly Market Facts) in spring 2003, and was commissioned by Whole Foods Market, the largest natural and organic foods supermarket in the US. The market research was said to be representative of the general United States adult population and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. The results of the survey were further discussed among industry experts gathered in New York City at the Natural Meat - Raised to Taste Better roundtable to address the current state of natural beef and poultry, consumer concerns, antibiotic use and humane treatment of animals.

"Antibiotic medicines are losing effectiveness on humans due to their increased use in animal feed," said Margaret Mellon, Ph.D, JD, director of the food and environment programme for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Animals raised in natural environments rarely require the use of antibiotics. Americans who choose meat produced this way are making conscious decisions to ensure that antibiotics will still be working when they or their family need them."

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 per cent of all antibiotics in the United States are now fed to animals raised for human consumption in order to hasten the animals' growth or prevent illness amid crowded, unsanitary conditions on factory farms.

"The survey released today indicates Americans' strong desire to buy 'natural' meat. Yet, only one per cent of the total beef and poultry sales in the United States is considered 'natural,' meaning it comes from animals raised without antibiotics throughout their lifecycle," said David Smith, vice president of marketing, Whole Foods Market. "The major concern about antibiotic usage and the low awareness of its prevalence in meat production indicates a significant demand for antibiotic-free, natural meat once consumers become educated about the issue."

In the US the use of antibiotics in food animals has attracted the attention of Congress. Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Sherrod Brown (OH) plan to re-introduce bills soon to phase out the routine use of medically important antibiotics in poultry and livestock. Similar legislation introduced in the last Congress was endorsed by over 170 groups, including the American Medical Association.

Current EC legislation in Europe largely outlaws the use of antibiotics in animal feed as a growth stimulant. In Denmark a complete ban on antibiotics, except for the treatment of medical conditions, is said to have been successfully implemented and could well prove to have a strong influence on future EC legislation. At the end of last year the EC voted to approve the adoption of the Keppelhoff-Wiechert report on additives for use in animal nutrition. Commissioner David Byrne said at the time that he saw the move as a step towards the abolition of the European Union's drive to phase out antibiotics and other potentially harmful substances in animal feed. Legislation is now expected to phase out antibiotics as growth promoters in Europe by 2005.

Defining "Natural Meat"

In the US legislation is more liberal. There beef and poultry are not currently required to bear labels that clearly explain the presence of or use of antibiotics in feed - even the Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules for meat labelled natural do not require all antibiotics be eliminated. According to the USDA, natural may be used on the label when products contain "no artificial ingredients and are no more than minimally processed.

"Our definition of natural meat means that it was raised without any antibiotics, added growth hormones, or animal byproducts in its feed," said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president, governmental and public affairs, Whole Foods Market. "We want to educate consumers that alternative meat products that have been raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones are available. Whole Foods Market believes truly natural meats taste better, and they help avoid the health risk of developing antibiotic resistance. Our standards also include provisions for the humane rearing and slaughter of animals."

According to the Whole Foods Market survey, nearly eight in ten (78 per cent) Americans believe it is important for standards to be in place to more clearly define natural meat that include: meat and poultry raised without antibiotics; meat raised without added growth hormones; and animals raised and processed using humane methods. In addition, almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of Americans believe all meat and poultry products should conform to a regulated standard reflecting this definition.

Overall, four out of five Americans (81 per cent) have either bought beef and chicken that was not raised on feed with antibiotics or would like to buy it.

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket. In fiscal year 2002, the company had sales of $2.7 billion and currently has 143 stores in the United States and Canada.

WHAT IS NORWALK VIRUS? - UPDATED
source from: http://www.food-safety-news.com/
Food Safety Network Factsheet
http://www.eatwelleatsafe.ca/factsheets/Norwalk.pdf
Norwalk virus and Norwalk-like viruses are now officially known as noroviruses. Noroviruses can be transmitted via food, water or from person-to-person through contamination by infected feces and vomit. There are many different strains of norovirus, making it difficult for a person's body to develop long-lasting immunity.
Anyone can become sick from norovirus, although it mainly affects older children and adults. Noroviruses cause gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and the small and large intestines. The symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, headache and low-grade fever. Symptoms usually show up 1-2 days after being infected. Noroviruses are very contagious and there is currently no treatment for the infection but symptoms usually go away after 2-3 days. Some people may become severely dehydrated and may need rehydration therapy.
How do I avoid getting a norovirus infection?
Nororvirus is found in the vomit and feces of humans who are infected with the virus. Those infected can contaminate food and water if they do not properly wash their hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food. Noroviruses can also be spread by sharing food and utensils with an infected person. They can be found in shellfish, which can become contaminated from infected food handlers or from the dumping of raw sewage in the waters surrounding them. Travellers to areas where water may be polluted should drink pasteurized milk or bottled beverages without ice. Food can be contaminated either by direct contact with contaminated hands or work surfaces that are contaminated with stool or vomit. Tiny droplets from nearby vomit can also travel through the air and contaminate food.

