'Health risk' warning over fall in food safety checks
Source : http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36171891
By Ruth Evans (1 May, 2016)
Food hygiene inspections in the UK have fallen by 15% since 2003, research shows - with experts warning of risks to public health.
The number of inspections, which are handled by local authorities, fell from 307,526 in 2003-04 to 260,765 in 2014-15, the study found.
The Food Standards Agency watchdog said the situation was of "growing concern".
The Local Government Association said councils "work extremely hard" on food safety despite budgetary pressures.
Ministers said public safety was "paramount" and the "majority of local authorities have continued to balance their budgets and increased or maintained public satisfaction with services".
The figures, obtained by Prof Steve Tombs for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, using freedom of information requests to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), show almost 47,000 fewer inspections were carried out in 2014 than in 2003.
The number of establishments prosecuted also fell by 35%, from 552 to 361, over the same period.
Prof Tombs, who is professor of criminology at the Open University, said "policymakers need to urgently address the radical reduction in local authority inspections and enforcement."
Food Safety Inspections
?Food premises are rated from "0" - meaning urgent improvement is required - to "5", meaning hygiene standards are very good
?These scores are based on inspections by officers from the local authority
?They look at how food is prepared and cooked, as well as reheating, cooling and storage
?They also look at the condition of the building and what the management are doing to make sure food is safe
?Gaps between inspections are based on a risk assessment
?Category A premises should be inspected at least every six months
?Category E businesses - such as off-licences - need to be assessed only every three years
The BBC's 5 live Investigates programme has seen minutes of an FSA board meeting from January this year where concerns were raised over rising numbers of complaints and falling staffing levels.
"The overall position is one of growing concern," the agency warned.
"At a local level, there are a good number of authorities which are struggling to undertake interventions of food businesses at the required frequencies."
The minutes also state that many local authorities "are not able to deliver a food service as set out in statutory Food Law Code of Practice".
"We are also acutely aware that local authority resources, particularly in England, will face further significant reductions over the next few years," the minutes show.
Since 1 April 2015 Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has had responsibility for food safety and food standards in Scotland.
A number of environmental health officers spoke anonymously to 5 live Investigates.
"We're doing fewer inspections now," one said. "There are a lot of places where years ago I would have definitely gone back for a revisit - quite often now I won't have time."
Another said: "The number of food poisoning incidents has been going up.
"You have fewer officers trying to do more inspections; which means we have less time when we go into a place."
Debby's 10-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital during a salmonella outbreak in 2014 which affected 54 people.
"She started complaining of severe stomach cramps. She had really bad diarrhoea and she was having bad hallucinations."
Investigators found poor hygiene procedures at a takeaway, which cannot be named for legal reasons, allowed potentially deadly salmonella bacteria to pass from eggs to other food.
The last full inspection of the premises was 20 months before the outbreak and it received a Food Hygiene Rating of two, which means that "improvement is necessary".
In June 2013 an environmental health officer visited to provide "support and guidance"- and a year later the outbreak occurred.
"If I'd known that I would have kept away and we never would have bought anything from there," said Debby, who does not want to use her full name.
The local authority involved said it visited in 2013 and "was confident that improvements were being made. A further inspection was imminent, as part of routine procedures, when the council received notification of the reported links to salmonella cases."
The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that spending by local authorities in England was cut by 20.4% between 2009-10 and 2014-15.
Shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy said: "Local authorities are clearly struggling under the weight of government cuts to fulfil their statutory duties and that is not acceptable when public safety is jeopardised."
Cllr Simon Blackburn, from the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said: "Councils are doing everything possible to maintain checks in this area despite budgetary pressures, and a reduction in inspections does not necessarily mean an increased safety risk.
"Councils know their local areas best and target reduced resources at the riskiest businesses, while national coordination through the Food Standards Agency also helps to ensure that areas of the food industry most at risk are generally targeted accordingly.
"Combining reports and collaboration allows councils to share intelligence and avoid duplication of effort, which helps to account for some of the reduction in inspections."
'Complex food industry'
A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "We have given councils the long-term settlement that they wanted and they will have almost £200bn to spend on local services over the lifetime of this Parliament.
"It is for local councils to decide how they deliver the services local people want to see."
The FSA said helping local authorities protect consumers was a top priority.
"Our data and intelligence from over the last five years shows that local authorities are continuing to target their activities on food businesses that are most likely to be committing food fraud or where food safety risks are high so that public health protection is maintained," it said.
"We recognise the challenges being faced by local government.
"We are reviewing the way enforcement is carried out and how food businesses are regulated to develop a more sustainable and future-proofed system that deals with the many and varied challenges posed by an increasingly complex food industry."
Food Safety Talk 100: No buns in the bathroom
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/04/food-safety-talk-100-no-buns-in-the-bathroom/
By Ben Chapman (Apr 30, 2016)
Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.
They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.
Episode 100 can be found here and on iTunes.
Here is a bulleted list of link to the topics mentioned on the show:
?Cyndi Lauper – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
?Caddyshack (1980) – IMDb
?Gunga Galunga clip on YouTube
?Veronica Bryant (@NoroNerd) on Twitter
?Conference for Food Protection – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
?Noro Couch (@norocouch) on Twitter
?Barbara Kowalcyk and CFI
?Farm To Table Talk podcast, @FarmToTableTalk on Twitter
?A Pissed-Off Tampa Chef Explains The “Farm To Fable” Controversy on Food Republic
?At Tampa Bay farm-to-table restaurants, you’re being fed fiction, Farm to Fable from the Tampa Bay Times
?Farm to Fable discussion featuring Laura Reiley on Farm To Table Talk podcast on SoundCloud
?What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
?Philly’s newest takeout option: Food from a stranger’s kitchen
?Omar “It’s all in the game” on YouTube
?2016 Biennial Meeting of the Conference for Food Protection
?Conference for Food Protection, Issues for Council I pdf, Ben’s issue was 2016 I-037
?Conference for Food Protection, Issues for Council III pdf, Ben’s issue was 2016 III-017
?The Right Way to Wash Your Hands according to the WSJ, anyway
?A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial of 6-Step vs 3-Step Hand Hygiene Technique in Acute Hospital Care in the United Kingdom
?A meta-analysis of the published literature on the effectiveness of antimicrobial soaps
?Daring Fireball comment on Dyson Hand Dryers post on Ars
?Joe Smith’s excellent TED talk on How to use a paper towel
?Using a Dyson hand dryer is like setting off a viral bomb in a bathroom from Ars Technica
?Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods from the Journal of Applied Microbiology
?Big Tissue wants you to believe bathroom hand dryers spread disease. Here’s what science says. from Vox
?Julia Belluz (@juliaoftoronto) onTwitter
?Effects of 4 hand-drying methods for removing bacteria from washed hands: a randomized trial.
?Hamburger buns found stored next to toilet at Checkers restaurant fromWRCBtv.com
?Everyone’s got a camera: Hamburger buns stored next to toilet at Tennessee Checkers from barfblog
FDA Report: Dole Officials Knew About Listeria in Facility
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fda-report-dole-officials-knew-about-listeria-in-facility/
By Food Safety News (Apr 29, 2016)
Company officials knew a Dole salad plant was contaminated with Listeria for a year and a half before they shut it down — then they only took action after the U.S. and Canadian governments traced a deadly outbreak to the facility.
Inspection reports (483) obtained by Food Safety News revealed the timeline of positive Listeria results and inaction. Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. finally suspended production at its salad plant in Springfield, OH, on Jan. 21 this year after a random test by state officials showed a bagged salad contained Listeria monocytogenes.
By that time, at least 33 people in the U.S. and Canada had been sickened with the same strain of Listeria as was found when Ohio inspectors tested the Dole salad they collected from a retailer. All 33 victims had such severe symptoms they required hospitalization. Four of them died.
Dole restarted production at the plant in Springfield, OH, on April 21. Company officials won’t say what was done to clean the plant or how they plan to prevent future contamination there.
Inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checked the production plant three times in January and twice in February after genetic fingerprinting showed the undeniable link between the sick people and salads from the facility. They collected swab samples, unfinished product samples, testing records and other documents and information.
The FDA won’t comment on open investigations and would not make public the inspection reports on the Springfield processing plant. Thirty days after Food Safety News filed an FOIA request, the FDA mailed out the reports.
Who knew, and when did they know it?
According to the FDA’s inspection reports, in July 2014 Dole did swab tests of surfaces in the Springfield plant. The tests returned positive results for Listeria, but the facility kept producing salads, shipping them to dozens of states and at least five Canadian provinces.
At least five more times in 2014 and three times in late 2015 Dole’s internal tests showed Listeria contamination, but Dole kept the salad lines kept rolling until January this year.
The FDA inspection report states that Dole’s vice president for quality assurance and food safety, as well as the company’s quality assurance manager, were aware internal tests on Jan. 5 and 7 this year showed Listeria on equipment and other surfaces in the plant. But Dole continued to produce and ship salads.
The plant kept operating until Jan. 21. The following day Dole posted a recall notice with the FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for salads produced at the Springfield facility. Dole branded salads and house brands for Walmart, Kroger, Loblaws and Aldi were included in the recall.
