Secret outbreak investigation targeted packaged salads in April
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/secret-outbreak-investigation-targeted-packaged-salads-in-april/#.VzkmzU7yWUl
By Coral Beach (May 15, 2016)
Government and industry entities failed in April to reveal that both were investigating a cluster of Salmonella illnesses in which at least five out of six victims reported eating Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley Power Greens Mix purchased at various Sam’s Club locations.
After a notice on another company’s website — Pacific Coast Fruit Co. of Portland — brought the situation to light, Taylor Farms’ chairman and CEO Bruce Taylor confirmed that Minnesota officials had notified him about the investigation. However, it is not clear to whom Taylor issued his May 6 statement, which was still not available on the Taylor Farms website as of May 15.
Taylor’s statement, provided to Food Safety News on May 14, says:
“On Thursday, May 5th, Taylor Farms was informed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) of an investigation of reported foodborne illness.
“In April, six people with Salmonella Enteritidis infections, with the same rare DNA fingerprint pattern, were reported to the MDH. All of those infected are from the state of Minnesota. All are recovering.
“The FDA is not requiring any action from Taylor Farms and we are not issuing any formal recalls. We will continue to work with the MDH and MDA regarding this issue.
“The safety and health of the consumers who buy our products has always and will always be the highest priority for us. We will continue to strive to deliver the industry highest quality, safest produce in the industry.
“Consumers that have any questions or concerns can call Taylor Farms at 1 (855) 455-0098.”
Although Taylor did not reference a specific product or where it was distributed, the Pacific Coast Fruit Co. notice named Sam’s Club and said the retailer pulled Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley Power Greens Mix from shelves nationwide on April 4.
The Pacific Coast Fruit notice, dated May 6, was available on the company’s website May 14, but has since been removed. The notice carried the headline “Taylor Farms-Organic Kale Medley Recall” and was addressed to “our customers and the Pacific Coast Fruit Team.”
“We are sending out this announcement in response to the recall notice of Organic Kale Medley ‘Power Greens Mix’ from Taylor Farms. The product is being recalled for potential contamination with Salmonella. At this point this outbreak appears to be confined to one product, one state, Minnesota, and one retailer, Sam’s Club,” the Pacific Coast Fruit notice stated.
Pacific Coast officials stated in the May 6 notice they had verified their company had not received any of the implicated product.
“The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) are investigating an outbreak of foodborne illnesses associated with eating Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley ‘power greens’ mix in Minnesota. The mix contains spinach, kale, chard, and shredded carrots,” according to the Pacific Coast Fruit notice.
Minnesota officials did not respond to weekend requests for comment on the situation. Similarly, no one from Pacific Coast Fruit or Sam’s Club responded this weekend to requests for comment.
The Pacific Coast Fruit notice said six people with Salmonella enteritidis infections, all with the same rare DNA fingerprint pattern, were reported to MDH in April. The victims ranged in age from 7 to 69 and their illnesses began between April 3 and April 26. One person was hospitalized, and all are recovering, according to Pacific Coast Fruit.
“Five of the ill people in Minnesota reported eating Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley purchased at several Sam’s Club locations, and the source of the sixth person’s illness is under investigation,” Pacific Coast Fruit’s notice said.
An external communications spokesman for Taylor Farms said May 15 that the Salinas, CA, company did not need to issue a recall.
“No recall was needed because the issue being investigated was from back in late March early April. So, independent of the findings of the investigation, the product is no longer in the market place due to shelf-life limitations,” the Taylor Farms spokesman said.
The public’s right to know
The failure of public health officials and corporate entities to announce the spike in Salmonella cases and the subsequent investigation is the latest incident in what one food safety professional says is a disturbing, decade-long trend.
After the deadly E. coli outbreak in 2006 that was linked to bagged fresh spinach, companies have increasingly demanded governmental agencies provide confirmation results from time-consuming follow-up laboratory tests before issuing voluntary product recalls, said Douglas Powell, former professor at Kansas State University’s Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology.
Powell, who now lives in Australia, is publisher of barfblog.com, which has been monitoring and publicizing foodborne illness outbreaks since 2006, coined the phrase “leafy green cone of silence” to describe the lack of transparency on the part of government and industry in the decade since the spinach outbreak.
“This situation fits the pattern,” Powell told Food Safety News May 15. “It’s part of a bigger picture about the question of when to go public about outbreak investigations.
“There’s a question of public health. I don’t care that the product’s not on the shelves any more. The public has a right and a need to know about these incidents.”
Bill Marler, partner at the Seattle law firm Marler Clark LLP, had similar concerns. Marler has been representing victims of foodborne illnesses since the 1993 E. coli outbreak traced to undercooked hamburgers served by the Jack in The Box chain. He provided testimony to Congress during the drafting of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“My main concern is the lack of transparency, and that’s not just a comment on Taylor Farms, it’s a comment on FDA, the Minnesota departments of health and agriculture and a comment on the CDC,” Marler said May 15. “I think that anytime, especially when there are illnesses involved, I think the public has an absolute right to know what’s going on.
“My assumption is that someone’s determined that the product is no longer in the marketplace because it’s a perishable product and the public’s no longer at risk. While I appreciate that, it’s not a reason to not let consumers know.
“In order for the free market to work, in order for consumers to know what products are safe or safer, the companies and the government have a responsibility to educate the consumer.
“When they withhold that kind of information, for whatever justifiable reason they think they have, it doesn’t give (consumers) the information to know how to protect themselves and their families and also calls into question public health’s commitment to the public’s health.”
