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USDA says number of Listeria cases in decline

By Victoria Hirschberg
Monitor Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. ?Ready-to-eat foods may already be cooked, but before making a sandwich, you may want to reheat the meat until it is steaming hot, especially if you are pregnant or have a weak immune system.
The ready-to-eat meat could contain a tiny culprit called Listeria monocytogenes ?and that could make you sick, or even kill you. By heating the already cooked meat, you can reduce the risk of catching the nasty bacterium. The bacterium can lead to listeriosis, an illness caused by eating contaminated foods, most of them ready-to-eat products like hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts and fermented or dry sausage. This disease takes an average of three weeks to settle in the body before a person becomes ill. The symptoms can be flu-like with fever and chills. If listeriosis spreads to the nervous system, it can cause headaches, stiff necks, confusion, loss of balance of convulsions. In pregnant women, the disease can be transferred to the fetus and cause a miscarriage, stillbirth or health problems for the baby. The disease can be fatal, but if caught early enough, is treatable with antibiotics.
There have been food product recalls that led to Texas businesses to pull items off the shelves.
Businesses such as H.E.B. supermarkets had to recall turkey spread sold in their stores in 2000. The Schulenburg Company, located outside of Austin, had to recall 650 pounds of sausage in 2002.
In the past year, two pregnant women and three babies were diagnosed with listeriosis in the Houston area. In Hidalgo County, four women and four babies were reported to have the illness, according to the Texas Department of Health. There were two deathin Texas.
However, that was hopefully the past. In October 2003, the United States Department of Agriculture reported a 25 percent drop in the number of listeria cases in the Unites States. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (with the USDA) collected about 7,500 ready-to-eat meat and poultry samples from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2003 and .75 percent tested positive for listeria. In 2002, 1.03 percent tested positive and in 2001, 1.32 percent was positive
we are hoping because that is the historical pattern we are seeing in comparison to other food-born illnesses,said Steven Cohen, spokesperson with the FSIS in Washington D.C. tThere are a lot fewer cases of listeria each year.?br>Annually, there are about 1,850 cases reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. About 425 of those people will die, according to the CDC.
Queso fresco (cold cheese) is especially dangerous for high-risk groups, said Dr. Brian Smith, regional director with the Texas Department of Health in the Harlingen office.
it is a bigger problem here because of the availability, but we know the cheeses are sold throughout the United States,Smith said. He recommends consumers to only buy the cheese with a label and it is purchased it from a supermarket. This cheese is found at many area flea markets and not stored at proper temperature, he said. People of the Rio Grande Valley are a risky group because of the popularity of queso fresco from Mexico.
The two groups at more risk are pregnant women and people with weak immune systems that may have AIDS, diabetes or kidney disease. Pregnant women are advised to avoid the cheese completely. They have a 20 times more likely to contract the illness, according to the CDC. Because the body undergoes hormonal changes during pregnancy, the woman and the baby become more susceptible.
Then it happens, it's a bad disease,Smith said.
Smith said high-risk groups for listeriosis should avoid the soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert and the queso fresco completely. For the ready-to-eat meats, he recommends reheating the product until it is steaming hot.
CEO Liborio Hinojosa of H&H Foods, packing and processing plant for cooked and uncooked food, said the magic temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Meats, including ready-to-eat, need to be cooked to that temperature. This is considered the point where food is steaming hot, thus killing potential bacteria. Every 15 minutes, an employee at H&H monitors the temperature of the meats at his plants in Mercedes. His plants process and package raw and cooked meat for supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and school districts.
e now have to be monitoring our processing to make sure we are within the law,?Hinojosa said.
For the consumer at home with a meat patty, he said buying a thermometer is the best way to check. The most efficient way is to insert it on the side of the patty and as evenly as possible, he said.
“The only solution to killing all the bugs is to cook the meat properly, he said. The only way to make sure you dont get it is to reheat it.
The thermometer is the only solution.For information on listeriosis, go to www.fsis.usda.gov or call 1-888-674-6854

Diarrhea bug may prevent cancer
Study: Bacterial toxin inhibits growth of malignant cells

source from: MSN
http://www.gerd.msn.com/gerd_diarrhea.asp Call it Montezuma Revenge, traveler trot or simply a nuisance, diarrhea may do at least one good deed by protecting people against colon cancer, researchers reported Monday. They said their findings offer one possible explanation for why people in poorer countries seem less prone to colon cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer in the world and the third biggest cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

The study, published in this week issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on one of many bacteria that can cause diarrhea. Worldwide, diarrhea caused by a variety of microbes kills two million children a year, but adults develop a partial immunity. The toxin produced by the bacteria ?in this case toxic strains of the
common Escherichia coli or E. coli bug ?irritates the lining of the bowel but may also interact with cells in a way that prevents them from becoming cancerous, the researchers said. Giovanni Pitari and colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia started their research after noting that while colon cancer is very common in the developed world, it is uncommon in developing countries. Ever half a million patients suffer from colorectal cancer in industrialized nations, yet this disease exhibits a low incidence in underdeveloped countries,Pitari and colleagues wrote in their report.