Connecting the dots with DNA fingerprints
Outbreak investigators in the U.S. and Canada had been trying to find the source of the wide-reaching Listeria outbreak since September 2015. Scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were working with FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In January this year they happened upon the answer.
Samples of Listeria from outbreak victims — who became sick between May 2015 and January 2016 — had been subjected to genetic fingerprinting and added to pathogen databases. When the Listeria from the bagged salad randomly collected by Ohio inspectors was compared to the victims’ samples, the outbreak investigators had the break they needed.
As part of the outbreak investigation, FDA officials inspected the Dole plant on Jan. 16, 19 and 26, and again on Feb. 2 and 5.
On Jan. 16 FDA collected a sample of finished product in the form of a “Dole Salad Kit-Ultimate Caesar” and 16 sub-samples containing “in-process romaine lettuce used in the product from various stages of production, raw material through finished product packaging,” according to the inspection report.
“The finished product sample as well as the in-process and sub-samples collected from the water knife, the trans-slicer, and the metal tray beneath the cross-conveyor, all on Trim Line (redacted) were found by FDA laboratory analysis to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes.”
Not a new problem
Federal officials were apparently aware of problems at the Dole salad processing plant since at least March 2014. During inspections on March 17, 18 and 20 that year FDA personnel cited 16 problems that could contribute to food safety problems.
Those 16 specific problems were covered by three general observations:
•Failure to maintain food contact surfaces to protect food from contamination by any source, including unlawful indirect food additives;
•The plant is not constructed in such a manner as to allow floors and walls to be kept in good repair; and
•Failure to provide adequate screening or other protection against pests
Among the specific problems cited were:
•food residue on equipment after it had been sanitized;
•standing water on floors;
•cracks and holes in the floors;
•peeling paint and rust; and
•eroded floor around a drain.
CDC warns of Cronobacter in powdered milk, infant formula
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/04/125714/#.Vya1oE7yWUl
By News Desk (Apr 28, 2016)
In a refreshed warning this week, the government discusses Cronobacter contamination, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminded consumers is sometimes found in powdered infant formulas, and to a lesser degree herbal teas, starches and powdered milk.
Formerly known as Enterobacter sakazakii — a germ found naturally in the environment that can survive in very dry conditions — the pathogen can be particularly dangerous to infants, the CDC reports. Infants who are fed formulas made from powders should be taken to a doctor if they develop symptoms of Cronobacter infection.
Cronobacter has been found in various dry foods, such as formula, powdered milk, herbal teas and starches. It has also been found in sewer water and may be found in other places, too, according to the CDC.
Adults don’t often get sick from Cronobacter infection, but it can be deadly in infants. Typically, the CDC is informed of four to six cases in infants each year, but reporting isn’t required so the true number is unknown, the agency noted.
Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe blood infections or meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine. Infants two months of age and younger are most likely to develop meningitis if they are infected with Cronobacter. Infants born prematurely and those with weakened immune systems are also at increased risk for serious sickness from Cronobacter, the CDC warns.
In infants, the sickness generally starts with fever and usually includes poor feeding, crying or very low energy. Very young infants with these symptoms should be taken to a doctor.
Cronobacter can also cause diarrhea, problems in wounds, and urinary tract infections in people of all ages. At the highest risk are the elderly and people whose bodies have trouble fighting germs because of a sickness they already have.
In some outbreak investigations, Cronobacter was found in powdered infant formula that had been contaminated in the factory. In other cases, Cronobacter might have contaminated the powdered infant formula after it was opened at home or elsewhere during preparation, according to the CDC.
Because Cronobacter lives in the general environment, it’s likely there have been other sources of this rare sickness.
Using current methods, manufacturers report that it is not possible to get rid of all germs in powdered infant formula in the factory. Powdered infant formula can also be contaminated after the containers are opened. Very young infants, infants born prematurely, and infants whose bodies have trouble fighting off germs are at highest risk.
Here are some ways CDC says you can protect your infant:
•Breastfeed. Breastfeeding helps prevent many kinds of sicknesses among infants. Almost no cases of Cronobacter sickness have been reported among infants who were being exclusively breastfed.
•If your baby gets formula, choose infant formula sold in liquid form, especially when your baby is a newborn or very young. Liquid formulations are made to be sterile and therefore should not contain Cronobacter germs.
•If you use powdered infant formula, follow these steps:
1.Clean up before preparation •Wash your hands with soap and water.
•Clean bottles in a dishwasher with hot water and a heated drying cycle, or scrub bottles in hot, soapy water and then sterilize them.
•Clean work surfaces, such as countertops and sinks.
2.Prepare safely •Keep powdered formula lids and scoops clean and be careful about what they touch.
•Close containers of infant formula or bottled water as soon as possible.
•Use hot water (158 degrees F/70 degrees C and above) to make formula.
•Carefully shake, rather than stirring, formula in the bottle.
•Cool formula to ensure it is not too hot before feeding your baby by running the prepared, capped bottle under cool water or placing it into an ice bath, taking care to keep the cooling water from getting into the bottle or on the nipple.
3.Use up quickly or store safely •Use formula within two hours of preparation. If the baby does not finish the entire bottle of formula, throw away the unused formula.
•If you do not plan to use the prepared formula right away, refrigerate it immediately and use it within 24 hours. Refrigeration slows the growth of germs and increases safety.
•When in doubt, throw it out. If you can’t remember how long you have kept formula in the refrigerator, it is safer to throw it out than to feed it to your baby.
More information can be found here.
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Damn that Listeria is tricky
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/04/damn-that-listeria-is-tricky/
By Doug Powell (Apr 28, 2016)
Listeria monocytogenes is an important foodborne pathogen commonly isolated from food processing environments and food products.
This organism can multiply at refrigeration temperatures, form biofilms on different materials and under various conditions, resist a range of environmental stresses, and contaminate food products by cross-contamination. L. monocytogenes is recognized as the causative agent of listeriosis, a serious disease that affects mainly individuals from high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals.
Listeriosis can be considered a disease that has emerged along with changing eating habits and large-scale industrial food processing. This disease causes losses of billions of dollars every year with recalls of contaminated foods and patient medical treatment expenses. In addition to the immune status of the host and the infecting dose, the virulence potential of each strain is crucial for the development of disease symptoms. While many isolates are naturally virulent, other isolates are avirulent and unable to cause disease; this may vary according to the presence of molecular determinants associated with virulence.
In the last decade, the characterization of genetic profiles through the use of molecular methods has helped track and demonstrate the genetic diversity among L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from various sources. The purposes of this review were to summarize the main methods used for isolation, identification, and typing of L. monocytogenes and also describe its most relevant virulence characteristics.
The continuous challenge of characterizing the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. April 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/fpd.2015.2115.
Camargo Anderson Carlos, Woodward Joshua John, and Nero Luís Augusto
Teach, train, test, repeat — food safety refreshers a must
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/04/teach-train-test-repeat-food-safety-refreshers-a-must/#.Vya25k7yWUl
By David Walpuck (Apr 27, 2016)
Knowing the correct answer for a food safety certification question about proper food temperatures is not the same as knowing how to properly use a food thermometer. On-site follow-up training ensures that classroom learning is retained and implemented.
Knowing the correct answer for a food safety certification test is not the same as knowing how to properly use a food thermometer. On-site follow-up training ensures that classroom learning is retained and implemented.
It’s just human nature … people forget.
Consequently, unless food handlers receive proper followup reviews and reinforcement, retention of food safety protocols and procedures is unlikely.
To ensure that classroom content becomes part of their daily routine, employers must monitor, document and refresh the training messages. Food handlers need to understand there is sense of urgency and real consequences for real people or they likely won’t retain and implement proper food safety protocols in their work environments.
To simply pass a test and not institute the knowledge taught in class about health and sanitation defeats the purpose of the training. And, after time, the information ceases to be retrievable for most people.
Management should coach and reinforce the proper practices while disclosing to employees the risks and true liability of failing to execute the practices taught in training session. Simply instructing food handlers to keep cold food cold and hot food hot isn’t enough.
Far too often the boundaries of the temperature danger zone get blurred when food handlers are not taking temperature readings — sometimes because they don’t have access to an operable calibrated thermometer — or are not held accountable for documenting and reporting those readings. For example, 41¢ªF and 135¢ª F may be the correct answers on a given Tuesday, but food handlers need to understand the importance of getting the same readings next Sunday as well.
Other detriments to food safety and knowledge retention include:
Is that the answer blowin’ in the wind, or pathogen drift?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/04/is-that-the-answer-blowin-in-the-wind-or-just-pathogen-drift/#.Vya3EU7yWUl
By Cookson Beecher (Apr 26, 2016)
“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” — Bob Dylan
The question in the case of food safety is: “What’s blowing in the wind?”
Turns out it can be dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella when manure is spread on the land, which is a common agricultural practice. At least that’s what a team of scientists found during a three-year research project.
The goal of the study was to estimate infection risks associated with eating leafy greens contaminated by pathogens emitted from nearby manure application sites and to use the results to provide “science-based recommendations for the protection of public health.”
