Former USDA officials say feds critically short of veterinarians
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/08/former-usda-officials-say-feds-critically-short-of-veterinarians/#.WZvdxShJaUl
ByCOOKSON BEECHER (Aug 21, 2017)
Veterinarians' groups predict shortage of highly educated staff will decrease U.S. food safety
Sometimes when a door swings open, opportunity for change has the chance to enter.
That’s what some members of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians are hoping will happen now that two top food safety positions at the U.S, Department of Agriculture are in line for new leadership.
On July 31, Al Almanza retired from his job as the head of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). He is now head of global food safety for Brazil’s mega meatpacker JBS SA. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue selected Paul Kiecker, an FSIS career employee, to serve as acting administrator for the sub-agency.
At the same time, Perdue named Carmen Rottenberg to serve as acting deputy undersecretary for food safety. There’s not been an undersecretary for food safety for more than three and a half years. Rottenberg began working for FSIS in 2007 and has served in various positions.
FSIS’s mission is to protect the public’s health by ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, and processed egg products.
The opportunity the public health veterinarians are hoping for with the pending staff changes is a renewed commitment by USDA leadership to boost the agency’s ranks of veterinarians in slaughter houses, administrative positions and supervisory positions.
Increasing the number of veterinarians in those three areas is an intrinsic part of a staffing plan released in February by the American Veterinary Medical Association and supported by National Association of Federal Veterinarians.
The plan also recommends that FSIS provide or pay for 40 hours of professional management and/or food safety training per year for veterinarians. This would include professional meetings that could apply to work performed by FSIS.
It also recommends that FSIS partner with veterinary colleges to include provide information about public practice, especially within FSIS, in the annual curriculum for each veterinary student.
The plan was triggered by members’ concerns that for the first time ever, the agency was discussing putting non-veterinarians in charge of slaughter plants.
“A disaster waiting to happen,” said veterinarian William James, who capped off his 28-year career at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service with three years as the agency’s chief veterinarian from 2008-2011. “That’s why we’re bringing it up now before it happens.”
Do you eat meat or poultry?
“If you eat meat, then this is something you care about,” said James.
He said for the sake of food safety it’s important to have a pipeline of veterinary expertise from the slaughter house all the way up to the top of the USDA.
“You need this expertise to protect people from foodborne diseases,” he said.
Brian Ronholm, who was deputy undersecretary of food safety at USDA from April 2011 until January this year, agrees in principle.
“Increasing the number of veterinarians in FSIS would enhance the agency’s ability to reduce foodborne illness rates,” said Ronholm, who is now senior director of regulatory policy at Arent Fox LLP in Washington D.C.
Veterinarian Michael Gilsdorf, a member of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians since April 1983 and president of the association in 1995-1996, also agreed. He said FSIS conducts its food safety inspection duties at the “nexus of animal health and public health.”
That nexus is where bacteria in meat and poultry, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, become foodborne pathogens.
There are more than 70 known animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans and cause disease, Gilsdorf said.
“The ultimate responsibility within FSIS for ensuring the meat is safe for human consumption rests with the supervisory public health veterinarians (SPHVs)” Gilsdorf said, pointing out that veterinarians receive formal education in disease processes, microbiology and zoonotic diseases that are necessary for conducting effective inspections before and after animals are slaughtered.
Public health veterinarians have also received formal education in sanitary procedures, while few food inspectors have the education to understand the microbiological processes that are the basis for food safety requirements at slaughter plants, he said.
James said the safety of FSIS-regulated foods is too important to leave to people without the appropriate education to supervise inspection in all slaughter plants.
“Veterinarians are the single best source within FSIS for this expertise, but not a single veterinarian can be found at the head of a single office in FSIS,” James said.
Ronholm said his experience as deputy undersecretary of food safety at USDA proved to him that agency leaders need specialized knowledge and skills.
“It is important that the new leadership at FSIS is comprised of people with strong public health credentials and policy acumen,” Ronholm said. “It’s also essential that the new leaders not only be persuasive advocates for food safety priorities, but also ardent supporters of FSIS civil servants.”
Eric Mittenthal, spokesman for the North American Meat Institute, the leading voice for the meat industry, said ultimately it is an FSIS hiring decision.
“Veterinarians play an important role in meat inspection, but food safety monitoring occurs at various points throughout the process,” he said. “It is FSIS’s responsibility to balance those needs throughout the inspection process and ensure that employees are well trained and able to properly perform their duties so Americans can continue to enjoy safe meat and poultry.”
Why this staffing plan now?
Gilsdorf said there’s a “critical workforce situation that has developed within the FSIS that needs immediate attention.” Although the overall vacancy rate is a worrisome 12 percent, he said it is as alarmingly high as 21 percent in some of the 10 FSIS districts throughout the nation.
Another problem is a 10 percent shortage of food inspectors — higher in some districts — who work under the supervision of the supervisory public health veterinarians. That shortage means that the supervisory veterinarians have to fill in for the vacant food inspectors and therefore are not able to perform or complete all of their other supervisory veterinarian duties, James said.
“Up until now the supervisory public health veterinarians (SPHV) have been able to ensure the food is safe and wholesome,” he said, “but they cannot continue to cover multiple slaughter establishments and multiple vacancies without jeopardizing food safety in the near future.”
Gilsdorf and his colleagues believe it is time to fix the problem.
“We believe the alarming SPHV vacancy level in FSIS is an important reason for the astounding increase in foodborne illnesses in 2016 associated with FSIS products reported by the agency in June,” said Gilsdorf.
James made a similar point, again with the agency’s own data from its “Strategic Plan Fiscal Year 2011-2016” that shows a 72 percent jump in the number of Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli O157: H7 illnesses from products regulated by FSIS. In 2015, there were 382,123 cases. In 2016, that number had jumped to 657,405 cases. In the report, FSIS attributed the increase to a new “highly ambitious” method of monitoring illness trends.
But, James said information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodnet database has shown no real progress in bringing down foodborne illnesses in the past 10 years.
“This is what happens when the agency lacks effective leadership,” he said. “When you’ve made no progress in 10 years, then you know you’re doing something wrong. The agency needs to be making progress instead of treading water.”
Problems and solutions
The staffing plan asserts that FSIS has not made the supervisory public health veterinarian positions attractive enough to retain more highly qualified veterinarians. The pay to work in a slaughterhouse is at least $10,000 a year less — oftentimes far less — than what a vet could earn in private practice, according to veterinarian organizations.
A spokesperson for FSIS said that the agency is required by law to hire public health veterinarians in certain positions and that the agency cannot comment on who might be selected by the administration to run the Food Safety Inspection Service.
