QR codes can help: Market food safety success and failure or faith the wrath of conspiracy theorists
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/12/qr-codes-can-help-market-food-safety-success-and-failure-or-faith-the-wrath-of-conspiracy-theorists/
By Doug Powell (Dec 27, 2015)
What is the most effective way to provide information about how food was grown and prepared?
I’ve been touting the same approach to food safety information for over 20 years: figure out the best and most meaningful way to provide open access; embrace new technology, and no one wants to be the politician who tells constituents, no, you don’t deserve to know.
Restaurant inspection results should be disclosed as local communities are discovering around the world; but what’s the best way? We do research on that.
People say they want to know if something is genetically modified; I prefer genetic engineering, because all food is genetically modified in some manner, and sold sweet corn as GE 16 years ago.
Technology seems to have caught up with my democratic dreams and food information is about to flood the mainstream.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has agreed with the food industry to publish the results of industry testing of meat products, to provide a clearer picture of standards in the food chain. The results will also be made publicly available.
UK Nestle is preparing to give people instant access to information about the nutritional profile and environmental and social impacts of its products. Anyone who buys a multi-pack of two-finger Kit Kat chocolate bars in the U.K. and Ireland will be able to find out more about what they are made of, how they fit into a balanced diet and lifestyle, and how they were produced, just by scanning the packaging with a smartphone.
And Food Quality News reports that bakery manufacturers who want to differentiate themselves in a competitive market should consider communicating safety and quality efforts to consumers.
We do research on that too.
But Hershey’s Kisses?
Dan Charles of NPR asks, can big food win friends by revealing its secrets?
The special holiday version of Hershey’s Kisses, now on sale nationwide, is an icon of the food industry’s past, and perhaps also a harbinger of its future.
Back when Milton Hershey started making this product, more than a century ago, it was a simpler time. He ran the factory and the sales campaigns — although, for decades, he refused to advertise.
Today, The Hershey Company is a giant enterprise with factories around the globe. It owns food companies in China, Brazil and India.
That’s typical for the food industry, of course. Lots of food companies are huge. And with vastly increased scale comes growing skepticism about what those companies are up to.
Amanda Hitt may be an extreme case. She’s director of the Food Integrity Campaign for an activist organization called the Government Accountability Project, which tries to expose the food industry’s darkest secrets: dangerous slaughterhouses, contaminated meat and exploited workers. “This industry is almost always wrong, and always doing something messed up,” she says. “So yeah, when I look at anything they do, there’s a certain level of skepticism.”
Charlie Arnot, who has studied consumer attitudes as a consultant to big food companies, says consumers have lots of questions: How is this food made? Is it good for me? And they tend not to trust answers from big companies.
“There is a significant bias against Big Food,” says Arnot, who is also CEO of the nonprofit Center for Food Integrity in Kansas City. “In fact, the larger the company, the more likely it is that people will believe that it will put profit ahead of the public interest.”
Companies can’t change that with marketing campaigns, he says. The one thing that they can do — and the only thing that works, according to Arnot’s research — is open up, and reveal details of their operations.
Which brings us back to those Hershey’s Kisses.
Deb Arcoleo, who carries the freshly minted title of director of Product Transparency for The Hershey Company, has brought a bag of them along to our meeting, because there’s something new on that package. Printed on the bag, so small that you’d easily miss it, is a little square QR code. These are the codes that you now see in lots of places, like airline boarding passes.
Arcoleo takes my smartphone, aims it at the code, and I hear a beep. Suddenly, the screen of my phone is filled with information about these Hershey’s Kisses: nutrition facts, allergens in this product and details about all the ingredients. Lecithin, for instance.
“Let’s say I don’t really know what lecithin is,” says Arcoleo. “I can click on ‘lecithin,’ and I will get a definition.”
Tap another tab, and we see a note about whether this product contains ingredients from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Hershey’s created this system, called SmartLabel, but other companies are now adopting it, too. Very soon, Arcoleo says, there will be tens of thousands of products on supermarket shelves with SmartLabel codes.
Charlie Arnot, the food industry consultant, thinks that some companies may, in fact, be willing to do this. Consumers are forcing them to do it.
“Consumers are interested in the good, the bad and the ugly,” he says. They are saying, “Give me the information, treat me like an adult, and allow me to make an informed choice.”
Arnot is telling big food companies that “transparency builds trust,” and advising them to post on their websites documents that may contain bad news, such as outside audits of their food safety procedures.
But outside audits and inspections can suck; more of a corporate gladhanding to move product out the door.
There are good companies and there are bad companies: Hard to tell the difference when the same soundbites are manufactured in a factory somewhere that has probably been outsourced.
The best farmers, processors, retailers and restaurants should brag about their superior food safety and whatever technology they use to make safe, wholesome food.
Brag about it; embrace it, make it your own.