To get more specific, the project involved applying manure onto land and measuring how far bacteria from the manure drifted. The overall goal was to find a safe distance between manure applications and crops. The manure was from dairy farms and the research was done in northern New York state.
According to the results of the study, “Bioaerosol Deposition to Food Crops near Manure Application” published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, pathogen drift does indeed occur, but at varying degrees at varying distances. For the research project, manure was applied by a conventional broadcast system using a mobile spreader, not with a manure gun which “shoots” liquid manure onto the fields.
The scientists collected air samples downwind of the manure application sites for an eight-hour period beginning immediately after application.
Additional background samples were collected near other fields that had not had any manure applied to them during the previous six months. Sampling was done on days when there was no rain. Measurement results were used to model the transport of pathogens to crops that could be grown at various downwind distances.
Not surprisingly, the farther from the manure application, the lower the probable risk that someone would get sick from eating leafy greens contaminated by pathogens emitted from the manure. For example, overall median one-time infection risks decreased markedly based on distance: from one in 1,300 chances at 0 meters directly downwind from the field to one in 6,700 chances at 100 meters (328 feet) and one in 92,000 chances at 1,000 meters (3,280 feet).
A median infection risk of one in 10,000 means that one out of every 10,000 people eating a typical serving of the greens would be likely to become infected — a level generally considered by federal agencies to be an acceptable risk level, said project researcher Michael A. Jahne, who at the time the research was being done was with the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. With overall risks ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent, median risks have a 50 percent chance of occurring.
As part of the project, researchers also looked at “peak risks,” which would occur if the manure came from a herd with an E. coli disease outbreak, for example. While cows don’t become ill when infected with the form of E. coli that can be fatal to people, they do shed it in their manure, which means there would be more E. coli in the manure from such a herd. In a case like that, the peak risk would be one in 18 chances at 0 meters, 1 in 89 chances at 100 meters, and one in 1,200 chances at 1,000 meters.
As can be expected, the pathogen load on the leafy greens diminished with time, which means the timing of harvest after manure applications at nearby fields would be an important food-safety measure for growers to take into consideration.
The study recommended that a 160-meter (524.9 feet) distance be provided between fields receiving manure applications and nearby leafy green crop production. It also pointed out that additional distance or delay before harvest will provide further protection of public health.
In other words, in addition to following food-safety practices on their own farms, growers need to take nearby manure applications at other farms into consideration when making plans for harvesting.
The research project was supported by the National Research Initiative Competitive Grant and the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Air Quality.
Researcher Jahne said that other crops, such as fresh fruits, that will be eaten raw would also have associated risks.
“Absolutely,” he said, pointing out that this issue is not limited to leafy greens.
For Jahne, the “take-home message” of this research is that land applications of animal manure can present public-health risks from airborne transport of bacteria to nearby produce.
“Such risks may be reduced by providing sufficient setback distance between the two areas and should be considered when planning and managing agricultural activities,” he said.
Another researcher with the project, Shane Rogers, also of Clarkson University, said in an article from the American Society of Agronomy that additional distance and delay between manure application and harvest would provide further protection.
Does it really matter?
The report provides sobering realities about some of the public health risks associated with foodborne pathogens and manure.
An estimated two-thirds of deaths from foodborne disease are due to zoonotic bacterial pathogens also found in manure. Zoonotic refers to infections transferred from animals to humans.
Studies have demonstrated survival on field lettuce of up to 77 days for E. coli O157:67 and 63 days for Salmonella spp. Jahne said that these survival rates demonstrate that once crops become contaminated with pathogens, the pathogens can survive for extended periods of time to eventually cause human illness.
“Physical setback distance may thus be a better barrier for protection of food quality than delay before harvest,” he said.
Previous research has shown that E. coli O157:H7 from livestock feedlots, where large numbers of animals are confined and fed, can become airborne and drift onto nearby leafy green crops.
Although the Food Safety Modernization Act has safeguards to protect produce from microbial contaminants in soil amendments such as compost and irrigation water, these protections would not prevent contamination of crop fields by airborne pathogens from nearby manure application sites.
“It’s definitely been overlooked,” said Jahne, referring to airborne contamination. “We hope that this research, and related research, will provide the data necessary to support these safeguards in the future. Right now, farmers don’t have guidance for how to do it. This is an important issue for consumers and for farmers.”
Trevor Suslow, food-safety guru at the University of California, Davis, agreed. He emphasized that growers always need to pay attention to research like this.
Complimenting the researchers on the project for doing a through, well-designed study, Suslow also said that it’s important to balance the implication of the study with real-world conditions. It will always be influenced by local conditions, the methods of manure applications, and the type of crops near the manure applications.
“The survival of the pathogens depends on so many things,” said Suslow.
Nevertheless, he said, the importance of this published research is that it can be used in the process of evaluating current standards in the Food Safety Management Act and possible amendments to it.
His advice to growers is to document anything in their decision path relevant to nearby manure applications so they can show why and how they arrived at any decisions they made, which would include type of crop being grown, downwind and upwind conditions, and time of year.
Even so, he said he’s seen or heard of cases where growers factor in all of their pre-planting assessments and risks, when “all of a sudden, a neighboring farmer starts spreading manure nearby.”
That can happen because even if a neighboring farm doesn’t have any livestock, it can source it from a feedlot or dairy farm. And, yes, there’s a lot of manure available. According to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service a typical milking cow daily produces about 80 pounds of manure per 1,000-pound weight unit (a dairy cow weights about 1,400 pounds), while a beef cow produces about 59.1 pounds of manure per 1,000-pound unit each day, and a pig produces about 80 pounds of manure per 1,000-pound unit a day.
While manure provides valuable nutrients such as nitrogen to the soil, it also comes with the probability of harboring foodborne pathogens that pose a risk to public health.
Why leafy greens?
According to the report, leafy green crops, which are often minimally processed and consumed raw, typically in salads, were chosen for the research project because they have frequently been implicated in recent food-borne disease outbreaks. One of the most publicized, an E. Coli outbreak in fresh spinach in 2006, sickened 199 people and killed three people.
Leafy greens are an important crop for farmers because in many cases they can be grown year round. Then, too, they are very popular with consumers. A recent USDA report revealed that the availability of romaine and leaf lettuce has almost doubled, rising from 6.6 pounds per person in 1997 to 11.4 pounds in 2013. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of these two lettuces.
Availability of other fresh greens — collard greens, escarole and endive, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens — came in at 2.5 pounds per person in 2013, while fresh spinach availability was 1.6 pounds per person.
However, head iceberg lettuce availability was only 14.1 pounds per person in 2013, a drop of 41 percent from 24 pounds in 1997.
Jahne said that this information is relevant to the research project, especially since these types of greens have more exposed surface area than head lettuce.
Scott Horsfall, CEO of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement said “this is the kind of research we need in the food safety community.”
Ten years ago, the LGMA set the recommended distance between manure applications and leafy greens at 120 meters (393.7 feet) — 40 meters less than the recent research project’s recommendation. But, Horsfall said, back then everyone knew there wasn’t enough information about the necessary distance.
“We knew there were gaps,” he said, “and our standards were designed to be updated if necessary. It’s an area that not a lot is known about. Everyone agreed that a setback was needed. This sort of research helps.”
The LGMA’s recommended setback was not set in stone. Growers were urged to take varying conditions into account when deciding on what size of a setback to use and when.
FDA extends comment period on manure use
In response to multiple requests from stakeholders, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is extending the comment period for public input to help the agency develop a risk assessment for evaluating the risk of human illness associated with the consumption of produce grown in fields on which raw manure or other untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin are used as fertilizer.
The agency is extending the comment period by 60 days, to July 5, 2016.
It is hoped that the additional comments will help the agency make a decision on the minimum time interval between the application of raw manure and the crop harvest when certain application methods are used.
The use of raw manure (or other untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin) as fertilizer in growing crops is covered by the final produce safety rule mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
To submit comments electronically to the docket, visit Docket No. FDA-2016-N-0321.
For more information:
•Federal Register notice for the manure comment period extension
•Risk Assessment of Foodborne Illness Associated With Pathogens From Produce Grown in Fields Amended With Untreated Biological Soil Amendments of Animal Origin
•Raw Manure under the FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety
•FDA to Extend Comment Period on Request for Scientific Data, Information, and Public Comments on Assessing the Risk of Human Illness Associated with Raw Manure as Fertilizer
Contemplating Campylobacter Conundrums
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/aprilmay-2016/contemplating-campylobacter-conundrums/
By Timothy Freier, Ph.D., and Patrick Kennedy
A “conundrum” is defined as “an intricate and difficult problem.” That definition seems perfect for an article discussing Campylobacter. Also, it starts with “c,” and who doesn’t enjoy a good alliteration? Campylobacter spp., particularly thermophilic Campylobacter, have emerged as a leading cause of human foodborne gastroenteritis worldwide, with C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari reportedly responsible for the majority of human infections (well, maybe; more on this later). Although most cases of campylobacteriosis are self-limiting, this illness represents a significant public health burden. To anyone who has been unlucky enough to experience this illness, the low mortality rate is of little comfort when faced with potentially severe symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, and watery, sometimes bloody diarrhea. Perhaps even more important than the gastrointestinal distress, Campylobacter can use a mechanism called molecular mimicry to trigger a very severe autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is the most common cause of acute flaccid paralysis. In 2013, U.S. FoodNet data indicated Campylobacter was the second-most common bacterial agent identified in foodborne illness reports (35% of reported infections) following Salmonella (38%).