Food Safety Act not implemented in letter and spirit, concedes govt
Source : http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jammu-kashmir/food-safety-act-not-implemented-in-letter-and-spirit-concedes-govt/236831.html
By Tribune News Service (May 14, 2016)
Assures High Court of immediate upgrade of two food-testing laboratories
Conceding that the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, has not been implemented in letter and spirit, the government today assured the High Court that immediate steps would be taken for upgrade of the two outdated food-testing laboratories in Jammu and Srinagar without waiting for Central assistance.
A statement to this effect was made today by Chief Secretary BR Sharma before a Division Bench of the High Court, who along with other top bureaucrats, including Commissioner Secretaries for Health, Finance and Planning, was asked to be present in court today.
“Now that the Chief Secretary has given an assurance, we take it on record and trust him. Let them first upgrade the two outdated food-testing laboratories and provide two mobile testing laboratories,” stated a Division Bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey.
The observation followed an assurance by the Chief Secretary in the open court that he would “immediately take review of all aspects” concerning implementation of the J&K Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Sharma termed the issues involved as a “matter of great concern” and assured the court that that “without waiting” for financial assistance from the Centre, funds for setting up technologically advanced laboratories in Jammu and Srinagar would be “immediately provided” by the state and laboratories established shortly.
He further assured the High Court that mobile testing laboratories would be provided to the department. “In view of the assurance given by the Chief Secretary, we defer recommending initiation of disciplinary action against the authorities who failed to implement the Act till date,” said the High Court in its orders.
Earlier, in its observations, the Bench said it was not a question of some small water body and encroachment on it which could be removed and the water body restored. “This is dealing with the health of the state, the rich and poor, the ruler and ruled. Everybody’s health is involved in this issue,” it said.
Publisher’s Platform: What do a massive food recall and Donald Trump have in common?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/publishers-platform-what-do-a-massive-food-recall-and-donald-trump-have-in-common/#.VzknT07yWUl
By Bill Marler (May 14, 2016)
Well, other than two things – both contain items with orange colored flesh and both absorbed last week’s news cycle – nothing else. But, I got your attention.
What do we know about the current frozen food Listeria outbreak and recall?
In March of 2016, as part of a routine investigation into a report of foodborne illnesses, public health investigators interviewed family members and caregivers of people stricken by the potentially deadly pathogen, Listeria. Some of those illnesses appeared linked to the consumption of Costco purchased frozen vegetables produced by a little known company named CFR Frozen Foods.
At about the same time, Ohio agriculture officials had randomly tested another brand of frozen vegetables (also produced by CFR) and it had tested positive for Listeria. The Ohio test genetically matched the ill, which eventually the CDC reported included eight people (two who died) that became sick between September 2013 and March 2016. The CDC was able to link illnesses including those back three years, by using its genetic database, PulseNet.
Apparently, in another remarkable coincidence, an FDA inspector had been at the CFR plant in mid-March 2016 and found the following problems in the facility:
•a damaged plastic shovel used for food contact tasks;
•chipping, cracking and missing pieces of plastic on food contact portions of equipment on the onion production line;
•a plastic conveyor belt with missing plastic pieces on at least five legs that are in direct contact with onions;
•utility knives used for trimming bad spots off onions that had initials etched on their blades; and
•blue tape being used as a temporary repair on a cracked metal plate above a consumer pack line that was repacking product for export at the time of the inspection.
Although FDA does have mandatory recall authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act passed in 2010, on April 23 this year CFR “voluntarily” recalled 11 frozen vegetable products. However, that would just be the beginning of the recall.
As of Friday the 13th, CRF and other companies that used CFR vegetables in their foods had recalled more than 500 products dating back years, most under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Many retail chains and several other food companies have also recalled products from all 50 states. The vegetable recall also infected dozens of other food products under the jurisdiction of the USDA from frozen chicken with vegetable meals, tamales with corn to kale and chicken salads. All toll, those recalls amount to more than 100 million pounds of food possibly tainted with a deadly pathogen.
The recall has also spilled across the border to Canada where U.S. imported vegetables have been recalled by its food inspection agency. And, at the end of the week Britain’s Food Standards Agency announced the recall of U.S. sourced frozen food.
Consumers are feeling a bit under attack by frozen vegetables that are supposed to be good for them. The recall notifications posted on the various governmental and company websites warning of the risks of consuming Listeria tainted product are worry enough. And, combined with the media – print, radio, TV and the internet – it is enough for any Chicken Little to sound the alarm. In addition, major retailers have been emailing, texting, robo-calling and mailing customers directly about the risks of consuming the contaminated products, some of which was purchased years ago and might well be lurking in the back of one’s freezer.
And, it is not like Listeria is something that can be ignored. This nasty pathogen sickens thousands in the U.S. annually, hospitalizing nearly 100 percent of victims and killing about a third of those infected. It is also one of the leading causes of miscarriages and premature births. In 2011 Listeria tainted cantaloupe killed at least 33 in what is one of the largest foodborne death tolls in U.S. history.
We as consumers are well served by paying attention to the recall notices and tossing the products – especially, the elderly, immune compromised and pregnant women.
So, where do we go from here?
There was something wrong in the CFR plant that allowed for the proliferation of Listeria at albeit, low and likely sporadic levels. As the investigation unfolds, we all will likely learn more about what was or was not going on in the plant over the years that would allow this to happen. Was the plant and equipment construction such that Listeria had a place to grow? Was plant sanitation lacking? Did CFR test for Listeria in the plant, on food contact surfaces and in products? What was the role of FDA or other government inspectors in not catching problems before the explosion of a massive recall? There will be likely legitimate criticisms to be shared between government and industry and certainly lessons that can and will be learned.
Although of little comfort to those sickened and impacted by the recall, which will cost the food and legal system hundreds of millions of dollars, spotting the outbreak and prompting the recall will have a positive impact.
