Testing at various levels can ensure food safety: Experts
Source : http://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/130317/testing-at-various-levels-can-ensure-food-safety-experts.html
By DECCAN CHRONICLE (Mar 13, 2017)
Testing food at various levels from food production to delivery can ensure food safety, said Julian Cox, a renowned expert on food safety from Australia. He was recently in the city to explore opportunities for collaboration with Indian universities on behalf of University of New South Wales, Sydney, where he currently works as an associate professor of food microbiology.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle about the challenges in ensuring food safety and quality, he said, “Despite a lot of effort many countries still faces challenges with food safety and quality. My understanding suggests that food science and technology, food safety still needs a lot of development in India”.
“There is a lot of potential for foreign universities and experts to work in the area of food safety and quality,” he pointed out. On ensuring food safety he said, “We have to educate all the people involved in the food chain. The farmers need to understand what they do is important to ensure food safety and quality. Others involved in food handling have to be educated about the good practices of personal hygiene.”
“The food items need to be tested at various levels to understand where the organisms occur and where the contaminations happen,” he said while pointing out the need to develop low-cost food testing technologies for India. “Adoption of current food testing technology is expensive and is economically not feasible. In India cost of testing is very important. Since the labour is cheap in India it is possible to test food items at lower cost,” he said.
On the effects of food poisoning and food borne illness, he said, “It can cause several diseases like diarrhoea and vomiting to permanent illness. People are disabled for a lifetime due to food borne illness. Potentially, it could have a significant impact on the economy.”
He stressed the need for a framework for food safety. The agency responsible for food safety can set processes for producing safe food and they set limits what should be reasonable incidents of microorganisms.
Beach Beat: The main event EWG vs. AFF — no holds barred
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/03/beach-beat-the-main-event-ewg-vs-aff-no-holds-barred/#.WMYBCPmLSUl
BY CORAL BEACH (March 12, 2017)
The “Dirty Dozen” is in the news again and as usual I’m imaging a remake of the 1967 motion picture with a cauliflower playing Ernest Borgnine’s character, a cucumber in place of Donald Sutherland and some kind of smooth-skinned melon in the role played by Telly Savalas.
I imagine production numbers to rival those in “The Muppet Christmas Carol” where fresh fruits and veggies sang and danced as Michael Caine/Ebenezer Scrooge strolled through an open-air market in 19th Century London.
Alas, no one has produced a produce photoplay about the real-life Filthy Thirteen — the 1st Demolition Section of the Regimental Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, of the U.S. Army, which fought in Europe in World War II.
So we are left every spring, longing for fresh and juicy entertainment about patriots past and finding only the ongoing war of words between the Environmental Working Group and the Alliance for Food and Farming to amuse us in our idle moments.
Let me be perfectly clear, I endorse neither group and question the motives of both.
Both groups claim they want to help poor saps like me and you navigate the produce aisle. The AFF is supported by and looks out for growers, packers, distributors and sellers of fresh produce — most in the conventional arena. The EWG is supported by the organic industry.
That being said, I’d have to give this year’s round to the AFF. As has been the group’s practice in recent years, the AFF again got out in front of the EWG. Back in November 2016, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 25th annual Pesticide Data Program summary, the AFF started beating the war drums.
The USDA report detailed results of pesticide residue tests on more than 10,000 food samples from 600 locations in 10 states. The vast majority of the samples, 97 percent, were of fresh produce. About one-half of a percent — 54 samples to be specific — showed pesticide residues in excess of allowable limits. A full 15 percent had no pesticide residues at all.
The AAF predicted the EWG would again use the USDA report to scare consumers into paying premiums for organic fruits and vegetables by implying that organic certification means no pesticide use. The AFF made hay, citing a study that showed low-income people interpret information about pesticide residue as meaning they should avoid all fruits and vegetables.
The AFF also pointed out that as usual, more than 99 percent of the food tested in 2015 had residues well below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Such stats seem unambiguous. But the AFF has maintained its drumbeat, and on cue, the EWG started singing its song again this past week.
“EWG’s analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 70 percent of samples of 48 types of conventional produce were contaminated with residues of one or more pesticides,” according to the group, which has trademarked its annual list of the 12 produce commodities with the highest residues as the “Dirty Dozen.”
The group’s “analysis” consists in large part of counting the number of samples with positive results and using the percent key on a calculator. Any consumer can read the USDA’s report and indulge in such “analysis” by clicking here. If the raw numbers on the page aren’t enough to scare you, the EWG senior analyst explains it.
“If you don’t want to feed your family food contaminated with pesticides, the EWG Shopper’s Guide helps you make smart choices, whether you’re buying conventional or organic produce,” Sonya Lunder, an EWG senior analyst, says in the news release announcing the annual list.
Of course, if you want to read the EWG Shopper’s Guide, you need to contribute $15. You can view the trademarked Dirty Dozen list and EWG’s companion trademarked list, the Clean Fifteen, on the group’s website for free.
Many mainstream media outlets reported the USDA’s news back in November, as well as the pre-emptive strike by the Alliance for Food and Farming. Just as many are reporting about the Environmental Working Group’s annual unintentional tribute to the work of the 1st Demolition Section’s 13 patriots.