Campylobacter is also one of the foodborne pathogens that has frustrated public health agencies’ efforts to reduce its contribution to illnesses. The Healthy People 2020 target rate for Campylobacter infections is 8.5 cases per 100,000 people, but the 2014 rate of culture-confirmed infections was reported to be 13.45. There are many interesting conundrums concerning this organism that contribute to its being and continuing to be a leading cause of foodborne illness.
Conundrum #1: Since Campylobacter and Salmonella are both highly associated with poultry, won’t the same interventions being used to control Salmonella also reduce Campylobacter?
The poultry industry has placed the majority of its pathogen-control emphasis on Salmonella. Major outbreaks linked to Salmonella Enteritidis in shell eggs and Salmonella Heidelberg and Hadar in various chicken and turkey products caused the poultry industry and regulatory agencies to declare war on this pathogen in poultry. Campylobacter, although known to be associated with poultry, tends to cause sporadic foodborne illnesses rather than outbreaks; thus, less emphasis has been placed on its control in poultry.
It is well established that Campylobacter is very commonly harbored in the gastrointestinal systems of most domesticated and wild animals. In fact, it has been estimated that greater than 80% of food animals carry Campylobacter. Many of the preharvest interventions used by the egg and poultry industries to control Salmonella have no doubt also had an influence on controlling Campylobacter. For example, protecting poultry from environmental contamination through enhanced biosecurity, litter management and drinking water treatment would be expected to reduce the incidence of both pathogens in live birds. The use of competitive exclusion through the application of probiotics may also reduce the incidence of both pathogens. However, more specific interventions, such as vaccines, bacteriophages and bacteriocins, would need to be targeted specifically to Campylobacter to have an impact. While poultry feed is thought to be a potential source of Salmonella introduction to poultry, it is probably not a source for Campylobacter, as it does not survive well in low-moisture products.
An important question for effective preharvest Campylobacter control is whether transmission of this pathogen is vertical or horizontal. Vertical transmission means that Campylobacter contamination moves from the breeder hen to the egg to the chick. Horizontal transmission is contamination originating from the water, feed or environment. It is well accepted that Salmonella can spread in poultry via vertical transmission, and some serotypes, such as S. Enteritidis, are known to be internalized into the egg. It has been less clear whether this can occur with Campylobacter. Researchers have not been able to demonstrate that internalization of Campylobacter into eggs is a significant factor for transmission. Much work has been done to determine whether viable but nonculturable Campylobacter could be transferred via the egg and then eventually colonize newly hatched chicks, but it has been concluded that this is not a significant occurrence. However, another study showed that when 2,000 chick paper pad tray liners were sampled in commercial chicken hatcheries, 0.75% were positive for Campylobacter, supporting previous findings indicating the potential for Campylobacter to be spread by vertical transmission. While probably not internalized within the egg, Campylobacter can be transmitted via the eggshell. In one study, a total of 2,710 eggs were examined, and viable Campylobacter was found on 4.1% of the eggshell samples while Salmonella was found on 1.1%. In this study, egg yolk samples were negative for both pathogens.
Placing insect screens on poultry houses may be one simple and effective intervention for Campylobacter control. In a study conducted in Denmark, insect screens were placed on some broiler houses and not on others. The houses without the fly screens had a Campylobacter flock-positive rate of 51.4% compared with 15.4% for the houses with the screens. This study was repeated and confirmed with a multiyear study, also conducted in Denmark, which found the prevalence of Campylobacter-positive flocks was significantly reduced, from 41.4% during 2003–2005 (before fly screens) to 10.3% in 2006–2009 (with fly screens). In fly-screen houses, Campylobacter prevalence did not peak during the summer as it did in the houses without screens. Nationally, the prevalence of Campylobacter-positive flocks in Denmark could have been reduced by an estimated 77% during summer had fly screens been part of biosecurity practices.
Postharvest interventions, such as sanitary dressing procedures and the use of antimicrobial solutions during multiple steps of the slaughter and further processing activities, would be expected to reduce the incidence of both Campylobacter and Salmonella. One intervention that has been targeted specifically for Campylobacter reduction is the use of frozen storage. In fact, some countries require the freezing of carcasses originating from more highly contaminated Campylobacter flocks as a public health control intervention. While this practice does appear to have impacted illnesses, other researchers have questioned whether freezing is a truly effective intervention and whether the results may be an artifact of the difficulties in culturing and detecting Campylobacter.
Campylobacter is not typically considered to be a pathogen that can survive or grow in the food manufacturing facility environment. It is rarely, if ever, the focal point of environmental monitoring programs. Investigations of Campylobacter illnesses associated with foods have not indicated that manufacturing facility contamination has been a causative factor. As a difficult and relatively expensive organism to test for, Campylobacter is not an ideal candidate for routine environmental monitoring as a verification of prerequisite programs.
Perhaps the most important consideration for Campylobacter control in the food manufacturing facility environment is the water used for direct product contact or addition to products. Consumption of contaminated drinking water is a significant cause of Campylobacter infections. If it is determined that water testing would be prudent, testing large volumes of water may be required to reach the desired sensitivity for either culture or molecular detection methods, and stressed cells of Campylobacter can be especially difficult to detect. A good practice to reduce this risk is to carefully evaluate all sources of water used in the manufacturing process, being sure to trace and map the entire water system. Water that is used for direct product contact or product addition should have residual chlorine or be otherwise treated to be fit for use.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published an updated Draft FSIS [Food Safety Inspection Service] Compliance Guideline for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry. In this document, the agency offers the following testing recommendations:
“There are no identified index organisms that directly reflect the presence or absence of pathogens in poultry (e.g., Salmonella and Campylobacter). Therefore, FSIS recommends that an establishment test for pathogens at least intermittently and compare its results against the presence or absence of other non-pathogenic organisms (i.e., the indicator organisms the establishment is using) to assess whether it is maintaining process control. The indicator organisms can provide evidence of control, while periodic testing for pathogens may verify that the establishment is reducing pathogens to acceptable levels. Establishments conducting their own ongoing verification sampling of finished product for Salmonella and Campylobacter can use the FSIS performance standards as indicators of process control.”
Due to changes in methodology and sampling programs, it is difficult to use USDA compliance data to prove a parallel reduction in Salmonella and Campylobacter incidence in poultry. However, despite the emphasis on Salmonella control, there does seem to be a generally similar reduction in both pathogens in poultry in the U.S. In the third quarter of 2011, the average prevalence of Salmonella in broiler carcasses was 8.2% and Campylobacter was 8.5%. During the third quarter of 2015, the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken carcasses was 1.4% and 2.2%, respectively. These results suggest that while the industry target has mainly been Salmonella, there has also been a concomitant reduction in Campylobacter in U.S. chicken carcasses.
Conundrum #2: Is campylobacteriosis mainly attributed to food, water or other sources?
A review of Campylobacter outbreaks in the U.S. revealed that common vehicles of transmission were food (86%), water (9%) and animal contact (3%). Dairy products were implicated in 29% of the foodborne outbreaks, poultry in 11% and produce in 5%. However, the majority of cases of campylobacteriosis are sporadic, and it is extremely difficult to trace the source of these types of illnesses. It is often generalized that the majority of sporadic cases can be attributed to consuming undercooked poultry or to cross-contamination of ready-to-eat foods with Campylobacter originating from raw poultry, whereas the majority of outbreaks stem from dairy products. However, it seems plausible that nonfood sources may account for an even-greater percentage of the sporadic cases. Besides the extreme epidemiological challenge of attributing the source of sporadic illnesses, there is a challenge in detecting Campylobacter, especially when it is in a stressed condition, as can be expected when trying to isolate the organism from environments such as water or mud. As an example, researchers in Canada found that Campylobacter was frequently detected at low concentrations in a watershed in southern Ontario. When using quantitative PCR, higher prevalence was found compared with a cultural method, probably because of the formation of viable but nonculturable cells. It was concluded that Campylobacter in surface water can be an important vector for human disease transmission and that method selection is important in determining pathogen occurrence in a water environment.
Another interesting phenomenon concerning nonfood sources of campylobacteriosis has been an association with outdoor competitive events. One of the largest reported campylobacteriosis outbreaks in Canada was associated with a mountain bike race that took place in muddy conditions in British Columbia during June 2007. Of the 537 racers included in a follow-up epidemiological study, 225 racers (42%) reported diarrheal illness after the race. C. jejuni clinical isolates (n = 14) were found to be identical by multi-locus sequence typing. Direct accidental ingestion of mud was significantly associated with illness, making mud the most likely source of Campylobacter infection. A similar outbreak occurred during a muddy mountain bike race in the United Kingdom in 2008. An outbreak in Nevada in 2012 was associated with a long-distance obstacle adventure race. These types of outbreaks may represent the tip of the iceberg when extrapolating to sporadic cases and taking into consideration the ubiquitous occurrence of Campylobacter in water, mud and animal feces.