Another fly in the ointment is that currently there are more veterinary jobs available than there are people graduating from veterinary school. That translates into some stiff competition. And not surprisingly, many new veterinarians are looking for jobs caring for companion animals, not conducting slaughterhouse inspections.
Gilsdorf said the staffing plan recommends recruitment incentives such as 25 percent pay bonuses for the first two years for all locations. Another incentive could be student loan repayment of $5,000 for 10 years with a service agreement. Veterinarians have among the highest student loan balances of any profession, often ranging from $130,000 to $150,000.
“We have an opportunity to restore professional leadership and bring in enough veterinarians so inspection teams can be supervised,” James said.
As for the money needed to do it, he said that FSIS’s budget hasn’t been cut and it can redirect some of its money if needed. The association estimates that about $10 million in FSIS appropriations would be needed to bring the agency’s food inspection force up to full strength.
James said more staff won’t lead to higher meat prices because it’s FSIS, not the meat industry, that will be paying for it.
James said he knows public health veterinarian jobs require a certain type of person with a certain mindset.
“If you save someone’s pet poodle, you’re a hero,” he said. “But you can go your entire career as a public health veterinarian and no one will think of you that way. Yet one good decision can save many lives. The rewards for those with the right mindset is greater than anything from private practice.”
Gilsdorf agreed, saying the people who work as public health veterinarians see it as a service to humanity and adding that another group of civil servants has the power to make sure their service continues.
“Congress can resolve this situation rapidly,” said Gilsdorf.
Besides sharing the staffing plan with FSIS leadership, the national association has also been gathering support for it from members of Congress, commodity groups, and other veterinary associations, including swine and bovine veterinarian associations.
Another positive sign is that the current U.S. House Budget Report directs FSIS to address this issue, but Gilsdorf said the agency needs additional immediate help to fill 120 vacant supervisory public health veterinarian positions.
The FSIS spokesperson said as the largest employer of federal veterinarians in the United States, FSIS recognizes the knowledge and expertise they bring to the agency. As such, it continues to look for recruitment and retention incentives to maintain and expand their contributions to FSIS’s mission.
New food safety rules may drive weed-eating goats out of Edmonton, herder says
Source : http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/new-food-safety-rules-weed-goats-1.4255564
By CBC News ( Aug 21, 2017)
'The way the legislation is going ahead, it's going to totally tank our industry'
Proposed "traceability" regulations aimed at improving the safety of the agricultural food chain could drive weed-eating goats out of the city, says the woman responsible for the Edmonton herd.
The changes to the federal Health of Animals Regulations would require strictly tracking each animal's movements from the farm to the slaughterhouse.
The changes would mean that all operations where livestock may be loaded or unloaded from a vehicle would need a valid premises identification number for each site and would have to report the number when receiving livestock.
Each animal must be tagged and and new data must be entered every time an animal is relocated. This way, any disease outbreak can be easily traced to its source.
Jeanette Hall, the owner of Baah'd Plant Management & Reclamation, supports the idea of traceability — in theory. She wants to be able to look on a map and see if quarantines exist.
But in practice, the regulations are a bit of a headache.
"The way the wording is being set up, the way the legislation is going ahead, it's going to totally tank our industry," Hall said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
No kidding around — goats being used to tackle noxious weeds at Edmonton park
Throughout the summer months, Hall herds 200 goats through weed-infested parks across Alberta.
Her brood has been celebrated for munching its way through fields of unwanted weeds that would otherwise be sprayed with pesticides.
Her flock have most recently been chowing down on dandelion, knapweed and thistles in Rundle and Hermitage parks in northeast Edmonton as part of a city-mandated pilot project.
Each goat consumes about 10 pounds of weeds daily.
Hall fears that newly proposed federal food safety requirements will drive her — and her herd of four-legged weed-eaters — out of business.
Even though her goats don't end up in the food chain, they would still be required to follow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency traceability requirements.
While cows intended for the slaughterhouse move a few times in their lives, her goats move every few days.
Small grazing operations like hers will suffer, Hall said.
'This is really serious'
"For the goat industry, we won't even get a year trial period. Once these laws go through, they're pretty solid. And we're looking at $60,000 in penalties or six months in prison so this is really serious and it can really affect our industry," she said.
"It's not just me. It's a number of people from our industry that are going to be suffering from this."
Edmonton turns to 'goatscaping' to help manage noxious weeds
Hall fears compliance with the new tracking regulations will be impossible and she'll be buried in piles of expensive paperwork.
The required tags are also problematic because they often rip out of goats' ears as the animals plow through deep brush, she said.
Hall expects the changes will cost her an additional $200,000 in operational costs.
Naaamaste: Goat yoga gains popularity in Edmonton area
"They need us to tag each individual animal, enter every single ID number on each animal and the put it into the program when we move," Hall said.
"It makes sense if you're doing it once a year, maybe it's not such a big of a deal. But when you're doing it as frequently as I do, it is an issue."
A spokesperson for the CFIA confirmed that "goat lawnmowers" would be subject to the new tracking even though they're not destined for slaughter.
Hall is lobbying the federal government for some exemptions to the regulations.
She wants her herd to be defined as a "closed herd," so only a single identification number would be needed for tracking purposes.
If Ottawa fails to take her special circumstances into account, Hall fears that her beloved herd of urban goats may be heading back to the farm for good.
USDA agency reports 1.7 million verifications in 3Q of FY 2017
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/08/usda-agency-reports-1-7-million-verifications-in-3q-of-fy-2017/#.WZvelShJaUl
By DAN FLYNN (Aug 18, 2017)
Enforcement actions by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome and correctly labeled are reported each quarter.
The latest enforcement report, released Thursday, covers the federal government’s third quarter, from April 1 through June 30. It logs thousands of inspection procedures performed by FSIS personnel in federally inspected establishments on a daily basis to determine whether or not the facilities meet regulatory requirements.
FSIS inspectors make a written record known as a Noncompliance Record, or NR, when an establishment falls short of requirements.
During the third quarter, FSIS personnel performed more than 1.7 million verification procedures. They identified 27,697 NRs, for a 98.4 percent compliance rate.
Establishments filed 274 NR appeals during the quarter, with 69 granted and 119 denied. Twenty-six resulted in modifications. When the quarter ended, 60 pending appeals remained.
FSIS also inspects imported meat and catfish species at ports of entry. It calls this activity “reinspections.” That’s because the foreign product passed an equivalent inspection before arriving in the United States.