Seems like a draw. So why does the AFF win this round on the Beach Beat?
Even though the study of low-income people only queried 510 people in the Chicago area, making it less than statistical gospel, the AFF got it into the headlines and kept it there. It made the EWG’s list seem a bit elitist and generated negative feelings about the group’s efforts to push organics. The AFF contends such efforts resulted in poor people eating less healthy diets because they avoided produce entirely.
And, the EWG addressed the point in its news release announcing the list this year, reminding the public of the importance of produce.
“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown,” Lunder says in the release. “If you can’t buy organic, the Shopper’s Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides.”
By hitting the drum first and seeing its foe validate the rhythm by addressing it, the AFF has made major strides in its food fight with the EWG.
It’s not my style of music, and I certainly don’t think you can dance to it, but the beat will no doubt go on as the two organizations continue to promote their agendas.
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FDA Shares Details on Soft Cheese Listeria Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/fda-shares-details-on-soft-cheese-listeria-outbreak/
By Staff (Mar 10, 2017)
FDA Shares Details on Soft Cheese Listeria Outbreak
Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery in Walton, NY has been identified as the most likely source of a Listeria outbreak that has sickened 6 people in 4 states. Two of those illnesses resulted in fatalities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and various state and local health officials have been investigating this outbreak since January 31, 2017. Feedback from the ill victims identified cheese from Vulto Creamery as the common denominator. After positive tests confirmed the presence of bacteria, Vulto Creamery began reaching out to its customers on March 3, followed by the announcement of a recall on March 7. In addition to the affected Ouleout cheese, additional lots and varieties were also recalled: Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc. Most of the cheeses were sold at retail locations in California, Illinois, Oregon and Washington, DC.
FDA is urging retailers and restaurants to not serve or sell any of the recalled products and should return them to Vulto Creamery. Any retailer that does not know the source of their cheese products should check with their supplier. Also, retailers should be sure to properly wash and sanitize any and all surfaces, utensils and cutting boards that may have come into contact with the contaminated cheese.
Consumers who have questions about the Vulto Creamery recall may call the company’s consumer hotline at 607-222-3995 Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.
The FDA also encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult the FDA.gov website.
Two Dead, Six Ill in Vulto Raw Milk Cheese Listeria Outbreak
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2017/two-dead-six-ill-in-vulto-raw-milk-cheese-listeria-outbreak/
By Linda Larsen (Mar 9, 2017)
The CDC has announced a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak is linked to soft raw milk cheese produced by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New York. Two people have died and six are sickened in this outbreak.
The case count by state is: New York (3), Florida (1), Vermont (1), and Connecticut (1). Illnesses began on September 1, 2016. All six patients were hospitalized. One person from Connecticut and one person from Vermont died. One illness was reported in a newborn. Infants can be born with Listeria monocytogenes infections when their mothers eat products contaminated with the bacteria. The bacteria can pass through the placenta because the mother’s immune system response attacks the placenta.
The outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes was identified in samples taken from three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese collected from Vulto Creamery. On March 7, 2017, Vulto Creamery recalled all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses. These cheeses were distributed nationwide. Most were sold at retail locations in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, California, and the cities of Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and Washington D.C.
The CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states to investigate this outbreak. PulseNet is being used to identify patients that may be part of the outbreak. Officials are using pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) to identify the DNA of the bacteria.
WSG performed on clinical isolates from all of the patients shows that they are closely related genetically. That means that people in this outbreak got sick from a common source.
The patent age range is from less than one year to 89 years, with a median age of 55. Five of the six ill persons are female.
State and local health departments interviewed ill persons or their family members as part of the investigation. Six of six people reported eating a soft cheese the month before they got sick. The sick person in Florida traveled to New York state and ate soft cheese there before becoming sick. And cheese made by Vulto Creamery was for sale at stores where at least five of the patients bought cheese before becoming ill.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover cheeses from the deceased person’s home. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in a leftover cheese sample that the family identified as Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery.
Then the New York Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services collected three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery during a joint inspection with the FDA. The outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes was identified in samples taken from the cheese.
If you have any of these products in your home, do not eat them. Throw them away in a sealed container or return them to the store where you bought them for a full refund. Then clean out your refrigerator with a solution of one tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of warm water. This pathogenic bacteria grows at refrigerator temperatures, and freezing doesn’t kill it.
The symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pains, and diarrhea. Pregnant women need to be especially careful to avoid this infection, since it can cause premature labor, miscarriage, and stillbirth, even if the woman only has a mild illness. As in this outbreak babies can be born with a serious infection. If you ate any of these recalled cheeses and have felt ill, see your doctor.
What to Know About Listeria During an Outbreak and Recall
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/what-to-know-about-listeria-during-an-outbreak-and-recall/#.WMYBkfnyiUl
By ANDY WEISBECKER (Mar 9, 2017)
What is Listeria?
Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria) is a foodborne disease-causing bacteria; the disease is called listeriosis. Listeria can invade the body through a normal and intact gastrointestinal tract. Once in the body, Listeria can travel through the blood stream but the bacteria are often found inside cells. Listeria also produces toxins that damage cells. Listeria invades and grows best in the central nervous system among immune compromised persons, causing meningitis and/or encephalitis (brain infection). In pregnant women, the fetus can become infected, leading to spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, or sepsis (blood infection) in infancy.