Getting back to the alliterations theme, a very interesting theory explaining a Campylobacter conundrum was put forth in a paper entitled “Flies, Fingers, Fomites, and Food.” The conundrum was that in New Zealand, there is a distinct seasonality of campylobacteriosis, while one of the main food associations is the consumption of cooked chicken at fast-food establishments, a link that did not seem to completely explain the seasonality. The seasonality did, however, correlate quite nicely with the life cycle of flies in the region, with increased illnesses correlating to increased fly foraging activity. The authors postulated that the Campylobacter might be food-associated rather than foodborne, in that the flies might have contaminated fomites such as door handles, and chicken is commonly consumed by handling directly with the fingers that may have contacted the fomites. The contamination may be more a factor of fingers and fomites spreading the contamination from flies directly onto the cooked chicken and into the mouth of the consumer rather than undercooking or cross-contamination in the kitchen, very much changing how this risk can best be mitigated. It should be noted that the New Zealand Food Safety Authority disputed the findings, pointing out yet another conundrum: There is a higher rate of campylobacteriosis in New Zealand among urban dwellers (fewer flies) than rural inhabitants. The agency agreed that there should be a true farm-to-fork approach to controlling Campylobacter.
Conundrum #3: In terms of food safety, the focus has been on C. jejuni, C. coli and sometimes C. lari. What if there are other species that cause a significant number of illnesses?
Despite great advances in detecting, reporting and investigating foodborne illnesses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 38.4 million cases of domestically acquired foodborne illness are caused by unspecified agents each year. Many of these illnesses are probably caused by viruses, protozoans and bacteria that are not routinely tested, or for which detection methods do not exist. Because Campylobacter is notoriously difficult to culture in the laboratory, it is reasonable to assume that many of these illnesses due to unspecified agents might be caused by various species of Campylobacter.
More than 20 species are assigned to the genus Campylobacter. Human illnesses attributed to this genus are most commonly associated with C. jejuni and C. coli, but additional species have been identified due to recent advances in methodologies. Less commonly recognized species such as C. lari and C. upsaliensis have been isolated from patients with gastrointestinal diseases.
The use of newer detection technologies that do not necessarily rely on culturing is beginning to indicate that other species of Campylobacter may in fact be causing significant illnesses. In one study, 7,194 fecal samples collected over a 1-year period from patients with diarrhea were screened for Campylobacter spp. using a multiplex-PCR system. Of 349 Campylobacter-positive samples, 23.8% were shown to be C. ureolyticus, using a combination of 16S rRNA gene analysis and highly specific primers targeting the HSP60 gene. The authors of this study suggested that C. ureolyticus may be an emerging enteric pathogen that is capable of causing gastroenteritis. In a review of emerging Campylobacter species causing human illness, C. concisus and C. upsaliensis were also mentioned in addition to C. ureolyticus. C. fetus may be yet another emerging species capable of causing intestinal and systemic illness, although it is probably more associated with immunocompromised individuals. These emerging species are all nutritionally fastidious and would probably not be detected using typical food or clinical cultural screening methods for Campylobacter. As detection methodologies improve, the impact on public health of these emerging species will become clearer.
Conundrum #4: How can a bacterium that is so difficult to grow cause so much illness?
This question has been asked many times, especially by microbiologists who are having trouble keeping the positive lab control culture alive. One of the authors (T.F.) recalls testing for Campylobacter during the early days of routine food testing. Despite the use of complex growth media and gas mixtures, it was very common to “lose” the control culture. Control cultures were expensive and difficult to obtain, so the lab technicians would go to a local butcher shop and buy a freshly butchered chicken carcass. Campylobacter was isolated every time from this source and was used as a control after biochemical identification.
Campylobacter is sensitive to drying, is nutritionally fastidious and cannot tolerate levels of oxygen found in the normal atmosphere. Although difficult to keep alive in the laboratory, some strains of Campylobacter seem able to survive quite well in the natural environment. They probably employ several strategies to survive and may work together with other types of bacteria such as Pseudomonas spp. to form stable mixed biofilms. Another survival strategy is the ability to enter into a viable but nonculturable state, becoming very metabolically inactive, thus better able to survive extreme conditions.
There are probably several more conundrums associated with this complex and vexing bacterial genus. Going forward, many interesting breakthroughs relative to this organism are expected in the areas of epidemiology, detection technologies for food, environmental and clinical samples, and novel risk-reducing interventions as industry, regulatory and public health agencies, and academia collaborate to resolve the many Campylobacter conundrums.
Timothy Freier, Ph.D., serves as division vice president of scientific affairs and microbiology (North America) at Mérieux NutriSciences.
Patrick Kennedy is information services manager at Mérieux NutriSciences.
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Integrating the Nation’s Food Safety System: What You Need to Know
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/aprilmay-2016/integrating-the-natione28099s-food-safety-system-what-you-need-to-knowpast-present-and-future/
By Joseph Corby, Gary Ades, Ph.D., Jeff Farrar, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.P.H., Barbara Cassens, Patrick Kennelly, Steve Mandernach, Stan Stromberg and Jessica Holthaus Badour
In 1939, Connecticut Dairy and Food Commissioner E.G. Woodward was the vice president of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) and expressed the following in the organization’s quarterly bulletin:
“The greatest single program of work before the Association is to follow through with its efforts for uniformity in state legislation until this whole nation has an integrated system of similar Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Laws, interpreted, administered, and enforced in a single spirit of uniformity.”
Little did Commissioner Woodward know that his words would become the hallmark issue for AFDO and that the organization would formally issue its vision for an integrated food safety system (IFSS) that would be validated in 2011 with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
A Bit of History
Since 1896, AFDO has fought for uniformity among federal and state regulators in a number of ways. The organization was a strong advocate of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and even sent its legislative committee to Washington to argue for passage of them.
Passage of the 1906 measure in Congress was not assured, but lobbying by the association was vocal and well funded. Some members of Congress opposed the bill as being unconstitutional. President Theodore Roosevelt, however, overcame lawmakers’ objections and signed the landmark law. He was also very much repulsed by slaughterhouse practices that were described in Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle and signed the Meat Inspection Act that same year. The country now had statutes dedicated to protection against the adulteration of food and drugs.
In 1913, AFDO requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) form an Office of State Cooperation that would later become the Division of Federal State Relations and eventually the FDA Office of Partnerships. Today, the Office of Partnerships is a key promoter of an IFSS and has a dedicated staff that works with state and local food safety managers to advance this cause.
In 1927, AFDO approved adoption of a Model Uniform Food Law, which provided a basic food law model for the states to consider adopting. This model law identified foundational authorities and powers that state programs needed for effective enforcement of food safety laws. This model law is still useful today, as FDA and states begin implementing produce safety requirements at fresh produce farms—an arena traditionally absent of inspection and governmental oversight.
In 1937, a Tennessee drug company marketed a form of a new sulfa drug elixir, sulfanilamide. However, the solvent in this untested product was a highly toxic chemical analogue of antifreeze. Following the marketing of this product, more than 100 people would die, causing an enormous public outcry. The event resulted in the passage of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. The act completely overhauled the public health system and authorized FDA to demand evidence of safety for new drugs, to issue standards for food and to conduct inspections.
Another result of this tragic episode was the nationally coordinated effort by FDA and the states to track down any remaining sulfanilamide in the marketplace to prevent further deaths. This task was performed by all 239 FDA field officials and a multitude of state and local officials. This coordinated effort led to the retrieval of 234 of the 240 gallons of product believed to be marketed and was one of the first clear illustrations of what government agencies could accomplish by working closely together in a more integrated fashion.
In 1968, reorganization of federal health programs placed FDA within the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The following year, FDA began administering sanitation programs for milk, shellfish, foodservice and interstate travel facilities. Their responsibilities in these programs were transferred from other units of PHS. Annual national conferences were developed in three program areas to bring together representatives from all levels of government, the food industry, academia and consumer organizations to address emerging food safety problems. The Conference for Food Protection for retail, National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments for milk and Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference for shellfish all work toward developing science-based procedures and best practices the food regulatory agencies and industry follow.
These conferences represent a formal agreement between FDA and state and local regulatory entities. The model codes, ordinances, memorandums of understanding and related documents that guide the cooperative programs emerge from these conferences, and all efforts are conducted cooperatively.
FDA Partnerships and Contracts
An FDA partnership is a relationship in which the parties have close cooperation and share specified rights and responsibilities. FDA and the state and local agencies have developed numerous partnerships that do not necessarily require a contractual relationship but are anchored in common values, goals and responsibilities. A model “Integrated Partnership Agreement” was developed that involves all goals and activities between FDA and a state agency (including planning and operational coordination, food recall activities, information sharing, food sampling and analysis, and emergency response)—all within the single agreement.
FDA contracts are much more formalized than partnerships and involve agreed-upon funding for services. Currently, FDA’s Office of Partnerships manages the various inspection contract programs with states. These contract programs benefit states by providing familiarity with federal requirements and more uniform enforcement of laws through cooperation and coordination with FDA. The inspection contract programs allow FDA to enlarge coverage of its Official Establishment Inventory of food processing facilities and to redirect resources to other priorities.
