Feds trying to seize raw camel milk suspected in interstate case
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/10/feds-trying-to-seize-raw-camel-milk-suspected-in-interstate-case/#.We1w6U66yUl
By Coral Beach (Oct 22, 2017)
Federal officials are attempting to seize more than $70,000 in raw camel milk products stored in a warehouse in Kansas City, KS, including some bearing labels from a Missouri dairy, because they were allegedly shipped in interstate commerce in violation of federal law.
In an action filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, KS, the Department of Justice states that inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration estimate about 4,300 8- and 16-ounce bottles of frozen camel milk, colostrum and kefir are stored in the My Magic Kitchen Inc. refrigerated warehouse.
More than 3,800 of the bottles contain raw camel milk and products made from it, which sell for $10 to $18 on the internet. A few hundred of the bottles contain pasteurized camel milk products. Kansas does not have any licensed camel dairy operations. If it did, sales of raw camel milk/products would be limited to “on-farm” scenarios. Kansas law prohibits retail sales and herd share sales of unpasteurized milk.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture embargoed the products in question in August.
Illegal interstate commerce isn’t the only problem with the camel milk products stored at My Magic Kitchen warehouse. They are also considered “new drugs” under federal law because of health claims made on their labels and on the website of Desert Farms Inc., a California company that contracts with a network of raw camel milk producers across the country.
All of the camel milk products in the Kansas City, KS, warehouse carry Desert Farms labels, according to court documents. Some of them also have labels from Hump-Back Dairys of Miller, MO, and/or other locations outside of the state of Kansas, according to the government’s complaint.
“The My Magic Kitchen warehouse manager was unable to produce shipping records identifying the location from which the raw camel milk products were shipped, but stickers on certain of their shipping packages state “Hump-Back Dairys … Miller, MO,” which is consistent with the results of FDA’s inspection of Hump-Back Dairys,” according to the federal court complaint, which said records show there are no licensed camel milk manufacturers in Kansas.
“Based on the foregoing information and investigation, on information and belief, all of the raw camel milk products located at My Magic Kitchen were shipped in interstate commerce to Kansas,” the complaint states.
Desert Farms on notice for 13 months
Both Desert Farms and Hump-Back Dairys have been on the FDA’s radar screen in the past year.
In September 2016 the FDA sent a warning letter to Walid Abdul-Wahab of Santa Monica, CA, threatening to seize his Desert Farms camel milk products because of illegal health claims on the products’ labels. In 2015 Abdul-Wahab told CBNC that he had 100,000 customers nationwide.
Statements on the Desert Farms website and the company’s Facebook page are specifically cited in the 2016 warning letter. As of Oct. 3 this year, the statements were still on the Desert Farms website and multiple social media pages, according to the Justice Department complaint.
“Claims on these sites demonstrate that the camel milk products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, including autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, viral infections such as hepatitis, the genetic disorder Machado-Joseph, depression, gastrointestinal diseases, heart problems, attention deficit disorder, autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s disease, and cancer,” according to court documents.
The FDA warning letter 13 months ago put it bluntly.
“Your products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses,” the FDA warning letter stated. “Your … products are intended for treatment of one or more diseases that are not amenable to self-diagnosis or treatment without the supervision of a licensed practitioner.”
Some of the Desert Farms camel milk products the government wants to seize — both pasteurized and unpasteurized — are also considered misbranded food under the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, according to the complaint.
The government contends the product labels are false and misleading in that “the shipping containers bear stickers that state the articles are intended for further processing although they are packaged in 16-ounce consumer-sized bottles and bear consumer nutrition facts labels.”
Hump-Back Dairys warned 10 months ago
Three months after the FDA warned the Desert Farms owner, the agency sent a warning letter to Samuel P. Hostetler, owner of Hump-Back Dairys in Miller, MO. The dairy farmer was openly selling unpasteurized camel milk across state lines, in violation of federal law, contending the law doesn’t apply to milk from camels.
FDA inspectors checked Hostetler’s operation in July 2016 and found records showing the dairy had distributed unpasteurized, raw camel milk and raw camel milk products across state lines.
This farm in Lancaster county, PA, is one of a handful of camel milking operations in the United States. Photo by Dreamstime
“Such distribution is a violation of the Public Health Service Act,” according to the warning letter. “…We have reviewed the correspondence letter dated Sept. 19, 2016, from Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The letter, which states that it is written on your behalf, raises questions about whether the regulation in 21 CFR 1240.61(a) applies to products such as yours that are made from the lacteal secretions of camels.
“Under 21 CFR 1240.3(j), the term ‘milk product’ is defined as ‘food products made exclusively or principally from the lacteal secretion obtained from one or more healthy milk-producing animals, e.g., cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo.’ … Although the definition refers to the examples of cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo, that list is not exhaustive. The definition thus includes the commercial lacteal secretions from other animals as well, including camels.”
Hostetler eventually told the FDA he would stop selling his raw milk across state lines. As of yesterday, the federal agency had not issued a close-out letter, meaning the interstate sales issues discussed in the warning letter have not yet been resolved.
2nd pathogen in fundraiser outbreak; jambalaya still suspect
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/10/2nd-pathogen-in-fundraiser-outbreak-jambalaya-still-suspect/#.We1xJU66yUl
By Coral Beach (Oct 21, 2017)
A second pathogen is in play in a northeast Louisiana outbreak thought to be caused by jambalaya served at a softball fundraising event Monday.