Approximately 2,500 cases of listeriosis are estimated to occur in the U.S. each year. About 200 in every 1000 cases result in death. Certain groups of individuals are at greater risk for listeriosis, including pregnant women (and their unborn children) and immunocompromised persons. Among infants, listeriosis occurs when the infection is transmitted from the mother, either through the placenta or during the birthing process. These host factors, along with the amount of bacteria ingested and the virulence of the strain, determine the risk of disease. Human cases of listeriosis are, for the most part, sporadic and treatable. Nonetheless, Listeria remains an important threat to public health, especially among those most susceptible to this disease.
Listeria is often isolated in cattle, sheep, and fowl, and is also found in dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.
What are the Symptoms of Listeria Infection?
It is thought that ingestion of as few as 1,000 cells of Listeria bacteria can result in illness. After ingestion of food contaminated with Listeria, incubation periods (from time of exposure to onset of illness) are in the range of one to eight weeks, averaging about 31 days. Five days to three weeks after ingestion, Listeria has access to all body areas and may involve the central nervous system, heart, eyes, or other locations.
A person with listeriosis usually has fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion, obtundation (decreased consciousness) or convulsions can occur. With brain involvement, listeriosis may mimic a stroke. Infected pregnant women will ordinarily experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis; about one-third of listeriosis cases happen during pregnancy. The incidence of listeriosis in the newborn is 8.6 cases per 100,000 live births. The perinatal and neonatal mortality rate (stillbirths and early infant deaths) from listeriosis is 80%.
How to Diagnosis and Treat a Listeria Infection?
If you have symptoms of listeriosis, a health care provider can have a blood or spinal fluid test done to detect the infection. During pregnancy, a blood test is the most reliable way to find out if your symptoms are due to listeriosis. If you are in a high-risk group, have eaten the contaminated product, and within 2 months become ill with fever or signs of serious illness, you should contact your health care provider and inform him or her about this exposure. ??There are several antibiotics with which Listeria may be treated. When infection occurs during pregnancy, antibiotics given promptly to the pregnant woman can often prevent infection of the fetus. Babies with listeriosis receive the same antibiotics as adults, although a combination of antibiotics is often used until physicians are certain of the diagnosis.
How to Prevent a Listeria Infection?
General recommendations include: thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources; keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked and ready-to-eat foods; avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk; wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods; wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating; and consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above, include: do not eat hot dogs, luncheon or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot, and wash hands after handling those products; do not eat soft cheeses (such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or Mexican-style cheese), unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk; and do not eat meat spreads or smoked seafood from the refrigerated or deli section of the store (canned or shelf-stable products may be eaten).
USDA kills 73,500 Tyson-bound chickens because of bird flu
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/03/usda-kills-73500-tyson-bound-chickens-because-of-bird-flu/#.WMYB8vmLSUl
By DAN FLYNN (Mar 8, 2017)
For the fourth year in a row, highly pathogenic H7 avian flu has struck birds the United States.
A Lincoln County, TN, poultry farm that supplies Tyson Foods took the brunt of avian flu’s return, when 73,500 chickens had to be destroyed to prevent them from entering the food supply or spreading the virus. Another 30 farms within a 10-mile radius are under quarantine.
The USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) is quick to caution the public that the H7 avian “bird flu” being experienced in Tennessee is of the North American wild bird linage, a virus that is genetically distinct from the China H7N9 lineage that has infected both poultry and people in Asia.
An epidemiological investigation is underway to determine the source of the current outbreak in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture worked together on the large bird kill and burial of chickens from the Tyson contractor’s farm.
Meanwhile, a lower pathogenic H5N8 bird flu has also been confirmed in Wisconsin.
USDA has been on the front lines of the avian flu crisis since late 2014 when the viruses first struck flocks in this country. After burning throughout 2015, the situation improved in early 2016 when the virus problem melted away with spring.
During the crisis, USDA perfected rapid testing and response to such incidents, which involves state and local officials and the industry. Surveillance and testing within the 10-mile radius of the Tennessee farm continues.
Tyson Foods officials say they do not expect the company’s poultry business to be impacted. But, the Springfield, AR, company did see its stock take a $1.61 hit when news of the avian flu first got out. It also prompted Japan and Singapore to at least temporarily ban poultry from both Tennessee and Wisconsin, areas of the United States experiencing Avian flu.
Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan have also put a halt on U.S. poultry imports to those countries.
Governments are cautious about avian flu because such viruses in rare circumstances could cross over to become infectious for humans. It was a deadly flu pandemic during and after World War I that resulted in more deaths than the conflict itself.
The sudden return of the bird flu to the U.S. has again underlined the need for poultry operations to up their biosecurity game, according to both government and industry experts. USDA’s program to help is called “Defend the Flock.”
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 13 strains of Avian flu were detected in 77 countries from January 2014 through the end of 2016. Countless birds — both wild and domestic — had to be destroyed. The United States was getting a break from bird flu, but not Asia and Europe. As more outbreaks have occurred, countries have had to make adjustments in their poultry sources.