The inspection contract programs include food safety, feed (including bovine spongiform encephalopathy testing), tissue residue, milk, drugs, the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992 and medical devices. These programs exist in more than 145 state regulatory agencies. They allow FDA to acquire data for more than 4 million samples collected and 25,000 inspections conducted at the state level.
Vision of an Integrated Food Safety System
AFDO soon began to envision and then promote a federal/state relationship that was more permanent and substantive than partnerships and contracts could ever be. It was the beginning of the real quest for an IFSS.
Dr. Dan Smyly was the food safety program manager for Florida’s Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and AFDO president in 1997–98. Smyly first initiated the concept of a vertically integrated national system during a presentation he gave at the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society’s annual conference on September 9, 1997. During his presentation, he said the following:
“With our dwindling resources, we have very few options except to work smarter together, pool our resources and work more cooperatively in the regulation of foods in this country.
I also believe that all major stakeholders in the federal, state, industry and regulatory interface must continue to work towards the development of what I call a truly vertically integrated national food regulatory system.
All inspections, laboratory testing and enforcement activities at all levels of government must be captured in an overall focused national system. No level of funding increase will give sufficient resources for the federal government to effectively regulate the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing, processing and retail establishments.
For us to have a truly vertically integrated national food regulatory system, we must involve President Clinton, Congress, governors, state legislators and other state executive leaders to provide adequate resources at all levels of government to implement the national system.”
Smyly presented additional speeches on the integration concept at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s annual federal/state conference on food safety in November 1997 and a regulator panel discussion at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee to Ensure Safe Food from Production to Consumption in April 1998.
During these presentations, Smyly presented AFDO’s recommendation to form a select group of key members from pertinent stakeholder groups to craft a blueprint for a future national IFSS that would encompass all levels of government. He concluded his remarks at the NAS stating, “All that remains for us to do is to make the commitment.”
This marked the beginning of a concentrated effort to develop a national IFSS. It started during President Bill Clinton’s Food Safety Initiative, which was designed to strengthen coordination and improve efficiency between FDA, USDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This initiative resulted in the formation of a new intergovernmental group dedicated to working in a more coordinated fashion with state and local responders to foodborne illness. It included an expansion of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points principles, increased food safety research, the development of an early national warning system and a campaign for food safety education. Most importantly, it gave birth to the National Food Safety System (NFSS) project.
National Food Safety System Project
The commitment that Smyly recommended came to pass with the development of the NFSS project. Through this project, FDA and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) actively began engaging state and local food safety counterparts. CDC and EPA also began to explore new approaches for partnering on food protection. In September 1998, a meeting was held for food safety officials from FDA, USDA-FSIS and CDC along with the food safety agencies from all 50 states. This historic meeting produced a broad consensus on the need to meet challenges together to integrate food safety activities at all levels of government. Attendees discussed their visions of a successful food safety system, identified obstacles to achieving that vision and proposed action items to remove those barriers.
NFSS work groups were formed, consisting of individuals from the federal agencies as well as state and local officials. Under the guidance of a multi-agency steering committee, these work groups were charged with generating ideas to promote an IFSS. There were five initial NFSS work groups:
• Roles and Responsibilities
• Outbreak Coordination and Investigation
• Laboratory Operations and Coordination
• Information Sharing and Data Collection
• National Uniform Criteria
All participants of the NFSS project agreed that an IFSS should have the following properties: a common vision, national uniform standards, uniform inspections and enforcement, uniform laboratory practices, adequate training, enhanced communications and federal oversight. In 1999, the NFSS work groups proposed innovative ideas and provided assistance on a number of federal activities, and by 2001, a number of projects had been initiated and/or completed. Some of the major accomplishments and integration concepts (which continue to this day) the work groups achieved include the following:
• Agreement that uniform national standards should be established for electronic exchange of laboratory, inspection and surveillance data
• Development of standards for food sampling, laboratory testing and reporting
• Identification of the critical importance of accrediting food testing laboratories and of sharing testing data
• Development of a set of guidelines for the coordination of multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks
• Provision of an oversight model for FDA to audit state inspections conducted under partnerships and contracts
• Drafting of a model partnership agreement for FDA to establish with state food safety agencies
• Development of a conceptual design for a “virtual” National Food Safety Training Center (also known as “Food Safety University”)
• Development of a draft set of uniform criteria that could be used to evaluate the capacity and performance of local, state or federal regulatory programs for retail foods, seafood and manufactured foods regulatory programs
• Proposal of the establishment of state food safety task forces
Many of these ideas have become a reality today through the presence of electronic exchange and information-sharing systems, lab accreditation efforts, uniform inspection and investigation guidelines, a model IFSS partnership program, the establishment of the Office of Regulatory Affairs University with online and face-to-face training, advancement of regulatory program standards and implementation of food safety task forces in multiple states across the nation. All of these prominent and beneficial efforts owe their existence to the ideas created through the NFSS project.
Unfortunately, federal funding for the NFSS project began to decrease and was lost by 2002. All the work that had gone into this effort was thought to have been wasted. It was too good an idea, however, and would soon be illustrated in the new visions and ideas for improving the nation’s food safety system—all of which would recognize the need for closer collaboration between local, state and federal government agencies.
FDA Food Protection Plan
During the administration of George W. Bush, the FDA Food Protection Plan was developed to implement a strategy of prevention, intervention and response along every step in the food supply chain. The plan complemented FDA’s Import Safety Action Plan to improve the safety of all imported products, and the two plans were conceived to improve the food safety efforts by the public and private sectors.
To fortify prevention efforts against food contamination, FDA planned to strengthen support of the food industry’s efforts to build safety into products at the level of manufacturing. For its intervention strategy, FDA would emphasize risk-based inspection and sampling at the manufacturer/processor level. For response, FDA recognized the critical importance of clear communication channels with its own personnel, the public, other government agencies and the food industry. This clear recognition of state and local agencies stems from their status as “boots on the ground” first responders to foodborne illness and food emergencies.
Food Safety Modernization Act
FSMA was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. The goal of FSMA is to better protect public health by strengthening the food safety system through the prevention of food safety problems (rather than reacting to problems after they occur). FSMA provides FDA with new enforcement authority designed to achieve higher rates of compliance with prevention and risk-based food safety standards. It also gives FDA important new tools to hold imported foods to the same standards as domestic foods. For the first time, FSMA incorporates into federal law a requirement that FDA build an integrated national food safety system in partnership with state and local authorities.
An IFSS will not happen overnight, and FDA has created a process for getting this work done. However, the funding FDA receives each year will affect how quickly the organization is able to implement FSMA requirements and develop the integrated system necessary to meet these challenges.
The formal system to be built through FSMA requires commitment and collaboration with other government agencies, both domestic and foreign. In doing so, FSMA explicitly recognizes that all food safety agencies need to work in an integrated manner to achieve improved public health goals.
Domestically, state and local capacity building is key to a successful implementation strategy. FSMA provides FDA with a multi-year-grant funding mechanism to facilitate investments in state and local food protection and public health efforts to more efficiently achieve national food safety goals together.
Partnership for Food Protection
The Partnership for Food Protection (PFP), established in 2009, is a group of dedicated professionals from federal, state and local governments with roles in protecting the food supply and public health. Members have expertise in food, feed, epidemiology, laboratory, animal health, environment and public health, and have been charged with developing and implementing a national IFSS through five critical components:
1. Communicating the vision, goals and expectations of an IFSS
2. Gaining industry compliance
3. Emergency response and recalls
4. Laboratory and regulatory science
5. Training and certification
The PFP recognizes that factors such as work planning, communication and outreach, national standards, information technology, best practices and metrics must be addressed within each of these critical components, as they are developing actions for each based on available funding and resources.
Following a 50-state workshop in 2012, the PFP Governing Council was formed with representatives from local and state health and agricultural departments, an associate executive and key FDA centers and offices to guide the work of the PFP and set strategic priorities. It is not a policy-setting body.
A strategic plan, released in 2014, established a direction and plans for developing an IFSS through the PFP, focusing primarily on integrating functions related to domestically manufactured human and animal food. The plan will be reviewed every 2 years in detail to allow for adjustments based on recent accomplishments and changes in the regulatory landscape.
The plan also provides guidance and sets objectives for seven PFP work groups that contain numerous members from federal, state and local government agencies. The current work groups and their charges are the following:
1. Outreach: Communicate the benefits of an IFSS and the role and accomplishments of the PFP through newsletters, presentations on PFP activities at many association meetings and conferences, and the PFP website
2. Work Planning & Inspections: Develop coordinated approaches for planning and conducting industry oversight activities related to work planning, inspections and sampling to promote compliance with applicable food safety laws and regulations, and to protect public health
3. Compliance & Enforcement: Develop coordinated approaches for planning and conducting industry oversight and enforcement activities to promote compliance with applicable food safety laws and regulations, and to protect public health
4. Surveillance, Response & Postresponse: Strengthen and enable faster and more effective surveillance, response and postresponse activities to food safety efforts through coordination among strategic partners
5. Laboratory Science: Promote consistency and facilitate information sharing by establishing and utilizing national laboratory best practices
6. Training & Certification: Provide input into the development of standard curricula and certification programs that promote consistency and competence among the IFSS workforce
7. Information Technology: Promote data standards to improve the ability to share information electronically among strategic partners
While the activities of the PFP have come primarily from government, all other stakeholders are engaged. This is a critical piece that was overlooked in the past but is very much part of the seamless system that is desired. Industry, academia and consumers are continually advised of IFSS efforts and activities to ensure transparency and to seek feedback. Two early successes of the IFSS are the Rapid Response Teams and the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Alliance.