In the third-quarter report, FSIS said the reinspection “is also a means of verifying the equivalence of a foreign country’s inspection system on an ongoing basis.” FSIS reinspects all shipments of both imported meat and Siluriformes fish, which includes catfish.
During the quarter, imported meat and poultry reinspections totaled over 1 billion pounds, with 25,920,502 pounds refused entry. Imported egg products presented for reinspection totaled 2,649,801 pounds, with 41,720 pounds blocked from entry.
FSIS inspection personnel can condemn livestock and poultry for disease, contamination or other reasons to prevent the animal from being used as human food.
A USDA inspector inspects the “specified risk materials” of a beef carcass, which includes the small intestine. Photo courtesy of USDA
During the April to June quarter, FSIS inspected 37,967,115 livestock carcasses, condemning 52,949. FSIS inspected more than 2.3 billion chickens and turkeys during the period and condemned 9.7 million. Domestic production during the period was off slightly during the quarter.
FSIS can also detain products found in commerce when they are in violation of the law. The third quarter saw 99 detention actions involving 474,499 pounds of meat, poultry and eggs. The southwest region of the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA) was the most active with 38 detention actions involving 349,412 pounds of regulated products.
The FSIS Office of Field Operations (OFO) detained one shipment of 48,566 pounds out of its Raleigh office. It is the only OFO detention action of the year, so far.
FSIS also uses civil and criminal actions in federal court to achieve enforcement goals. There were no criminal actions during the quarter. Civil and administrative remedies are detailed in the report.
FSIS can issue a Notice of Warning (NOW) to firms violating statutes or regulations. Some NOWs are referred to U.S. Attorneys for possible prosecution.
OIEA issued 347 NOWs during the quarter, including 141 in the Northwest Region.
Four companies paid civil penalties during the period:
Crown Food Distributors of Hackensack, NJ, paid $560;
Keeley Food Service of Chicago paid $780;
Up Northern International Trading Inc. of Cranston, RI, paid $740; and
VM Tropical Meat Market of Brooklyn, NY, paid $740.
Each of the four companies entered into a Civil Penalty Stipulation Agreement under which it agreed to pay the fine.
FSIS did not execute any seizure actions during the quarter.
The agency did take action following up on a previous complaint against Astoria, NY-based Astoria Live Poultry and Meat Inc. and owner Gamal Rahman for failing to meet requirements to operate as an exempt poultry and meat slaughter operation.
Rahman sold products to retail stores and failed to maintain sanitary conditions and keep adequate records of his business transactions.
FSIS filed a civil complaint against Rahman and his company on June 23. Four days later the U.S. District Court for Eastern New York signed off on a consent decree that permanently enjoins the poultry and meat business from any further violations of FSIS regulations.
The court order also requires the company to give FSIS access to the facility and records for annual reviews and follow-ups.
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Food Safety Over Past 25 Years: ‘Everything Has Changed’
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/food-safety-past-25-years-everything-changed/
By Maria Fontanazza (Aug 17, 2017)
The effect that the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak had on the food industry was tremendous. Responsible for more than 600 illnesses and the deaths of four children, the outbreak led to significant changes in the industry’s approach to food safety. “[It] drove a shift in food safety that many had been working toward for years,” said Rima Khabbaz, M.D., acting deputy director for infectious diseases at CDC during the “We Were There” CDC lecture series, adding that the focus moved to food suppliers and how they could make their products safer. “The outbreak drove a paradigm shift that opened the door to food safety,” said Patricia Griffin, M.D., chief of the CDC’s enteric diseases epidemiology branch during the lecture.
Within a few years, several actions and initiatives paved the way for notable progress. In 1994, Mike Taylor, who was administrator of USDA’s FSIS at the time, made a speech that “shocked and outraged the industry,” said Griffin, where he stated, “we consider raw ground beef that is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 to be adulterated within the meaning of the Federal Meat Inspection Act.” From there, the USDA worked on legislation that was the first major advance in meat regulation. In 1996 the agency established the Pathogen Reduction Rule to improve meat inspection. The same year CDC’s PulseNet was born, the nationwide lab network that uses DNA fingerprinting to help identify outbreaks early, along with the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), an epidemiological system that tracks incidents and trends related to food.
In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Mike Taylor, most recently the former FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, discusses the dramatic change that industry has undergone during the past 25 years, from FSMA to technology advancements to food safety culture.
Food Safety Tech: Reflecting on how far the industry has come since the E.coli O157:H7 outbreak involving Jack in the Box in 1993, what key areas of progress have been made since?
Michael Taylor: I think there are very major ones obviously. You have to remember where things were when the Jack-in-the-Box [outbreak] happened. We were in a place where USDA programs said it was not responsible for pathogens in raw meat and that consumers are supposed to cook the product; [and] industry was operating under traditional methods. Microbial methods were typically conducted for quality not for safety; you had the loss of public confidence and a terrible situation in which consumers were pointing at industry, and industry was pointing at consumers, and no one was taking clear responsibility for safety of the product.
Now we are in a completely different environment where not only is there clarity about industry’s responsibility for monitoring pathogens, there’s also been enormous progress by industry to put in place microbial testing, something David Theno pioneered and is now a central part of food safety management systems for meat safety.
Everything has changed.
These [institutional] arrangements exist not only in the meat industry, but now across the whole food industry. There’s the emergence of GFSI taking responsibility for managing the supply chain for food safety, food safety culture taking hold broadly across leading companies in the industry, and FSMA codifying for 80% of the food supply that FDA regulates the principles of risk-based prevention and continuous improvement on food safety.
I think it’s rather dramatic how far the industry’s food safety regulatory system has come since [the] Jack in the Box [outbreak].
FST: How has FSMA helped to align industry priorities?
Taylor: Let’s focus on the events first leading up to FSMA—for example, the outbreaks or illnesses associated with leafy greens [and] peanut butter, and problems with imported products—those events in the world aligned industry priorities around the need to modernize the food safety laws and to enact FSMA. It was the coming together of industry and consumer interests, and the expert community around the principles of comprehensive risk-based prevention that vaporized into FSMA. Now FSMA is the framework within which companies are organizing their food safety systems in accordance with these modern principles of prevention.
And clearly what’s been codified in FSMA and some of the key elements are becoming organizing principles where industry is aligning our priorities for food safety. Environmental monitoring where that’s an appropriate verification control for a company’s hygiene and pathogen control—that’s clearly a priority that folks are aligning on. The issue of supplier verification for domestic and foreign supply is a priority that has been elevated by FSMA, and so has the whole issue of training and employee capacity, whether it’s in processing facilities or on farms, as well as food safety culture. If you’re going to be effectively preventive you need to deal with the human dimension of your food safety system.