OIE says the various strains of avian influenza mean bird flu must viewed as a global public health threat.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January warned U.S travelers to China to avoid live poultry markets because of an outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza. China’s outbreak has racked up at least 229 human victims.
The CDC did not recommend against travel to China, but suggest not going near poultry while visiting China, mainly by staying away from poultry markets and farms. Hong Kong and Macau along with Jiangsu, Fujian and Guangdong are among the other areas of China where people have been treated for infections from the bird flu virus. There is no vaccine for H7N9.
How One Company Eliminated Listeria Using Chlorine Dioxide Gas
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/feature_article/one-company-eliminated-listeria-using-chlorine-dioxide-gas/
By Kevin Lorcheim (Mar 7, 2017)
The previous article discussed the various decontamination options available to eliminate Listeria. It was explained why the physical properties of gaseous chlorine dioxide make it so effective. This article focuses on one company’s use of chlorine dioxide gas decontamination for both contamination response and for preventive control.
The summer of 2015 saw multiple ice cream manufacturers affected by Listeria monocytogenes. The ice cream facility detailed in this article never had a supply outage, but ceased production for a short amount of time in order to investigate and correct their contamination. After a plant-wide review of procedures, workflows, equipment design and product testing, multiple corrective actions were put into place to eliminate Listeria from the facility and help prevent it from returning. One such corrective action was to decontaminate the production area and cold storage rooms using chlorine dioxide gas. This process took place after the rest of the corrective actions, so as to decontaminate the entire facility immediately before production was set to resume.
The initial decontamination was in response to the Listeria monocytogenes found at various locations throughout the facility. A food safety investigation and microbiological review took place to find the source of the contamination within the facility in order to create a corrective action plan in place. Listeria was found in a number of locations including the dairy brick flooring that ran throughout the production area. A decision was made to replace the flooring, among other equipment upgrades and procedural changes in order to provide a safer food manufacturing environment once production resumed. Once the lengthy repair and upgrade list was completed, the chlorine dioxide gas decontamination was initiated.
The facility in question was approximately 620,000 cubic feet in volume, spanning multiple rooms as well as a tank alley located on a different floor. The timeline to complete the decontamination was 2.5 days. The first half-day consisted of safety training, a plant orientation tour, a meeting with plant supervisors, and the unpacking of equipment. The second day involved the setup of all equipment, which included chlorine dioxide gas generators, air distribution blowers, and a chlorine dioxide gas concentration monitor. Gas injection tubing was run from the chlorine dioxide gas generators throughout the facility to approximately 30 locations within the production area. The injection points were selected to aid its natural gaseous distribution by placing them apart from one another. Gas sample tubing was run to various points throughout the facility in locations away from the injection locations to sample gas concentrations furthest away from injection points where concentrations would be higher. Sample locations were also placed in locations known to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes to provide a more complete record of treatment for those locations. In total, 14 sample locations were selected between plant supervisors and the decontamination team. Throughout the entire decontamination, the gas concentration monitor would be used to continuously pull samples from those locations to monitor the concentration of chlorine dioxide gas and ensure that the proper dosage is reached.
As a final means of process control, 61 biological indicators were brought to validate that the decontamination process was effective at achieving a 6-log sporicidal reduction. 60 would be placed at various challenging locations within the facility, while one would be randomly selected to act as a positive control that would not be exposed to chlorine dioxide gas. Biological indicators provide a reliable method to validate decontamination, as they are produced in a laboratory to be highly consistent and contain more than a million bacterial spores impregnated on a paper substrate and wrapped in a Tyvek pouch. Bacterial spores are considered to be the hardest microorganism to kill, so validating that the process was able to kill all million spores on the biological indicator in effect also proves the process was able to eliminate Listeria from surfaces. The biological indicators were placed at locations known to be positive for Listeria, as well as other hard-to-reach locations such as the interior of production equipment, underneath equipment and inside some piping systems.
In order to prepare the facility for decontamination, all doors, air handling systems, and penetrations into the space were sealed off to keep the gas within the production area. After a safety sweep for personnel, the decontamination was performed to eliminate Listeria from all locations within the production area.
Case Update: Produce Targeted by Man Spraying Mouse Poison
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/case-update-produce-targeted-by-man-spraying-mouse-poison/
By R.A. Norton and Brad Deacon (Mar 7, 2017)
April 24, 2016, an alert employee at a Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, MI, noticed a young man spritz liquid from a small spray bottle onto food in the hot food bar. The man, 29-year-old Kyle Bessemer, was arrested after the media published a surveillance image showing him carrying a red shopping basket and striding past the avocados. Bessemer told police he mixed a Tomcat rodent poison with water in a bottle of hand sanitizer, and over the past two weeks had sprayed the mixture on open salad and food bars at several local grocery stores. He was suspected of doing the same at 15 other foodservice establishments. Surveillance photos also showed Bessemer squirting liquid avocados as he squeezed them.