Largest Multistate Food Poisoning Outbreaks 2015: #6 Listeria in Cheeses
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/largest-multistate-food-poisoning-outbreaks-2015-6-listeria-in-cheeses/
ByCarla Gillespie (Dec 26, 2015)
The sixth-largest multistate food poisoning outbreak of 2015 was a Listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses produced by Karoun Dairies Inc. Thirty people in 10 states were sickened after eating cheeses distributed by Karoun and sold under a variety of brand names. Three people died and one woman had a miscarriage.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborated on the investigation of the outbreak. Together they identified five rare outbreak strains that had been causing illness since August 8, 2010. The most recent illnesses were reported during the summer of 2015.
Most of those sickened reported eating Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Mediterranean, or Mexican-style cheeses, including ani, paneer, feta, Middle Eastern-style string cheese, nabulsi or village cheese before they became ill. Brands distributed by Karoun were mentioned specifically. The case patients in this outbreak range in age from less than 1 year to 92 years old. The median age was 73. Seventy percent of those sickened were female. Twenty of 30 people with available information were of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent or shopped at Middle Eastern or Eastern European-style markets.
A recall was issued on September 16 for the cheeses sold under the brand names: Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, Gopi, and Yanni. The cheeses were vacuum packed, in jars or in pails in weights varying from 5 ounces to 30 pounds and distributed to grocery stores and food service accounts. A complete list of retailers that sold the cheeses was not made available but two stores that carried them were Publix and Sam’s Club.
The cheeses were made for Karoun Dairies at Central Valley Cheese, Inc. manufacturing facility in Turlock, California. FDA investigators found Listeria closely related to the outbreak strains at the Central Valley Cheese, establishing an epidemiologic link between the cheeses and ill consumers.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Those at high risk of Listeria infections are young children, seniors, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and infections in newborns.
By state, the number of illnesses were as follows: California (18), Colorado (1), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), New York (2), Ohio (1), Tennessee (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Twenty eight people were hospitalized. Six of the illnesses were pregnancy-related, with one resulting in a miscarriage. There were three deaths reported, one in California in 2012, one in Ohio in 2012 and one in California in 2015.
Lettuce is overrated: Bad bugs in leafy greens
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/12/lettuce-is-overrated-bad-bugs-in-leafy-greens/
By Doug Powell (Dec 25, 2015)
Microbial pathogen infiltration in fresh leafy greens is a significant food safety risk factor.
In various postharvest operations, vacuum cooling is a critical process for maintaining the quality of fresh produce. The overall goal of this study was to evaluate the risk of vacuum cooling-induced infiltration of Escherichia coliO157:H7 into lettuce using multiphoton microscopy.
Multiphoton imaging was chosen as the method to locate E. coli O157:H7 within an intact lettuce leaf due to its high spatial resolution, low background fluorescence, and near-infrared (NIR) excitation source compared to those of conventional confocal microscopy. The variables vacuum cooling, surface moisture, and leaf side were evaluated in a three-way factorial study with E. coli O157:H7 on lettuce. A total of 188 image stacks were collected. The images were analyzed for E. coli O157:H7 association with stomata and E. coli O157:H7 infiltration. The quantitative imaging data were statistically analyzed using analysis of variance (ANOVA).
The results indicate that the low-moisture condition led to an increased risk of microbial association with stomata (P < 0.05). Additionally, the interaction between vacuum cooling levels and moisture levels led to an increased risk of infiltration (P < 0.05). This study also demonstrates the potential of multiphoton imaging for improving sensitivity and resolution of imaging-based measurements of microbial interactions with intact leaf structures, including infiltration.
Influence of vacuum cooling on Escherichia coli O157:H7 infiltration infresh leafy greens via a multiphoton-imaging approach
Appl. Environ. Microbiol. January 2016 82:106-115; Accepted manuscript posted online 16 October 2015, doi:10.1128/AEM.02327-15
Erica Vonasek and Nitin Nitin
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Always the kids: It’s not a cute turtle, it’s a Salmonella factory
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/12/always-the-kids-its-not-a-cute-turtle-its-a-salmonella-factory/
By Doug Powell (Dec 25, 2015)
Brandon Childs and Cordelia Roass write for 2 Minute Medicine that a total of 8 multi-state Salmonella infections were identified during the 29-month study period, which included 473 individually confirmed cases.
The majority of cases were seen in children younger than 5 years old, and 68% of patients reported a recent exposure to a small turtle.
In the past, exposure to reptiles and amphibians led to thousands of Salmonella infections, particularly in young children. Due to these infections and the potential for developing invasive disease, a federal ban was created in 1975 on the sale and distribution of small turtles less than 4 inches. However, recent multistate outbreaks prompted the current investigative study. Authors of this study sought to understand the epidemiology of turtle-associated salmonellosis and turtle care by case-patients, and to determine where these outbreaks originated. A total of 8 individual, multistate outbreaks were identified. The majority of cases were accounted for by young children, who reported recent exposure to small turtles. A minimal amount of participants were previously aware of the Salmonella reptile association. Investigative efforts traced many cases to 2 turtle farms in Louisiana. After distribution from these farms was halted, the number of new cases of Salmonella infections decreased drastically. Data may be limited as several cases were linked to untraceable sources. Nonetheless, this study should encourage pediatricians to warn their patients and parents about the potential dangers of animal exposure, particularly to small turtles.