Noroviruses do not multiply in food. Food handlers with symptoms of gastroenteritis should not prepare or touch food while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from the illness as the virus can still be transmitted during this time. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be discarded. There is no evidence to suggest that an infected person can become a long-term carrier of norovirus but the virus can be found in the stool and vomit of infected persons from the day they start to feel ill for as long as 2 weeks after they recover. Some employers may decide to reassign returning food handlers to duties away from direct food contact until this time period passes although with good hygiene, this step should not be necessary.
To prevent the spread of noroviruses:
Always thoroughly wash your hands with warm soapy water after using the toilet and before preparing foods
Protect drinking water supplies from contamination with raw sewage
Cook shellfish thoroughly
Wash fruits and vegetables before eating

Information Sources:
Association of State and Territorial Directors of Health Promotion and Public Health Education. (2002). Norwalk virus infection. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from http://www.astdhpphe.org/infect/norwalk.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). Norovirus: Food handlers. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/noro-foodhandlers.pdf

Government of Ontario. (2002). Chief Medical Officer of Health urges Ontarians to protect themselves from Norwalk Virus. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from
http://www.newswire.ca/

Health Canada. (2001). Material Safety Data Sheets ¡© Infectious Substances:
Norwalk virus. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/pphb-dgspsp/msds-ftss/msds112e.html

Illinois Department of Public Health. (2002). Norwalk virus and Norwalk-like viruses. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from
http://www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbnorwalk.htm

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2003, January 7). The Norwalk virus family. Retrieved April 16, 2003, from
http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~mow/chap34.html

For more information on noroviruses or other food safety topics, please call the Food Safety Network toll-free at 1-866-50-FSNET or visit our website at
www.foodsafetynetwork.ca

Although we strive to make the information on this fact sheet helpful and accurate, we make no representation or warranty, express or implied, regarding such information, and disclaim all liability of any kind whatsoever arising out of use of, or failure to use, such information or errors or omissions on this fact sheet.


Current Food Safety News

05/30. Advice on SARS and Potential for Food Transmission
05/30. Questions and Answers for Food Workers and Managers Regarding (SARS)
05/30. Canada Seeks Partial U.S. Beef Ban Lift
05/30. Mad Cow Disease Poses Little Risk of Spreading, Scientists S
05/30. No Deal on Biotech Food
05/30. Cow Carcasses Pile Up in Canada Mad Cow Scare
05/30. WHAT IS NORWALK VIRUS? - UPDATED
05/30. ANOTHER STUDY ON HACCP AND SMALL BUSINESSES
05/30. USA: Persistent failure to agree on GM foods report
05/30. China bans imports of Canadian cattle over BSE fears
05/30. USDA publishes irradiated beef specs
05/30. NRA's Educational Foundation creates new food safety positio
05/30. BSE in Canada - Hunt for Clues
05/30. Canada Plans for the Future -
05/30. Analysts Say Consumers Still Confident in U.S. Beef Safety
05/30. US survey reveals most Americans unaware of antibiotics in m
05/30. Meanwhile: Mad cow disease is a bit less scary
05/30. Canada continues mad cow testing
05/30. No trace of mad cow case: survey [China]
05/30. Bacteria bottled in ¡®chilled mineral water¡¯ [India]
05/30. Imported-food inspectors playing catchup
05/30. CTA nearing completion of food safety project
05/30. Zapped Meat For School Lunches