In his statement to police, Bessemer said he had a history of mental illness and thought people were poisoning him, and he ultimately was found unfit to stand trial. This time, nobody got sick from the watered-down poison, but the specter of “what if?” hovers over the affair. Imagine what could have happened if Bessemer had been what we call a “thinking adversary,” one who researched and carefully planned an operation targeting vulnerable, open salad bars. It’s happened before: Back in 1984, followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh used Salmonella to poison more than 750 residents of The Dalles, OR. They deliberately contaminated salad bars at 10 local restaurants in hopes of incapacitating voters so their candidate would win in an upcoming county election.
And what if the culprit not only knew what he was doing but was an insider, someone who knew how to avoid security cameras and pick a time when no one would see him? What if he worked in the back, prepping salad bar ingredients? An insider could get into the system, find concentration points and make sure a poisoned product was widely distributed to the public.
This could have been a very different event. Fortunately, a Whole Foods employee was not only alert but willing to speak up; store management responded immediately, contacting local police and removing all produce and salad bar items; and officials at the local, state and federal levels responded rapidly, decisively and effectively. Now, there has been enough time to look back and ponder lessons learned. The number one thing to remember is that alert employees are the most important company asset in any food defense program. Food defense plans are important, but worthless without vigilant employees willing to act decisively. Food defense has to be a team effort.
The first thing that happened is that store management immediately contacted local police and removed produce and salad bar items to a landfill rather than using the food as animal feed or compost.
• Quick removal of contaminated food material is essential to prevent spread of the incident.
• Removal of contaminated food material must be done in a way that does not allow the material to be a source of further contamination in animal feed or in the human food chain.
• At the time, limited samples were taken of the potentially contaminated food. Additional samples would have been desirable. Consultation with law enforcement officials before disposal of food material would also have been desirable.
• In the future, it would be wise to segregate food that is suspected to be contamined in a location where sampling by law enforcement can be accomplished, without danger of contaminating other, safe food or introducing the contaminated food into the human or animal feed chains.
The day after the incident, local law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, HazMat, the county emergency operations center, the county public health department, the state health department and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) mounted a coordinated, multiagency response. MDARD also notified the grocery industry.
• The state system worked quickly and efficiently, but may have been somewhat delayed because the incident occurred on a Sunday. A thorough after-action review is expected to assess the response time.
• Incidents tend to occur at inconvenient times, including weekend and holidays. This should be considered the norm, and emergency plans should include contingencies for incidents when a minimal number of response personnel may be available. Further, after-hours emergency contact numbers for key personnel and key agencies is critical.
• Emergency response plans should include contingencies for segregating potentially contaminated food materials during off hours, as well as first-run sampling of contaminated materials. States, counties and municipalities should consider identifying collection points ahead of time, where suspect food materials could be collected and initial sampling initiated. These collection points need not be a stand-alone or sole use facility, but should be secure and a location where further contamination of the human or animal food supplies can be prevented.
• In the early stages, where identification of the contamination agent(s) has not occurred, it is essential that public access to the portion of the facilities and any equipment associated with the event be temporarily suspended, until which time the type of contamination be identified. Clean up in such instances should not be initiated until which time state or local HazMat does initial testing at the site, so as to ensure that radioactive materials or highly hazardous chemicals are not present.
The Michigan Public Health Laboratory screened the food suspected of contamination on April 27, 3 days after the incident, finding no evidence of select agents. The first multiagency call took place, and the store was notified that the risk to the public was low.
Definitive identification of potential hazard(s) takes time beyond initial screenings by HazMat. There is no good go-around for this, and therefore food industry defense plans should take into consideration these types of inevitable lag times. Interruption of the process should be anticipated and contingencies built into the plan.
On April 28, four days after the incident, the Michigan Intelligence Operation Center generated an Official Use Only Bulletin and shared it with law enforcement and the grocery industry. The bulletin proved essential in the identification of the suspect by alerting other grocery store employees. An alert employee recognized the suspect and contacted law enforcement officials.
• The decision to release information to the public in future events will be dependent on the nature of the hazard(s) and the state of the investigation. Rather than establishing a hard and fast rule, it is advisable that each case be handled independently with the watchword being transparency, wherever and whenever possible.
• Avoidance of panic by the public is an essential consideration in any decision.
• Release of information must also be done in such a way to avoid investigatory compromise.
The Big Picture
What can the government and the food industry gain from the “lessons learned?” Overall, the system worked well in Michigan, although there were also issues that both the private sector and the public sector agencies are working to address. There is always room in any plan for improvement. In fact, it is not certain that another municipality or state would have been as efficient. In all, 16 grocery stores were investigated by state officials, and the breadth of the investigation was costly. Not all jurisdictions would be able to quickly muster such resources, which could translate into the event spreading quickly and becoming even larger. Illness complaints first emerged after the public announcement. Although claims of illness ultimately proved to be unfounded or unrelated to the contamination events, the investigation nevertheless expended additional law enforcement and public health resources.
The motive to date still remains unknown, which is a troubling gap that may never be answered. There are indications mental illness may have been involved. Insight into the suspect’s motivations might give valuable clues into how the incidents evolved. Although the investigation to date has not uncovered information indicating involvement of others, that question remains open.