In order to identify outbreaks of Salmonella, researchers used data between May 2011 and September 2013 from local and state reference laboratories as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreaks were described as epidemiological and environmental sampling links between ≥2 case-patients including multiple serotypes. Cases were defined as an infection with ≥1 of the outbreak strains. Case-patients were interviewed and completed a questionnaire detailing contact with turtles and their knowledge of the association between reptiles and Salmonella. Swab and water samples were collected by state and local health agencies from patient homes and retail establishments where cases were reported. Researchers identified 8 separate, multi-state Salmonella outbreaks for a total of 473 individual cases. Affected patients <5 years old accounted for 55% of all cases and Hispanic ethnicity was reported in 45% of cases. Turtle exposure was identified in 68% of interviewed patients, and 88% of these were due to contact with small turtles. The association between reptiles and Salmonella was previously known in only 15% of case-patients. Salmonellae were confirmed to be present in 5 retail stores in Florida, which were subsequently traced back to 2 separate Louisiana turtle farms.
The Food Safety of Storing Holiday Leftovers
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/the-food-safety-of-storing-holiday-leftovers/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 24, 2015)
Food temperature plays a key role in preparing, serving and storing food safely. To store holiday leftovers safely, follow these tips from the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Why is this important? The number of bacteria on food sitting at room temperature can double in 20 minutes. Food poisoning from these bacteria can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening illness. Food that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours is not safe to eat.
The first step: buy some thermometers. It’s impossible to know if your food is being cooked to a safe temperature or stored at a safe temperature without them. You can buy food thermometers and thermometers for your refrigerator and freezer at grocery stores, hardware stores and discount retailers.
Refrigerated food should be kept at 40 °F or below; the temperature of a freezer should be at of below 0 °F. Clean out your refrigerator on a regular basis. Toss out foods that have been there too long, wipe down all shelves, and wash all drawers with warm soapy water.
Whether it’s groceries or leftovers, get foods that need refrigeration into the fridge as quickly as possible. Avoid overpacking your fridge so that cold air can circulate.
The lowest shelf is the safest place to store raw meat or poultry. Always store it on a plate or dish in case the packaging leaks. Immediately wipe up any spills.
Leftovers should be stored in covered containers or sealed bags. It’s okay to put warm food in the fridge. To help it cool faster, divide leftovers into smaller portions before storing them.
Leftovers are usually safe to eat up tot four days after they have been prepared. To view the FDA’s chart on how long specific foods keep in the refrigerator or freezer, click here.
FDA Updates Chipotle E. coli O26 Outbreaks
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/fda-updates-chipotle-e-coli-o26-outbreaks/#.VoCSG05umUl
By Denis Stearns (Dec 24, 2015)
•The FDA, CDC, and state and local officials are investigating a second, more recent outbreak of a different, rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.
•The CDC reports that five people have been reported with the new variant of STEC O26 from a total of three states: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3).
•The Kansas and North Dakota cases ate at the same restaurant in Kansas. The three separate Oklahoma cases all ate at the same Chipotle restaurant.
•As of December 18, 2015, 53 people infected with the previously reported outbreak strain of STEC O26 have been reported from nine states: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27).
•The epidemiologic evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of both outbreaks.
•The investigations are still ongoing to determine what specific food is linked to illness. .
Raw is risky: I only eat cooked oysters (and didn’t get any for our 7 fishes feast tonight)
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/12/raw-is-risky-i-only-eat-cooked-oysters-and-didnt-get-any-for-our-7-fishes-feast-tonight/
By Doug Powell (Dec 23, 2015)
Although Salmonella has been isolated from 7.4 to 8.6% of domestic raw oysters, representing a significant risk for food-borne illness, little is known about the factors that influence their initial colonization by Salmonella.
This study tested the hypothesis that specific regulatory changes enable a portion of the invadingSalmonella population to colonize oysters.
An in vivo promoter probe library screen identified 19 unique regions as regulated during colonization. The mutants in the nearest corresponding downstream genes were tested for colonization defects in oysters. Only one mutation, in ssrB, resulted in a significantly reduced ability to colonize oysters compared to that of wild-type Salmonella. Because ssrBregulates Salmonella pathogenicity island 2 (SPI-2)-dependent infections in vertebrate macrophages, the possibility that ssrB mediated colonization of oyster hemocytes in a similar manner was examined. However, no difference in hemocyte colonization was observed.
The complementary hypothesis that signal exchange between Salmonella and the oyster’s native microbial community aids colonization was also tested. Signals that triggered responses in quorum sensing (QS) reporters were shown to be produced by oyster-associated bacteria and present in oyster tissue. However, no evidence for signal exchange was observed in vivo.
The sdiAreporter responded to salinity, suggesting that SdiA may also have a role in environmental sensing. Overall, this study suggests the initial colonization of live oysters by Salmonella is controlled by a limited number of regulators, includingssrB.