05/29. INVESTIGATORS HOME IN ON MAD COW SOURCE
05/29. GOV'T TO APPEAL RULING OVER DAMAGES FOR SPROUT GROWERS
05/29. Ban Dangerous Feed, Experts Say
05/29. MAD COW CONTINENTALISM: U.S. SHARES CANADA'S INTEREST IN BAN
05/29. A NATIONAL ACADEMIES WORKSHOP: EXPLORING A VISION: INTEGRATI
05/29. FIVE IRISH SCIENTISTS TO ADVISE EUROPEAN FOOD SAFETY AUTHORI
05/29. CRITICS SAY U.S. MAD COW ANIMAL FEED RULES INADEQUATE
05/29. TWO-PART SOLUTION TO BSE FEAR
05/29. OTTAWA LOOKS AT NEW RULES ON MAD-COW
05/29. BAN COW PARTS FROM ALL FEED
05/29. US Could Weigh Easing Canada Meat Ban
05/29. More Canadian cattle slaughtered as BSE investigation contin
05/29. Canada builds case to lift bans on its beef
05/29. Food Safety on the Web
05/29. Protecting Europe's consumers
05/29. Food: how intolerant are we?

05/28. NFPA Applauds USDA Announcement Permitting Use of Irradiated
05/28. An appeal to restaurants
05/28. Quorn's Fungus Shown to be an Allergen
05/28. Mad cow disease likely to have infected US cattle: report
05/28. More cattle being destroyed for mad cow testing in Canada
05/28. SureBeam processed fresh ground beef in Pacific Northwest
05/28. Discovery that deadly listeriosis often occurs in clusters
05/28. Restaurant reopen after salmonella outbreak
05/28. Europe aims for higher food safety standards
05/28. Concern over shellfish ban

05/27. VACCINATION BEFORE VACATION?: HEPATITIS A CASES SPUR SOME TO
05/27. CANADA'S PROBLEM AND AMERICA'S
05/27. POLITICIANS CLAIM IT'S SAFE TO EAT BEEF, BUT IS IT?
05/27. CANADA CHECKS HOW 200 FARMS USED RESTRICTED FEED
05/27. Mass Slaughter Suggested to Rebuild Consumer Confidence
05/27. NORWAY FACES HIGH HURDLES FOR JAPAN WHALE SALES
05/27. TESTS CLEAR CANADA HERD LINKED TO MAD COW
05/27. ALBERTA MAD COW TESTS ALL NEGATIVE
05/27. THERE'S NO LAW SAYING SICK COWS CAN'T BE EATEN. MAYBE THERE

05/26. CANADA HAS BEEN IMPORTING POTENTIALLY CONTAMINATED MEAL
05/26. RECYCLING OF COW PARTS HEADED FOR SHAKEUP: RENDERING INDUSTR
05/26. AMI calls proposed pathogen reduction bill 'misguided'
05/26. US Stockgrowers press for long-term ban on Canadian cattle
05/26. Change to BSE Rules [Japan]
05/26. Harkin Introduces Bill to Give USDA OK to Mandate Performanc

05/25. FSAI calls for herbal supplement removal
05/25. New BSE theory gathers interest
05/25. NIH Issues Nationwide Vibrio Alert [Korea]
05/25. SCHUMER PUSHES TRACKING SYSTEM TO KEEP MEAT SAFE
05/25. Marion County Sheriff Investigates Jail Food Supplier

05/24. Schools adjust as food allergies rise
05/24. New Zealand plastics industry claims safe food packaging
05/24. Conservatives demand 'fair deal' on food safety
05/24. 'Bacteria-eating' Viruses May Spread Some Infectious Disease
05/24. Snow Brand officials escape jail terms over food poisoning

05/23. Canadian Cow's Feed "Almost Impossible" To Trace-USDA
05/23. STRICT REGULATIONS MINIMIZE U.S. HEALTH RISKS FROM BEEF, SPE
05/23. THIS WAS A PROBLEM JUST WAITING TO HAPPEN
05/23. INSPECTION AGENCY STRETCHED; GETTING TO THE MEAT OF THE MAD
05/23. Canadian BSE Results at Least Week Away-Official
05/23. Theories Abound for Mad Cow Disease in Canada
05/23. Dairy industry says milk products are BSE-free
05/23. Politicians, activists slam Canada for BSE testing delay
05/23. Green light for irradiation?
05/23. Alliance calls for emergency debate on mad cow
05/23. Canada expands frantic search for mad cow cases
05/23. BSE risk in bones and blood used in meats
05/23. Restaurant open after salmonella cases
05/23. Questions About 'Mad Cow Disease' (Bovine Spongiform Encepha
05/23. Biotech-Food Fight
05/23. SHELLFISH TESTS TO BE REVIEWED
05/23. Kevin's Law Introduced
05/23. Senate Bill Takes on Meat and Poultry Pathogens
05/23. McDonald's Chief Stresses Food Safety