These are examples of ways in which FSMA is aligning industry priorities.
FST: How have the evolution of technology and the emergence of food safety culture helped drive change?
Taylor: There’s been a lot of progress around. Going back to the meat sector, there are the basic sanitizing technologies that weren’t in existence pre-Jack in the Box to try to deal with pathogens that enter a slaughter facility with the live animals. And there are also more high tech things going on: Whole genome sequencing, for example, is a way to link cases and identify outbreaks. I think a lot of people see it as a technology that can give very robust information about where hazards are in the food supply and help focus preventive efforts. The use of environmental monitoring in prevention is another technology or practice.
Another example of where the technology is evolving in response to regulation (but even independent of it)— leading food safety companies are implementing new technologies because they are responding to the high consumer expectations around food safety and the cost of failing to prevent from an economic business destruction standpoint.
Food safety culture is an overlay here that is a meaningful way to think about what the path is, because it taps into the understanding that if you haven’t instilled the right understanding in every employee about why food safety must be a primary value to the business, you haven’t instilled it from the top down. You have much less assurance that every day every person will do their job in a way that the plan is designed to have people do their job. Continuous improvement is an inherent element of a strong food safety culture. This idea of food safety culture, which certainly pre-dated FSMA but is reinforced by FSMA, I think you’ll continue to see a positive evolution that expands the universe of participants in food production who are formally embracing it as a tool for improving their performance on food safety.
FST: What does the future hold?
Taylor: I indulge in the cliché that food safety is not a destination; it’s a journey. I think we’ll continue to progress up the ladder and broaden the implementation of these now regulatory requirements and the broader idea food safety culture. Tackling this from a global food standpoint will continue to be a huge challenge, both for leading companies who have been managing global supply chains for years as well as in emerging markets and developing countries that are aspiring to become part of global food system. They are increasingly looked to as sources of raw materials for food production, not only within developing regions but also outside. In those regions, which are starting from behind in terms of food safety related capacity both public and private, how do you bring them along and invest in their capacity and expand these modern food safety principles and practices? That’s a big challenge that lies ahead.
A Closer Look at Environmental Monitoring in the Processing Plant
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/augustseptember-2017/a-closer-look-at-environmental-monitoring-in-the-processing-plant/
By Bob Ferguson
A Closer Look at Environmental Monitoring in the Processing Plant
Strategic Consulting Inc. and Food Safety Magazine surveyed more than 100 food processors throughout the United States on their preparations for compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and how elements of their food safety programs may be changing as a result. In this article, we’ll present our findings on the changes reported in environmental monitoring and sanitation programs and how the analytical testing procedures that processors use may be changing.
We asked processors about any changes they had made to their environmental monitoring (EM) programs in response to FSMA (Figure 1), in terms of both the numbers and types of samples they would be collecting and the sample analysis used on them. Processors were split in their responses, with the number of respondents saying they would be collecting more samples roughly equal to the number who said their sample volumes would remain mostly unchanged. This answer varied only somewhat by type of processor, with approximately 40 percent of fruit and vegetable processors, 45 percent of processed foods processors and 50 percent of dairy processors saying they would be taking additional samples, with the major exception being the protein sector, where all processors indicated that they would neither be making changes to their EM programs nor collecting additional samples.
Enter the FDA and Its Methodology
Knowing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated its intent to more frequently collect swab samples during inspections, we also asked processors whether they plan to specifically increase the number of EM swab samples they collect or sample more locations prior to FDA inspections. Seventy percent of respondents indicated that they have not changed their programs in response to any FDA programs. Of the 30 percent of companies that indicated that they have made changes, they reported that they will be taking more samples and in more locations, and using the samples to test for more pathogens than they had been looking for previously, with Listeria most often mentioned. Outside of surface swabs, other EM program changes reported included adding sampling and analysis for specific media, with additional sampling of process and wash water most frequently mentioned, and more staff EM training. These companies also said that they will be increasing their testing of incoming raw materials and final product as well.
Understanding that when FDA collects additional swab samples that these may be analyzed using whole-genome sequencing (WGS), we asked whether companies would also be submitting their own samples for WGS. Ninety-three percent said they would not be using WGS and that they had made no changes to the analyses they use for samples. Of the seven percent that indicated they would be using WGS, none said that their decision was specifically in response to FDA, but they indicated that WGS “is good data to have.”
“Whole-genome sequencing is a powerful tool,” said David Acheson, former FDA associate commissioner for food and current CEO of The Acheson Group, “but we understand the reluctance of some processors to develop data that can be discoverable. But it is clear that processors need to find (and the FDA is encouraging them to find) any resident strains that may be in their plant. Other diagnostics like PFGE [pulsed-field gel electrophoresis] can work, but WGS does work and it is the way the regulatory agencies are moving. But if you are repeatedly seeing the same pathogen in your plant that may be resident, and a food safety incident results, any lack of action on your part to identify and correct a resident strain due to a reluctance to use WGS will be no excuse.”
For an illustration of how this use of WGS will enhance traceability, particularly of resident strains, consider the following example offered at the Food Safety Summit in May from Dr. Robert Tauxe, director, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tauxe cited French regulators who were working on a recurring Listeria cluster in a hospital where there were repeated outbreaks of small numbers of people getting sick. The French officials, using WGS on cultures recovered from ill patients during one of these outbreaks, were able to genotype the organism and match the source to resident organisms found in samples from a specific piece of equipment in the hospital. Once that equipment was cleaned and the source removed, they saw no more incidents.
This is a clear lesson for food processors and a model of investigations they can expect to see more often, where WGS will be used to pinpoint the exact source of contamination responsible for a food safety incident.
“The FDA is a strong believer in whole-genome sequencing as a method to identify resident organisms,” said Jenny Scott, senior adviser, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Food Safety. “It is not the only way, but we encourage facilities to use one of the analytical techniques available to identify resident strains. We will be asking our inspectors to pay attention to the environmental monitoring data at a facility but [pay] particular attention to the corrective actions taken, and in those facilities where they have an ongoing program and they are sharing the results, the results look good, they are sampling in the right areas, the facility has good CGMPs [Current Good Manufacturing Practices] in place, there may be no point for us to take any samples in a facility. Any positive findings can be mitigated by the right corrective actions. We don’t expect facilities to never find a positive—we hope they will occasionally find positives—but the focus will be on the corrective actions taken and making sure there is ultimately no problem with their product.”