A particularly troubling aspect to any event like this is whether it could lead to copycat incidents. The event revealed vulnerabilities in grocery store food defense planning and operations. One of the conundrums in any incident investigation is the question of what should be exposed. Obviously, during the incident, the grocery stores that might be affected need timely information on what transpired and what to look for if similar events were to occur in their facilities. A thoroughly researched after-action report is also essential but may, in some cases, need to include redactions, particularly if proprietary information related to the affected facilities is exposed during the course of the investigation. Specific information related to the affected facility should be restricted to the owners of the facility, while more generalized lessons learned should be distributed industrywide as soon as possible.
The possibility of “thinking adversaries” must always be considered in planning for future events. A thinking adversary is one who will learn from personal mistakes or those of others. It is generally safe to say that future events will not be the same as those in the past. Frequently, in planning for future events, companies find security solutions for past events. Thinking adversaries know this and will plan work-arounds to overcome new strategies and safeguards implemented in response to the last incident. Planners need to anticipate generalities, rather than specific scenarios. A security camera system placed over a salad bar might be a valid response, but its placement could also cause a thinking adversary to shift attention to some other location in the grocery store. A whole-of-property camera system could be used to “prevent” this adversarial shifting, but can such a system actually prevent an event, or just detect an event once it has occurred? Security camera systems are very good to have, but are only as good as the comprehensive food defense program of which they are an essential part.
Threats evolve with the adversaries. Food defense plans must also evolve. What might have been effective in the past is not necessarily going to be effective in the future. Essential to any robust planning and operational execution is the training of personnel, who are going to be on the front lines when something occurs. They must be empowered with knowledge of what to look for in terms of suspicious activity and authority to act with the full support of the facility or corporation leadership. That being said, one threat that should not be minimized is the potential for events to be precipitated by insiders. Disgruntled employees are the most immediate problem for any corporation, food-based or otherwise. Insiders know the system and how it works, and they also know defense strategies and gaps. It is imperative to hire only thoroughly vetted individuals whose identities are definitively known, and for supervisory staff to monitor all employees’ activities and demeanor. Employees showing signs of discontent or agitation should be immediately removed from critical processes or functions, such as concentration points where large numbers of food products could be intentionally contaminated.
In terms of response improvements needed, Michigan identified first the need to take more and better samples should future events occur. When in question, always take more samples, thoroughly document their source and let the laboratories sort out what they do or do not need to test. Geocode everything and document sample location with imagery and video.
Another important conclusion in the lessons learned is the need for government agencies to better understand industry practices. This can only be accomplished if industry and government work cooperatively, which is never easy if collaboration is impeded by agencies that have both regulatory and emergency response authority. In times of emergency response, regulatory authorities must temporarily be subservient to the needs of the response. Sensitive, incomplete and rapidly changing information is very challenging to communication, but solutions to overcome these frictions must be found to prevent exacerbation of the emergency. In addition, emergencies are no time for meetings; conference calls with appropriate authorities and direct communications with liaisons should be used to communicate, not meetings. Briefings should be just that, brief and succinct, clearly communicating the knowns and unknowns. Goals for the response, as well as for the subsequent investigation, should be set as early as feasible. The most immediate goal is to identify the nature of the threat and contain its spread and therefore its impact. The investigation will come later. The investigation should never be allowed to impede the response.
Dr. R.A. Norton is chair of the Auburn University Food System Institute’s Food Defense Working Group and The Futures Laboratory, a collaboration between Auburn University, Auburn University-Montgomery and Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334.844.7562.
Brad Deacon is Michigan’s emergency management coordinator and director of the Office of Legal Affairs for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He can be reached at 517.284.5729.
One more look at lessons unlearned in raw burger outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/03/one-more-look-at-lessons-unlearned-in-raw-burger-outbreak/#.WMYxmPmLSUl
BY DAN FLYNN (Mar 7, 2017)
Before the federal Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention went public with the first announcement of a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, the boss let everyone working on foodborne diseases know there was one “notable thing” about the brewpub chain involved.
“Advance notification that ’tis the season again,” said Dr. Robert V. Tauxe in an email to his troops. “This is a cluster of 9 cases of O157 infections, linked to ground beef in the Midwest. The most notable thing about it is there is a burger chain involved named Bar 145 (sort of like a cattle brand).
“They took that name,” Tauxe explained to CDC staff, “because that is the temperature to which they cook their burgers, 20 degrees below the USDA recommendations. Usually we have to ask what a restaurant’s cooking policy is, but this makes it clear from the getgo.”
Tauxe is deputy director of the Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases Division at CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Three days after the Tauxe email, on May 19, 2014, the public first learned about the outbreak, which in the added days had grown to include a total of 11 people.
The 2014 outbreak that ended up sickening at least 12 people — with seven requiring hospitalization — was caused by ground beef burgers that were cooked rare or medium rare, several by Bar 145, the Ohio-based “gastropub” that specialized in undercooked burgers.
At the conclusion of the raw burger outbreak, Food Safety News sought more transparency out of local, state, and federal agencies that were involved and filed various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Coming as it did, 21 years after undercooked hamburgers sold by Jack-in-the-Box were among the critical elements in the deadly E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that many thought would end the consumption of raw ground meat, the 2014 outbreak raises questions about lessons going unlearned.