05/22. IAFP NAMES PRESTIGIOUS BLACK PEARL AWARD RECIPIENT
05/22. IAFP ANNOUNCES FELLOW AND HONORARY LIFE AWARDS
05/22. IAFP RECOGNIZES EXCELLENCE IN FOOD SAFETY
05/22. GAME UNLIKELY TO INFECT CATTLE: RESEARCH SHOWS NO EVIDENCE O
05/22. U.S. Won't Track Down Canadian Cow Imports
05/22. Mad-Cow Panic More Harmful Than Disease Itself
05/22. MAD COW MAY HAVE ORIGINATED IN SASKATCHEWAN
05/22. MAD-COW AND CHRONIC WASTING DISEASES: HOW THEY ARE RELATED A
05/22. SLEUTHS TRACK EVIDENCE IN CANADA'S MAD COW CASE
05/22. MAD COW INFORMATION AVAILABLE AT FOOD SAFETY NETWORK
05/22. PUBLIC COMMENT SOUGHT ON AMENDMENTS TO FOOD CODE
05/22. U.S. TAKES ANOTHER LOOK FOR MAD COW RISK
05/22. STATEMENT FROM THE CANADIAN CATTLE IDENTIFICATION AGENCY (CC
05/22. MINISTERS UNLEASH CONFUSION
05/22. British television investigation details chicken adulteratio
05/22. COOL supporter cites Canadian BSE to bolster mandatory label
05/22. BSE Scare: The Next Day
05/22. EC bans additive
05/22. Updated Question and Answer Sheet on BSE Available at MeatAMI.com
05/22. Germany gets tough on risk foods
05/22. Delay in mad cow test angers U.S. lawmakers, consumers
05/22. Canada Seeks to Stem Mad Cow Worry
05/22. BSE risk in bones and blood used in meats
05/22. A result of 9/11 could be better drinking water
05/22. Mad cow quarantines spread to Saskatchewan
05/22. Mad cow disease lesson in food safety
05/22. Public interest and panic key issues
05/22. Ex-grocery worker admits poisoning beef


Foodborne Outbreak
05/30. Shigella on the rise in Stephenson County
05/30. Food bug kills three over-80s in Yorkshire
05/29. CHINESE SCHOOL ATTEMPTS TO COVER-UP FOOD POISONING
05/28. Mushrooms tied to cases of salmonella
05/27. Caldas recover from food poisoning, move closer to final
05/27. Shop Closed Down


Shigella on the rise in Stephenson County

Task force meets again to discuss the outbreak
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
source from: http://www.journalstandard.com/
FREEPORT -- As the number of reported Shigella cases continues to rise, local and state health officials are stressing "persistent vigilance" in the struggle to control the outbreak.

The recently created Shigella Task Force met for the second time Friday to discuss the steady increase in cases and brainstormed additional safety precautions. In May alone, there have been 62 new cases. At the last task force meeting May 9, the total number of cases was at 111.

Shigella is a bacterial disease which can cause diarrhea, fever and cramps. It is generally only life threatening to the elderly, infants, those who are already ill, or those with weakened immune systems. Hospitalization may result if there is severe dehydration. Those afflicted with this disease generally get over their symptoms in a few days

The outbreak began last November, but a recent upswing in the number of cases led to the creation of a special task force made up of local and state health officials.

Lillian Brown, an epidemiologist from the Illinois Department of Public Health, said there have been 170 confirmed and probable cases for Shigella in Stephenson County, including 13 people who were hospitalized.

"Most of the cases are Freeport residents, but it's starting to move out into other communities," Brown said. "We've seen more cases in Pearl City, five cases in Ogle County that had ties to Freeport and one in Jo Daviess County. The increased count in May is partially due to increased surveillance and awareness. More cases are being reported."

In response to the outbreak, the task force has promoted safe hand-washing techniques, especially among young children, who make up the majority of the cases. A supervised hand-washing regimen has been instituted at local schools. Shigella is transmitted through fecal-oral contact, a fact which makes good hygiene extremely important in preventing the spread of the disease.

A high concentration of cases have stemmed from the Jones-Farrar Early Learning Center in Freeport. Gaye Anderson, the principal at Jones-Farrar, told the task force she is concerned Shigella is spreading from the students to the staff. There is one confirmed case of a Jones-Farrar staff member getting the illness.

