FDA Addresses Spice Safety
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/fda-addresses-spice-safety/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 06, 2016)
The FDA has been analyzing a two year nationwide study to collect information on the presence of Salmonella in retail packages of spices consumers buy in supermarkets, ethnic markets, discount stores, and on the internet. There have been several recalls of spices and herbs in the past few years for Salmonella contamination, and a Salmonella outbreak linked to spices in Sweden sickened 178 people last summer. An FDA report in 2013 found that 12% of imported spices are tainted with pathogenic bacteria or filth.
The draft risk profile found that the presence of pathogens such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a “systemic challenge” and that the problem relates in part of poor or inconsistent use of appropriate controls to prevent contamination. In the study, spice shipments from 79 countries were examined for Salmonella. The FDA found that 37 of the 79 countries had Salmonella-contaminated shipments.
In fact, spice shipments offered for entry into this country had an overall presence for Salmonella of about 6.6% during the years 2007 to 2009, which is about twice the average of all other imported, FDA-regulated foods. And about 12% of spice shipments that come into the U.S. from 2007 to 2009 were adulterated with filth such as insects and animal hair.
The study also found that the FDA was missing key information about the level of contamination of spices sold at the retail level in this country. The public was asked for data but no information was offered. Many imported spices are treated after they are imported, so that 6.6% contamination rate does not reflect contamination in the product that consumers actually buy.
The FDA is analyzing this data but does not have results yet. Most of theU.S. spice supply is imported, which is why this study is important. The government sampled 7,249 spices, including basil, black pepper, oregano, paprika, red pepper (capsicum), coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, sesame seed and white pepper.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will help the FDA improve spice safety because the rules focus on preventing hazards and tightening controls in the supply chain, on products produced in this country and, importantly, in imported products. The agency has also increased inspections of spice manufacturing facilities.
The foreign supplier verification rule requires that importers verify the foods they import are produced using processes and procedures that ensure the same level of safety as food made in this country. Produce safety requirements may apply to certain types of spice plants, such as basil or coriander.
FDA is working with partners to develop a training center focused on supply chain management for spices and botanical ingredients. And the agency has staff permanently stationed in China, India, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Indian is the leading country of origin for U.S. spice importation. The FDA has offices there in New Delhi and Mumbai.
At this time, the FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption or use of spices. In many cultures, spices are added during cooking rather than at the table. This heat treatment can reduce pathogen contamination, depending on the length of cooking time and the final temperature of the food.
Food safety, hockey: Training could be improved but at least something should be required
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/03/food-safety-hockey-training-could-be-improved-but-at-least-something-should-be-required/
By Doug Powell (Mar 06, 2016)
In addition to endless sausage sizzles, folks in Brisbane are forever hosting school fetes, dinners, and homemade goods for sale at the weekly tuck shop.
I’m always wary of such items because I have no idea of the preparation technique, sanitation and storage.
I need 16 hours of training to open a door on a kid’s hockey team, but nothing to offer up food for sale (that’s me this morning, after my practice, and before coaching a kids practice an hour later, getting in some blogging – I was working with the goalies so kept my pads on).
That’s going to change in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.
Mandatory food hygiene training will be required for those preparing food for groups including non-profit organizations holding fundraising suppers and breakfasts.
The new training rules will come into effect on April 1 and will apply to everyone who is involved in food service, P.E.I. Environmental Health manager Joe Bradley said.
“It is for people to understand their role in preparing food for large groups of people as to prevent foodborne illness.”
At least one person in the group holding the fundraising event in which food is served will be required to have the training and will have to be on site, he said.
“Certainly for community groups, church groups that haven’t had the opportunity to access training yet, we would certainly look at a grace period for them to access that training.”
The required mandatory training takes about one day to complete. The free food safety courses are being offered this month in Charlottetown and Summerside.
A shorter course of just a couple of hours for non-profit groups, churches and community service organizations is being planned, Bradley said.
Restaurant inspection: Food safety compromised at a Thumb’s Up Diner
Source : http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/restaurant-inspection-food-safety-compromised-at-a/nqfH3/
By ajc.com (Mar 06, 2016)
At a Thumbs Up Diner in East Point, raw meats and other food items were not being protected from contamination during a recent routine inspection.
Points were taken off because raw salmon in a walk-in cooler was more than 10 degrees higher than the maximum temperature for food safety.
Also raw pork chops were thawing in standing water at the prep sink. Steak and other meats were thawing under the food prep table near the washing area, according to the inspection report.
Other raw salmon was stored above green bell peppers inside a walk-in cooler.
Thumbs Up Diner, 1617 White Way, East Point, failed the inspection with a 51/U. Previous scores were 84/B and 82/B.
The Fulton County health inspector said the restaurant failed to provide active managerial control over food safety.