The CDC’s ability to track outbreaks is good and getting better. The use of genetic fingerprinting of foodborne pathogens – including such new technology as whole genome sequencing – found in plants, products and people, allows public health officials to more promptly figure out an outbreak, alert the public and hold the producer accountable. Consumers can seek compensation and make public facts about the outbreak’s cause. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office has shown a great deal of interest in recent years in holding companies and their CEO’s criminally responsible for manufacturing tainted food. Lawsuits and jail time have a unique ability to make companies pay attention.
Outbreaks and recalls are both disruptive and expensive. These costs create a strong incentive to create mechanisms to prevent them in the future. And, the recalls aside, it is likely that consumers will think twice before grabbing frozen vegetables from their local grocery stores.
Recall costs and slumping sales (along with civil and criminal liability) are powerful market incentives, and ones that have worked over time. It is too bad that some in the food industry wait until after a disaster to fix themselves.
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Handwashing compliance: Going beyond ‘monitor and forget’
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/05/handwashing-compliance-going-beyond-monitor-and-forget/
By Doug Powell (May 12, 2016)
New research from Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis shows that motivating compliance with standard processes via electronic monitoring can be a highly effective approach, despite concerns about employee backlash.
However, the research also highlights that managers cannot simply “monitor and forget,” and that a long-term plan for supporting the retention of monitoring is critical. The findings were published online May 5 in Management Science.
Hengchen Dai, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin, along with co-authors Bradley A. Staats and David Hofmann from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Katherine L. Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, studied compliance with hand-hygiene guidelines among more than 5,200 caregivers at 42 hospitals for more than three years.
They collaborated with Proventix, a company that uses a radio frequency-based system to track whether health-care workers wash their hands. More than 20 million hand-hygiene opportunities — incidents when hand hygiene is expected — were captured; each with the potential to prevent, or spread, a hospital-borne illness or infection.
“Maintaining high compliance with standard processes is a challenge for many industries,” Dai said. “We examined hand-hygiene compliance in hospitals because this is a setting where consistent compliance is extremely important in an effort to eliminate hospital-acquired infections. This is an area where improvements can, and should, be made.”
Dai and her co-authors found that on average, electronic monitoring resulted in a large increase in hand-hygiene compliance during their study period. Interestingly, compliance initially increased, and then gradually declined, after approximately two years. When electronic monitoring was stopped, hand-washing rates dropped, suggesting that hand-hygiene habits weren’t formed.
In fact, researchers discovered that compliance rates for hand-washing dropped to below the levels seen before the monitoring began, a finding that is surprising to both the researchers and health-care practitioners.
“While we thought decreased compliance after the monitoring could perhaps be a possible outcome, we were still somewhat surprised to see the result,” Dai said. “We based our prediction on past research about ‘crowding out,’ whereby caregivers’ internal motivation for compliance may have been replaced by external forces associated with monitoring, such as the fear of penalties or punishments for not washing their hands.
“When the external stimulus of monitoring was removed, their compliance behavior declined below the initial level as both the external forces and internal motivations were gone,” she said. “We do not have the data to get into the underlying psychology, but it is certainly worth examining in future research.”
While the findings focused on the health-care profession, Dai said all managers should take note, no matter their field. While electronic monitoring is an important motivation and compliance tool, it’s a single piece of a larger strategy.
“Individual electronic monitoring is one tool managers can use to dramatically improve standardized process compliance, but that it is not a panacea,” Dai said. “Managers looking to build process compliance must think about how electronic monitoring fits within a broader system encompassing not only technology, but also norms, culture and leadership.
“Managers should not ‘monitor and forget,’ ” Dai said.
Remember food safety when firing up the grill
Source : http://newsok.com/article/5497717
By Oklahoma State University (May 12, 2016)
With warmer weather on the way, many Oklahomans will be firing up their grill. Summer is typically a time of creating fun-filled memories and delicious meals; however, if the meal is not prepared properly, it could be a source of foodborne disease.
Nearly 48 million people get sick every year because of some form of foodborne illness, which leads to 128,000 in need of medical attention and 3,000 deaths.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health sources Salmonella and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, the most common E. coli strain, as the most important bacterial sources of foodborne illnesses in Oklahoma.
Foodborne illness peaks during the summer months, as harmful bacteria tend to grow faster in warmer, more humid weather, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service.
Because of this increase in foodborne illnesses during the summer months, food safety is extremely important in the home, said Peter Muriana, food microbiologist for Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center.
“Everything we eat has some degree of foodborne illness risk associated with it,” Muriana said. “Generally, those people who practice good food-handling practices are less likely to acquire foodborne illness, but they are still not completely invulnerable to it. When consumers practice risky food-consumption practices and get away with it, there is often a sense that the caution was unwarranted, and they may continue those practices until someone gets sick.”
FAPC wants Oklahomans to have a safe and fun summer and suggests the following food safety tips when preparing favorite, summertime meals.
Preparing foods for the grill
•Completely thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator before grilling, so it cooks evenly.
•Never thaw raw meats on a countertop or in a sink. Thawing at room temperature increases the risk of bacteria growth at the surface of the meat, even though the interior may still be chilled.
•Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, where bacteria can multiply.
•Discard leftover marinade. Do not use it on cooked foods as a dressing or dipping sauce because it could contain bacteria.
•Do not use the same utensils, platters and basting brushes for both raw and cooked meat. Juices from the raw meat may contaminate cooked food.
•Wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing any food product.
Cooking food on the grill
•Use a food thermometer to make certain the meat is thoroughly cooked.
•Cook meat to proper temperatures by using the following internal temperature guide:
?Beef, pork, lamb and veal: 145 degrees Fahrenheit (Allow 3 minutes to rest before consuming).
?Ground meats: 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
?Chicken: 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Picnic cookouts and barbecues
•Keep foods, such as cooked hamburgers/hotdogs, condiments, cheese slices and others, covered with a clear cover or wrap to prevent flies from landing and spreading their germs.