Understanding that companies may be wary of developing data that may be discoverable or will have to be produced during an FDA inspection, we also asked companies whether they were considering working with an attorney in the management of their sanitation program. Ninety-one percent of the respondents replied that they have not been working with an attorney and they have no plans to change. Of the remaining nine percent who indicated that they are or do plan on working with an attorney, about half reported that they have an attorney to review their data regularly, and the other half said they will call in their attorney in case of an incident.
We talked with Shawn Stevens, a food industry lawyer from Food Industry Counsel LLC, about developing data using WGS and working with an attorney as a regular part of a sanitation program.
“Food processors need to be careful not to try to use routine solutions that worked in the past to solve these new and unique problems,” said Stevens. “The situation we are in is clearly different [from] what it has been in the past, particularly the approach of the FDA and the prospect of ‘swab-a-thons’ and the increased risk of criminal exposure. Companies need to use new, ‘nonroutine’ methods, both analytical and legal, to navigate through what has become an unmarked minefield.
“Using WGS is not absolutely necessary, but finding and eliminating niche organisms is. To the extent that genetic typing is needed in that effort, it should be used. We generally recommend a three-stage process, which consists of first finding out if you have a problem and if niche-harborage organisms are present. To do this, a company must swab and test their facility through an ‘aggressive hunt.’ Second, once and if organisms are identified, eliminate the problem through decontamination processes. Third, if the first two steps are not effective because of the likelihood that multiple genotypes are present and you need higher resolution in your analytical method to better identify and characterize the problem, then employ WGS to get that data you need, get the right characterization and identification and clean again.
“As for doing this with or without the help of an attorney, there is an argument that this work is not part of your written FSMA plan and is therefore outside the purview of the FDA. This may turn out to be the case, but this is by no means certain, and having an additional layer of protection and additional guidance in the process to avoid the errors that can increase exposure in this uncertain risk environment will help manage the risk. It may even help convince senior management to take these necessary steps, knowing the risk is better managed.”
A Look at Sanitation
We also asked processors about changes to their sanitation programs (Figure 2). Forty-one percent of the respondents said they have made changes to their sanitation programs, with roughly one-third saying the changes were “significant.” Of the remaining 59 percent who said they have not made changes, two-thirds of these respondents indicated that they believe their program is effective and does not require change. We also asked about the impact on their sanitation programs from employee turnover, the impact of retention-incentive programs and their attitudes toward outsourcing their sanitation programs; we received more details and data than we have room for in this column. Look for more details of these results of our survey in a future Food Safety Insights column.
Deadly Papaya Salmonella Outbreak: How is the Fruit Contaminated?
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2017/deadly-papaya-salmonella-outbreak-how-is-the-fruit-contaminated/
By Linda Larsen (Aug 16, 2017)
The ongoing deadly Salmonella outbreak linked to imported Maradol papayas has sickened at least 141 people in 19 states. Since Salmonella is such an underreported illness, with a multiplier of 38, that means that there could be more than 5,000 people sick in this particular outbreak in the United States.
But how does Salmonella get on papayas? That is not a food typically associated with foodborne illness outbreaks.
Salmonella is ubiquitous in the environment. It is present in the soil, in the feces of animals and birds, and some people carry it. Any food can be contaminated with Salmonella, but produce is quite susceptible to it because it is a natural product. There have been quite a few outbreaks in the past few years caused by produce contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
Plants can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria in the fields by animal agriculture run-off or by animals and birds defecating in the fields. There are also risks during harvest, during processing, and during transport. If someone who has a Salmonella infection handles the fruit in the supply chain they can become contaminated. A dirty transportation container, or a facility with a leaky roof or a rodent problem can be problematic. And one contaminated papaya can contaminate many more fruits.
We don’t know how the papayas linked to this outbreak were contaminated, but government officials are investigating. They will conduct traceback investigations and inspect the facilities that harvested, processed, and transported the fruits.
In this outbreak, 45 out of 103 patients who provided information about their illnesses to the CDC have been hospitalized, for a hospitalization rate of 44%. That is a much higher percentage, practically double, than the typical 22% hospitalization rate in Salmonella outbreaks. This may be because the strains of Salmonella Kiambu and Salmonella Thompson identified so far are more virulent than usual. Or the bacteria could be resistant to antibiotics, which makes the infection more difficult to treat.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever. Most people get ill within six to seventy-two hours after exposure. While most people do recover on their own, many become ill with sepsis, a bloodstream infection, or suffer dehydration and must be hospitalized.
There are lifelong consequences of this infection. Patients can suffer irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, and reactive arthritis years after they recover.
The CDC is currently recommending that consumers not eat Maradol papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico, which exported the papayas involved in this outbreak. Most of the fruits will carry a sticker stating where they were from. If you aren’t sure, ask the retailer. If you still aren’t sure, throw the fruit out and wash your hands well with soap and water.
Fighting slime: Researchers develop bacteria-killing plastic film
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/08/fighting-slime-researchers-develop-bacteria-killing-plastic-film/#.WZvfvChJaUl
BY NEWS DESK (Aug 16, 2017)
Plastic films made with bacteria-killing polymers have been proven effective as a frontline defense — not to mention offense — in the battle against biofilms in food production operations.
A preferred place of residence for pathogens such as Listeria and E. coli, biofilms form easily and are extremely difficult to eradicate, according to the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Biofilms are aggregates of bacteria that highly increase bacterial resistance to antimicrobials, as well as to disinfectants, according to the American Society of Microbiology.
But, by modifying the polymer matrix of plastic films, researchers have developed a rechargeable disinfecting material that can be applied to conveyor belts, food-contact surfaces, utensils and other equipment and surfaces.
The research team lead by Nitin Nitin, professor and engineer with the departments of Food Science and Technology and Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of California-Davis, published its results in the Aug. 11 edition of the journal of the American Society of Microbiology. Also on the research project were Andrea Cossu of the UC-Davis Food Science and Technology department and Yang Si of the UC-Davis division of textile and clothing.
“Currently, we do not have an active approach to continuously prevent deposition of bacteria during food processing operations, and can only remove these deposits after processing — during a cleaning shift. Similar risks exist in the hospital environment,” Nitin said in a news release.
The research was funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It builds on previous work by Nitin and others who have experimented with integrating chemical groups called N-halamines into plastic. N-halamines are composed of a nitrogen and a chlorine atom, in some cases with other elements attached.
“Many food borne disease outbreaks can be traced back to cross-contamination of food with pathogenic bacteria,” Nitin said in the release.
“We tested the modified plastic films using two relevant foodborne pathogens— Escherichia coli and Listeria. The tests were conducted to evaluate prevention of biofilm formation, as well as treatment of pre-formed biofilms.”