By Friday afternoon, 125 people were confirmed sick and investigators found some of them are positive for the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. Thursday state health officials said they had confirmed Salmonella in some victims.
With only about 10,000 people in Caldwell Parish and about 400 residents in Columbia, LA, where the illnesses are centered, an outbreak of this size means just about everyone knows someone is sick. Of the victims, 37 have required hospitalization. The overall age range of victims is 15 to 72 years.
One person who reportedly ate the suspect jambalaya has died. However, autopsy results are pending, so health officials are not yet attributing his death to the outbreak.
People with questions or concerns this weekend can call the after hours phone line at the health department, 800-256-2748.
Public health officials have not named the fundraising event or organizations specifically, but they have asked that anyone who ate any of the jambalaya and become sick to immediately seek medical attention. The Caldwell Parish sheriff, who is among the outbreak victims, told local media earlier this week that the jambalaya sale was a softball fundraiser.
Additional people could become ill, partly because of varying incubation times in different people and partly because people may have uneaten portions of the suspect jambalaya in their homes, which could be consumed or contaminate other foods, counter tops, utensils, etc.
As with many foodborne pathogens, both Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria usually cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea. However, Salmonella infections often cause fever and vomiting, which are generally not experienced by people sickened by Clostridium perfringens.
Symptoms usually come on suddenly, as soon six hours after exposure with Clostridium perfringens, but can take as long as a few days, according to public health officials in Louisiana and at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the biggest dangers of foodborne illnesses is dehydration because of diarrhea. Louisiana health officials are recommending that anyone who can’t keep water down should seek medical attention to ensure they have adequate fluids. Dehydration great hampers the body’s ability to fight infection, which can lead to life-threatening situations.
It may be a perfect storm scenario at work in the small northeast Louisiana town, in terms of foodborne illness outbreaks. The recipe for such a storm includes a multi-ingredient food — especially if it includes seafood, poultry or meat — often prepared in large quantities and held and served over a period of hours.
The multiple ingredients for foods such as jambalaya make it difficult for investigators to pinpoint what specific sources of pathogens. By preparing large quantities of food, contamination that might normally be limited to a few servings is spread through hundreds or thousands of servings.
Finally, food prepared for events is often held before serving or served over a long period of time. If foods are not constantly held at high enough temperatures, Clostridium perfringens in particular can multiply very quickly. Inadequate temperature control also allows Salmonella to thrive.
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Number of illnesses from backyard flocks breaks record
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/10/number-of-illnesses-from-backyard-flocks-breaks-record/#.We1xWE66yUl
By News Desk (Oct 20, 2017)
It’s been a record year for so-called backyard flocks, and not in a good way. The live poultry are responsible for 10 Salmonella outbreaks in 2017 — sickening more than 1,100 people across 48 states, killing one.
Although federal officials have concluded their investigations of the 10 outbreaks identified so far this year, they warned in an update Thursday that additional victims are likely to be identified.
Trendy concepts including locally produced food and a desire for fresh eggs has contributed to a growing number of people keeping backyard flocks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As raising backyard flocks becomes more popular, more people are having contact with chickens and ducks — and may not know about the risk of Salmonella infection,” the CDC warned in an outbreak update on Thursday afternoon.
“Live poultry such as chickens and ducks can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean, with no sign of illness.”
Of the 1,120 confirmed cases of Salmonella infection, one death in North Carolina was reported as of Oct. 5. Complete information was not available to the CDC on all confirmed victims, but at least 249 of them had such severe symptoms that they had to be hospitalized. The illnesses began on Jan. 4.
“In interviews, 542 — 70 percent — of 774 ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before illness started,” the CDC reported.
“People reported purchasing live baby poultry from several sources, including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries, and from relatives.”
The 10 outbreaks so far this year were caused by Salmonella bacteria with several DNA fingerprints: Salmonella braenderup, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella I 4,,12:i-, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella infantis, Salmonella Litchfield, Salmonella Mbandaka, Salmonella Muenchen, and Salmonella typhimurium.
In 2016, eight outbreaks infected 895 people with Salmonella across 48 states. From 1990 to 2016, a total of 65 outbreaks of human Salmonella infections have been linked to contact with live poultry.
“These outbreaks are a reminder to follow steps to keep your family healthy while enjoying your backyard flock,” the CDC warned. Tips include:
•Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
•Adults should supervise handwashing for children.
•Do not let live poultry inside the house.
•Do not let children younger than 5 years handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.
Illness from Salmonella usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infections are more likely to be severe for children younger than 5 years, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease.
More tips for backyard flock owners to prevent infection can be found here at https://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellapoultry/index.html.
The New Face of Sanitation Programs: New Rules, New Challenges
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/octobernovember-2017/the-new-face-of-sanitation-programs-new-rules-new-challenges/
By Bob Ferguson
The New Face of Sanitation Programs: New Rules, New Challenges
This past summer, Food Safety Insights conducted a survey of approximately 200 food processors throughout the U.S. on their concerns about their sanitation programs under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). We wanted to hear about their most pressing problems and how they are dealing with them. Because we learned that food processors have some anxiety about upcoming U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections and FSMA compliance, we also asked whether they had had a FSMA inspection and, if so, what was their experience.