Storing and eating leftovers
•Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours after cooking is complete.
•Leftovers should be divided into smaller portions and stored in shallow, airtight containers. They should be eaten within three to four days.
•If large amounts are left, consider freezing for later use. Do not wait until the leftovers have been in the refrigerator for several days to freeze. Frozen leftovers should be eaten within six months.
•Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and never taste leftover foods that look or smell strange.
FAPC, a part of OSU's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
Secondary recalls over those Listeria contaminated veggies are piling up
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/secondary-recalls-over-listeria-contaminated-veggies-are-piling-up/#.VzkoGU7yWUl
By Dan Flynn (May 11, 2016)
The expected “secondary” recalls from the Listeria outbreak identified in March, and which may date as far back as 2013, are piling up.
In March, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta connected reports on eight people from California, Maryland, and Washington who shared Listeria infections that could be linked to vegetable products produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, WA, based on both epidemiological and laboratory evidence.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture then collected from retail grocery stores and tested True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic white sweet cut corn and frozen organic petite green peas, both products produced by CRF Frozen Foods. Ohio’s routine product sampling program isolated Listeria monocytogenes from True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic white sweet cut corn and frozen organic petite green peas.
Both products were produced by CRF Frozen Foods. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to seven bacterial isolates from ill people, and the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from an ill person. This close genetic relationship provides additional evidence that the people in this outbreak became ill from eating frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods.
CRF’s first recall came on April 23nd for 11 frozen vegetable products. After discussions with both CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CRF expanded its recall on May 4, 2016 to include all of its frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014.
Approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands landed on the expanded recall list.
FDA also took environmental samples in March from the Oregon Potato Company, also located in Pasco, WA, and found them to be closely related genetically to seven of the isolates. Oregon Potato Company responded by voluntarily recalling wholesale onion products, prompting downstream customer recalls. Such secondary recall notices are important because FDA says it cannot on its own go public with certain confidential commercial information including disclosure of supply chains.
Among the additional recalls are:
ConAgra Foods recalled Watts Brothers Farms Organic Mixed Vegetables, Organic Super Sweet Corn (Yellow/Gold), and Organic Peas and Trader Joe’s Organic Super Sweet Corn due to the potential for these products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Watts Brothers and Trader Joe’s recalled products contain vegetables that are part of the CRF Frozen Foods recall.
Starwood, WA-based Twin City Foods Inc. recalled products containing organic peas it received from CRF Frozen Foods. These products include Central Market Organic Peas and Mixed Vegetables, HEB Organic Mixed Vegetables, Sweetfrost Mixed Vegetables, and Woodstock Organic Mixed Vegetables due to the potential for these products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Ajinomoto Windsor Inc. recalled various Not-Ready-To Eat frozen foods due to the potential for these products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled products contain vegetables that were included in the CRF Frozen Foods recall. The company said it took the action in cooperation with the USDA and FDA investigations.
The Kroger Co. recalled Simple Truth Organic Mixed Vegetables because of the supplier’s recall for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Stores operating under the following names are included in this recall: Kroger, Jay-C, Dillons, Bakers, Gerbes, King Soopers, City Market, Fry’s, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, QFC and Smith’s. Sales were made in 31 states. Separately, Kroger also recalled Broccoli Raisin Salad sold in some stores.
Salem, OR-based NORPAC Foods Inc. recalled two frozen private label vegetable items, Natural Directions Organic Mixed Vegetables and Natural Directions Organic Green Peas, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
EFSA warns of cyanide risk from eating raw apricot kernels
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/efsa-warns-of-cyanide-risk-from-eating-raw-apricot-kernals/#.VzkoQk7yWUl
By News Desk (May 11, 2016)
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is reminding the public that eating even a small amount of raw apricot kernels can cause cyanide poisoning and can be fatal in extreme cases.
EFSA notes that a small amount consumed in one serving means more than three small raw apricot kernels, or less than half of one large one, can exceed safe levels. The agency adds that toddlers consuming even one small apricot kernel risk being over the safe level.
Apricot kernels contain a compound called amygdalin that converts to cyanide after consumption. Cyanide poisoning can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, joint and muscle aches and pains, and falling blood pressure. In extreme cases, it can be deadly.
Studies indicate that 0.5 to 3.5 milligrams (mg) of cyanide per kilogram of body weight can be lethal. EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain set a safe level for a one-time exposure (known as the Acute Reference Dose, or ARfD) of 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This is 25 times below the lowest reported lethal dose, the agency notes.
Based on these limits and the amounts of amygdalin typically present in raw apricot kernels, EFSA’s experts estimate that adults could consume three small apricot kernels (370 mg) without exceeding the ARfD. For toddlers, the amount would be 60 mg, which is about half of one small kernel. EFSA adds that normal consumption of apricots does not pose a health risk to consumers.
The kernel is the seed from inside the apricot stone. The kernel is obtained by cracking open and removing the hard stone shell and, therefore, it has no contact with the fruit.
Most raw apricot kernels sold in the European Union are believed to be imported from outside the EU and marketed to consumers via the Internet. Some sellers promote them as a cancer-fighting food and recommend intakes of 10 and 60 kernels per day for the general population and cancer patients, respectively.
EFSA reports that the agency did not evaluate the claimed benefits of raw apricot kernels for cancer treatment or any other use since it was outside EFSA’s food safety scope of inquiry and not part of this scientific opinion.
The risk assessment will inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate EU food safety, EFSA says. They will decide if measures are needed to protect public health from consumption of raw apricot kernels.