"My staff is panicking," Anderson said. "It seems to be escalating. I don't know what else I can do."

The task force discussed running public service announcements emphasizing good hygiene; targeting summer schools, summer camps and pools for public awareness; and getting community officials and physicians to speak out about the need for caution during this outbreak.

Officials predict the number of cases may continue to increase as children are released from school for summer break. With kids at camps and pools, the disease may spread throughout the community.

Despite this possibility, Rebecca Wurtz, an IDPH physician, said the task force is working very diligently to deal with the problem.

"It's terrific to have such cooperation from the community," Wurtz said. "I think everybody's thinking and everybody's working hard to try and fix the problem. I think everybody's aware that as we transition into summer, the problem won't go away. It will just be dispersed more widely."


Current USDA/FDA News
Advice on SARS and Potential for Food Transmission
Questions and Answers for Food Workers and Managers Regarding (SARS)
Public Meeting To Address Agenda For 26th Session Of Codex Alimentarius Commission
FSIS Constituent Update/Alert: Updated May 30, 2003
U.S. Codex Office "What's New" Page: Updated May 29, 2003
New FSIS Directive Guides Inspectors in Verifying Food Safety Systems
OPPD (Policy) What's New Page: Updated May 28, 2003
USDA Releases Specifications For Irradiated Ground
Beef In The School Lunch Program
Questions and Answers on Irradiated Ground Beef
FSIS Notice 18-03: Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy (BSE) Surveillance Program
Notice of Request for Extension and Revision of a
Currently Approved Information Collection
FDA and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Announce Steps to Streamline
FDA BSE Update - Pet Food from Canadian Manufacturer
IKE Scenario on Microbiological Testing Program for E. coli 0157:H7 in Raw Ground Beef

Current Food Recall
05/30. Best Life International, Inc. Recalls Viga Tablets
05/30. California Firm Recalls Chicken Product
05/29. Florida Citrus Juice Company Has Recalled 100% Fresh Lime Juice and Lemon Juice
05/29. AvoCo International Has Recalled Western Guacamole
05/29. Ashdon Farms Has Recalled Ashdon Farms and Girl Scouts Chocolate Covered Raisins
05/28. Hasbro Has Recalled Easy Bake "N Design Cookie
05/28. Schratter Foods Has Recalled Ricotta Salata
05/28.. Shaw's Supermarkets Voluntarily Removes from Sale Shaw's Chocolate Graham
05/27. Calders Dairy Recalls Half and Half
05/25. Various sausages manufactured by WATSON FOOD may contain bone fragments

05/23. GEORGE LAMING / JERSEY OAKES FARM MAPLE SYRUP may be contaminated
05/22. Wegmans Announces Voluntary Recall of Wegmans Brand Graham Crackers

GOV'T TO APPEAL RULING OVER DAMAGES FOR SPROUT GROWERS

May 29, 2003 AP
TOKYO -- Ministry sources were cited as saying Thursday that the Japanese health ministry is planning to appeal a recent ruling by the Tokyo High Court ordering the state to pay damages to growers of white radish sprouts for branding the vegetable as a probable cause of a fatal outbreak of food poisoning in 1996 in Osaka.
The story says that the high court on May 21 ruled that the government must pay about 16.9 million yen in compensation to growers of "Kaiware" radish
sprouts for damaging their businesses by releasing unconfirmed information when it said the sprouts were the likely source of the outbreak of food
poisoning in Osaka caused by the O-157 strain of E. coli bacteria. The growers had demanded that the state pay 110 million yen to make up for
the lost revenue they suffered following the announcement, while the ministry had said the announcement was appropriate. The story adds that the government has not reached a final conclusion on what was the cause of the food poisoning.

Canadian Cow's Feed "Almost Impossible" To Trace-USDA
(Reuters)
By Julie Vorman

WASHINGTON -- Canadian and U.S. officials will find it "almost impossible" to identify the sources of all the food consumed by the Alberta cow infected with mad cow disease, a senior U.S. Agriculture Department official said on Thursday.

Contaminated animal feed is viewed as a possible source of the fatal nervous system disease in the cow, which was about six or eight years old when it was slaughtered in January.

However, some cattle industry officials and veterinary experts speculated the diseased cow from Alberta may have not been given any animal-based food supplements and instead was nourished with plant food.