The processors in this survey were located throughout 36 states and included processors in every major category, with 25 percent of respondents in processed packaged foods and with nearly equal representation from processors in meat/poultry/seafood, fruit/vegetables, spices and baked goods categories.
What about Sanitation Programs?
We first asked what processors felt were their biggest concerns with their sanitation programs (Figure 1). This was an open-response question where processors could indicate any concern in any category. The most frequent answer, cited by 38 percent of respondents, was employee training and compliance. Second was a general concern over whether their program was indeed effective and meeting all the requirements. The third-most common answer, cited by 32 percent, was control of pathogens and biofilms, with Listeria the most common species mentioned (specifically called out by 50% of those who cited pathogen control as a concern).
Processors are clearly signaling that major concerns with their sanitation programs are related to employee issues. Many of the comments we heard dealt with finding and retaining good people to work in the plant. When asked in a separate question about employee turnover in their sanitation staff, 59 percent of respondents agreed it was a “major issue,” with only about one-half of those indicating that it is a “manageable” problem and 5 percent indicating that the problem was severe, with turnover and position vacancies at least once having interfered with their ability to produce product. Only 41 percent indicated that they have “very low turnover” and do not consider this to be a major issue. When asked if they had seen any change in the turnover rate in the past 2 or 5 years, 55 percent said they had seen no change, with the remaining 45 percent equally split between reporting higher and lower turnover. Yet surprisingly, when asked if they offer retention incentives to sanitation staff, 80 percent indicated that they do not, with most commenting that any retention and incentive programs apply equally across all departments and not preferentially to sanitation or food safety staff.
These responses, however, do not seem to tell the whole story; it became clear from our follow-up interviews that this problem has a significant regional component and is far worse in some states than in others. Several of the individuals we spoke with who manage multiple facilities in different geographical areas confirmed that the issues are not uniform. In some states, the companies see no problems; yet in others, their issues with turnover may be critical. One processor reported, for instance, that their company operates facilities in three states, and while employee retention is somewhat of an issue at all of them, it was a particularly serious issue in one of their facilities in a state where the local unemployment rate is less than 4 percent, and they are seeing many new employers coming into the area. These new employers are not in the food processing business, and the situation was described as “…we are competing with offers of a first-shift position in a 72-degree warehouse versus a third-shift sanitation position in a cold food processing facility. That’s tough for us to compete with, and we are finding that we have positions that we cannot keep filled, and it is not uncommon to have a shift where we have 30–40 percent of the positions open.” Other processors reported similar problems, and it is clear from our survey that any national trends will not likely be as impactful on processors as the regional dynamics near their plants.
The respondents also indicated a general concern over knowing—or confirming—whether their program was effective. Comments such as “Are we finding everything?” “Do we have the right validations?” and “How do we know?” were common. Many of the concerns voiced were similar to what we have reported in the past in that processors are generally confident that their programs are effective, but they have some uncertainty about how their programs will be evaluated by FDA inspectors. Others expressed uncertainty over the measurement tools available to them, whether the tools are scientifically valid, if they work as they should and, specifically, if they “find everything.” It was clear from our interviews that at least some of these processors are hoping to find better analytical tools. One, for example, reported that they see “…a gap in the expectations of the FDA for validation of cleaning processes and the available validations and performances of the analytical tests available, especially in the multiple food matrices we work with.” Some of these analytical concerns were clearly related to issues around pathogen and biofilm detection, but processors also reported similar concerns about better tools for allergen, protein and chemical (sanitizer) residue detection.
Commonly Used Sanitation Methods
With this concern about sanitation effectiveness and verification, we also wanted to know which methods the processors were using (Figure 2). Not surprisingly, the most common answer was “visual inspections.” In terms of test products, however, it was also not surprising, especially considering the concerns surrounding pathogens and biofilms, that the most frequently mentioned products were ATP swabs (65%) and growth-based microbiology testing (growth media and/or test swabs) for total plate count (63%). Approximately 47 percent cited using tests specific for allergens, whereas 16 percent cited the use of tests specific for proteins. No other technology was mentioned by more than 10 percent of the respondents, although respondents did mention using techniques and tests such as UV light, pH strips and tests for sanitizer chemical concentration.
We also asked whether they rotate the sanitizers that are used. In this sample, approximately one-third of respondents indicated that they do rotate the sanitizers, and the remaining two-thirds reported that they do not. This distribution did not vary significantly by type of processor, geography or any other parameter. We spoke with several processors who indicated that they do rotate sanitizers. They reported that they are following this practice not out of a concern for microbial resistance that may develop but more for a concern about the effective coverage of any single product. The rationale is that any single sanitizer may be less effective against a particular species or class of organisms, and by periodically changing the product used, these gaps in effectiveness are minimized by the overlap in efficacy of multiple chemicals.
Anxiety about FDA Inspections
Sanitation is a key component of FDA inspections, and many processors have been anxiously awaiting their first FDA inspection under FSMA, unsure about what they would face. Now that the inspections are underway, we wanted to find out more about how they are going and what the processors’ experiences have been. In this survey, we asked those facilities that are subject to FDA inspection (i.e., covered by FSMA and beyond their compliance deadline) if they had yet had an FDA inspection, with 22 percent indicating that they had.