Listeria: Is zero tolerance consistent with risk-reduction
Source : http://barfblog.com/2016/05/listeria-is-zero-tolerance-consistent-with-risk-reduction/
By Doug Powell (May 11, 2016)
Tom Karst of The Packer writes it doesn’t seem quite right that many fresh produce processors aren’t testing for listeria on food contact surfaces in their facilities. Aren’t belts and other parts of a processing plant that touch product an important place to look for pathogens that might be present on food?
Yet, that is the way it is, based on industry’s evaluation of Food and Drug Administration Guidance. Because any finding of listeria on food contact surfaces could result in an immediate recall situation, many in the industry believe the FDA’s zero-tolerance policy inhibits companies from testing food contact surfaces.
The FDA is considering changing some of their guidance on listeria testing. Industry experts a new version of the guidance by late this year or early next year. Perhaps the FDA will give more flexibility for companies to test for the listeria species – indicating the presence of the family of bacteria, but not necessarily the dangerous Listeria monocytogenes strain. Perhaps the FDA will establish a tolerance level for Listeria monocytogenes, though that doesn’t seem likely.
Karst got some standard answers from government spokesthingies, but got a more proactive answer from Martin Bucknavage, a Pennsylvania State University Department of Food Science food safety extension specialist, who said fresh produce and other food companies have to do a better job of understanding the presence of listeria within their operations and take stronger corrective actions. Most of the testing now being done for listeria is pre-operational and on nonfood contact areas, which he said has limited use.
“They have got to get more proactive and get rid of it,” he said. “I think it is time to batten down the hatches, get aggressive on sampling and put this thing to bed.”
Protecting Trade in Safe Food is a Global Concern
Source : http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2016/05/protecting-trade-in-safe-food-is-a-global-concern/
By Sharon Mayl and Debbie Subera-Wiggin , FDA Voice (May 11, 2016)
Protecting consumers from contaminated foods is a global concern—as well as a key FDA priority. This was clear to us when we attended a World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in Geneva earlier this spring to provide outreach on FDA’s new food safety regulations.
This was the 65th meeting of the WTO’s Committee for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), an important body that provides a forum for the discussion of food safety and animal and plant health issues that affect the international food trade. While enhancing free trade is WTO’s focus, members understand the importance of facilitating trade in safe food products.
Working with the WTO Secretariat, the U.S. Mission in Geneva and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, we shared information about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules that aim to help ensure the safety of foods exported to the United States. It was exciting to look out at the audience and see public health and trade officials from more than 33 countries and international organizations seeking to learn more about the new food safety regulations.
The United States has been a member of the WTO, which has 162 member nations and observer organizations, since 1995. Under the auspices of this SPS Committee, U.S. trade and regulatory agencies, including FDA, work with governments worldwide on trade issues related to food safety. Their work includes ensuring that the regulations of each nation support the rights and obligations of WTO agreements.
FDA incorporates these obligations into our regulatory process, specifically to ensure that our regulations are risk- and science-based, are created through a transparent process, and are equitable to both domestic and foreign producers, while protecting public health. The WTO SPS Committee is an ideal international venue for sharing information on FDA’s food safety rules.
Our job during this meeting was to share insights on three of the new FSMA rules — in particular, produce safety, foreign supplier verification programs, and accredited third-party certification.
We were very impressed by the interest that the countries’ representatives had in these rules. More than 50 representatives even skipped their lunch to participate in the outreach session and many returned that evening, after the main session closed, to continue the discussion!
WTO members are interested in understanding and meeting the regulatory requirements in FSMA rules so that they can continue to ship safe products to the U.S. Several of the participants expressed their government’s support for working cooperatively with us to strengthen food safety controls.
We left the outreach session with a better understanding that our trading partners are highly motivated to put mechanisms in place that will help their producers and manufacturers comply with the FSMA rules and contribute to robust trade partnerships.
Congresswoman wants FDA to shut down Dole salad plant
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/congresswoman-wants-fda-to-shut-down-dole-salad-plant/#.Vzko9U7yWUl
By News Desk (May 10, 2016)
The senior Democrat on the U.S. House committee that oversees funding for the Food and Drug Administration wants the agency to shut down the Dole salad facility that is under investigation for a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.
The outbreak spans the U.S. and Canada, was ongoing from May 2015 through spring this year and sickened at least 33 people. Three in Canada died and one in the U.S. died. All had such severe symptoms that they required hospitalization.
Dole closed the plant from late January until April 21, but company officials will not say what was done to clean the facility or what they are doing to keep it clean as they move forward.
The FDA’s internal policies prohibit its staff from commenting on open investigations. However, Dole officials confirmed in late April that in addition to the FDA and Centers for Disease control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the outbreak.
In A May 6 letter to the FDA, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, said company officials who continued to allow the salad production facility to operate even though they had known since at least 2014 that there was Listeria present acted unconscionably.
“Given that consumers have been severely sickened, and even killed, by salads produced at this facility, I urge you to immediately shut down the Dole Springfield plant. Their blatant disregard for the health and safety of American families shows that Dole executives put company profits first, at the expense of consumers, and this type of behavior should not be tolerated,” wrote DeLauro.
“The fact that Dole officials were aware of a food borne illness contamination in their facility, yet continued to ship out the product, is absolutely unconscionable. People have died, and rightfully the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Dole’s Springfield plant.
“However, it is more than just foodborne pathogens that the FDA inspection reports point to. FDA reports dating back to March 2014 cite at least sixteen problems that could contribute to food safety issues in the facility.
“It is an outrage that people had to die in order for Dole to temporarily close this plant for four months during the January Listeria outbreak. … Dole must be held accountable.”
An FDA spokesman said when agency officials receive such letters from members of Congress they respond to the individual member and do not post a public response, generally.