Influence of Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium ssrB on colonization of eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) as revealed by a promoter probe screen
Appl. Environ. Microbiol. January 2016 82:328-339; Accepted manuscript
posted online 23 October 2015, doi:10.1128/AEM.02870-15
Clayton E. Cox, Anita C. Wright, Michael McClelland, and Max Teplitski
Health officials offer tips food safety during holiday season
Source : http://wivb.com/2015/12/23/health-officials-offer-tips-food-safety-during-holiday-season/
By Anne Holt, Media General Contributor (Dec 23, 2015)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Health officials are offering up some tips on how to stay healthy this holiday season.
Whether enjoying a pot-luck spread at work or a fancy feast at home, the rules of food safety are the same, health officials said.
“If foods are sitting out or left out that should be under temperature control, there’s an opportunity for contamination by the way of bacteria growth,” Metro Health Inspector Danny Ripley said.
Ripley added that it’s important to keep cold foods cold.
“Bacteria needs certain temperatures like room temperature to start growing and that temp danger zone that we constantly refer to is a range between 41 and 135,” he explained.
Ripley also said meats are especially sensitive.
“We’ve got some with ham and turkey and beef. We’ve got seafood; we got pasta and ground beef as well. All of these foods are temperature sensitive, meaning bacteria might be growing on these foods as well,” he said.
The health inspector said he also encourages the use of disposable plates and cups to cut down on washing, cleaning and sanitizing.
He said he also advises people to get a clean plate if they go back for extra servings.
“We would encourage them to get a clean plate for going back because they can increase the chance, even with tongs or utensils, of contaminating other people’s food,” Ripley explained.
The most common food borne illness is the Noro-virus which can take 12 to 48 hours for symptoms to first appear.
New strain of Norovirus hits Minnesota
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/12/new-strain-of-norovirus-hits-minnesota/
By Doug Powell (Dec 22, 2015)
A new strain of norovirus, the most common cause of sudden intestinal illness, has shown up in Minnesota, and that could mean more norovirus illnesses this winter, state health officials warned today.
The new strain, called GII.17 Kawasaki, caused many outbreaks in Asia last winter before arriving in the U.S. MDH has investigated more than 20 outbreaks caused by norovirus since the beginning of September. The new strain first showed up in sporadic cases in the state earlier this year and the first outbreak caused by the new strain was reported last week. Reports of norovirus-like illnesses in the community have also increased in the past week.
“Every few years, a new strain of norovirus emerges and causes many illnesses. We don’t know yet if this new strain will lead to an increase in the number of outbreaks reported, but it could,” said Amy Saupe, a foodborne disease epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “If we’re meticulous about washing our hands and handling food properly, we may be able to limit the impact.”
Illness caused by norovirus is often mistakenly called “stomach flu,” which is a confusing term because norovirus is not related to influenza. Influenza is a respiratory illness, with symptoms that include high fever, chills, body aches, sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, and/or coughing. Norovirus is not a respiratory illness, and is not spread through breathing or coughing.
“When people say that they have ‘stomach flu,’ referring to a short illness with diarrhea and/or vomiting, what they generally have is a norovirus infection,” said Saupe.
Norovirus can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, body aches, a general run-down feeling, and a mild fever. Symptoms typically begin 24 to 48 hours after swallowing the virus, and usually last one to two days. The virus passes from one person to another by the fecal-oral route. That means the virus comes from the feces or vomit of people who are sick or were recently sick, and can make someone else sick if they get the virus in their mouth and swallow it. A tiny amount of virus can make someone sick.
d”Fecal-oral transmission sounds gross, but it’s important for people to understand that they may have gotten their norovirus from food, and that they could pass the virus to others by handling food, even after their symptoms are gone,” Saupe said.
Norovirus is the most common cause of food-related illness in Minnesota. In a recent outbreak example, employees who had been sick with diarrhea prepared food items that were eaten by restaurant patrons and at least 25 patrons became ill from norovirus.
The majority of norovirus illnesses and outbreaks can be prevented through good handwashing and appropriate food handling. Always wash your hands well before preparing food, and do not prepare food for others (at home or for your job) at all if you have been sick with vomiting or diarrhea in the last three days. If you are sick with vomiting or diarrhea, wash your hands very carefully after using the restroom. Norovirus can be present in your stool for several days even after you are feeling better, so continue to be extra careful about handwashing.
Always wash your hands before eating. Do not eat food prepared by someone who is ill with vomiting or diarrhea. If someone in your household is sick with vomiting or diarrhea, have them use a separate bathroom, if possible. Clean surfaces with soap and water and sanitize with a bleach solution to kill any norovirus that was spread to bathroom or kitchen surfaces. Launder soiled clothing in hot water promptly. Wash your hands after helping children in the bathroom or touching surfaces that may have vomit or feces on them.
Thorough handwashing includes washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinsing under running water, and drying with a towel.
Largest Multistate Food Poisoning Outbreaks 2015: #10, Blue Bell
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/largest-multistate-food-poisoning-outbreaks-2015-10-blue-bell/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 22, 2015)
The 10th largest multistate food poisoning outbreak of 2015 was the Blue Bell ice cream Listeria outbreak. The outbreak, linked to the nation’s third-largest ice cream maker, sickened at least 10 people from four states. Three of them died.