At first, we did not find any correlation between the location (state) or type of processor and the likelihood that they had been inspected. This perhaps indicates that FDA is not focusing inspections on any one particular subset of food processing or in any one geographical area. In previous articles, we reported that FDA indicated that it would be focusing early inspections on facilities that had previous violations, but we did not ask any qualifying questions, so we are not able to report any trends in that area.
We did ask individuals at inspected facilities for their opinions about how the inspections went, and the clear majority indicated that their inspection “went well,” was “routine, with minor findings” and, as one individual at a dairy processing facility mentioned, “It was not as intrusive as we originally expected.” Another respondent, a dry grain processor, mentioned that their inspection “…went very well; it was more of a learning experience for both parties. The inspector acted like she was trying to learn about where we were with FSMA and gave us pointers on what we need to do going forward.”
Of the facilities that had been inspected, at approximately one-half of those inspections, FDA collected swab samples from the facility. As with the likelihood of inspection, we found no correlation between the plant location or types of foods being processed and the likelihood that the inspector collected swabs.
FDA has mentioned that it is planning to “educate before they regulate,” and the early indication from this survey seems to be that perhaps the agency is doing just that. It also seems that a processor is just as likely as not to have an inspector collect samples in their facility. With this understanding, processors can take the appropriate steps to prepare. We will continue to ask this question in future columns and keep you up to date.
In our next column, we will take a closer look at how changing demand for testing is changing food safety analytical markets. Increased demand to test food for pathogens and other parameters is changing how food processors test their products, and this will have a significant impact on the business models of both diagnostic system providers and food commercial laboratories, potentially presenting significant opportunities for food processors.
Food Safety & Quality Operations Survey Report
Source : http://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/2017-food-safety-and-quality-operations-survey-report/
This report highlights key findings of a survey conducted designed to assess the challenges faced by food safety and quality professionals.
The 2017 Food Safety & Quality Operations Survey was conducted by SafetyChain Software and The Acheson Group to assess the top challenges faced by food safety and quality teams, and gain insight into the tactics being used to overcome these challenges. This report highlights key findings from the survey, which included responses from roughly 400 participants from primarily large companies in the US and Canada involved in the production, manufacture, and movement of human food. Survey questions probed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) preparedness and management of Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) programs as well as each respondent’s confidence in supplier compliance, audit preparedness, and overall performance of day-to-day operations at their company.
The survey responses provided good barometer readings of where FSQA operations are today, key challenges being faced, and key areas where companies are either doing well or where performance can be improved. As industry complexities continue to grow and evolve, these complexities directly impact food safety and quality operations and also impact the confidence food safety and quality teams have in managing day-to-day operational performance. Food safety and quality operations is a vital component of a company’s financial health and success. Being successful in this endeavor requires continuous improvement in all areas of the operations as well as the ongoing education and support of key stakeholders – internally and externally.
Armenia, FAO Expanding Cooperation in Food Safety, Cattle Breeding
Source : http://www.thecattlesite.com/news/52190/armenia-fao-expanding-cooperation-in-food-safety-cattle-breeding/
By thecattlesite.com (Oct 18, 2017)
ARMENIA - The Armenian agriculture ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will sign a new agreement to expand their cooperation, Iganti Araqelyan, Armenian agriculture minister, told journalists on Wednesday.
"Armenia became a member of FAO in 1993 and a huge job has been done since then," he said. "The agreement will make it possible to speed up investments under programs and implement large-scale projects with the FAO support."
According to ARKA News Agency, the minister pointed out cattle breeding, veterinary and food safety as to-priority grounds for cooperation.
"Already now we are implementing important programs with FAO to preserve our genetic resources," he said. "In particular, this is a program of creation and preservation of the genetic resource of apricots and grapes."
Vladimir Rakhmanin, deputy CEO and regional envoy of FAO for Europe and Central Asia, on his side, stressed that over 24 years of their cooperation Armenia and FAO could achieve more and that the new agreement will lay groundwork for strengthening this cooperation.
Expressing gratitude to the Armenian agriculture ministry for effective cooperation, Mr Rakhmanin said that the organization and the ministry have made arrangement to cooperate until 2020, since the world faces new global challenges, which indirectly apply to our country as well.
These challenges are, first of all, cross-border diseases of plants and animals, which are strengthening because of climate changes, attitude toward farmers and urbanization of the society, he said.
Status and Outlook of Food Labeling Proposals
Source : https://foodsafetytech.com/feature_article/status-outlook-food-labeling-proposals/
By Brian Ronholm, Karen Ellis Carr (Oct 17, 2017)
When the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was signed into law in July 2016, it represented the culmination of an extended legislative and regulatory period of activity on food labeling issues in general. As the focus shifts toward the implementation of these labeling proposals – such as requirements for bioengineered food disclosure, calorie disclosure on menus, and updating the nutrition facts panel – the debate over food labeling issues will remain very active, and new labeling proposals are certain to arise, including ones directly impacting food safety.
Bioengineered Food Disclosure
The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was enacted into law to preempt a patchwork of differing and conflicting national, state and local requirements that were going into effect or being proposed at the time. The legislation, which acknowledges the proven safety of agricultural biotechnology products while simultaneously ensuring consumers have access to more information about the foods they purchase, was enacted with strong bipartisan support. Because this labeling mandate is based on a desire to enhance consumer information, and not address any safety concerns, Congress delegated responsibility for implementing the disclosure standard to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The disclosure standard, which will be developed by USDA through rulemaking, is intended to apply to a broad category of foods and provide several options for mandatory disclosure, including text on packaging, the use of a symbol, or an electronic or digital link. Additional flexibility will be provided for small food manufacturers and food in very small packages.