The Tuesday discovery of the cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy has prompted the United States and other nations to halt imports of Canadian beef and live cattle. The United States has never had a case of mad cow disease.

A team of USDA investigators is working with Canadian officials to examine the infected cow's origins, where its calves were sold, other cattle that came into contact with the animal, and its food supply. The United States is a major buyer of Canadian cattle and beef.

"My sense is that it is going to be almost impossible to trace back (the animal feed)," said Bobby Accord, administrator of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.


"The only way this disease is transmitted is through the feed, unless you inject it into the brain of animals," Accord added at a news conference.

In 1997, the United States and Canada banned feeding cow remains or offal to cattle, after Britain's outbreak of mad cow disease was linked to animal feed that contained remains of sick animals.

FEED TESTED

To ensure compliance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested 1,200 samples of animal feed last year, according to Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine. Half the samples were from imported animal feed.

The FDA's most recent test results showed that 13 animal feed plants out of a total 1,555 had feed that contained some of the banned material, Sundlof told reporters.

However, the FDA testing procedure is being refined so that it can pinpoint cattle protein in animal feed instead of simply flagging all generic mammalian protein, Sundlof said. While cattle remains are banned from U.S. animal feed, other kinds of mammals can be ground up and used in it.

"As we get better and quicker methods, the intensity of that testing will increase," he said.

The FDA also conducts visual inspections of ship manifests at ports of entry for "anything suspicious that might include animal proteins," Sundlof added.

The FDA is also considering whether to ban poultry litter from animal feed as an extra safety step. "That is an issue that we have expressed concern about," Sundlof said.

The infected Canadian cow was slaughtered in January after an inspector suspected it had pneumonia. The animal's carcass was sent to a rendering plant, while its brain was held by Canadian officials some four months for testing.

"That (rendering) plant was inspected in February and passed its inspection," Sundlof. "We have no information that any of that product came into the United States. We're in the process of tracking that down."

Lisa Ferguson, a senior USDA scientist, said the government tested nearly 20,000 U.S. cattle last year for mad cow disease out of a total U.S. cattle slaughter of about 36 million.

More extensive testing would offer little extra protection for the U.S. food supply, she said.

"Testing every animal I believe sometimes leads you down a strange pathway," Ferguson said. "We are doing targeted surveillance. We are looking at the high-risk population where the disease would be most likely to show up." 5/22/03

Green light for irradiation?

source from: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/

23/05/03 - Institutional investors are starting to weigh the cost-benefits of irradiating ground beef, poultry and other foods for food service providers, food processors and food retailers, according to a leading adviser in the US.

Dr Mark McLellan, director of the Institute of Food Sciences & Engineering at Texas A&M University and President of the Institute of Food Technologists made the comments at an educational seminar on food irradiation at the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place, Chicago.
McLellan said that financial investors' interest in food irradiation is a new development, even as recent as the last six months, based on inquiries he's received at the Institute of Food Sciences & Engineering.

"The impetus is due to the 66 recalls for listeria or E.coli-contaminated beef, pork and poultry in 2002, totalling approximately 60 million pounds of meat, or nearly three times as much as in the prior year," McLellan said.

"The largest of these recalls involved about 27 million pounds of product and cost $81 million (¢æ68.7m), not including litigation costs," McLellan said.

"By contrast, Dairy Queen, one of the restaurant industry leaders in introducing irradiated hamburgers, estimates its costs for irradiated ground beef at 7 cents a pound. For the same amount of product, that would equate to $1.9 million, or 2.4 per cent of the cost of the largest recall. It's no wonder then that financial lenders and insurers are taking a closer look at irradiation," McLellan added.

"The primary drivers of food irradiation have always been the consumer benefits of food safety, through prevention of illnesses and deaths, and offering consumers a choice," McLellan said. "Additionally, there has always been the litigation issue, understanding that protection of consumers equates to protection of the company. Now, there's a second economic driver: the availability of investment capital for expansion and growth."

While the retail sector of the food industry has led the way with irradiated product introductions, especially over the past year, McLellan foresees an acceleration of irradiated foods in the restaurant and food service industries, especially with the recent USDA provision for offering irradiated ground beef through the School Lunch Program. "Public education will demystify the technology and lead to greater acceptance," he said.

Calling irradiation "a pillar of public health," McLellan said, "Just as there are few places today that sell unpasteurised milk, the same will be true in a few years for raw ground beef."