Health officials used DNA tests to identify cases as far back as 2010 that were part of the outbreak. Confirmed cases were identified in Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). The three fatalities were in Kansas where all five patients were hospital patients who ate ice cream or milkshakes made from a Blue Bell single-serving product called Scoops.
After the Kansas patients were identified, the hospital was told to hold all Bell Bell products in quarantine. Testing on these products found Listeria in single serving chocolate ice cream cups. This strain did not match the one that sickened the Kansas patients, but it did match the strain in other chocolate cups made at the company’s Broken Arrow facility and a strain found in three hospital patients in Texas.
After the ice cream was linked to the outbreak, Blue Bell began a series of product recalls. On April 20, the company recalled all of its products.
The five-year span of the outbreak uncovered a longstanding Listeria problem at Blue Bell. Reports released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 7 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.
Many of the illnesses were linked to contaminated single-serve ice cream products made for Blue Bell’s institutional clients like the retirement community where David Philip Shockley worked.
Shockley, 32, is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed May 19 against Blue Bell. He was an administrator at a Houston retirement community that was one of Blue Bell institutional clients. Because he suffers from ulcerative colitis, Shockley had been taking immunosuppressive medications since 2012. He had also been regularly snacking on Blue Bell ice cream products while he was at work.
In late October 2013, he became ill with a severe headache, nausea and light sensitivity. He later lost consciousness, friends found him un-responsive. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit in acute respiratory failure and septic shock suffering seizures and a fever over 106вк F. He didn’t fully regain consciousness for six days, according to the complaint.
When he did he was unable to walk, talk, swallow, see properly or move much of his body. He was diagnosed with Listeria meningitis. He has permanent neurological damage.
UK chicken farming puts workers and food safety at risk
Source : http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/dec/22/uk-chicken-farming-puts-workers-and-food-safety-at-risk
By Andrew Wasley (Dec 22, 2015)
A climate of fear and often appalling conditions grip workers in the UK’s chicken abattoirs and processing plants
Britain’s poultry sector is in the midst of its annual Christmas bonanza as consumers splash out on festive supplies. But as people rush to get their meat they may be unaware of a dark side to this industry. Previous investigations by the Guardian have uncovered a catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry. And now there are also concerns about working conditions.
To keep the production plants operating and the supermarkets stocked has meant some staff are having to work long hours and on low pay in sometimes appalling conditions on Britain’s farms, and in some abattoirs and processing factories.
It is a situation that poses a health risk for both workers and food safety, as many staff, including migrants, are often recruited on a casual basis and not trained adequately whilst others are fearful of being penalised for taking time off when sick, according to trade unions.
Long hours; hard labour
Problems begin on farms, particularly for those employed to round up – or “catch” – birds for slaughter. Teams of workers typically clear sheds by hand, picking up four or five birds in each hand before loading them into crates. When full, the crates are moved by fork-lift to a waiting truck.
One ex-catcher, who worked for a large integrated company for more than a decade, says the job involved excessively long hours in physically demanding conditions that affected workers’ health. Catchers were expected to meet a quota of at least 5,000 birds a day, he says, although this could sometimes rise to 7,000.
“It’s a horrible job, nobody liked it ... you get no sleep. Perhaps you would get home at 11pm, and you would be back on duty at 6am. They were long shifts: 15 hours. It was difficult to get any rest breaks at all. The long-term impact: a lot of people suffered with problems with their backs, deformities in their fingers, they would be bent out of shape.”
Workers who have been employed in processing factories and abattoirs are equally scathing of conditions. “You come in the morning and the product is frozen ... You have to touch it when it’s so cold, work with ice, the hands get frostbite. I’ve ruined my health, now I’m disabled,” says one ex-employee of a processing company.
He describes working on some of the production lines in the factory: “I worked in a fridge, I had to take boxes from the conveyer ... It’s impossible to keep up because there are around 80 different types of boxes. During the break people working in the fridge are sent to work in a hot room de-feathering chicken. You get hot, covered in sweat, there’s no place to change clothes ... and then you are asked to return to the fridge, you get cold again ...”
The worker, from Lithuania, also describes what happened when he got ill: “I asked for a day off to go to the doctor and I was told that I had to inform the agency two months in advance ... two months in advance I did not know I will get ill. ”
Another worker says that during his time at a poultry abattoir, one of the main problems was the speed of the production line: “You’d have a conveyor belt where the chickens were placed on cones which were moving and you’d have a requirement of nine birds per minute to debreast.
“People don’t realise the fact that when they’re getting two for £5 in certain supermarkets, the reason why the supermarkets are able to do that is because of employers who continually drive their workforce’s wages down.”
Injuries and penalties for time off sick
Workers described a range of “routine” health and safety problems in a large processing plant, including operatives being forced to wear filthy overalls; strain injuries caused by having to use blunt knives inadequate for cutting; and malfunctioning cooling systems leading to water dripping directly onto workers.
Injuries connected to poultry production are common: since 2010, 1,173 injuries related to processing have been reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), including 153 incidents classified as “major”. One worker died that year, official figures show.