Among other code violations, an employee did not wash hands after loading dirty dishes into the dishwasher then handling clean dishes.
Two employee hand-sinks had buckets for sanitizing solution stored inside, making them inaccessible for washing hands. Bottles of glass cleaner were stored next to clean drinking glasses. And a bottle of perfume was in the dry storage area next to canned goods.
Points were also taken off because foil was being used to line all the equipment at the cook-line and inside the reach-in coolers. There was heavy food debris on all of the gaskets in the coolers, and date-mark stickers were still intact on the outside of clean containers.
The restaurant was also late in paying its annual fee for a food service permit.
Thumbs Up Diner will be re-inspected.
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More Support for Early Exposure to Peanuts to Prevent Allergies
Source : http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/more-support-for-early-exposure-to-peanuts-to-prevent-allergies/?_r=0
By Andrew Pollack (Mar 04, 2016)
Evidence is accumulating that food allergies in children might be prevented by feeding peanuts and other allergenic food to infants in their first year of life, researchers reported here Friday.
That finding would challenge the recommendation of the World Health Organization that babies be fed exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life.
“At least as far as peanut is concerned, I would recommend parting from that,” Dr. Gideon Lack, professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London, said in an interview.
Dr. Lack was the senior author of a study last year that found feeding peanuts to young children starting when they are 4 to 11 months old sharply reduced the risk of their developing peanut allergies.
That upended the conventional wisdom that it is best to avoid introducing peanuts until children are older.
On Friday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped pay for that study, issued proposed new guidelines recommending that children at risk of peanut allergies be fed peanuts starting at 4 to 6 months of age, though they should be tested first to make sure they do not already have an allergy.
But that initial study also left several unanswered questions. Some of those questions were answered by two additional studies that were set to be published online in The New England Journal of Medicine and were presented here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology on Friday.
One question was whether children who consume peanuts from an early age will still remain free of allergies if they stop consuming them. The researchers followed the children from the original study for another year, from the time they turned 5 until they turned 6. For that year, they were not supposed to eat peanuts at all. The results found no big increase in allergies. “It tells you the protective effect is stable,” Dr. Lack said.
Another question was whether the early feeding technique could be applied to other types of foods and to children at normal risk of allergies. (The original study involved children deemed to have a high risk of peanut allergy.)
The researchers conducted a second study at King’s College London involving 1,300 infants who were 3 months old and being fed only breast milk. Half were randomly assigned to continue on only breast milk until 6 months of age, which is the recommended practice in Britain by the United Kingdom Department of Health.The other half were to be regularly fed small amounts of peanut butter and five other allergenic foods: eggs, yogurt, sesame, white fish and wheat. The children were assessed for allergies when they turned 3.
Over all, 5.6 percent of the infants who were fed the allergenic foods early on developed an allergy to at least one of the six foods, a modest improvement from the 7.1 percent in the breast-milk-only group. However, the difference was not statistically significant, meaning it could have occurred by chance.
One problem was that fewer than half of the parents in the early-introduction group actually fed their children the required six foods on a regular basis. But when researchers looked only at those children whose parents adhered to the feeding regimen, there was a statistically significant reduction in allergies. Only 2.4 percent of those children developed a food allergy, compared with 7.3 percent of those whose parents faithfully stuck to only breast milk for six months. There were also significant reductions in peanut and egg allergies alone.
One conclusion could be that feeding allergenic foods to infants early really does work to prevent allergies, providing that parents consistently follow the feeding regimen.
But researchers cautioned that there could be another explanation. One reason parents stopped feeding the foods is that they thought their children were having a possible allergic reaction to them. In that case, looking only at the children who were actually fed the food would overstate the effectiveness of the technique.
Dr. Lack said he did not think that was an explanation because the children in the early-introduction group whose parents did not adhere to the feeding protocol did not have an unusually high rate of allergies at age 3.
Dr. James R. Baker Jr., chief executive of Food Allergy Research & Education, a patient advocacy group, said that even if the benefits of early introduction were not totally clear for all the foods, there appeared to be little harm from that practice.
“I think for a very long time here we’ve vilified these foods,’’ he said at a news conference here. “There’s no reason not to do this. There’s no harm that comes from early introduction.’’
In a commentary in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Gary W.K. Wong, a pediatrician at Chinese University of Hong Kong, cautioned against unproven conclusions. He said the fact that so many parents did not stick to the regimen suggested that it was too demanding to be practical and that less-burdensome ways must be found to introduce allergenic foods early.
“In the meantime,” he said, “evidence is building that early consumption rather than delayed introduction of foods is likely to be more beneficial as a strategy for the primary prevention of food allergy.”