The researchers targeted biofilms because they are “the leading cause of cross contamination of food and non-food materials upon contact with contaminated surfaces,” according to the research results published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
They not only succeeded in preventing the formation of biofilms by killing bacteria, but the researchers were also able to kill existing biofilms on food production surfaces by applying their modified plastic film.
And it’s rechargeable.
“Depending on the precise composition, the N-halamines can kill bacteria on contact, or by releasing chlorine to kill the bacteria. In the latter cases, bathing the plastic films in bleach can recharge the N-halamines with chlorine,” according to the news release announcing the research.
“Conventional sanitizers are difficult to work with in the food production environment, because access to areas of potential contamination is limited. (But the modified plastic film) can be cast or modeled into different shapes, such as conveyor belts, plastic bins for food transport, … or easily added to existing equipment as a lining material.”
Is Avian Influenza a Food Defense Issue?
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/is-avian-influenza-a-food-defense-issue/
By Robert A. Norton, Ph.D.(Aug 15, 2017)
Is Avian Influenza a Food Defense Issue?
The announcement of an avian influenza outbreak in commercial poultry is not good news for the industry, which is based in the southern tier of the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed earlier this year, the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee, close to the Alabama state border. Additionally, USDA-APHIS identified the isolate as having originated from wild birds. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the United States this year. The flock of 73,500 is located within the Mississippi flyway, which likely means the virus is also present in the wild duck and goose populations, making the spread of the virus likely.
The scale of the poultry industry in the southern U.S. is hard for those outside the industry to imagine. Total broiler production for the U.S. was almost 8.6 billion birds in 2015. The top three broiler production states in the southern U.S. are Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas, which collectively accounted for more than 3.3 billion broilers of the total. In addition to the actual number of broilers produced, the total live weight (weight of the bird before slaughter) produced in those same three states alone was in excess of 19 billion pounds.
By any measure, that is a lot of meat meant for the human food chain. If lost, that meat would be hard to replace, given that several other poultry-producing nations are struggling with avian influenza issues of their own, making alternative sources of the protein less likely and, even when available, far more expensive.
Could the Avian Influenza Virus Be Used to Intentionally Attack the U.S. Food Supply?
The simple answer to that question is yes; avian influenza virus could be diverted from an infected flock and used to attack the poultry industry in other parts of the region or the U.S. A more complete answer requires far more nuance. “Agroterrorism” is the term used to describe an intentional attack on the food production system, including animals or plants. Practically speaking, and for reasons that will not be discussed here because of security concerns, the likelihood of an intentional diversion of an infected bird or infective material, although not impossible, is highly unlikely. The earlier avian influenza outbreak is the result of unintentional contamination of a commercial flock, from a virus that was naturally present in waterfowl in the same area as the outbreak. There are no indicators that this outbreak is anything beyond a natural event of disease transmission.
Bioweapons Programs: Past and Present
In the past, several nations, including the U.S., had extensive military bioweapons programs that included, among other pathogens, those that could be used to target agriculture. In 1969, President Richard Nixon ordered the end of offensive bioweapons research in this country. The U.S. subsequently ratified two treaties: the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which collectively outlawed biological warfare. At the same time, the then-Soviet Union had a massive bioweapons program, dating back decades and involving many animal pathogens, including avian influenza.
Current indicators found in the open scientific literature provide some evidence of a revived interest in potential biological weapons programs by several adversarial nations. Whether these adversarial nations are actually conducting bioweapons research that includes pathogens like avian influenza is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, the creation of a major agroterrorism event on a scale that would actually endanger the U.S. food supply is beyond the capability of any single individual or even a group such as ISIS.
Such capability is confined to nation states, which have both sophisticated bioweapons and delivery capabilities. Such an intentional agroterrorism event would be considered by international law as being an act of war and therefore subject to economic and likely military retaliation by the United States.
Is There Potential for Employees to Intentionally Spread Avian Influenza?
Again, here the simple answer is yes, with a big caveat. Poultry companies are concerned about a number of diseases, including avian influenza, and have as a result instituted a series of standards and protocols related to biosecurity. A disgruntled employee or, for that matter, a poor-quality employee might choose to intentionally ignore biosecurity standards. Doing so could cause disease to gain a foothold or be spread within a complex.
Poultry companies have prepared for the scenario of an employee who does not vigorously uphold biosecurity standards by compartmentalizing operations wherever possible, thereby limiting access of employees to those areas and farms specifically under their charge. One can no longer enter a commercial poultry farm without permission or being noticed.
Poultry companies also have instituted rigorous surveillance programs, monitoring the health of the birds and quickly working toward containment should any disease event be discovered. In the current outbreak, avian influenza was identified very rapidly, the birds were quarantined, and a depopulation plan was implemented immediately. This is a quarantine system working well.
What Is the Future Likely to Bring?
Only time will tell whether USDA-APHIS has successfully gotten in front of this avian influenza event or whether additional cases will occur. Since HPAI is likely present in the wild waterfowl population in the Mississippi flyway, chances are this might not be the last case. The company that owns the affected flock, as well as those facilities adjacent to the affected farm owned by other poultry companies, likely will ramp up biosecurity programs, becoming even more aggressive about limiting access of employees and non-employees. None of the meat from the affected flock entered the food supply, nor will it ever. The U.S. consumer is not at risk because of this outbreak. The flock was euthanized according to USDA-APHIS approved protocols, and the carcasses will be buried in a way in which they cannot contaminate other poultry, groundwater or the food supply.
The potential threat to human health is also minimal. Although avian influenza deaths in humans have occurred in Asia and elsewhere, no human deaths have been attributed to outbreaks of avian influenza in North America. Avian influenza virus is capable of genetic changes that can cause it to become pathogenic to humans, but to date, the disease in North America remains confined to poultry and waterfowl and is currently not a public health problem.
Food Defense—Next Steps?
Even though avian influenza is more of a biosecurity issue than either a food security or food safety issue, it important that all corporate protocols be reviewed in light of the potential for additional outbreaks in the southeast United States. Contingency transportation plans and continuity of business plans should also be quickly reviewed as transportation lanes could be affected if additional avian influenza cases occur in or around the current quarantine zone. Congregation of poultry company employees in places like gas stations, quickie marts, even schools and churches, could potentially spread the disease, if vehicles or clothing that have been exposed to affected areas are not properly cleaned. Above all, biosecurity plans must continually be reassessed in light of any new disease findings, and biosecurity must be practiced with all due vigilance and vigor.