Under the law, certain foods are excluded from the disclosure requirement, including food served in restaurants or similar retail food establishments, or food produced by very small food manufacturers and any food that is derived from an animal solely because the animal consumed feed produced from a bioengineered substance. Food products that have meat, poultry or egg as their main ingredient would remain subject to labeling under other federal statutes. The legislation also would ensure that food products certified under the national organic program could display a “non-GMO” label or other similar claim in addition to the USDA organic seal.
Study on Potential Challenges
The law also required USDA to conduct a study to identify any technological or other barriers to disclosure and offer additional disclosure options if the Secretary of Agriculture determined that barriers existed. While the study, which was released in September 2017, did acknowledge some notable challenges, it concluded that most consumers seeking information on their food purchases would be able to access this information, given the proper education and tools.
Challenges identified by the study include: consumers not recognizing the on-package digital link or not associating it with food information; retailers’ unfamiliarity with digital links and inability to assist consumers; some consumer challenges in accessing the tools needed to scan a link; consumers struggling with mobile applications (apps), regardless of comfort level with technology; and broadband connectivity and connection speed.
Although researchers observed these key technological challenges that prevented nearly all participants in the study from obtaining the information through electronic or digital disclosure methods, the study asserted that the challenges could be overcome through appropriate implementation of the law.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has expressed his commitment to meeting the implementation deadline of July 29, 2018 for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. This summer, the department collected feedback on thirty questions under consideration in connection with the rulemaking process, and released the accessibility study required under the law close to the deadline set by Congress. The fact that consumer groups filed suit to compel the study’s release shortly after the deadline passed serves as an early indicator that all aspects of USDA’s implementation of the law will remain under close scrutiny and, in all likelihood, be the subject of additional litigation.
There also has been some indication that the compliance date will coincide with another labeling requirement in the pipeline – the update to the Nutrition Facts Label.
Update to the Nutrition Facts Label
Original vs. New Format – Infographics to Help Understand the Changes
On May 27, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the final rules updating the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. In its announcement, the FDA indicated that the new label would make it easier for consumers to make better-informed food choices.
While the familiar look of the nutrition facts panel remains, FDA is proposing changes that would include an emphasis on Calories by increasing the font size and bolding it. The font size for serving size and servings per container also will be increased.
Other notable changes include requiring manufacturers to declare the actual amount of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium, in addition to the percent Daily Value, and to better explain in the footnote what percent Daily Value means. The rule also requires that the label include Added sugars in grams and as percent Daily Value in order to reflect recent scientific data showing that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if a person consumes more than 10 percent of total daily calories from added sugar.
The rule also requires updates to serving sizes on the nutrition facts label so that they are based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually consuming. For example, for packages that are between one and two servings, the rule requires that the calories and other nutrients be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
Additional details of the update to the Nutrition Facts Label can be found on the FDA web site.
On June 13, 2017, FDA announced that it would delay the compliance date for the final rules updating the Nutrition Facts Label, adding that the new date would be forthcoming. In a Federal Register notice on October 2, FDA announced the new compliance date of January 1, 2020.
Earlier in the year, a group of food industry trade associations and officials requested that FDA delay the compliance date for three years, asserting that it should be aligned with the compliance date for USDA’s Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Industry groups had been arguing that aligning these dates would eliminate the need to change labels twice.
Because the Administration has hinted support for aligning the compliance dates for USDA disclosure and FDA labeling requirements, FDA could announce another delay as the January 2020 date approaches.
Another labeling issue pending before FDA relates to calorie disclosure on restaurant menus. In May 2017, the agency announced that it was delaying the compliance date for menu labeling requirements by a year, from May 5, 2017 to May 7, 2018. FDA explained that the delay would allow industry to identify opportunities to reduce costs and enhance flexibility of the requirements.
In general, convenience stores and grocers supported the delay because of the scope of the food establishments covered under the menu labeling requirements. However, the National Restaurant Association has long supported the rule because it would preempt a number of different requirements on the state and local level.
Frustrated over the delay, two consumer groups – the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and National Consumers League – filed a lawsuit claiming that the delay would not assist industry in avoiding compliance costs and therefore, did not represent a good cause for the delay. For its part, FDA filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the consumer groups lacked standing because they had not demonstrated how they were harmed by the delay.
FDA and the two groups recently filed a joint motion agreeing to pause litigation on the issue. As part of this agreement, FDA promised to confirm by the end of 2017 the compliance date of May 7, 2018 for the rule, or publish the industry compliance guidance by the end of 2017. If FDA fails to meet these obligations, litigation could resume.
This temporary truce likely will prevent state and local governments from proceeding with their own menu labeling efforts, which were preempted by the federal law. Recently, New York City had threatened to begin enforcing its own rules, but reached an agreement with FDA on the May 7, 2018 compliance date. While it was already unlikely that other cities would move forward in light of the NYC-FDA agreement, the temporary truce between the consumer groups and FDA virtually assures it.
Undeclared allergens on food labels have been the leading cause of U.S. food recalls for several years now, and it’s a problem that has long vexed the industry, especially given how preventable labeling errors are compared to other threats. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 50 million Americans suffer from food allergies annually.