Rapid Response Teams
Food Protection Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) conduct integrated, multi-agency responses to food and feed emergencies in various states across the nation.[2,3] RRTs were developed through multi-year cooperative agreements between FDA and state food regulatory partners. There are currently 18 RRTs within the program, with additional states developing RRTs outside of cooperative agreements (i.e., without federal funding support).
RRTs engage partners across disciplines and jurisdictions to build core capabilities and explore innovative approaches to response. The RRTs vary from state to state in accordance with differences in government structures, geographies, laws, resources, etc. They activate in response to food emergencies, drawing on the resources and partnerships developed through this project to accomplish responses characterized by improvements in areas such as interagency communication, established plans and procedures, and jointly trained and exercised staff.
Recent RRT responses to emergencies exhibit the benefits of strengthened collaboration and capabilities on the efficiency and effectiveness of their responses.
RRTs have worked to align preparedness, prevention, surveillance, response and mitigation efforts of the federal, state and local regulatory agencies within their states, including epidemiological and laboratory partners. RRTs also work closely with the components of federal agencies responsible for coordinating the national regulatory or public health response for multi-state events. For example, during multi-state foodborne outbreaks, RRTs work with their FDA district office to receive updates on the national investigation and share the RRTs’ action plans and accomplishments with FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network to ensure individual RRTs’ response activities are aligned with the national response. Similarly, state epidemiological partners of the RRTs work with the CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch to receive and share information about the epidemiological investigation within the state and nationwide.
Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Alliance
The Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Alliance (MFRPA) was formed under a cooperative agreement between FDA and AFDO. This alliance consists of state manufactured food regulatory program managers from around the country with representatives from every state who engage in FDA contract work for inspection of manufactured food facilities. The alliance works with FDA to:
• Establish a network of state manufactured food program managers
• Conduct surveys of state/local/tribal manufactured foods programs
• Identify and track state laws and regulations
• Provide task-oriented guidelines as needed
• Identify and support pilot programs in states as needed to support implementation of MFRPA
• Identify training and outreach that is needed
• Update the Directory of State and Local Officials (DSLO)
• Establish operational partnerships that assist in the capacity building of state and local agencies
• Establish and implement strategies for improving state and local food safety efforts
AFDO administers an annual national meeting that brings together all state program managers along with FDA district and Office of Partnership officials. The meeting is designed to assist state food safety programs in meeting program standards and advancing a more uniform IFSS. The alliance has been extremely successful in meeting the above-listed objectives.
The DSLO is considered the primary contact mechanism for an integrated system. The DSLO identifies state officials’ contact information, which can be searched by job function, such as boards of pharmacy, consumer protection, laboratory, epidemiology, retail food, manufactured food, shellfish and dairy. The DSLO is updated twice a year and includes a host of other contact links. This directory is available to everyone via AFDO’s and FDA’s websites. It can also be accessed via mobile devices.
In addition to the state contact information, the DSLO includes links to local health officials, tribal jurisdictions, AFDO’s state food emergency contact list, state feed control officials, FDA district offices, the FDA Import Operations office and FSIS field offices.
The alliance has worked with AFDO in developing and distributing guidance documents associated with the inspection of fresh produce, food transportation best practices, imported foods, risk-based modeling and cottage foods.
The alliance formed an important operational partnership that continues with food laboratory managers from the federal and state arenas to help labs meet regulatory program standards associated with the requirement of laboratory support. The alliance now collaborates with food laboratory managers on issues related to sampling and analysis of manufactured food.
What Will an Integrated Food Safety System Look Like?
FDA has stressed that an IFSS is a critical element in taking a preventive approach to food safety. However, FDA stresses that building an integrated system presents some unique and colossal challenges.
One problem with integration is that the preventive efforts of every agency must be sustainable. It is estimated that approximately 14 federal agencies, 75 state agencies and 2,800 local agencies are involved in food safety in this country. When considering these numbers, it is not hard to imagine that the task of integrating all of these government entities is impracticable. Even while FDA’s implementation strategy for FSMA is to build an IFSS, some states debate this strategy, as it is based on reliance on state-level inspections, which already have limited and often diminishing resources. This may be one of the biggest challenges for an IFSS.
There is a commonality among all of these government entities, however, and that is the strong and passionate will to improve. This driving force will allow us all to advance the idea of integration that was formally presented to FDA almost two decades ago.
But changing our nation’s food safety system will take time. We need to change attitudes and culture—things many have said cannot be achieved with government. It will require trust and mutual reliance between all government entities with the clear understanding that independence in food safety efforts is a thing of the past.
Enormous strides have been taken in advancing an IFSS, from the achievements of PFP to the support structure of the MFRPA to the acceptance and implementation of regulatory program standards to the marked improvements made in the response areas of foodborne illness investigation and food recalls. While government can boast about improvements, officials still recognize there is much more to do.
Industry and consumers have a huge stake in this too, and they have legitimate demands for what an IFSS should be.
If one were to envision our system fully integrated in the future, it most likely would contain the following elements:
• An increased ability to assess potential risks at domestic and foreign food facilities
• More consistent coverage facilities across the entire food supply chain
• Greater food surveillance through integration of food facility inspection information
• Improved rapid response capacity and efficiency
• Uniform inspection and investigation activities
• Application at all government levels of equivalent performance standards
• Fully trained and competent inspection staff
• The free sharing of inspection and analytic data
• The application of more strategic inspections
• Credible enforcement at all levels
• National uniformity
Going forward, it is important that all stakeholders stay informed so that we may all better understand the current integration efforts and can all work together to help identify specific practices to improve integration activities for all stakeholders.
Integration was a great idea in 1939 when Commissioner Woodward expressed his thoughts. It was a great idea in 1997 when AFDO President Smyly formally expressed AFDO’s position. It is a great idea today, one that is experiencing many successes, and it appears to be the best way for us all to meet the challenges of FSMA and reforming our nation’s food safety system.
Joseph Corby is executive director of AFDO.
Gary Ades, Ph.D., is president of G&L Consulting Group, LLC and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine.
Jeff Farrar, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.P.H., is director of intergovernmental affairs and partnerships in the FDA Office of Food Safety and Veterinary Medicine.
Barbara Cassens and Patrick Kennelly are PFP Governing Council cochairs.
Steve Mandernach is program director at the Iowa Department of Inspection & Appeals.
Stan Stromberg is director of the food safety division at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Jessica Holthaus Badour is a recall outreach specialist with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Food safety tips for every occasion
Source : http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/food_safety_tips_for_every_occassion
By Eileen Haraminac, Michigan State University Extension (Apr 26, 2016)
Michigan State University Extension and Food Safety.gov recommends these tips to keep you and your family safe from food poisoning.
•Cook it: Cook food to the right temperature. This is done by checking food with a food thermometer. Just looking at the color and texture of the food will not indicate that it is safe to eat.
•Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Surfaces like cutting boards, counters and utensils as well as hand washing need to be done on a frequent basis
•Chill: Refrigerate food promptly. Keeping food out of the temperature danger zone will help keep food safe from bacteria growth which can harm consumers if eaten.
•Separate: Store different types of foods separately. Think about the foods in your kitchen, fresh fruit and vegetables, raw meats like chicken, fish and beef. Keeping these foods separated can help prevent cross contamination from occurring.
Understanding how you get food poisoning can help to keep you and your family healthy. MSU Extension and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the following: “You can get food poisoning after swallowing food that has been contaminated with a variety of germs (bacteria, viruses, parasites) or toxic substances (molds, contaminants). After you eat the contaminated food there is a delay before symptoms of food poisoning begin. This delay may range from hours to days, depending on the germ and on how many germs you swallowed.”
The CDC also reports that the “common symptoms of food poisoning include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and may differ depending on the germ that is making you sick. Some consumers may be familiar with bacteria like norovirus, salmonella, or e-coli, but others may not be known to you. Severe cases of food poisoning can cause long-term health problems or death.”
Keep your food safe from bacterial growth and taking the right steps will help to ensure that you and your family do not get sick from food poisoning.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
After Deadly Salad Listeria Outbreak, Dole Restarts Production at Springfield Plant
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/after-deadly-salad-listeria-outbreak-dole-restarts-production-at-springfield-plant/
By Carla Gillespie (Apr 26, 2016)
After being linked to a salad Listeria outbreak, Dole’s plant in Springfield, Ohio has reopened, according to a press release on the company’s website. The outbreak included 19 confirmed cases in the U.S. and one fatality. In Canada, 14 people were sickened and three of them died, although health officials in Canada have not been determined if Listeria was the cause of those deaths. All case patients in both countries were hospitalized. One illness was reported in a pregnant woman.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency completed their investigations of the Springfield, plant, according to the statement. Production has restarted and will ramp up in the coming weeks.