They compared the incidence of traveler diarrhea against that of colon cancer, and showed that in countries where elhi belly?is most common, including the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Mexico, colon cancer was increasingly less common.

Where colon cancer is highest ?New Zealand, Australia, the United States and western Europe traveler diarrhea is rare.

Toxin prevented cell growth Pitari team analyzed the toxins produced by E. coli, first adding them to a dish full of dividing cancer cells. The cells, which like most cancer
cells had been growing and dividing rapidly, slowed their pace to a crawl. They tested the toxin precise action on cells and found it acted like guanylin and uroguanylin two compounds that naturally limit the growth of colon cancer cells.

The finding not only helps explain why colon cancer is a disease of developed countries, but may offer new approaches to treating or preventing the disease, Pitari team said. Other approaches are known to help prevent colon cancer including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking and doing exercise.

Smoking can damage the DNA in cells, helping them become cancerous, while
eating fruits and vegetables helps prevent damage to DNA from occurring in
the first place.

Current Food Safety Informaiton
11/03. BSE USDA Actions and Canadian Situation Q&A
11/03. Taste for raw milk multiplies in Wis.
11/03. FAO Food Safety Officer position open
11/03. New minister has more than beef on his plate: Agriculture po
11/03. IAEA Food Safety Specialist position open
11/03. Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Cer
11/03. Shellfish saying untrue, dangerous
11/03. Just the facts, Ma¡¯m: Food irradiation expert refutes New Yo
11/03. CFIA deals with our food safety: Federal agency keeps a watc
11/03. Meat plant has ¡®A¡¯ rating: Langley¡¯s Britco Pork Inc. is cry
11/03. Canadian Cattlemen's Association reacts to USDA proposed rul

11/02. BSE Barriers Breaking
11/02. British agency warns about contaminated meat -
11/02. Japan to ask U.S. to ban Canadian beef bound for Japan via USA
11/02. Production fault fails to kill bacteria
11/02. USDA Proposes Allowing Canadian Cattle 30 Months or Younger

11/01. Oxoid Technical Support Team Provide the Answers
11/01. Gulf oystermen want Schwarzenegger to lift ban on summer oys
11/01. USDA says number of Listeria cases in decline
11/01. No irradiated beef on Iowa school menus
11/01. Diarrhea bug may prevent cancer
11/01. [China] Nationwide crackdown on rat poison sales

10/31. Depleting neuronal PrP in prion infection prevents disease a
10/31. Detailed inspections prove slaughterhouses are safe
10/31. Mandatory food tracking system urged
10/31. WWFE wrap-up: Swift's success in dealing with its recall
10/31. Building epidemiology capacity
10/31. ¡®Ensuring the safety of animal feed: A blueprint for the fut
10/31. Trucks that hauled wastewater later carried fruit juice
10/31. Agency Board meets in Newcastle
10/31. Food Safety and Packaging: Launch of International Good Manu
10/31. New information on dioxins
10/31. Mad Cow Disease Halted for First Time
10/31. Gene tweak halts mad cow disease
10/31. Health officials permit shellfish harvesting in James River
10/31. F.D.A. Calls Cloned Animals Safe as Food

Current Recall Information

BSE USDA Actions and Canadian Situation Q&A (pdf)
U.S. Codex Office "What's New" Page: Updated October 29, 2003
Approving Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat and Poultry Products
Substantiating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering
Registration of Food Facilities Under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness
Class II Special Controls Guidance Document: Endotoxin Assay; Availability
Food Safety News Flash: Food Tampering - An Extra Ounce of Caution
Testing for Rapid Detection of Adulteration of Food
Food Safety Publications
Safe Handling of Take-Out Foods

Current Outbreaks
11/03. Outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly infection in Great Britain
11/03. Gibraltar Border Closed Over Cruise Virus

11/02. KYRGYZSTAN: Typhoid cases reported in the south
11/02. NE - Five families battle E. coli cases
11/01. Preview: Bury v Oldham
10/31. Greek doctors ferry aid to sick passengers on a British crui
10/31. Bennington Not Sure Of Source Of E. Coli
10/29. Autopsy to determine if man died from hepatitis complication
10/29. Apple Cider Making People Sick
10/29. Diarrhea downs 300 in Tondo
10/29. Two more E. coli Fair cases confirmed
10/29. Luyt: Boks also poisoned at 1995 Cup

Current New Methods
11/03. Lab-on-a-CD Developed for Use in Space Station
10/31. FDA approves peanut detection kits
10/30. e-safety first
10/30. Carmel firm nets deal to license Roche technology
10/30. Pall Systems Provide Pure Water for Food Processing
10/29. New Rapid Test for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
10/29. DuPont Qualicon BAX¢ç system approved by Health Canada
10/29. Food Safe International, Inc. targets Canada for initial ope
10/29. Beefing up safety
10/28. Peanut growers may have a weapon against aflatoxin next year
10/25. Firm seeks quick test for germs
10/25. Safe drinking water a mouse-click away

New information on dioxins

Source from: IFT Daily News

10/31/2003-Dioxins is a subject that can be complex and confusing. New materials provide information about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) draft risk assessment on dioxins (also called the dioxin reassessment). In addition to background information, these materials discuss possible effects of dioxin exposure in humans, include advice about consumption of food that might contain dioxins and explain the process for reviewing the report before it is finalized. The questions and answers provided here are not meant to comment on the scientific validity of the EPA report and should not be taken to indicate that the analysis or conclusions of the draft EPA dioxin report are final. For more information, see the CFSAN Dioxin Q&A.