More than 400 injuries relating to the the farming of poultry were reported during the same period, including 106 major incidents. However, the HSE cautions that the real figures could be much higher.
Rick Brunt, head of agriculture at the HSE, says: “We know that there is underreporting of non-fatal injuries in the agricultural sector, and we estimate that only one in five reportable injuries comes to our attention. There is no indication that this is any different in the poultry sector.”
The Guardian has learnt that since 2006, nine of the UK’s largest integrated poultry companies – many supplying leading supermarkets – have received a total of 63 HSE improvement or prohibition notices, although each notice often relates to multiple breaches of health and safety legislation.
Food hygiene in poultry plants has been compromised by employment regimes that have meant staff continue to work on production lines even when sick because of fears they will be penalised for taking time off, according to union sources.
“I’ve worked with a lot [of people] who come in sick, and have been sick, who have had diarrhoea, and they’ve come into work because they’re too frightened to have the time off. You’re not meant to work with chicken, not just with food poisoning, but with normal diarrhoea [for at least 48 hours]. But people are too frightened to take the time off work, because you are disciplined,” one source says.
In one case a worker was disciplined and received an official warning for absence after being hospitalised with the food poisoning bug campylobacter, underscoring, say critics, the harsh employment regimes in place at some factories.
Campylobacter affects about 280,000 people – and leads to around a 100 deaths - annually. Contaminated poultry is a major cause of infection and tests have found that up to two thirds of fresh chicken are affected. Combating its spread has become a priority for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which now publishes contamination rates of supermarket poultry.
A heavy price for cheap chicken
But the drive to clean up production is being hampered by poor working conditions and a lack of training in factories, according to unions. “The [poultry companies] have attempted to throw money at the problem without involving the workers,” according to Sulinder Singh of Unite.
“Health and safety issues, such as bacterial infection, cross contamination [...] excessive line speeds and exploitation, such as low wages, all create a climate that strongly mitigates against best practice,” says Singh, who added that the problems were compounded by a largely migrant workforce with poor training and language difficulties.
The poultry industry – which is worth £6bn in annual sales and supports over 73,000 jobs – defends its record. “Companies have campylobacter reduction strategies in place which includes raising awareness amongst employees. Each processing plant also has an FSA campylobacter champion who supports each company,” according to the British Poultry Council (BPC).
“BPC members that use agency labour, use agencies approved by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, although most workers in our sector are employed by members and paid above the national living wage.”
“The companies are also surveyed regularly on ethical processes by third-party auditors on behalf of their retail customers to ensure standards are maintained and improved and as a sector we support the ETI [Ethical Trading Inititative] code of practice,” says the BPC.
Yet experts warn that the vast scale of the poultry industry, and complex supply chains, makes tackling problems difficult.
“A significant problem [...] is the business model of ‘just in time’ which requires the supply of large quantities of foodstuffs at short notice, which in turn relies on different agents down the supply chain needing to pull in unregulated labour supplies to fill demands they cannot meet,” says professor Gary Craig of Durham University, who specialises in labour issues.
The ETI’s Peter McAllister says the drive to produce cheap food is ultimately to blame: “[Companies need to ask] what is the sustainable cost of putting chicken on our tables that means the quality is right, the people are treated well and there’s no abuse.”
Foster Farms Salmonella Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Toddler With Brain Abscess
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/foster-farms-salmonella-lawsuit-filed-on-behalf-of-toddler-with-brain-abscess/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 22, 2015)
A lawsuit stemming from a 2013 Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken has been filed on behalf of a toddler whose Salmonella infection created a massive brain abscess. To save his life, surgeons cut open his skull to remove the growing collection of infectious pus compressing his brain tissue.
The fluid removed from the abscess matched one of the seven uncommon and antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella associated with the outbreak, according to the complaint filed by attorneys Fred Pritzker, Elliot Olsen, and Brendan Flaherty of the national food safety law firm PritzkerOlsen. The suit was filed December 21, 2015 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. Case number 2:15-cv-02587-DLR.
The child’s story was featured on a Frontline investigation called The Trouble with Chicken, which traced the arc of Foster Farms’ decade-long Salmonella problem, spotlighted the USDA’s lack of enforcement ability and asked the question: who is accountable when food makes people sick? The suit filed yesterday is an answer to that question.
From October 2013 to July 2014, Salmonella in Foster Farms chicken sickened 634 people in 29 states. Throughout almost the entire outbreak, the company refused to issue a recall. It wasn’t until July 12, 2014 – two weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared an end to the outbreak, that Foster Farms issued a limited recall. Too late for more than 600 people who had become ill, including the young child whose family filed the suit yesterday.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, nausea, vomiting, chills. and diarrhea that is sometimes bloody. Infections that travel from the GI tract to the bloodstream can cause serious, life-threatening complications including heart problems, abscesses and meningitis.
There were seven strains of Salmonella associated with the Foster Farms outbreak. All of them were resistant to antibiotics. Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics cause infections that are more severe and have higher rates of complications, according to public health organizations. They also increase the number of hospitalizations and the length of hospital stays. The hospitalization rate for the Foster Farms outbreak was twice the normal rate, according to the CDC.