Food safety tip-offs are paying off
Source : http://www.shanghaidaily.com/feature/ideal/Food-safety-tipoffs-are-paying-off/shdaily.shtml
By Cai Wenjun (Mar 03, 2016)
RESTAURANTS operating under poor and unhygienic conditions have long been a concern for residents, but calling the 12331 hotline is not just a way to vent their anger, but a great tool for the government to find the worst offenders.
Last year, local authorities received over 83,400 complaints and tip-offs. Almost 63,000 were directly handled by 12331 run by city- and district-based food safety authorities. All cases were received in time response, Shanghai Food and Drug Administration said, and foreigners are welcome to dial the bilingual hotline to air their complaints as well as local residents.
The major complaints centered around restaurants with poor overall hygiene or staff without health certificates and eateries operating without a proper license. Common complaints also involved quality of food and ingredients, including the use of meat products that had gone bad or poor quality grain and grain products. Complaints on food quality were particularly common when it came to baked goods, beverages and water. Though the majority of hotline callers are Chinese, some foreigners also contacted the number to protect their rights.
Shanghai FDA officials said some foreigners called to complain about smoking in restaurants or poor hygiene in certain eateries. They also reported unlicensed food stalls they deemed annoying due to their impact on the neighborhood.
Officials said they welcome more foreigners to call the hotline for help, consultation, complaint and report on food-related issues.
To encourage whistleblowers, Shanghai FDA has risen the maximum reward for a useful tip to a maximum from 200,000 yuan (US$30,800) to a maximum of 300,000 yuan, depending on the scale of the illegal operation or the profits made from violating food safety standards. The minimum reward for an information that leads to the discovery of a violation is 200 yuan. Last year, 995 whistleblowers received a total of 843,000 yuan, up 13 percent from 2014.
Reports on violations like the use of out-of-date raw materials, the illegal processing of kitchen waste and false best-before dates are all welcomed.
Information can be provide using one’s real name, a false name or anonymously.
Canada says food safety audit issues much ado about nothing
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/03/routine-audit-issues-are-much-ado-about-nothing-according-to-cfia/#.Vtz3dk5umUl
By Dan Flynn (Mar 2, 2016)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says there are no outstanding issues remaining over a recently released 2014 audit by U.S. officials of Canada’s meat, poultry, and egg inspection systems. CFIA also says Canada’s trade with the U.S. was never impacted.
Responding to reports that mostly originated with the Toronto Globe and Mail — often seen as the best source of news about the Canadian government — CFIA depicted the latest audit by the U.S. as routine,
“It is important to note that there was no product contamination associated with any of the U.S. findings, which have been addressed to the satisfaction of USDA authorities,”CFIA said in a statement today.
“Canada regularly audits, and is audited by, its trading partners, including the U.S.” it continued. “These routine audits help Canada and its trading partners maintain confidence in each other’s food safety inspection systems, It is expected that audits such as these will identify opportunities for improvement and we notify each other of any issue of concern.”
Since the U.S. audit, Canada’s food safety systems have undergone examinations by the European Union (EU), including France, Ireland, Italy, and Sweden, and Canada has conducted audits in China, Japan, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia.
CFIA insists the U.S. audit found Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems equivalent to U.S. inspection systems and all federally registered establishments in Canada permited to export to the U.S. can continue to do so.
Canada received its draft version of the 2014 audit in January 2015 and responded in May 2015. Canada’s response was accepted by the U.S. and included in the final version published on the USDA website last month.
“Canadians can be assured that we have a strong and robust food safety inspection system, which is based on internationally accepted best practices that are supported by scientific evidence, solid surveillance programs and a commitment to continuous improvement, ” CFIA’s statement concluded.
Iowa State chosen as one of four regional 'food safety' centers
Source : http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/higher-education/iowa-state-chosen-as-one-of-four-regional-food-safety-centers-20160302
By Vanessa Miller (Mar 02, 2016)
Awareness around the issue of foodborne illness has exploded in recent years — with incidents like those recently involving Chipotle Mexican Grill and Blue Bell Ice Cream regularly attracting national attention.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011 took action to improve food supply safety by passing the “most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.” Now the government is establishing centers across the country to help food processors and growers comply with new federal regulations mandated through the Food Safety Modernization Act — including one at Iowa State University.
The FDA in February awarded Iowa State a three-year $950,000 grant to establish the new North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, which will provide guidance for businesses that grow and process food in 12 Midwestern states.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, which shifts the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it, called for establishment of a national center and four regional centers — hence the one at Iowa State.
Other centers are housed at the universities of Florida and Vermont and Oregon State University and will — like the Iowa State center — work to understand and communicate training opportunities to businesses in their regions. Each center also will work with non-governmental and community-based organizations — like cooperative extension services, food hubs, and local farm cooperatives — to assess and address specific needs of the communities they serve, according to the FDA.