To address this problem, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Foundation recently announced that it is awarding the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Food Science and Technology Department a $20,000 grant to identify root-cause labeling errors. The research also will recommend best-practice procedures for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers in order to reduce undeclared allergen recalls.
In its press release announcing the grant, the FMI Foundation explained that, by focusing on how primary root-cause errors occur and identifying appropriate preventive measures, food allergen recalls can be reduced, thus creating better protection for food allergic consumers, reduce food waste, and decrease economic burden for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers.
The Food Allergy Research and Resource Program intends to present preliminary outcomes of their research at a conference in November 2017, and ultimately submit a paper for peer-reviewed publication.
Because this effort is being supported by FMI, a large trade association representing the food retail industry, the recommendations for best-practices that emanate from this research have the potential of being implemented industry-wide on a voluntary basis. Given the likely absence of any legislative or regulatory activity that would be perceived as imposing additional burdens on industry, efforts such as this that are supported by industry and result in voluntary best practice guidelines certainly are worth monitoring.
Simplifying Date Labels
The Consumer Goods Forum, a network of approximately 400 large food and consumer goods companies from around the world announced an initiative recently that aims to simplify date labels worldwide. The group, which includes large companies such as Walmart, Kellogg, Campbell Soup and Amazon among others, is urging retailers and food producers to simplify date labels to reduce consumer confusion that has resulted in 1.3 billion tons of food being lost or wasted per year globally.
This effort corresponds with one announced earlier this year by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which called for the use of two common phrases: ‘Best If Used By’ and ‘Use By.’
While the primary goal of this effort is to reduce food waste, attempts to simplify date labels have food safety implications as well. The term ‘Best if Used By’ is meant to inform consumers of the quality of a food product; the quality may not be optimal, but it conveys that it is still safe to consume. The ‘Use By’ date applies to highly perishable products, and is meant to inform the consumer that these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package and disposed of after the ‘use by’ date.
Much like the effort to reduce labeling errors for allergens, this industry-supported effort to simplify date labels is expected to resonate and be applied widely on a voluntary basis. Food waste is becoming a higher profile issue, is receiving increased attention from policy makers, and could be addressed in the 2018 farm bill. Efforts by industry to address this issue voluntarily represent an opportunity to avoid or minimize any attempts to impose additional requirements through legislation or regulatory action.
The rulemaking process underway on labeling, along with the industry initiatives, reflects a strong desire by consumers to know more about the foods they purchase. This has been an ongoing trend that is likely to continue.
Rodent Research at Food Distribution Centers: A Call for Collaboration
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/rodent-research-at-food-distribution-centers-a-call-for-collaboration/
By Matt Frye, Ph.D. (Oct 17, 2017)
Rodent Research at Food Distribution Centers: A Call for Collaboration
The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aims to prevent contamination of human foods through risk analysis and mitigation strategies. FSMA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food rule significantly affects pest management practices at food distribution centers (DCs) by calling for proactive programs that prevent pest problems before they arise.
Currently, rodent management programs at many DCs are based on third-party auditor ‘guidelines.’ Using these templates, rodent stations are placed at 50–100 ft. intervals along exterior perimeter walls, and mousetraps are placed every 20–40 ft. along interior perimeter walls. These templates, however, are not based on rodent biology, have not been scientifically tested and may not improve the chance of intercepting a rodent. This is because rodents move in complex ways as they forage for food and water inside buildings. Therefore, portions of equipment installed via ‘yardstick templates’ may be ineffective if they are placed in areas where rodents are not active. Such devices may contribute to higher material costs (stations/bait) and service costs (time to visit stations).
In November 2016, researchers from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University and industry expert Dr. Bobby Corrigan received funding to examine rodent management practices at food distribution centers in New York. This 3-year project will evaluate pest activity at devices placed in rodent vulnerable areas, compared to equipment installed according to simple, linear, yardstick templates.
The results of this real-world project can improve compliance of food DCs to the new FSMA regulations and demonstrate the effectiveness of preventative rodent control. These results may be extended to food manufacturing plants and food retail outlets that face the same challenges as distribution centers.
The Biggest Challenge
Pest professionals, quality assurance managers and operations personnel agree that this research is needed to advance the U.S. Food and Drug Adminsitration’s food safety goals. Nevertheless, researchers have struggled to find study sites that meet two important criteria: Sites must have some level of rodent activity and be located in the Hudson Valley, Long Island or New York City. According to a recent paper by Parsons and others in the Journal of Urban Ecology, access to study sites is a common problem for rodent research. The authors explain that although rodents are pests of significant health risk to humans and that studies on their biology and management are critical, interest in rodent management research is historically lacking.
The authors claim that part of the problem is a conflict between the goals of pest management professionals and researchers. Whereas pest management professionals are hired to quickly and efficiently eliminate rodents, researchers require active populations that can be studied in their natural habitat to better understand rodent biology and behavior. Indeed, these studies are needed to develop more efficient control options that directly benefit the pest management industry.
Call for Collaboration
Pest management professionals, facility/operations personnel and quality assurance managers represent an important link between private organizations and researchers. They can facilitate communication about project details, and more important, understand the benefits that research offers for improving their operation in terms of efficiency, safety and perhaps financially. With this in mind, we are making a call for collaborators to participate in research focused in the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New York City. Features of this research include:
• Anonymity of sites and corporations. All identifying information is kept confidential at all times. Our goal is to study the system, not individual sites. No names of entities, organizations or locations will be used in reports.