Robert A. Norton, Ph.D., is chair of the Auburn University Food System Institute’s Food and Water Defense Working Group (aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense). He is a long-time consultant to the U.S. military, federal and state law enforcement agencies. His blog, Bob Norton’s Food Defense Blog, can be found at aufsi.auburn.edu/fooddefense/blog/. He can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 334.844.7562.
Dr. Norton and production of this article were supported by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Stations and the Hatch program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), U.S. Department of Agriculture. The article represents the personal opinion of Dr. Norton and does not reflect official policy or statutory related opinion of the federal government, NIFA or USDA.
1. Avian influenza (or bird flu) is a disease of birds caused by infection with avian influenza type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Domestic poultry may be infected with highly pathogenic or low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses: The highly pathogenic viruses spread quickly and may kill nearly an entire poultry flock within 48 hours. Public health and poultry scientists are concerned about avian influenza A viruses for several reasons, including
• They threaten domestic poultry throughout the world.
• Some viruses have passed sporadically from poultry to humans and caused serious illness and death.
• They may change into a form that is highly infectious in humans and spreads easily from person to person.
3. In a notification dated 06/03/2017 from Dr. John Clifford, Official Delegate, Chief Trade Advisor, USDA-APHIS, Washington, United States of America reporting to the World Organization for Animal Health (www.oie.int/) indicated an initial mortality loss of 700 birds, while 72,800 were noted as subsequently destroyed.
4. A press release by USDA-APHIS dated March 5, 2017 states, “Samples from the affected flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. Virus isolation is ongoing, and NVSL expects to characterize the neuraminidase protein, or “N-type”, of the virus within 48 hours.”
Michigan farm recalls shell eggs because of Salmonella
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/08/michigan-farm-recalls-shell-eggs-because-of-salmonella/#.WZvgJyhJaUl
BY NEWS DESK (Aug 15, 2017)
A poultry farm in Michigan is reportedly recalling shell eggs in eight counties because they may be contaminated with Salmonella enteriditis, which was found at the farm during an outbreak investigation.
Neither the state agriculture department nor the state health department had posted any information about the recall as of Monday night, but area media was reporting that LaBar Poultry Farm in Manistique on the upper peninsula had recalled eggs distributed to restaurants, grocery stores and directly to consumers.
The eight counties implicated are Alger, Delta, Dickinson, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee and Schoolcraft, according to The Sault News of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Consumers can identify the eggs, which are packaged in dozen-count cartons, by looking for the LaBar Poultry Farm name and dates of Aug. 30 or Sept. 30, the newspaper reported.
Whether the recalled eggs are related to a Salmonella enteriditis outbreak Michigan officials were investigating in early July among patrons of a restaurant in Marquette County was not clear Monday evening. Patrick L. Jacuzzo, the Marquette County director of environmental health, told Food Safety News in July that raw, unpasteurized eggs served in Hollandaise sauce with eggs Benedict were the suspected source.
Jacuzzo said Michigan’s agriculture department was investigating an egg producer but that test results were not available at that time. He did not name the egg producer or the restaurant. Officials from the agriculture department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
LeBar Poultry Farm is owned by Jeff and Heidi LaBar, according to Michigan state records. The farm’s Facebook page was not activated Monday night. The Detroit Free Press reported in August 2014 that Jeff LaBar won $3.3 million on a lottery ticket.
The Sault News reported Monday evening that Salmonella enteritidis was detected on the LaBar farm during environmental sampling as part of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation. Consumers and retail establishments who have purchased the eggs are urged not to eat them and to dispose of the product immediately.
Anyone who has eaten LaBar Poultry Farm brand eggs and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors of the possible exposure to the proper diagnostic tests can be preformed.
Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and sometimes fever and usually develop 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. Serious and sometimes fatal infections and side effects occur in children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
What You always Wanted to Know about Food Crime but Were Afraid to Ask
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/what-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-food-crime-but-were-afraid-to-ask/
By Andy Morling (Aug 15, 2017)
What You always Wanted to Know about Food Crime but Were Afraid to Ask
I’m often asked whether my job, leading the United Kingdom (UK)’s fight against serious criminality in food supply chains, has made me an anxious consumer. I always sense that my response disappoints. Because the truth is, it really hasn’t.
Sure, I try to make the right food choices when shopping, and, yes, I even occasionally glance at ingredients and nutritional information on the packaging. Counterintuitively, in the eyes of some, my experience since 2015 as Head of Food Crime at the National Food Crime Unit of the Food Standards Agency in London, has actually increased my confidence in the integrity of the food I eat.
So I shop and dine with confidence because what I’ve seen to date leads me to believe that food production, manufacture and retail form an industry populated by honest and well-intentioned people who care about bringing high quality and interesting things to our plates. Although not every country is quite so fortunate, the overwhelming majority of food and drink produced and sold in the UK and indeed in the United States is safe and what it says it is.
The second question new acquaintances often ask concerns, what I call, the ‘Eww Factor.’ Quite understandably, people have a slightly salacious desire to know the most revolting or bizarre substance I’ve found food to be adulterated with. Again, my answer seldom lives up to the expectations of the questioner. To define food crime by its Eww Factor is to fundamentally misunderstand the way fraudsters operate.
To be successful as a food criminal, one needs to operate beneath the radar. A good food crime is one that endures. Fraudsters do not wish to draw attention to a fraudulent product by poisoning people or adversely altering its organoleptic properties. Introducing an Eww Factor in the course of a food fraud would simply be bad for business.
Disappointing though it may be to some, the truth is that food crime is considerably more subtle, nuanced and endlessly fascinating than the popular narrative suggests.
Dishonesty is present in any industry as it is in any walk of life. We humans are all capable of taking a different route from the one suggested by our moral compass if suitably motivated. I call these drivers push and pull factors. Within food businesses, push factors might include pressures to remain competitive in a sector with tiny margins, pressure from the bank, pressure from shareholders or pressure sometimes just to stay afloat. A pull factor might be about winning a lucrative contract, increasing profitability, breaking into new markets or simply making lots and lots of money. Push factors result from need, pull factors from greed. I see both.
In 2013, the discovery in the UK of horse DNA in processed beef products heralded a new paradigm. Although rogues have been deceiving people about food for centuries, this was very different. Different in scale, different in scope and, quite frankly, different in terms the degree of complexity and planning involved in what was actually the simple substitution of one meat species for another.