CDC to Chipotle: Quit whining about our food safety alerts
Source : http://qz.com/680397/cdc-to-chipotle-stop-whining-about-our-food-safety-alerts/
By Chase Purdy (May 10, 2016)
When Chipotle was trying to contain the public fallout from an E. coli outbreak last year, it accused a US federal agency of scaremongering.
The agency was not amused.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which tracks disease outbreaks, was investigating the burrito chain’s food safety practices after a spate of E. coli cases that had sickened at least 60 people across 14 states and hospitalized 22. During the scare, the company watched—the chief financial officer would later describe it as eerie— as its once long lines shrank. As customers opted for other restaurants, the company took a hit.
Now Food Safety News reports that on Dec. 21, midway through the CDC probe, Chipotle’s corporate attorney sent a complaint letter (pdf) to the CDC, alleging that the agency was issuing too many public updates.
“The piecemeal release of information which does not inform the public of investigatory benchmarks or remedial steps by Chipotle only acts to create public panic,” wrote the attorney, Bryant “Corky” Messner.
Included in the letter was a complaint that the CDC had issued several updates in November (the first outbreak was reported in October) that were unnecessary.
While the initial announcement and early updates were generally necessary and appropriate, the ongoing updates were not useful and did not serve to inform the public of a significant health risk. Rather, these updates misrepresented the E. coli O26 outbreak as ongoing and unnecessarily intensified the public’s concern.
In response, the CDC bristled (pdf). On April 15 it sent Chipotle a point-by-point explanation for each of the concerns the restaurant chain had raised. In short, it said, it had followed the spirit and letter of the law.
We disagree that there was ‘no ongoing threat’ at the time of the web postings, particularly since the investigation of these two outbreaks linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants has not identified a specific cause. A public health professional would not conclude that transmission had ceased until at least several weeks after the last reported case.
Since the outbreak, Chipotle has said, it has hired James Marsden, a meat-science professor at Kansas State University, to be its executive director of food safety. The company also has reviewed how it prepares each ingredient. Chipotle did not respond to a request for comment about its complaint to the CDC.
A new food safety test just found rat DNA in hamburger meat. Here's why that's good news.
Source : http://www.vox.com/2016/5/10/11649116/burger-safety-clear-labs
By Julia Belluz (May 10, 2016)
The hamburger isn't exactly the poster child for food safety. In recent years, we've seen ground beef implicated in scandals involving strains of E. coli that can sicken or kill, as well as salmonella, listeria, and other harmful bugs.
But while a new report from the food analytics startup Clear Labs has some startling findings about the hamburgers on the market, it should ultimately provide reassuring for consumers.
Using DNA sequencing, the researchers analyzed 258 burger products — including frozen patties, fast food burgers, and veggie burgers — from a representative sample of retailers and fast-food chains in Northern California. They then compared the genomic makeup of the samples to a database they've built that contains the molecular signatures of thousands of food items. (They claim this database is the largest in the industry; you can read more about their methodology here.)
Overall, they found that 13.6 percent of all products tested were "problematic" in some way because of issues ranging from calorie misinformation to missing ingredients. But they found nothing that could pose real harm to human health. In fact, only 1 percent of the samples raised hygiene concerns.
"The low incidence of hygienic issues surfaced by our study is a testament to the burger industry as a whole and the stringent protocols for safe food handling," they wrote.
Admittedly, some of the findings were a little, er, hair-raising. Among the unhygienic samples, three tested positive for rat DNA. Another sample tested positive for human DNA.
But here's why that's not actually as terrible as it sounds. Turns out a lot of our food has trace amounts of DNA from humans, insects, or other mammals. It means a small piece of human skin, or the hair of a rat, fell into food during production. And this is expected, even condoned, by food safety authorities.
As Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who read the report, explained, the presence of this DNA, while gross-sounding, doesn't necessarily pose any threat to human health. "These tests are very sensitive and can pick up very, very small amounts of DNA. If it is human or rat feces, that would be a greater concern — but hair, not so much." It may signal that the company could clean up its production processes even more, but again, it's not that big of a deal.
"I don’t see anything in the report that’s completely shocking," Marler concluded.
Marion Nestle, a New York University professor, said she couldn't vouch for whether Clear Labs' testing processes are "accurate, reproducible, or reliable," but said their findings on meat are "consistent with recent history."
"It used to be that most food-borne illnesses came from eating hamburger (and picnic eggs)," she said. But that's no longer the case. Recent reforms to the US Department of Agriculture's policy, including better inspections of plants and testing of meat, seem to be helping. And consumers can expect even more improvements when the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act, the most sweeping reform of the food safety system in more than 70 years, which should be finalized this year.
Clear Labs found mislabeling of the calories and ingredients in burgers
Still, the burger scorecard wasn't flawless.
While the burgers tested probably wouldn't harm anybody, they might dupe consumers. Clear Labs found numerous cases of misleading product labeling and food fraud.
In the burgers the researchers looked at, there were gaps between reported nutritional information and actual nutritional content. Nearly half of the products tested had more calories than was reported on their labels — usually amounting to about 40 more calories per serving.
"Fast food menus were especially egregious in misrepresenting caloric values," they noted. Of 47 samples from fast-food joints, 38 had more calories than labeled.
There was pork DNA in one sample of beef patties. In two vegetarian burgers, there were trace amounts of beef DNA.
More offensively, Clear Labs found pork DNA in one sample of beef patties and one sample of ground beef. So people who are trying to avoid pork for religious reasons, for example, may be ingesting it unbeknownst to them. (Ground lamb, bison, and chicken patties also contained beef DNA.)
Vegetarian products also didn't fare as well as meat products — a trend Clear Labs noted in an October report testing hot dogs. More than 15 percent of the vegetarian burger products analyzed had at least one missing ingredient, like a black bean burger that didn't contain any black beans.