The Food Safety Modernization Act focuses on areas like preventive controls, inspection, and compliance — mandating for the first time “comprehensive, prevention-based controls across the food supply to prevent or significantly minimize the likelihood of problems occurring.”
One of seven major rules outlined in the act, for example, requires businesses meet science-based minimum standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
Companies also will have to update record keeping and training policies on food safety.
Angela Shaw, an ISU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, is leading the launch of the Iowa-based regional center. Work, she said, began days after the FDA announced the ISU center, and her team is developing a survey to distribute this summer.
That survey will assess the type and degree of help local growers and processors need.
“I need to know what the priorities are for growers and processors,” she said. “It’s important to listen to that population.”
The center will focus on helping smaller-scale operations — somewhere between farmers-market small and massive like Dole or Fresh Express.
“We have a lot of growers in this state that do very well,” selling products to grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joes, Shaw said. The size of a business determines how soon they need to comply with the new mandates, according to Shaw. The largest companies have to make a deadline in September, as they are more capable of devoting resources on the transition, she said. But smaller companies, like many ISU plans to aid, have longer — about four years.
“The smaller firms will have a harder time getting fully compliant because they don’t have access to the same kind of resources,” Shaw said.
In its launch and planning, the Iowa State center will compare notes and ideas with the other centers.
“We are really trying to maximize resources,” she said.
Even though the FDA grant supporting the center is good for three years, Shaw said everyone involved at Iowa State has been doing the work for more than a decade.
“All of us are passionate in this area, so it’s going to be continuous,” she said. “We are going to continue even after our funds go.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million people — one in six Americans — are sickened through foodborne illness every year, 128,000 of whom are hospitalized and 3,000 of whom die.
Shaw said food safety has grown as an area of concern, and food safety regulations needed to be modernized. Ever-advancing tools have made that possible, she told The Gazette.
“We’re able to document more foodborne outbreaks now as detection and health care technology have improved,” she said. “And social media and news media have helped food safety grow in stature as an important issue to people. Food safety rules should reflect those changes.”
USDA cites meat plants for animal treatment, food safety issues
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/03/usda-cites-meat-plants-for-animal-treatment-food-safety-issues/#.Vtz5H05umUl
By Dan Flynn (Mar 02, 2016)
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued its first-quarter report for the federal fiscal year and it includes some red marks for big meat plants regarding animal treatment.
The enforcement report covers the first three months of FY2016, Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015.
FSIS enforcement activity during the first quarter ranged from routine administrative actions for noncompliance records (NRs) to federal court filings. Here are some of those actions, beginning with administrative complaints:
FSIS reached an administrative consent decision and order in a case with Mountainair Heritage Meat Processor of Mountainair, NM. The company agreed to “a robust systematic humane handling and slaughter program with employee and management training.” FSIS had filed a complaint, indefinitely suspending its inspection services.
Rio Tex Wholesale Meat Processing agreed to a consent decree with FSIS for stepped up E. coli and Salmonella sampling and testing. FSIS had also filed a consent decree and order to withdraw federal inspection from the company.
Value, OH-based D&H Meats LLC was the subject of complaint to refuse federal inspection services to the company because of two federal misdemeanors by its owner. The company currently operates on a grant of inspection from Ohio.
Norwood, NC-based Halal Meat Slaughter House and its owner, Zafer R. Kafozi, entered into a consent decision and order with FSIS, calling for business code, ethics training and other measures. The agreement limits Kafozi’s employment capacity and ownership interest. He previously had a felony conviction for conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen goods unrelated to food.
Fairmount, IN-based Zabiha Halal Meats and Daniel Ault, its owner, agreed to a consent decree and order, agreeing to add a corporate ethics and compliance officer, record keeping and other measures. FSIS had moved to withdraw inspection services from Ault after his felony conviction for improper disposal of dead animals.
During the first three months of the federal fiscal year 2016, FSIS inspected more than 38.1 million livestock and 2.24 billion poultry carcasses. During that time, there were 113 detentions totaling 590,420 pounds.
FSIS issued one dozen prohibited activity notices to: Cafe Mawal (Houston); Dadu Ice Cream Inc. (Van Nuys, CA); E&J Distribution (Puyallup, WA); Giant Food (Mechanicsburg, PA); Grand Distribution LLC (Menlo Park, CA); Hotpie Inc. (Fort Pierce, FL); Kalinda (San Jose, CA); Kapowsin Meat Inc. (Graham, WA); Ralphs (Newport Beach, CA); Royal Frozen Food (Los Angeles); Safeway Distribution Center (Tracy, CA); and Safeway Inc. (Pleasanton, CA).
FSIS prohibited activity notices typically involve failures involving recall notices, such as not notifying a consignee or customer, or offering a recalled product for sale.