The FOIA Office at the CDC responded to our request of Nov. 23, 2014, on Monday this week. It provided 32 pages of “responsive records,” while withholding some commercial or financial information that was deemed to be privileged or confidential pursuant to FOIA exemptions.
CDC’s emails appear to show the agency could have made a public announcement a day or two sooner in 2014, but it was held up while waiting for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to initiate a recall by the Detroit-based Wolverine Packing Co. Both CDC’s public notice and the 1.8 million-pound recall by Wolverine came on May 19, 2014.
While waiting for the brand of ground beef to be named, CDC did prepare recommendations for consumers and restaurants to use in cooking ground beef. These suggestions included cooking hamburgers and beef mixtures to 160 degrees, using a food thermometer. Also refrigerating raw and cooked meat within two hours after purchase, avoiding cross-contamination, and washing kitchen work surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water.
Documents previously obtained by Food Safety News showed illnesses occurred at several restaurants not associated with the Bar 145 chain, including a Kent, OH, steakhouse; a St. Louis brew pub; and a Farmington, MI, burger bar. How ground beef was cooked at those establishments is not known. However, two people who ate “very raw” burgers made from Wolverine beef at Stella’s Lounge in Grand Rapids, MI were included in the outbreak.
The Bar 145 restaurant chain, founded in 2011, is led by Jeremy Fitzgerald and George Simons. Food Safety News has been unsuccessful getting anyone at Bar 145 to talk about the chain’s raw burger philosophy.
The raw burger outbreak was declared over by CDC on June 20, 2014. In the end there were 12 confirmed cases from four states, with seven requiring hospitalization. CDC did use the outbreak as a teaching moment to remind the public and foodservice operators to cook ground beef thoroughly.
Ages of those who were infected in the 2014 outbreak were between 16 and 46. No one developed HUS and there were no deaths. Ohio and Michigan each had five cases, and Massachusetts and Missouri each had one.
China pledges to cut pollution and boost food safety
Source : http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/china-pledges-cut-pollution-and-boost-food-safety
By Kathleen McLaughlin (Mar 6, 2017)
China’s central government is laying plans to curb pollution, increase food and drug safety, and boost scientific research—though supporting details are scarce.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang outlined these and other major goals during the opening session of the National People’s Congress on Sunday. The congress discussions are not likely to result in new legislation specific to science but speeches by top leaders set the tone for policy over the coming year.
“Having reached the current stage of development, China can now advance only through reform and innovation,” Li said in support of his call to boost research efforts. China has “the largest pool of scientists, engineers, and professionals in the world, and their potential for innovation is truly tremendous.”
Li also noted, “Environmental pollution remains grave, and in particular, some areas are frequently hit by heavy smog.” He spelled out several pollution targets, including a modest 3% reduction in levels of PM2.5, the fine particulate air pollution believed most harmful to human health. He said the government will also strive to replace coal with natural gas and other cleaner heat sources in 3 million homes across China. And he called for “a reduction of at least 3.4% in energy consumption per unit of GDP [gross domestic product], and continued reductions in the release of major pollutants.” To enforce the curbs, pollution sources will be monitored around-the-clock and industry will be pressed to use clean coal technologies, he said.
“We will strengthen research on the causes of smog to improve the scientific basis and precision of the steps taken,” he pledged. He also promised to enhance emergency control measures, such as the 2015 color-coded pollution action plan under which a “red alert” triggers restrictions on vehicle use and industrial emissions when the air gets particularly bad. The measure has had limited impact on overall air pollution levels.
Li also promised to set specific targets to reduce soil and water pollution, including a 2% decrease in chemical oxygen demand in waterways and tougher controls on agricultural runoff.
Li also spoke to food and drug safety in light of a long-running struggle with tainted food and dangerous counterfeit drugs, many of which have caused health problems after being exported to other countries. In late February the State Council unveiled a plan to tighten food and drug safety controls, including lowering limits on antibiotics and pesticides in food products, over the next 5 years, an effort Li said requires “the utmost rigor.”
FM Alert: Food Safety And Pest Management
Source : https://facilityexecutive.com/2017/03/fm-alert-food-safety-pest-management/
By facilityexecutive.com (Mar 6, 2017)
About 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from food borne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), as signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, enables the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect public health by preventing widespread food illnesses created by improper processing or sanitation practices.
A comprehensive pest management plan is a critical component to a FSMA-compliant food safety program, according to McCloud Services, a pest management company servicing Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The company works to generate awareness on ways food facilities can build an effective pest management program that will comply under the FSMA.
“Food facilities are required to implement a written preventive controls plan, which includes sanitation maintenance and pest management practices,” said Patricia Hottel, technical director of McCloud Services. “The goal is to build a proactive pest management program based on identified risks and encourage the food facility to operate under a preventive mindset versus reactive.”
Several elements go into an effective pest management program under FSMA guidelines, including performing a risk analysis and thorough inspection of past pest pressures, establishing preventative controls, conducting ongoing monitoring and visual inspections, and identifying corrective actions to control the source through root cause analysis for long term success. Electronic documentation is also a key component in program development, verification and maintenance, and proper evaluation must occur on a regular basis.