According to the complaint, the family regularly ate Foster Farms chicken before the child, who is now 3, became ill. With symptoms of fever, chills, nasal congestion, and diarrhea, he was taken to the doctor on October 3, 2013. His mother told the doctor that relatives of the boy had been diagnosed with Salmonella. He was sent away and returned on three more occasions before being admitted to the hospital on October 23, 2013.
The next day, his condition worsened and he developed a facial droop. A CT scan showed a large accumulation of fluid was compressing and displacing his brain. Immediate surgery was needed to save his life.
Doctors determined that bacterial meningitis and the abscess putting pressure on the young child’s brain were caused by a Salmonella infection. Fluid removed from the abscess showed the Salmonella was a match to one of the strains associated with the outbreak. Weeks of difficult recovery followed.
Six post-operative MRIs of the child’s brain have all been abnormal, according to the complaint. The most recent one showed evidence of brain volume loss.
“This is a case which highlights the tragic human cost of foodborne illness,” said attorney Fred Pritzker. “This is why food safety matters.” Food Safety Attorney Fred Pritzker is the founder of PritzkerOlsen law firm which underwrites Food Poisoning Bulletin.
Caffeine in Peanut Butter? FDA Wants More Info
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/caffeine-in-peanut-butter-fda-wants-more-info/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 21, 2015)
Did you know that one corporation is adding caffeine to peanut butter? STEEM Peanut Butter, Inc. has been doing this, and the FDA is not sure they like it. There is 150 mg of caffeine in each serving of that peanut butter.
On December 15, 2015, the FDA sent STEEM a letter asking for information about their use of caffeine in this product. The company has not submitted any information about the safety of caffeine in this product to the FDA.
The FDA “remains concerned about the increasing number of products on the market containing added caffeine and the possibility for harmful effects when multiple caffeinated products are eaten simultaneously, especially in products that are attractive to children,” the letter states.
The U.S. government has not developed guidelines for children’s caffeine intake. The Canadian government does have guidelines and recommends that preschoolers get no more than 45 milligrams of caffeine a day. That’s the amount found in a 12 ounce can of soda.
Caffeine is a stimulant and is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system. Overdosing on caffeine can produce symptoms such as upset stomach, headaches, difficulty sleeping, increased blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. In addition, caffeinated products, especially beverages, usually contain empty calories that are not nutritious.
The caffeine content of foods varies widely. Twelve ounces of iced tea contains 70 mg of caffeine, while 1 ounce of milk chocolate contains 6 mg. Twelve ounces of Mountain Dew have 55 mg, while “SumSeeds Energized Sunflower Seeds” have 140 mg of caffeine in one serving. In 2013, Wrigley’s promoted a new pack of gum; each piece had as much caffeine as half a cup of coffee. And energy drinks, of course, are a serious issue and have caused adverse reactions since they are packed with caffeine.
The FDA does not require the amount of caffeine in a food to be listed on the label. The substance is on the “generally recognized as safe” list and has been since 1958, as long as levels do not exceed 200 parts per million, or 0.02 percent of the total product. Even so, data shows that between 2006 and 2008, 1,200 cases of caffeine toxicity among children under the age of 6 were reported to poison control centers.
When caffeine is used in a drug, there are strict regulations that manufacturers must follow. Those products must including labeling information that states how much caffeine it contains. But when caffeine is used in dietary supplements, manufacturers do not need FDA approval. Many supplements contain caffeine that is not declared on the label.
In 2013, the FDA announced that it was going to investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, particularly its effects on children and adolescents. There is no further word on this action. In June 2015, the FDA answered a question about why caffeine amounts are not required on food labels. They stated: “Caffeine is not a nutrient. It is a natural chemical found in such items as tea leaves, coffee beans, and cacao. If caffeine is added to a food, it must be included in the listing of ingredients required on food product labels.”
2016: A Defining Year for FDA Food-Safety Rules
Source : http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/blogs/insider-law/2015/12/2016-a-defining-year-for-fda-food-safety-rules.aspx
By Josh Long (Dec 21, 2015)
The landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law five years ago. Next year is a defining one for FSMA as major regulations begin to take effect that are intended to give teeth to the most sweeping food-safety law in more than 70 years.
FDA just received a boost in funding that will facilitate implementation of its food-safety regulations.
As part of a US$1.1 trillion spending package that was approved Dec. 18 by Congress to fund the government through next fall, FDA’s food budget increased to $987 million from $903 million in fiscal year 2015, according to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. Excluding user fees, the agency’s total budget increased 5 percent to $2.72 billion, the not-for-profit organization said.
“Most of the additional resources are designed to implement food-safety initiatives,” the Alliance for a Stronger FDA observed in a Dec. 17 news release. “American consumers expect their food supply to be safe, and by funding these initiatives, Congress has taken a critically important step to insure FDA has the necessary tools to implement its public health responsibilities.”