FSIS also took administrative action on its own against 90 businesses during the quarter. These include notices of intended enforcement (NOIEs), suspensions and withholdings.
FSIS provides continuous inspection at about 6,400 meat, poultry and egg production facilities around the country. At the large plants, administrative action was taken against 18 plants, with 13 for inhumane treat or slaughter violations.
Large plants with an inhumane treatment action include: Cargill Meats (Fresno, CA); Cargill Meats (Fort Morgan, CO); Clemens Food Group (Hatfield, PA); Hillshire Brands (Newborn, TN) JBS (Grand Island, NE); JBS Swift (Louisville, KY); Quality Pork Processors (Austin, MN); Smithfield Farmland (Crete, NE); Swift Pork Co. (Worthington, MN); Tyson Fresh Meats, (Logansport, IN); and Tyson Fresh Meats (Dakota City, NE). Administrative actions for inhuman treatment were taken against Tyson at Logansport three times.
There were five large plant violations of sanitation performance stands and four administrative actions for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) violations. Three suspensions that occurred among the large plants were reinstated on the same day.
Administrative actions were taken against 35 small plants for HACCP problems while 25 were written up for sanitation issues and 23 for instances of inhumane treatment.
Action was taken against two plants, Bel Tex Corp. in Fort Worth and Central Valley Meat in Hanford, CA, for interference or assault against USDA meat inspectors.
HACCP violations dominate the administrative actions taken against the very small plants. Several small plants were also caught operating “without the benefit of inspection.”
Natural or Unnatural—That Is the Lingering Question
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/natural-or-unnaturalthat-is-the-lingering-question/
By John T. Shapiro, Esq (Mar 01, 2016)
Consumers and food industry companies have a unique opportunity to help answer a question that has plagued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the food industry, consumers and courts alike. What food products, if any, deserve the designation “natural?”
In recent years, that question has generated a deluge of consumer class action litigation claiming that the challenged product’s label marked “natural,” “all natural” or “100% natural” misrepresents the true composition of the product’s ingredients and confuses consumers as to the product’s health benefits. The swelling tide of litigation shows no sign of reaching its crest. Rather, the number of labeling disputes are likely to increase as food companies seek to reformulate food products that presently have a host of artificial ingredients in an effort to take advantage of consumer demand for natural, healthful products with simple, identifiable ingredients.
All along, FDA could have taken steps to control the increasing number of disputes over food products labeled “natural.” The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act grants FDA the authority to promulgate food definitions and standards of food quality, which includes the regulation of nutritional labeling.
In the absence of FDA regulation or more vigorous FDA oversight of labels for food products represented as natural, consumers continue to turn to the courts in an effort to influence food company behavior. But, those court rulings have yet to result in a definitive rule or uniform guidance. To the contrary, some courts have urged FDA to further address the issue. So too have consumer and industry organizations, with disagreement on whether the FDA should define the term “natural” or ban altogether the description of a product as “natural.”
Recent changes to the U.S. food safety laws are intended to prevent adulterated and misbranded food products from reaching the marketplace. The new laws, regulations and efforts—which food companies should be in the process of implementing if they have not done so already—are designed to force food manufacturers and others in the food supply chain to implement preventive controls that will render the farm-to-fork food supply chain sufficiently safe and transparent so that consumers are able to make informed choices among safe food products. The new laws, regulations and efforts also may serve as the catalyst FDA uses to, at long last, regulate the use of the term “natural.”
The new food safety regime would be undermined if labeling requirements were not sufficiently broad and exacting to match the preventive focus and trustworthy and transparent food supply chain that the new system seeks to engender and consumers are demanding. To that end, FDA seeks your—both the food industry and consumers—input on how to regulate claims that a food product intended for human consumption is “natural,” including a product that is genetically engineered or contains ingredients produced through genetic engineering. Specifically, it seeks comment regarding several questions, including:
1. Should FDA define the term “natural” through rulemaking?
2. Should FDA prohibit use of the term “natural” on food labels altogether?
3. Were FDA to define the term “natural,” what foods warrant that label? For instance, should
• Only raw agricultural commodities or single ingredient foods be able to bear a “natural” claim?
• Certain production practices, such as genetic engineering or the use of pesticides, foreclose or at least be a factor in determining use of the term “natural?”
• Certain manufacturing processes, such as drying, salting, canning or pasteurizing, foreclose or at least be a factor in determining use of the term “natural?”
4. Are there data or other information that suggest that consumers associate or confuse the term “natural” with beneficial health consequences?
5. Should the term “natural” have some nutritional benefit associated with it and, if so, what?
In formulating responses to FDA’s questions, it is important for the food industry and consumers alike to keep in mind at least two broad considerations. First, FDA does not consider this issue on a blank slate. Second, practical considerations for food manufacturers render regulation of “natural” labeling claims easier said than done.