• Publicity for PMPs (if desired). According to Parsons et al., participation in rodent research was beneficial for their collaborating pest management company. Arrow Exterminating Company, Inc. (Lynbrook, NY) was elevated through promotion of research publications and presentations, identifying the company as being forward-thinking and involved in novel approaches to pest management. Indeed, the company moved up in search engine results, making them easier for future clients to find.
• Low investment, high return. For this project, we are requesting access to sites and historical trap catch data from pest professionals. In return, we will conduct regular evaluations of the site and provide free inspection reports to site management. We will create facility maps if they are not already available and offer suggestions about monitoring programs where needed. We will help develop management plans for long-term pest problems, and as industry professionals, will offer expertise to participating pest professionals and site management that would normally come at a high price.
Matt Frye, Ph.D., is an educator and researcher at the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University. For questions or to express interest in participating, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914.285.4633.
150 with Salmonella after Chincoteague Chili Chowder Cook-Off
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/150-with-salmonella-after-chincoteague-chili-chowder-cook-off/
By Bill Marler (Oct 17, 2017)
Health officials say about 150 people living in eight states have been sickened by salmonella after attending a chili cook-off in Virginia.
Dr. David Matson, director of the state’s Eastern Shore Health District, said by phone Wednesday that half of them have sought medical treatment. Some have been hospitalized.
More than 2,000 people attended the 18th Annual Chincoteague Chili Chowder Cook-Off and Car Show on Sept. 30.
Matson said most people sickened by the bacteria have already become ill with diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
Officials are asking cook-off attendees to fill out a survey as they determine the bacteria’s source.
People who’ve gotten sick live in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.
If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.
Opponents say USDA reorganization has multiple problems
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/10/opponents-say-usda-reorganization-has-multiple-problems/#.We12yU66yUl
By Dan Flynn (Oct 17, 2017)
Critics are continuing to noodle Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s plan to reorganize his large department, finding things they don’t like about it. Perdue’s desire to move U.S. involvement in world food standards to USDA’s trade office, taking it away from food safety, was the first change to stir controversy.
Stephen Ostroff, the Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, is on the record saying the U.S. will lose credibility on the world stage by joining only Congo, Guinea, Lesotho, Madagascar and Samoa in having its Codex food standards oversight residing within a trade agency.
Ostroff says the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) conducted a 7-month study of the U.S. Codex office, including more than 140 interviews of stakeholders, congressional staff, department officials and former U.S. agriculture secretaries.
“Putting the U.S. Codex Office in the trade promotion mission area will increase the likelihood that health and safety regulatory decisions would be unduly influenced by trade promotion priorities, rather than protecting human, animal, and plant safety,” according to the Academy recommendation.
Ostroff’s predecessor, Mike Taylor, and USDA’s former Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond, and former Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm also warned against moving U.S. Codex functions to trade.
“The strength of the U.S. Codex efforts rests on its scientific expertise,” Ostroff added. “For example, U.S. Codex delegates have been successful in helping to establish standards that are consistent with U.S. standards in several areas, such as arsenic in rice, the Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, and specifications for identity and purity of food additives.”
Taylor, who has led food safety at both USDA and FDA, says Perdue should “withdraw and reconsider” the Codex transfer. “The credibility and effectiveness of Codex and its mission are too important to jeopardize through hasty action to fundamentally alter the program’s management,” Taylor added.
Perdue’s structure for running USDA requires nominations and approvals for a dozen top agency officials, a process that is going painfully slow.
The official public comment period on his reorganization plan ran on schedule, ending last week.
The Perdue reorganization also consolidates the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) with the Agriculture Marketing Service. (AMS).
Bill Bullard, CEO at the Billings, MT-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America or R-CALF, wants Perdue to use GIPSA to combat concentration in the meatpacking business. He says the secretary’s first obligation should be to strengthen the family farm.
Bullard says “GIPSA should not be demoted by folding it into AMS where it will be removed from direct oversight of the appointed Deputy and Under Secretaries.” R-CALF, with members in 43 states, wants GIPSA “to promote fair business practices and competitive markets, foster fair competition and guard against deceptive practices.”
Another change generating comments is moving the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) into the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, representing 100,000 registered dietitian nutritionists, there is no overlap between the CNPP and FNS. The CNPP provides scientific and nutrition guidance across the federal government.
The Academy says if the merger goes forward, it wants “some protections” to ensure “our nation’s science-based nutrition policy is not compromised.”
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, left, and his second in command, Stephen Censky.
Almost 10 months ago, Secretary Perdue was nominated but had to wait for U.S. Senate confirmation until Oct. 3 this year for confirmation of his deputy secretary, Stephen Censky, and the new Under Secretary for trade and foreign agriculture affairs.
Top civilian employees are running USDA, waiting for more appointments and more confirmations from a slow-walking Senate. Next up for Senate floor votes on their confirmations are William Northey for Under Secretary for farm and foreign agriculture services; and Gregory Ibach for Under Secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
Also waiting for Senate action is Steven H. Clovis Jr., for Under Secretary for research, education, and economics; and Stephen Alexander Vaden for general counsel.