“We’re grateful for the support of all our employees and the town of Springfield”, said Dole PresidentHoward Roeder, in the statement. “Their commitment has been, and will always be, the cornerstone of the Dole Fresh Vegetables organization.”
In the U.S. outbreak, case patients reported onset of illness from July 5, 2015 to January 31, 2016. They ranged in age from 3 years to 83, with a median age was 64. Seventy four percent of those sickened were female.
Cases were reported from Connecticut (1), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), Missouri (2), New Jersey (1), New York (6), Ohio (2) and Pennsylvania (1).The fatality was reported in Michigan.
Fourteen case patients were interviewed by health officials. Thirteen of them reported eating a packaged salad before they became ill. The nine people who specified a brand of packaged salad, reported various kinds of Dole brand packaged salads, according to the CDC.
Recalls were issued in both countries. In Canada, the salads linked to the outbreak were sold under the brand names Dole and PC Organics. In the U.S., the recalled salads were sold under the following names: Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice.
Health officials used whole genome sequencing (WGS) to determine that the isolates of case patients in both countries were closely related genetically. Genetic, epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated a link between packaged salad products produced at Dole’s Springfield plant and the outbreak of listeriosis.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection can take as long as 70 days to develop. They include: nausea and diarrhea followed by fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and muscle aches. Young children, seniors, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk for Listeria infections. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and illness in newborns.
Food safety in the garden
Source : http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/food_safety_in_the_garden
By Lisa Treiber (Apr 25, 2016)
Temperatures are beginning to warm and many people’s thoughts are beginning to turn to gardening. Have you ever considered that where you plant, how you should plant and what you plant could be impacted by food safety issues? From planting to harvest time it is important to keep produce safe from harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. Planning with food safety in mind throughout the process will make it safer for those consuming the end results.
When planting, whether it is a new site or your regular site, make sure the site is not located near a contaminated area or has been contaminated itself. Sources of contamination could include areas that are frequently flooded, spaces where animals (farm, domestic or wild) roam and areas where garbage or septic issues have been a problem. Also, be aware of potential pollutants, contaminated water, toxic dumping etc. This would be an area to avoid planting seeds or plants. It is also a good idea to have the soil tested before planting. This is something that can be done through your local Michigan State University Extension office (kits are available locally and online).
The soil test will provide information on whether the soil is safe. It is recommended to try to keep all animals, domestic and wild, out of the garden area. Position your garden away from trees, overhead wires and as far from wooded areas as possible. When working in the garden, do your best to keep dogs and cats out, this will help eliminate problems with these animals possibly contaminating your produce and soil.
The best sources of water for a garden are from wells or sources that have been treated. These supplies should be tested to ensure they are safe for your produce.
One wouldn’t think cleanliness would be a factor when working in the garden or harvesting produce, but it is very important. Gardeners should be careful to keep shoes, gloves and clothing as clean as possible when harvesting. Chewing gum, smoking or chewing tobacco products and eating and drinking in the garden can also contaminate produce. Gardeners should keep finger nails trim to reduce the chances of puncturing produce. Avoid wearing excessive jewelry, rings and watches since they can harbor bacteria. If you have been ill with vomiting, diarrhea, fever or jaundice within the last 24 hours avoid handling produce or working in the garden. The bacteria you may be carrying in your system could be transferred to the produce. Hands should be washed after using the restroom, eating, smoking, changing diapers, handling animals and before entering the garden. They should also be washed upon leaving the garden.
Fertilizers, sprays and organic matter
It is important, regardless of the type of gardening you choose to do, to always follow directions from the manufacturer. Never harvest early or incorrectly mix products.
When it is time to harvest, the container being used needs to be able to be cleaned and sanitized between uses. Use food grade containers to harvest foods, avoid garbage bags, wicker baskets and other items that cannot be cleaned and sanitized. If at all possible, avoid putting picking containers on the ground during harvest. Tools (anything that will come in direct contact with the produce) should be cleaned and sanitized after each use. A dishwasher is an ideal way to accomplish this.
Avoid cross-contamination by decreasing the handling of produce; limit the number of times it is handled once it has been picked. Keep the picked produce as cool as possible but prevent it from coming in direct contact with ice. Keep in mind once tomatoes, melons and lettuce have been cut or sliced they must be stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep all fresh produce away from raw meat, chicken, fish and eggs.
Michigan State University Extension recommends you remember it is important that fruit and vegetables can become contaminated and cause illness, regardless of whether it is grown in your own garden, selected from a farmers market or purchased from a source many miles away. Following these easy tips can make produce not only nutritious, but food safe. To learn more about gardening please visit the Smart Gardening Resources.
Accept no trade-offs with food safety: The Star
Source : http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/accept-no-trade-offs-with-food-safety-the-star
By straitstimes.com (Apr 25, 2016)
25, the paper urges authorities to act fast to address questions about use of banned anti-biotics in Malaysian-farmed prawns.
When it comes to food, any alert over its safety is bound to set alarm bells ringing.
And we are not talking about unhappy customers posting on social media that they found a cockroach in the food served at a restaurant.
The import alert raised by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the alleged presence of banned antibiotics in Malaysian-farmed prawns and shrimp is surely cause for concern, as it is big business.
We are one of the 10 top exporters of these products to the Untied States and the authorities must act quickly to get to the bottom of the issue.
The use of the two antibiotics – nitrofurans and chloramphenicol – by farm operators to prevent disease in prawns and shrimp is not new.
We also know for a fact that these antibiotics are potentially harmful for human consumption and that they are banned in both Malaysia and the United States.
So how did they slip through the net, so to say?
The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry claims that the export of frozen prawns from Malaysia to the United States was arranged on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis and that no official seal of approval concerning its safety was required.
There is thus no monitoring process to ensure that these products meet the safety requirements of the countries that they are exported to.
It is telling that while the FDA alert applies to prawns from the peninsula, it does not apply to Sabah and Sarawak.
Does this mean that farmers in these two states do not use these two antibiotics?
The Malaysian Shrimp Industry Association has also categorically denied that the shrimp came from Malaysia. We need to investigate this matter thoroughly.
To put things in perspective, those in the agro-based industry often find ways to get their products to consumers in as short a time as possible.
In livestock production, antibiotics are given to animals for a number of different reasons: the treatment and prevention of disease and primarily growth promotion.
As an aquaculture expert puts it, there are various ways prawn farmers can use to combat diseases in shrimp and prawns, but some treatments are more time consuming and not as effective as using nitrofurans and chloramphenicol.
It has to be noted that the FDA import alert has also been issued to other countries, which proves that although the farmers are aware of the risks, they continue to use these two substances, hoping that they would not be caught.
Major shrimp and prawn supplying countries in Asia depend on the use of these antibiotics to prevent diseases in farmed seafood.
Such an attitude is not to be condoned.
Just as we would be up in arms if unsafe food from other countries hits our markets, we must also ensure that our products are safe all the time.
Take the bird’s nest industry, for example, when China banned our products in 2011 because of their excessive amounts of nitrite.
That really shook up the industry, as China was the top export market for Malaysian bird’s nests.
The ban was lifted three years later but only for selected Malaysian producers that had ensured their processed products were safe.
And these are the producers that are doing extremely well now because consumers are willing to pay a higher price when safety is guaranteed.
A Malaysian standard is now being developed on the safe levels of nitrate content for consumption, and to meet stringent export requirements for China’s market.
At present, only about half of the swiftlet farming companies were able to export bird’s nests to China.
The new Malaysian standard would help up to 90 percent of the companies export their products.
Likewise, prawn farmers must allow themselves to be subjected to strict control and monitoring to ensure that their products are safe for consumption anywhere in the world.
There must be no shortcuts that compromise on safety. And we must not forget that incidents like this can have a larger impact on the nation’s reputation.
We must act fast.
*The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.
Keep or throw out? Learning food-safety terms can save money
Source : http://abc7.com/food/keep-or-throw-out-learning-food-safety-terms-can-save-money/1307843/
By Lori Corbin (Apr 25, 2016)
They're on almost everything you buy in the store: Food product dates.
The terms "sell by," "use by," even "best by" are found on food from perishables to canned goods.
With the exception of baby formula the terms or dates on these packages are not government mandated, but rather are suggestions the food manufacturer is either giving to the grocer or the consumer. They are not usually about safety, but taste.
According to the USDA the terms mean the following:
"Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. If you have a product where this date has passed it doesn't mean the product is bad.
"Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Keep in mind many foods are still good after these dates have passed if stored properly. The fridge should be kept at 40 degrees or lower.
Store eggs and milk in the main compartment as the door is the warmest part of the fridge.
Produce like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and leafy greens like more humidity, but apples, peppers, squash, grapes, mushrooms and ripe avocados like a drier climate.
You do want to pay attention to the 'use by' date if you are eating unpasteurized dairy, deli meat and smoked fish as these foods have a higher food safety risk.
Beyond that, avoid waste by taking stock in what you throw away. Don't buy large quantities if you don't have a large crowd to support the purchase, and if you do buy big, make several meals to freeze and serve for later.
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