This is not the first time FDA has recognized and grappled with the importance of setting rules for use of the term “natural” to describe a food product. In 1991, FDA noted its policy that “natural” means that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including colors regardless of source) is included in, or has been added to, the product that would not normally be expected there.” [See Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims, General Principles Petitions, Definition of Terms, 56 FR 60421 at p. 60466 (Nov. 27, 1991)]. But that policy is an advisory opinion; it does not establish a legally binding requirement.
In 1993, in conjunction with rulemaking pursuant to the Nutrition and Labeling Education Act, FDA sought additional comments on use of the term “natural,” but it ultimately declined to issue a formal rule. Instead, FDA concluded that “[n]one of the comments provided FDA with a specific direction” for proper use of the description “natural.” [58 FR 2302 at p. 2407 (Jan. 6, 1993)]. Since then FDA has explained that:
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is “natural” because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, the FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
And, as a result of FDA’s reluctance to promulgate a definitive rule on “natural” products, the body of court opinions deciding particular “natural” labeling disputes grows. A few of those courts have looked to FDA for guidance in an effort to forgo usurping FDA authority. But, as recently as 2014, FDA declined to enter the fray, asserting, among other reasons, its desire to hear from and consider the interests of the various stakeholders concerning this complex issue. As well, FDA cited its devotion of resources to other priorities, including implementation of the preventive-focused Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Now, however, apparently recognizing that efforts to provide a transparent marketplace where consumers are able to make informed choices amongst safe food products would be undermined absent further consideration of the content of food labels, the underpinnings of FSMA appear to be key ingredients in a renewed attempt by FDA to formulate a recipe for more accurate labeling of “natural” products.
Practically, however, change will not be easy for many food manufacturers, especially those who rely on increasingly complex, and often global, food supply chains. That complexity presents a substantial hurdle a food company must overcome in order to verify the source of ingredients, let alone whether an ingredient was processed or produced in a manner that allows the company to represent it as natural. FSMA requires supply-chain-applied controls as part of a company’s food safety plan where necessary to control potential hazards. A company that seeks to market “natural” foods will have to take similar measures if it wants to ensure the “natural” nature of ingredients sourced, regardless of whether those ingredients pose a food safety risk. To achieve the requisite transparency that goal entails, a company will need to, among other steps, carefully conduct due diligence in preparation for the supply relationship, thoughtfully negotiate and precisely draft the supply agreement and vigilantly manage and oversee the supply partner. In short, a food company that seeks to market “natural” food products will have to continually ask itself and take the requisite steps needed to answer this critical question—“With whom are we dealing?”
Food companies and consumers continue to have important opportunities to shape the evolving rules that will govern food company operations and the transparency of the food supply chain. Given the importance of and complexity underlying “natural” claims, FDA has extended until May 10, 2016 the time in which interested parties may submit input. More information on the questions FDA poses and instructions on how to submit comments can be found on FDA’s website.
John T. Shapiro, Esq., is a partner and member of the Food Industry Team at Freeborn & Peters LLP (Chicago).
Food Safety Auditor Training Is in Demand
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-safety-auditor-training-is-in-demand/
By Nancy A. Finney, MPA (Mar 01, 2016)
When the federal government released the final rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) this past November, it immediately increased the demand for food safety auditors across the globe. Thousands of domestic and international facilities soon must undergo second- or third-party audits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will likely rely on professional auditors to help certify imported foods to come into the country.
Auditors are responsible for protecting the American food supply, and are considered the last line of defense. Yet, one out of every six Americans gets sick from foodborne illness each year, and many facilities that are high-risk are not audited frequently. Qualified auditors must have appropriate food safety training, as well as experience and training in auditing to comply with FSMA. There are simply not enough experienced, qualified auditors to do the job.
The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)’s Food Safety Auditor (FSA) training is one way that food safety professionals can prepare for the demands of FSMA, and the increased need for qualified auditors that the new law brings. To meet this industry need, NEHA has built a career track capability into its newest food safety credential.
FSA training is designed for food safety professionals with working knowledge of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans and food safety schemes, and who are current auditors or inspectors that want to meet the new requirements. It is also a starting point for professionals that are interested in pursuing an auditing career.
This training will strengthen and enhance the skills, knowledge, and critical thinking behaviors. Instructors will review auditing practices, written and verbal communication skills, preventive controls, and technical knowledge using exercises and case studies.
“The issue is trying to get a job. It’s a chicken and the egg thing,” explains Rance Baker, NEHA program administrator. “You can’t get a job unless you’re an auditor. But how do people become auditors?”
NEHA has extensive experience developing certifications and credentials for food safety industry professionals, ranging from beginner to advanced levels. Other certifications and credentials that NEHA offers include: Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety (CCFS), Certified Professional-Food Safety (CP-FS), HACCP Manager, and Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS).