So industry and government looked for answers. There was an understandable desire after the horse meat incident to point the finger of blame at an exogenous, organized criminal threat ruthlessly targeting an unsuspecting food industry. While there are certainly pockets of true organized crime involved in food, the inconvenient truth is that most food criminals I see are time-served participants in the food industry. These are demonstrably food people rather than crime people. They are good businesses gone bad rather than fundamentally bad businesses. This matters because, in order to reduce a criminal threat, one first needs to understand it.
With respect to all crime, there needs to be the means, the motivation and the opportunity for an offense to happen. If one of those elements is absent, the crime simply doesn’t take place. Preventing crime is therefore very much about removing or reducing any one of those elements to a level where offending becomes impossible or simply unattractive.
Those very same elements apply to food crime. The push and pull factors already mentioned provide adequate motivation to defraud food consumers and opportunities also exist in abundance. The natural limitations of audit, oversight and vigilance, both regulatory and commercial, leave many opportunities for fraud to take place beyond the gaze of capable guardians.But acquiring the means to offend presents challenges to those without an established footprint in the food industry. Acquiring the tools, the equipment, the know-how and the routes to market at scale can be a formidable barrier to entry for many criminal actors looking to diversify from, for example, drug trafficking or conventional forms of acquisitive crime.
But we cannot afford to be complacent because, as night follows day, organized crime groups will find a way to unlock the huge criminal profits available from food.
Where we do see organized criminals operating already in the UK is where established criminal enterprises, networks and infrastructures are repurposed. Counterfeit alcohol is one such example, where established smuggling and tax evasion models can be refocused.
Although food people are largely responsible for food crime, this is not to say that the food industry is to blame for food crime. Criminals are to blame for food crime. It’s just that, more often than not, these criminals are walking among us.
Some say that food crime only really matters when it results in an acute public safety crisis. I disagree. Food crime matters because it strikes at the very heart of that vital bond of trust that exists between us and those who bring food from the farm to our fork. It matters too because little is known about the long-term impact of some of its manifestations.
Food crime also matters because where false nutritional claims are made about a product, it is often the most vulnerable citizens, our children, who suffer. It matters too because when nations such as ours have a reputation for producing safe, high quality and interesting food, it’s in everyone’s interests to keep it that way.
So what is food crime? Well there’s certainly no universally recognized definition, so in order to define the remit of my unit, I tried to come up with a relatively simple one: “knowingly selling inauthentic food.” Food crime is often sophisticated, generally serious and always involves dishonesty. It will commonly involve a seller misrepresenting one facet or another of a food product to a buyer. This might include its composition, durability, country of origin, production method or health properties. It can be the subtle adulteration of a single ingredient or the gross substitution of an entire product with something inferior.
Offenders might seek to profit dishonestly from an inexpensive staple product sold to the mass market or from a high value niche product sold to just a few. Food crime can be business to business or business to consumer, but in almost every case, the detriment, the victimhood, sticks with the end consumer.
Protecting the vulnerable in society from serious crime motivates me tremendously and has done for more than a quarter of a century. Victims of food crime are uniquely vulnerable. We have to eat so we have to engage with the food industry. As most of us don’t have fully equipped laboratories in our kitchens, we have to trust every grower, processor, manufacturer, storage company, haulage contractor and retailer to act with the utmost integrity. The National Food Crime Unit aims to protect the public because, unlike most forms of crime, there is actually very little the public can do to protect themselves.
The National Food Crime Unit applies law enforcement methodologies and thinking in its efforts to tackle this criminality. I think this puts us at an advantage over food criminals who, as food people, will rarely have been exposed to this.
Our approach is based on four Ps: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.
1. Pursue is about identifying and bringing offenders to justice. Locking up the bad guys or the route one of law enforcement if you like.
2. Our Prevent activity aims to stop people becoming offenders in the first place. It focuses on deterrence through strong messaging and early disruption interventions. We know that a journey exists between low level regulatory noncompliance and more serious fraud offending. Prevent is about interrupting that journey.
3. Our Protect work is also based on crime prevention but this time the focus is on victims. More specifically the focus is on preventing food businesses from becoming victims. We call this target hardening.
4. The final P stands for Prepare. This is where the National Food Crime Unit works to build counter-fraud capability both at home and overseas. In May, at a cross-sector event in Minneapolis, I was proud to announce the establishment of the Global Alliance (GA) on food crime. The GA is being developed in partnership with my valued friend and colleague Karen Gussow from the food crime unit in The Netherlands. Karen will join me as its co-chair for the first 3 years. The aim of the GA to bring together thought leaders in law enforcement from around the world to form a coalition of the willing in the fight against food crime. It will develop a global and multidimensional approach to address a global, multidimensional and supremely challenging crime problem. I see U.S. participation in the GA as important to its development and I’m delighted to say that the launch in Minneapolis was warmly welcomed by relevant U.S. federal agencies.
We remain in the foothills of our understanding of and response to the threat from food crime. Progress has been made and the key to more is collaboration. Removing barriers and increasing collaboration between sectors, between nations and between disciplines will go a long way towards protecting the interests of consumers and the legitimate food industry throughout the world.
In my view, food crime takes away our inalienable right to absolute discretion about what we take into our bodies. If we truly are what we eat, in physiological, psychological and cultural terms then food crime really does matter.
Food safety tips for summer
Source : https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-food-safety-summer.html
by From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network (Aug 15, 2017)
Foodborne illness peaks in the summer, because bacteria that are present throughout the environment and in the bodies of people and animals grow faster in the warm summer months. And outdoor activities increase. More people cook outside - without the safety controls of a kitchen.
Dr. Steven Perkins, a Mayo Clinic Health System family physician, recommends these simple steps to avoid foodborne illness:
- Wash hands often.
Wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food. Be sure to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, changing a diaper or handling pets.
- Don't cross-contaminate.
When packing a cooler, securely wrap raw meats, and keep them away from other foods. Be sure to thoroughly wash plates, containers and utensils that once contained raw meats or poultry before using them for cooked food.
- Cook to safe temperatures.
Take your food thermometer with you. It's better to be safe than sorry. Cook meat and poultry completely at the picnic site. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
- Refrigerate promptly.
Be sure you're keeping refrigerated perishable food, such as luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken and salads, chilled at all times. Consider putting canned beverages in another cooler, because the cooler probably will be opened frequently. If you have leftovers, do not leave them out for more than two hours. And if you have any doubts, throw them out.
"If you suspect you have a foodborne illness and are experiencing diarrhea, high fever, blood in stools, prolonged vomiting, signs of shock, severe dehydration or confusion, you should see a doctor right away," says Perkins. "Most foodborne illness can be treated by increasing fluid intake to replace lost fluids or electrolytes."
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