The White House and Perdue have not managed to send over an appointment for Under Secretary for Food Safety, which is over the $1 billion Food Safety and Inspection Service and its 10,000 employees. It is from that vacant post that they plan to lift the U.S. Codex office.
Also, there’s been no nominations for chief financial officer, the assistant Secretaries for civil rights, and congressional relations. Nor has anyone been named as Under Secretary for natural resources and the environment; marketing and regulatory programs, and food, nutrition, and consumer services.
The USDA is not the only federal agency with many top posts not yet filled by the Trump Administration. Out of 602 top jobs throughout the federal government, a database maintained by the Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service reports that only 142 or 23.5 percent are filled with a confirmed appointment from the current administration.
Evaluating Risk in Foods at Farmers’ Markets
Source : https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/evaluating-risk-in-foods-at-farmerse28099-markets/
By Lorraine McIntyre, M.Sc. (Oct 17, 2017)
Evaluating Risk in Foods at Farmers’ Markets
British Columbia (BC) farmers’ markets offer foods sourced directly from farms, people’s homes or prepared in commercial kitchens and/or licensed plants. Approval for vendors to sell their foods at a market involves a review of the application by the farmers’ market manager, who will screen and pass along to environmental health officers (EHOs) any applications with recipes that involve potentially hazardous food (PHF) for approval. The classic criteria to determine which foods are PHF are low acid (pH > 4.6) or moist (Aw > 0.85) foods capable of supporting bacterial growth. How the foods are packaged, labeled and stored also help determine whether a food is a PHF. Because PHFs are more likely to be contaminated, these foods are considered higher risk and must be prepared in a commercial kitchen, whereas non-PHFs are considered lower risk and can be prepared at home. For example, cheese made in a person’s home would not be approved because it is PHF, but cheese made in a licensed, inspected dairy plant on a farm would be approved. This seems straight forward but verifying the types of foods that are lower risk and may be made safely in an uninspected home can be challenging.
To help people decide what foods may be made at home and sold in farmers’ markets, BC uses the Guideline for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets to categorize foods based on whether they are low risk or higher risk (PHF). While this guideline provides direction, market managers and EHOs are often faced with reviewing foods not listed in the guideline and establishing if the food is low-risk and allowed to be prepared at home; if the food is higher risk and preparation must occur in a commercial kitchen; or if the food should not be allowed for sale at all. An evaluation of farmers’ market managers and EHOs handling of market applications found there was significant difference between market managers and EHOs whether food would be accepted for sale (P < 0.001). Managers accepted foods for sale more often than EHOs, whereas knowledge about what risks to look for in an application was below 40 percent in both groups. However, the safety of a food cannot always be verified even when the application contains a photo of the food with a label, recipe, and lab report with the food’s pH and/or Aw. Questions about process safety and the sanitary quality of the environment and handling of the food are additional important considerations for PHF approvals.
Food issues encountered in farmers’ market applications:
• Evaluating if the food ingredients and processes are high risk (raw carob/cocoa vs. heat-treated carob/cocoa)
• Being unfamiliar with the process or ingredients, or not enough is known to determine risk (microgreens risk in comparison to sprout risks)
• Minimizing process risk, for example, during fermentation or in raw food diets when food is dehydrated at temperatures lower than 145 °F (63 °C)
To keep the guideline up to date, farmers’ markets and their association meet with EHOs annually to discuss issues and whether any changes to the food categories need to be made. Food issue decisions (Table 1) can result in foods being allowed for sale that weren’t previously, for example, microgreens, or conditionally approved if preparation occurs in a commercial kitchen, for example, sauerkraut. The system still isn’t perfect. We learned that vendors wanting to make sauerkraut for farmers’ markets want to comply, but there is no storage capacity in commercial kitchens to leave products there while the fermentation occurs. Potential cross-contamination and unsanitary conditions could occur during transportation of incompletely fermented products back to a vendor’s home, or in the commercial kitchen where multiple users have access to the fermenting products when the vendor is absent.
When a lifestyle food choice, such as raw diet food is sold, farmers’ market managers and EHOs may not recognize the risk depending on the appearance of the vendor application. For example, “onion bread” with a final water activity of 0.54 first appears to be a low risk food. However, closer examination of the process reveals sprouted sunflower and flax seeds are mixed with chopped onions and dehydrated for 10 hours at 105 °F (41 °C). We are in the process of making recommendations on minimizing risks in raw diet foods, a difficult task made even harder in the absence of scientific research into this area. In the meantime, EHOs are left with having to take a decision on whether to approve these products to be made at home, while farmers’ markets assume a potential liability risk for these products.
Resources for Food Safety and Farmers’ Markets
BC Temporary food market guidelines (Low risk food examples allowed for sale are shown in Appendix I, high risk foods in Appendix II)
Food issue notes (food issues referred to in the table are listed along with many others)
MarketSafe education (an online education course for farmers’ market vendors and managers)
Good Farmers’ Market Practices (best practices for farmers’ markets)
Food Safety Matters (food safety and management at farmers’ markets, with helpful checklists)
Lorraine McIntyre, M.Sc., is a food safety specialist in the Environmental Health Services at the BC Centre for Disease Control.
1. McIntyre L, et al. 2014. “Competencies of Those Assessing Food Safety Risks of Foods for Sale at Farmers’ Markets in British Columbia, Canada.” Food Prot Trends 34(5):331–348.
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