“Currently, we don’t even have an entry point into the career, and it is such an emerging profession,” says Patricia Wester, course instructor. NEHA’s FSA training helps solve this issue.
As part of the FSA course, participants will complete a written assessment, and receive a certificate of successful course completion. Registration includes full access to the Food Safety Summit and opportunities to network with other experts in the field.
Those interested in attending the FSA course must register for the first training by April 15 to receive early-bird pricing. To register, visit foodsafetysummit.com. The training is expected to fill up quickly.
Completion of the FSA course counts for 14 hours of continuing education (CE) credits for current NEHA credential holders. For more information about NEHA’s FSA training, professional credentialing, and CE credits, please visit neha.org or email email@example.com.
NEHA is currently finalizing its Food Safety Auditor credential program, which is set to be released before the end of 2016.
Nancy A. Finney, MPA, is the technical editor of the National Environmental Health Association.
Cuts to staffing levels leading to less oversight of food safety, union says
Source : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/cuts-to-staffing-levels-leading-to-less-oversight-of-food-safety-union-says/article28988048/
By ANN HUI (Mar 01, 2016)
The union representing workers at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is sounding the alarm on inspector staffing levels, saying ongoing budget cuts has led to less oversight over safety and sanitation in Canadian plants.
Following on the heels of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, which identified “operation weaknesses” related to food safety and sanitation at CFIA-inspected plants, the agriculture union blamed understaffing by the agency. In an interview Tuesday, union president Bob Kingston said that the number of front-line food inspectors has dropped in recent years, with the agency’s own reports forecasting another reduction of nearly 200 full-time jobs in the food-safety program in the next two years.
The CFIA disputed the claim, saying that the number of inspectors has varied over time based on risk, but has not decreased over all. The former government cut CFIA’s budget by $56-million a year, according to the Treasury Board.
The agency did not provide information on how many inspectors it currently employs, and the numbers it has made publicly available are unclear. The agency’s report on plans and priorities each year details the number of staff in the overall food-safety program, and that figure has fluctuated over time. However, that number includes all staff in the program, and not just inspectors. The latest report – prepared under the previous government – forecasts a drop from 3,311 staff this year to 3,118 in 2017-18.
As part of their campaign platform, the Liberal government promised an additional $80-million over four years toward food-safety inspection.
“If there’s not people in those facilities working with the plant operators to make sure the required standards are met, it doesn’t happen,” Mr. Kingston said. “You get what you measure, and if there’s nobody actually there staying on top of things, human nature is human nature.”
According to Mr. Kingston, several major plants in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba are operating significantly below the CFIA’s own requirements – between 12 and 57 per cent below the minimum. Mr. Kingston said that, in most cases, the inspectors taken out of plants are ones responsible for ensuring sanitation and animal-welfare standards are met. Some of these duties, Mr. Kingston said, include swabbing for bacteria, and monitoring condensation, air integrity and temperature.
The USDA report, submitted to the CFIA in January, identified issues at Canadian plants “related to government oversight, plant sanitation and microbiological testing” for listeria, salmonella and E. coli. In the report, auditors detailed open ceilings and the presence of rust. Of the nine Canadian plants inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eight were cited for non-compliance with enforcement under the “inspection” category.
A similar USDA audit in 2012 raised several concerns, including sanitation and inspection activities.
But in a press conference Tuesday, the agency said that the issues identified in the audit simply reflect different approaches, and that the overall quality of inspection is equivalent to the United States.
“In these audits, systems are deemed to be equivalent in terms of outcomes, but the way those outcomes are achieved can be different from country to country,” said Barbara Jordan, CFIA’s associate vice-president of policy and programs. “Equivalent does not mean same, it just means equivalent in terms of outcome.”
Ms. Jordan said that issues highlighted in the USDA report have since been resolved, and said there is no risk of Canadian plants being delisted from exporting their products to the United States.
“Canadians can be assured that we have a strong and robust food-safety inspection system, based on internationally accepted best practices, supported by scientific evidence, follow surveillance programs, and a commitment to continuous improvement.”
Testing not enough for food safety, lends false sense of security: experts
By Carolyn Heneghan (Feb 29, 2016)
•Manufacturers cannot depend on testing alone to prove the safety of their products, according to food safety experts during a webinar sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association.
•Experts said that testing can provide a false sense of security through easily attainable false negatives, which could occur based on a test's ability to detect pathogens and the size of the test sample.
•The experts cautioned that safety testing can be "used as a marketing advantage" to calm consumers' concerns rather being a guarantee that a company's products are safe.
This could be a blow to product testing startups, which have popped up en masse over the past few years, specializing in everything from DNA testing to immunoassay-based techniques to promote faster and/or more accurate safety test results.