In two vegetarian burgers, there were also trace amounts of beef DNA. That may not threaten the health of a vegetarian but might pose spiritual and ethical conundrums. One vegetarian sample also contained rye, an allergen for people who can't eat gluten. (In this case, the product did not claim to be gluten-free.)
So while the burger industry may be pretty safe, according to this report it's also pretty misleading. And there may be reason to be doubly cautious about vegetarian burgers.
Vietnamese meat giant looks to food safety for an edge
Source : http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Vietnamese-meat-giant-looks-to-food-safety-for-an-edge
By ATSUSHI TOMIYAMA, Nikkei staff writer (May 10, 2016)
HANOI -- Vietnam Meat Industries, or Vissan, aims to parlay food safety into a competitive advantage in an increasingly globalized home market. And a recent deal with a major local player is key to this strategy.
Vissan declared at 455 butchers around Ho Chi Minh City on April 15 that it would sell only pork in compliance with Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices, or VietGAP, a food safety certification based on the GlobalG.A.P. standard.
Vissan formed a capital and business tie-up earlier this year with Masan Group, a major Vietnamese private-sector food processor. This definitely helped the state-owned meat company obtain VietGAP certification.
Masan is at the forefront of food safety management in Vietnam. A subsidiary is believed to have begun supplying Vissan with animal feed produced with detailed attention to food safety.
Vietnamese consumers have food safety on the brain these days following such scandals as the use of suspected carcinogens and the sale of expired imported meat. In this environment, offering peace of mind with VietGAP is a great way to attract customers.
Vissan is the leading meat company in Vietnam, controlling 24% of the domestic market. Masan dominates the fish sauce market here, with a roughly 80% share. Escalating competition from abroad has driven these two major players into each other's arms.
The Vietnamese public spent $27.6 billion on food in 2015, according to the General Statistics Office -- up 50% from 2010. Steady economic growth of around 6% a year, an expanding middle class, and a population nearing 100 million all make the Southeast Asian nation's food market appealing to foreign businesses.
In meat, companies from Germany, Thailand and Japan have entered the fray in the past five years or so. Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group now runs nine Vietnamese factories, churning out meat products as well as animal feed. Among Japanese companies, NH Foods has established a presence.
Vietnam will likely face more intense waves of globalization and free trade, with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community late last year and the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
The Masan deal will likely prove vital for Vissan as competition heats up. The meat company's own extensive sales network already covers 130,000 locations, including 100 directly run stores and 1,000-plus distributors. But the more, the merrier.
With modern logistics networks yet to take root in Vietnam, a food company's strength hinges on the number of retail stores in its sales network. Vissan and Masan have 370,000 between them -- a presence likely to help as they duke it out with foreign rivals.
Top legislator stresses implementation of food safety law
Source : http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=328975
By shanghaidaily.com (May 10,2016)
Top Chinese legislator Zhang Dejiang has urged companies to obey the food safety law and told government organs to fulfill their supervisory duties, vowing to deal harshly with crimes in the field.
Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, made the remarks during a visit to north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region between May 7 and 9, to investigate how the law has been implemented.
During the inspection, Zhang inquired after quality control at livestock raising facilities as well as farming and herding co-ops, urging leading agricultural companies and co-ops to strengthen supervision and management of food products, with special focus on feedstuffs, additives and pesticides.
Zhang urged food-makers and sellers to follow all required procedures on raw materials and finished products, while keeping clear sales records as part of a food safety liability backtracking system.
Calling on agricultural academies and food inspection centers to improve examination and quarantine procedures, Zhang stressed that the dairy companies should give priority to quality and safety in their development.
Zhang called for efforts to promote the food safety to strengthen the sense of safety and law among the public, as well as an improved and authoritative food safety supervision mechanism.
FDA warns acidified food maker, seafood processor
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/acidified-food-maker-and-seafood-processor-get-april-warning-letters/#.Vzkuvk7yWUl
By News Desk (May 9, 2016)
An acidified food manufacturing facility in Hamptonville, NC, and a ready-to eat seafood and deli salad maker in Hamtramck, MI, received warning letters in April from the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA’ s Atlanta District sent a warning letter to The Dutch Kettle on April 15, telling the acidified food manufacturer that based on an Aug. 13-17, 2015, inspection, the agency found the acidified foods being produced by the North Carolina business to be adulterated.
Acidified food regulations require commercial processes to comply with provisions concerning conditions for heat processing, and control of pH, salt, sugar and preservative levels for each acidified food product.
The Dutch Kettle, according to FDA, failed to file schedule processes with the agency as required for certain potato and pumpkin butter. During the inspection, the company said it had filed for pumpkin butter, but FDA could not find the required information in its database.
FDA also expressed concerns about specific products and lots. It also questioned the accuracy of measuring instruments used by The Dutch Kettle to “control or prevent the growth of undesirable microorganisms.”
The warning letter to The Dutch Kettle also expressed concerns about misbranding. The letter demanded a response to all the issues within 15 working days.
On April 26, FDA sent a warning letter to Home Style Foods Inc. because environmental samples taken inside the facility returned positive results for Listeria welshimeri and Listeria innocua. The two Listeria strains were found in the production room.
The Michigan company responded to FDA’s inspection observations for the Sept. 15 through Oct. 19, 2015, inspection on Nov. 2, 2015, but the agency said that response lacked sufficient information about the adequacy of corrective actions taken to correct violations that were found.
Four of 63 environmental samples returned positive results. The floor drain in the production room was a source of Listeria positives. The warning letter says owners are failing to maintain buildings, fixtures and other physical facilities for Home Style Foods Inc.
The company was also found in violation of seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans. It was also given 15 days to respond to the FDA warning letter.