FDA in recent months published five of seven major food-safety rules under the law. The agency in September published in the Federal Register preventive controls rules for animal and human foods. Three additional rules were finalized in November, including requirements that are intended to ensure the safety of imported food.
Covered facilities under the preventive controls rule for human food must maintain a written food-safety plan, analyze hazards, and implement controls to prevent or mitigate such risks. The rule also modernizes FDA’s cGMP (current good manufacturing practice) regulations governing the manufacturing, processing, packing or holding of human food. For instance, certain nonbinding provisions in the previous cGMPs, such as education and training, are now required.
The human food preventive controls rule takes effect for large companies in September 2016, with staggered compliance dates for small businesses (two years) and very small businesses (three years).
FDA estimated processed foods covered by the rule cause approximately 903,000 foodborne illnesses annually, costing the American public around $2.2 billion. In order for the rule to be cost effective, the agency reckoned, it would need to prevent $382 million in foodborne illness.
While the preventive controls rule does not apply to manufacturers of dietary supplements, GMP consultant Joy Joseph pointed out ingredient suppliers are subject to the new requirements.
"It's my opinion that we need a headstart," Joseph told Natural Products INSIDER, referencing the dietary supplement industry’s continuing noncompliance with eight-year-old cGMPs.
A separate rule under FSMA gives the government broader authority to refuse food imports, said Marc Sanchez, a lawyer who specializes in advising clients on FDA regulations and teaches part-time as an adjunct professor at Northeastern University on regulatory topics including U.S. food law.
“This is the first time we are getting really detailed standards for imports," Sanchez said in a phone interview.
The United States is a large consumer of produce that is grown in other countries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2013 estimated imported food comprises roughly 19 percent of the U.S. food supply, including roughly 52 percent of the fresh fruits and 22 percent of the fresh vegetables eaten by Americans.
Under the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule, importers of food for humans and animals must verify food coming into the United States is produced in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards. The rule is important for dietary supplement manufacturers, Joseph of Joy’s Quality Management Systems said, because many dietary ingredients come from outside the United States.
FDA also has published rules governing produce safety and accredited third-party certification of auditors, while intentional adulteration and sanitary transportation rules haven’t been finalized yet. FDA must release the final transportation rule by March 31, 2016, while May 31, 2016 is the deadline for the intentional adulteration regulation.
FDA’s recent adoption of the five rules underscores that even very small businesses with the longest time to comply with the food-safety requirements cannot afford to drag their feet.
“It is going to take you three years to prepare," said Sanchez, whose law firm Contract In-House Counsel and Consultants, LLC has offices in Washington and Charlotte, North Carolina. “Use that time wisely and [do] not see it as an invitation to procrastinate."
CDC Investigating Another E. coli Outbreak at Chipotle in OK, KS
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/cdc-investigating-another-e-coli-outbreak-at-chipotle-in-ok-ks/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 21, 2015)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that they are investigating another E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. This new outbreak is a different strain of E. coli O26 bacteria from the older outbreak.
That ongoing, older outbreak of E. coli O26 linked to those restaurants has sickened at least 53 people in 9 states. One more ill person who is part of the older outbreak has been reported from Pennsylvania since the last update. But that person did not eat at Chipotle the week before November 14, 2015, when the illness started. In the older outbreak, 20 ill persons (38%) have been hospitalized. The case count by state in that outbreak is: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27). The CDC says that reports to PulseNet of new illnesses in the older outbreak have “slowed substantially” since the peak of the outbreak in October 2015.
This newer outbreak is a rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O26. It is not known if these infections are related to the larger, previously reported outbreak, so these illnesses are not included in the case count for that outbreak.
The new outbreak case count is: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3). The illnesses started on dates ranging from November 18, 2015 to November 26, 2015. All five of those sickened ate at a Chipotle Mexican Grill the week before they got sick. All three sickened in Oklahoma ate at the same Chipotle restaurant in that state before they got sick. The person in North Dakota who was sickened ate at the same Chipotle restaurant as the ill person in Kansas.
The CDC is continuing laboratory surveillance though PulseNet to identify additional ill persons. Officials are using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to determine if the E. coli bacteria that has sickened people in the new outbreak is genetically related to the E. coli bacteria causing the older, larger outbreak.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea that is usually watery and/or bloody, severe abdominal cramps, a mild fever, nausea, and vomiting. If you ate at a Chipotle restaurant anywhere in the country and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor.
An E. coli infection can be very serious and can cause death. If the infection is not treated properly, or is treated with antibiotics, or if the ill person is in a high risk group, the illness can progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), that can destroy the kidneys. The symptoms of HUS include little or no urine output, lethargy, pale skin, easy bruising, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and skin rash. If anyone is experiencing those symptoms, they should be taken to a doctor immediately.
State and local officials are interviewing ill persons to obtain information about foods they may have eaten and other exposures in the week before their illnesses began. To date, in the older outbreak, 46, or 88%, of the 52 persons interviewed ate at a Chipotle restaurant before they got sick. Investigators have not been able to find the bacteria through environmental samples taken at the restaurants in question or in food. It is very likely that the contaminated food that sickened people was eaten and discarded.
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