To learn more about the critical program elements required for a compliant FSMA pest management program, download McCloud Services’ white paper, “Implementing FSMA Rules for Pest Prevention & Corrective Actions.”
USDA-ARS Making Melons Safer with Steam
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/usda-ars-clean-melons-steam/
By qualityassurancemag.com (Mar 6, 2017)
Steam can more effectively combat E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria on cantaloupes than traditional removal methods. That's the finding of an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist in Pennsylvania.
Dike Ukuku and his colleagues at the ARS Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Unit in Wyndmoor has demonstrated that a relatively inexpensive steam cleaner designed to remove wallpaper and clean outdoor grills can rid cantaloupes of E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria more effectively than existing washes and chlorine treatments.
The ARS study involved submerging cantaloupes in a bath inoculated with E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria strains. After drying and refrigeration, the cantaloupes were cleaned with a commercially available power steamer. The technique produced sufficient heat to kill surface pathogens but not enough heat to damage the fruits.
Pathogen levels on the surfaces of the steam-treated melons were generally 1,000 times lower than those on untreated melons. Pathogens on cut-up pieces of the cantaloupes were reduced beyond detection. Pathogen levels on steam-treated cantaloupes were about 100 times lower than those found on cantaloupes sanitized with chlorine.
Processors and distributors could apply steam when cantaloupes are put into washers or as they are moved on conveyor belts during processing, Ukuku says. The technique also may effectively sanitize watermelons, honeydews, cucumbers and baby carrots.
The new technology could reduce the number of foodborne disease outbreaks from contaminated produce, which annually cause nearly one million illnesses and more than 100 deaths.
Read more about this research in the March 2017 issue of AgResearch magazine.
IoT = Smarter kitchens, smarter business, safer food for all
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/03/iot-smarter-kitchens-smarter-business-safer-food-for-all/#.WMYwdvmLSUl
The third in a four-part series brought to you by Par Technology Corp.
By LAURA MUSHRUSH (Mar 6, 2017)
Lunch rush is just hitting full swing as a party of four walks into a buzzing fast-casual restaurant for a quick bite. After placing their orders, one of them is handed a coaster sized sensor. Hitting up the soda fountain before finding a seat, the group decides to escape the crowded indoors for the outdoor patio. Seconds after the kitchen crew has the group’s order, a waiter takes a quick glance on a screen tracking the group’s sensor to the patio and cuts through the congested restaurant to have the food hot on the table within a few minutes of it being made.
While this everyday scenario shows a direct impact of the Internet of Things, or IoT, being beneficial to not only restaurants, but their customers as well, the data collection and tracking technology has even bigger payoffs when used in the back of the house.
Jarrod DellaChiesa, president of DellaChiesa Hospitality, a California based consulting firm with a specialty in technology, says as IoT technology becomes more affordable and advanced, it is quickly making its way into the restaurant sector of the food industry. Here are four ways restaurants can utilize IOT in their everyday business.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans fall ill from eating contaminated food each year, shooting food safety to the top of the priority list across all food industry sectors. A preventative action approach to food safety led to the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) serve as the backbone of the law by identifying potential hazards and weak spots, or critical control points, in the production process before problems develop.
According to DellaChiesa, mountains of data points are collected to stay in compliance with FSMA, which include temperature logs, line checks and labor reports. Manually recording this data and keeping track of it by hand opens the door to not only human error, but increased labor. However, with IoT technology, HACCP checklists can be loaded onto a shared platform that will outline and prompt employees of responsibilities and also give notification when it is completed.
Remember the table tracking sensor given to the party of four during the lunch rush? Well, it also tracked the course taken through the restaurant. According to DellaChiesa, this type of information is not only beneficial to running things efficiently in the front of the house, but also improving workflow in the kitchen.
“This type of tracking helps us gain insight on what tables are most popular at what times, and also if there are any layout problems. For example, we can take a look at the data and see people are spending more time standing in line at the soda fountain or getting caught a few extra seconds at the cashier, and be able to go in and relieve that bottleneck,” he said.
“It also works with optimizing the kitchen. So if a restaurant is rolling out a new menu, they can have their cooks carry the same tracking sensors to analyze movement and see if production would increase by shifting ingredient stations around.”
24/7 equipment monitoring
Think of IoT as the eyes in the sky when it comes to its abilities with equipment monitoring and operation. The walk-in freezer door get left opened? Sensors can ping the kitchen manager’s phone before food temperatures become compromised. Need a maintenance report on the ice cream machine? It can be retrieved no matter where you are. Want to double check that the nightshift crew turned off all the appliances before locking up? Just hop on the monitoring system from the comfort of home.
Accessible data storage
With IoT there’s no need for piles of paper documents to have to sift through in the event of an inspection or food safety crisis. Instead, years of data can be stored and later found within a matter of seconds when needed.
“Saves on time, saves paper and saves on having to store all your records in an office,” said DellaChiesa. “It also allows a manager to not focus on every single little detail and put time towards making progress with the ability to pull reports and trends for later analysis.”
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