The Institute of Food Science and Engineering, part of the Texas A&M University System, brings together more than 140 faculty from multiple academic disciplines to solve complex problems in the food industry. Since IFSE's beginning in 1990, research by its scientists has resulted in advances such as better diagnostic tools to detect E.coli and Salmonella; enhanced foods with cancer-fighting nutrients; and new process technologies to enhance value of foods.

An Electron Beam Food Research Facility (EBFRF) at the Institute received authority in October 2002 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to process foods and other non-food products. Not only commercial food products are being processed, but also research activities applying irradiation technology on foods and non-foods are ongoing.

Senate Bill Takes on Meat and Poultry Pathogens

http://ens-news.com/ens/may2003/2003-05-22-09.asp#anchor2

WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2003 (ENS) - A bipartisan group of Senators and U.S. Representatives introduced legislation today to strengthen the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enforce food safety and sanitation standards for meat and poultry.
The bill would require the USDA to set specific limits on the levels of dangerous foodborne pathogens permitted in the food supply, such as salmonella and E. coli, and would confirm that the department has the authority to enforce its own standards by shutting down plants that continually breach basic health standards.

"It is shocking but true that the American people are still unprotected against fatal foodborne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella," said one of the bill's sponsors, Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat. "This legislation will help ensure that the government has the authority it needs to prevent contaminated meat and poultry from entering our food supply."

The bill, based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods, would give the USDA the much needed ability to better fend off industry driven law suits that have weakened the department's ability to ensure the safety of the meat supply, according to Caroline Smith DeWaal food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

"Consumers want safer meat and the industry certainly needs help from Congress before the industry's lawyers and lobbyists send it over a cliff," Smith DeWaal said. "[This bill] contains both good science and good old common sense which are urgently needed to restore consumers' faith in our meat-safety system."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne diseases cause some 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year. The legislation introduced today is called "Kevin's Law" in dedication to two year old Kevin Kowalcyk who died in 2001 after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The introduction of the bill comes two days after the United States banned imports of beef from Canada for fear of mad cow disease.

"Americans should not have to worry about whether the food on their dinner plates is safe," Eshoo said.

Safer onions?
source from: http://www.foodqualitynews.com/

27/05/03 - Avure Technologies has supplied a high-pressure processing (HPP) system to a US-based food company which aims to increase the safety of processed onion.

Kevin Greenwald, owner/manager of Winsoms, the Washington-based food company that bought the system from Avure, said: "As a produce department manager, customers always asked me for pre-chopped onions, but it just wasn't possible with conventional thermal technology.
With Avure's HPP system, we created an all-natural product with great taste, fresh texture, better appearance and an extended shelf life. We now offer a ready-to-use consumer product that is actually safer than a fresh-picked onion."

HPP destroys food-borne pathogens and spoilage organisms, ensuring product safety and enabling longer shelf life. Avure claims that its system helps various foods to retain more of their fresh taste, colour, texture and nutritional values than is possible with other food processing techniques that depend on chemical additives or heat treatments.

Winsoms, and production partner Hairington, launched the product line using a 35-litre HPP system. Hairington says it expects to install their second unit, a 215-litre system, by December 2003 to satisfy consumer demand.

Greenwald added, "Commercial users want our product rather than frozen or dehydrated onions, because they get a sweeter taste that isn't bitter, and a fresher, crunchier texture." Winsoms has already shipped commercial product, chopped Spanish onions, for use as an ingredient in premium salad dressings.

Hairington says it plans to process other premium onions for Winsoms. With the use of high-pressure and appropriate storage, these premium onions will be available in fresh chopped form months after their normal season ends.

Winsoms' brand of "They Just Taste Sweeter" retail products is expected to be introduced over the next six months in the US. Chopped onions for supermarkets are packed in 8-ounce stand-up, re-sealable bags. The retail products are intended to be marketed with a 45-day shelf life, although Winsoms has demonstrated shelf life up to 90 days without impacting quality. Avure's Fresher Under Pressure brand logo will also appear on the retail packaging.

Pat Adams, CEO of Avure Technologies said. "Consumers want convenience and freshness, and Winsoms delivers. Our high-pressure processing technology enables food companies to formulate new products with this unique, premium profile."

Avure Technologies Incorporated is a wholly owned subsidiary of Flow International Corporation. Based in the US, the company¡¯s Fresher Under Pressure HPP technology is said to destroy food-borne pathogens, including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.