Sanitary transportation rule follows FSMA preventive model
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/126153/#.Vzku5k7yWUl
By Coral Beach (May 9, 2016)
In 2006 when an E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach spurred recalls, some truckers were left holding the bag, semi-trailers full of bags of spinach that shippers refused to take back and receivers refused to take.
Commercial drivers and members of the national trade association OOIDA (Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association) called the organization’s headquarters in Grain Valley, MO, with questions ranging from how to make shippers pay for dumping fees to what cleaning products to use to sanitize their trailers.
Few answers were available for drivers from the U.S. Department of Transportation during the 2006 outbreak that sickened 205 and killed three people.
A decade later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed many of the answers as part of a congressional mandate to switch to a preventive approach to food safety. The answers are in the sanitary transportation rule, the sixth of seven rules FDA was required to develop as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.
Compliance is mandatory next April for larger and otherwise non-exempt businesses and motor carriers. Smaller businesses and motor carriers have until April 2018 to comply.
“This new rule is focused on ensuring that individuals who transport human and animal food by motor and rail vehicle follow appropriate sanitary transportation practices and do not create food safety risks,” said FDA’s Rebecca Buckner during an April 25 teleconference with industry.
“Practices that create such risk include failure to properly refrigerate food requiring temperature control for food safety, the inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads and the failure to otherwise properly protect food during transportation.”
While the basic tenants of the sanitary transportation rule are not complicated, the government did not specify which links in the supply chain have to bear the costs of compliance. The rule includes multiple references to agreements and contract requirements that shipping partners must have, but not who has to pay for them.
“Shippers will continue to hold primary responsibility for establishing sanitary conditions of transport under this rule unless the carrier has entered into a written agreement with the shipper to assume this responsibility,” Buckner said.
“The final rule also clarifies that the intended use of the vehicle or equipment — for example, transporting animal feed versus human food — and the production stage of the food being transported — such as raw materials versus finished product — are relevant in determining the applicable sanitary transportation requirements.
“Finally, if a person covered by the rule becomes aware of a possible failure of temperature control or any other condition that may render a food unsafe during transportation, that food must not be sold or distributed until a determination of safety is made.”
The FDA made clear is that it will work with the federal Department of Transportation to enforce the sanitary transportation rule.
“The agency will train its field staff on the new rule and — as required by the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 — will assist the Department of Transportation in developing procedures for DOT transportation safety inspections in order to identify suspected incidents of contamination or adulteration of food,” Buckner said during the conference call.
OOIDA’s safety and security operations director Doug Morris told Land Line Magazine earlier this year that truckers should not be surprised if FDA inspectors start showing up at weigh stations and other DOT inspection facilities.
“The FDA is going to be more proactive,” Morris told the magazine. “It may cause problems for those who aren’t keeping the required temperature settings or abiding by the rule. It could be a pretty bad situation if a load is declared in violation and could possibly be a total loss.
“There are exemptions in there, but most of the shippers have basically said that they’re not going to worry about the exemptions and just make sure that everyone is following the requirements.”
Key requirements of the new rule
The sanitary transportation rule establishes requirements for:
•Vehicles and transportation equipment: The design and maintenance of vehicles and transportation equipment to ensure that it does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe. For example, they must be suitable and adequately cleanable for their intended use and capable of maintaining temperatures necessary for the safe transport of food.
•Transportation operations: The measures taken during transportation to ensure food safety, such as adequate temperature controls, preventing contamination of ready to eat food from touching raw food, protection of food from contamination by non-food items in the same load or previous load, and protection of food from cross-contact.
•Training: Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation of the training. This training is required when the carrier and shipper agree that the carrier is responsible for sanitary conditions during transport.
•Records: Carriers must maintenance of records of written procedures, agreements and training. The required retention time for these records depends upon the type of record and when the covered activity occurred, but does not exceed 12 months.
Who is covered?
According to the FDA’s info sheet on the sanitary transportation rule, except for some exceptions, the final rule applies to shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers who transport food in the United States by motor or rail vehicle, whether or not the food is offered for or enters interstate commerce.
It also applies to shippers, in other countries who ship food to the U.S. directly by motor or rail vehicle from Canada or Mexico, or by ship or air, and arrange for the transfer of the intact container onto a motor or rail vehicle for transportation within the U.S., if that food will be consumed or distributed in the United States.
The rule does not apply to exporters who ship food through the United States, for example from Canada to Mexico, by motor or rail vehicle if the food does not enter U.S. distribution.
Companies involved in the transportation of food intended for export are covered by the rule until the shipment reaches a port or the U.S. border.
Food safety continues to be under the budget knife in Alaska
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/05/food-safety-continues-to-be-under-the-budget-knife-in-alaska/#.VzkvKE7yWUl
By News Desk (May 9, 2016)
Alaska’s food safety budgets are taking more cuts as the state tries to close a $4 billion budget deficit caused by low oil prices.
Another proposed cut of $268,000 is going to mean fewer restaurant inspections and reduced surveillance for food borne diseases. The further reduction in spending comes after last year’s $624,000 funding cut for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is responsible for food safety and sanitation programs.
Eight staff positions were eliminated due to that budget cut, including four inspectors. It left just one inspector for Juneau’s 600 restaurant and food service establishments, two for Anchorage’s 550, and three for the 500 in Fairbanks. The remaining inspectors are serving convenience stores, seafood markets and processors, pools, spas, and tattoo parlors along with restaurants outside the urban areas.
Alaska has also been forced to shift its focus to high risk businesses, reducing inspections for the rest. They also stopped reviewing restaurant building plans or responding to complaints about barbers and beauty shops.
Owners are instead being required to read and sign applications indicating they are complying with state regulations. Kimberly Stryker, food safety and sanitation director for Alaska, says schools are no longer subjected to sanitation and safety inspections.
Mississippi and Louisiana are also among states making significant cuts in food safety because of state budget woes.
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