Out of concern for consumer backlash and an increased need for transparency, manufacturers have turned to product testing companies, including these startups, to generate results that prove safety protocols are effective.
However, if manufacturers depend on product safety testing and products still end up causing an outbreak, this could put the product testing industry and companies' transparency efforts in jeopardy.
Food safety testing companies will still play an important role, even if manufacturers have to find other ways to complement safety testing results to ensure products are in fact safe for consumption.
Food Safety News: Expert survey says: You can’t test your way to food safety
Research reveals benefits of wood and food safety
Source : http://www.freshplaza.com/article/154116/Research-reveals-benefits-of-wood-and-food-safety
By freshplaza.com (Jan 29, 2016)
Last November, two scientific studies on wood
and food safety were presented at the 66th FEFPEB Congress in Cork and the 29th Congress of the European Federation of Science and Food Technology (EFFoST) in Athens. The studies demonstrated the beneficial antimicrobial properties of wood species such as pine and poplar, when compared to smooth synthetic materials, including plastics.
In Cork, a presentation was given on the conclusions of a three-year research initiative by the “EMABOIS” consortium, composed of 27 research projects.
EMABois carried out thousands of tests and validated methods and protocols for the microbiological and chemical analysis of wood. The results confirmed the microbiological and chemical safety of wooden surfaces in contact with fresh products such as fruits and vegetables.
As other recent studies have shown, there is a higher antimicrobial effect on wood by physical inhibition on species of wood, including spruce, pine and poplar. It concluded that its porosity is an advantage in this regard against other materials in contact with food and considered as "smooth", such as plastic.
With regard to the migration of natural wood molecules, the EMABois consortium concluded that particularly natural, volatile, organic compounds are involved, but their transfer to food is limited, meaning they are safe for the consumer.
For more information:
Cornell to fight for food safety as CDC Center of Excellence
Source : http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2016/02/cornell-fight-food-safety-cdc-center-excellence
By Krisy Gashler (Feb 29, 2016)
Cornell University and the New York State Department of Health have been selected to lead the nation’s newest Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence as part of a joint venture to strengthen foodborne illness surveillance and investigations.
The Cornell-New York bid won a competitive process run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The center is the sixth in the country and will support food safety response for 11 states in the Northeast.
Centers of Excellence in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee and now New York assist local, state and federal health officials respond to foodborne disease outbreaks by providing training, technical assistance and collaboration.
Dr. Martin Wiedmann, the Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety, will co-direct the new center, along with Andie Newman and Shelley Zansky of the state health department.
“The major issue these centers try to address is making sure that, at the state level, there’s appropriate expertise to detect foodborne disease outbreaks, trace them back to the source, and then use that information to prevent future outbreaks,” Wiedmann said.
The program partners state health departments with academic centers to take advantage of the research, educational and technical expertise of a university like Cornell.
“Together with Cornell University, the department is going to lead this regional effort to improve food safety and reduce the threat we face from foodborne illnesses,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, state health commissioner. “By pooling our resources and talents, we’ll be better equipped to take on the challenges that occur in an outbreak and be better able to prevent foodborne illnesses altogether.”
Wiedmann said he expects Cornell to train local health officials on the implementation of cutting-edge food safety tools, some of which have only existed for a few years. Genome sequencing, for example, can identify the exact bacteria causing a foodborne illness.
Historically it has proven difficult to trace the source that leads to an outbreak. Wiedmann explained that if three people in different states became ill it would typically be difficult it determine whether those people contracted the disease from the same food.
“Now with genome sequencing, we can see that if the bacteria from these three people are identical, then it suggests that they got sick from the same source,” he said.
With that information, experts can determine the foods those people consumed, helping to pinpoint the specific source.
“If we can find that food source, we can detect an outbreak with only three or four cases, rather than dozens or hundreds. We can prevent more people from getting sick,” Wiedmann said.
The CDC began establishing Integrated Food Safety Centers of Excellence in response to the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. That law aimed to shift regulators’ focus from responding to outbreaks to preventing them, and was “the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years,” according to the CDC.
Congress passed the law in the wake of multiple high-profile foodborne disease outbreaks in the 2000s, including outbreaks from E. coli in bagged spinach, hepatitis A in green onions, and salmonella in peanut butter and eggs.
The CDC estimates that each year 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne diseases, hospitalizing 128,000 and killing 3,000 people.
“By sharing food safety data and information to improve practices, we can build capacity throughout the food safety system to detect and investigate outbreaks to stop disease spread and learn how to prevent the next outbreak,” Wiedmann said.
Another purpose for the Centers of Excellence is to bring together experts in a variety of fields, all of which play a role in ensuring a safe food supply. Those fields include epidemiology, environmental health, laboratory science, information technology, public health quality improvement and food safety science. Krisy Gashler is a freelance writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
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