Gibraltar Border Closed Over Cruise Virus

source from: Los Angeles Times

By Associated Press
GIBRALTAR ?Spanish authorities closed the border with the British colony of Gibraltar on Monday before the arrival of a virus-stricken cruise ship carrying some 2,000 passengers, officials said.
Police closed the frontier to pedestrian and vehicle traffic roughly a half hour before the British-owned Aurora cruise ship docked.

Spain's Health Ministry said the measure was precautionary and would remain in effect until there was more information about the condition of the infected passengers.More than 400 passengers on the ship -- out of a total of 1,800 passengers and more than 800 crew members -- fell ill with a norovirus after the ship left Southampton, England, for a Mediterranean voyage on Oct. 20.Noroviruses are highly contagious gastrointestinal bugs that are spread through food, water and close contact with infected people, and cause diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.David Dingle, managing director of P&O Princess Cruises PLC, which owns the ship, said only 50 were still ill. Gibraltar said only 11 were ill and allowed healthy passengers to come ashore.The Aurora headed for Gibraltar 12 days ago after it was refused permission to dock in Greece.Sovereignty over Gibraltar, a chunk of land with some 30,000 inhabitants located at Spain's southern tip, has been disputed since Spain ceded sovereignty to Britain in 1713.

Gibraltar's chief minister, Peter Caruana, said Spain's decision to close the border was politically motivated."There is no public health justification," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "This is a gross overreaction and responds more to politics than any sensible concern about Spanish public health."He said 11 people were ill on the ship and the Gibraltar government was not "going to allow 2,000 British tourists to float around the Mediterranean like refugees."Spain's decision to closed the border was likely to affect thousands of people who cross the frontier each day to work.Gibraltar frequently complains that Spanish authorities cause delays at the frontier as part of their campaign to reclaim the territory.

Apple Cider Making People Sick Cider Contaminated With Parasite

POSTED: 7:56 a.m. EST October 29, 2003
AKRON, Ohio -- State health officials say apple cider from a northeast Ohio orchard may be contaminated with a parasite that already has made 10 people sick.Officials say cider sold by the Sunny Slope Orchard in Stark County between Sept. 20 and Oct. 23rd may contain cryptosporidium, which can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.Stark County Health Director William Franks said 10 people from Stark, Summit and Cuyahoga counties have been sickened by the parasite, and all had consumed cider from the orchard.Health officials say symptoms generally show up a week after exposure but that it can take anywhere from one to 12 days. Symptoms often come and go for about a month.
The FDA is checking Sunny Slope's cider. Results are pending.

Nebraska - Five families battle E. coli cases
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Five Douglas County families are battling back from mysterious E. coli bacterial cases. The five cases involved children in western Douglas County but health officials said there is no other apparent common link to the cases reported between Aug. 1 and Oct. 11. "We'd like to be able to say all of the cases came from the bubble gum you bought at the store," Douglas County Health Director Audi Pour told the Omaha World-Herald. "We need to think outside the box to find the link."

The first of the five cases was an August illness of a 13-month-old boy in Valley became ill in August. Six-year-old Dezirae DeLancey of Bennington also became ill that month. "Our daughter had stomach cramping, diarrhea and bloody stools," said the girl's mother, Candi DeLancey. "Now she has had surgery and dialysis tubes in her stomach." About the same time, 12-year-old Samantha Stonys of Bennington came down with symptoms.

"She was doubled up in pain and severely dehydrated by the time we got to see the doctor the next day," said her father, Randy Stonys.A Bennington 2-year-old boy was diagnosed with E. coli infection in early October and remains at Omaha's Children's Hospital. A 4-year-old boy in west Omaha had similar health issues in mid-October. Health officials have interviewed each of the families, trying to find clues as to the source of the bacteria. They have ruled out a single restaurant, supermarket or other location because of the time span between the cases. None of the families socialize together, either, leaving health officials so the search continues for the source of the infection, the health officials said. "We understand how frustrating it is for parents," Pour said. "It's normal to ask why, but sometimes we never find answers to those questions."

FDA approves peanut detection kits

IFT Daily News
10/31/2003-The Food and Drug Administration announced on Oct. 30 that several test kit methods for the detection of peanut proteins in breakfast cereal, cookies, ice cream and milk chocolate have been approved as Performance Tested Methods by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC). These test kits will provide a quick and reliable method for the food industry to detect more readily the presence of peanuts in food that is not labeled as containing peanuts, and can more effectively prevent these products from reaching consumers. For more information, see the FDA Talk Paper.