Food Safety News
The number of Minnesotans sickened with Salmonella poisoning after eating unpasteurized, homemade queso fresco – a Mexican-style cheese – more than doubled before the outbreak ran its course. Health officials said Monday that the number of illnesses in the outbreak have reached 25, up from the 12 cases originally reported two weeks ago. They said the outbreak illustrates the dangers of consuming unpasteurized dairy products.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the City of Minneapolis have been investigating the outbreak and the source of the raw milk used to make the cheese since the first cases were detected in late April.
MDH confirmed 18 cases of infection with the same strain of Salmonella. An additional seven cases of illness occurred among family members or other contacts of confirmed cases, but no laboratory specimens were available. The individuals fell ill between March 28 and April 24. Of the 25 people sickened, 15 were hospitalized.
All have since recovered. Many patients reported eating unpasteurized queso fresco purchased or received from an individual who made the product in a private home.
Investigators have determined that the individual made home deliveries and also may have sold the product on a street corner near the East Lake Street area of Minneapolis.
The local health officials says anyone who may have purchased or received this product recently should not eat it but should throw it away.
Samples of unpasteurized queso fresco collected from the cheese maker were found to contain the same strain of Salmonella as the illnesses. Investigators determined that the milk used to make the cheese was purchased by the cheese maker from a Dakota County farm. Unpasteurized milk samples collected at the farm were also found to match the outbreak strain.
Dr. Heidi Kassenborg, director of MDA’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division, said: “It only takes a few bacteria to cause illness. Milking a cow is not a sterile process and even the cleanest dairy farms can have milk that is contaminated. That’s why pasteurization – or the heat treatment of milk to kill the harmful pathogens – is so important.”
Minnesota law allows consumers to purchase raw milk products directly from the farm for their own consumption, but they may not be further distributed or sold. Additionally, cheese production facilities need to follow proper food safety laws and regulations, including licensure.
Dr. Carlota Medus, foodborne illness epidemiologist, said the outbreak may be over, as there are no suspect cases pending. However, it is still possible that investigators will learn of additional cases that have not yet been reported from people who consumed cheese prior to health officials’ interventions, which occurred April 23-26.
Health officials are also concerned that this may not be an isolated incident – that there may be other instances of people buying foods like unpasteurized queso fresco prepared by neighbors, friends or family.
“It’s important for people to be aware of the inherent risk of consuming any raw dairy product from any source,” Medus said. “We encourage people to think carefully about those risks and know that the risks are especially high for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.”
Salmonella bacteria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in high-risk groups. Healthy people infected with Salmonella generally experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Symptoms normally begin between 12 and 72 hours after consumption of contaminated food but can begin up to a week or more later.
Anyone who believes they may have become ill with a Salmonella infection should contact their health care provider.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was seeking a preliminary injunction against New York City Fish, Inc. and several of the company’s employees on Friday for allegedly manufacturing and distributing ready-to-eat fish products under unsanitary conditions.
According to a FDA press release, the injunction is intended to restrain the fish company “from distributing these products into interstate commerce until they comply with the requirements of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Act).”
A complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York states that the FDA conducted 7 inspections at the New York City Fish facility between 2006 and 2013 and that during 6 of those inspections, environmental samples collected later revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially deadly foodborne pathogen.
The FDA inspectors also allegedly found that the company repeatedly failed to have and implement a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan for seafood products; verify required records in a timely manner; and implement required corrective actions. All manufacturers of seafood products must have and implement a HACCP plan for each of its locations that address each process and kind of product processed at the facility and associated food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur.
“These companies have ignored previous warnings by the FDA and have continued to produce and distribute products in violation of federal law,” said Melinda Plaisier, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “This lawsuit shows that the FDA will aim to protect public health by seeking enforcement action against companies that are identified as violating federal requirements.”
At its recent policy conference in Washington, D.C., the Organic Trade Association (OTA) heard from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the future of organic farming.
Vilsack told OTA members that he views organic as “its own separate commodity,” and he is committed to treating it that way. He wants to increase coverage options for organic producers under the federal crop insurance program provided by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) and promised to remove a 5 percent organic rate surcharge on future crop insurance policies, beginning in 2014.
The Secretary of Agriculture also announced that he will be giving all USDA agencies new directives to take into account concerning the documentation and inspection required for organic certification for eligibility for the department’s programs and policies.
“Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture and helps farmers receive a higher price for their product as they strive to meet growing consumer demand,” said Vilsack. “These new options will extend the safety net provided by crop insurance and provide fair and flexible solutions to organic producers. Coupled with the new guidance for agencies to support this growing sector, USDA recognizes that organics are gaining market share and is helping boost this emerging segment.”
USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) is credited with helping create an organic industry in the U.S that includes 17,000 organic businesses with an estimated $35 billion in retail sales. Organics now ranks fourth in U.S. food and feed crop production in farm-gate values, when viewed as a separate category.
All crops are being evaluated for establishing organic prices for the 2014 crop year. Current pricing options only allow farmers to insure organic crops at the conventional prices, with the exception of eight crops (corn, soybeans, cotton, processing tomatoes, avocados, and several fresh stone fruit crops) that already have premium organic price elections. RMA is working to provide organic price elections for six to ten crops in 2014. Oats and mint are two crops that have already been selected for organic price elections in 2014, and apricots, apples, blueberries, millet, and others are still under consideration.
Organic certification allows farmers and ranchers to receive premium prices for their value-added products. Over the past 10 years, the number of certified organic farms and businesses in the United States has expanded to approximately 17,750, representing a 240 percent increase since USDA first began collecting this data.
The NOP’s standards address conservation, food safety, risk management, export certifications, and other issues. The organic industry is looking for less overlapping requirements and reduced redundancy in paperwork in the new guidance.
USDA’s 2010 Strategic Plan calls for a 25 percent increase in U.S. certified organic businesses by 2015.
The family of a Canadian woman who died from an E. coli infection filed suit against producer grower Tanimura & Antle last week in U.S. District Court in California, alleging her death was caused in part by the consumption of contaminated lettuce sold by the company.
According to court documents, prior to falling ill with fatigue, nausea and bloody diarrhea during the last week of August, 2012, Gail Bernacki of Calgary had consumed a Tanimura & Antle lettuce product that was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
Bernacki was allegedly taken by ambulance to Rockyview General Hospital for treatment on August 25. While there, she submitted a stool sample that returned positive for E. coli O157:H7.
The complaint states that subsequent analysis of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria isolated from her stool showed that it was a genetic match to E. coli O157:H7 bacteria isolated from a sample of Tanimura & Antle romaine lettuce that triggered the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to issue a “Health Hazard Alert” on August 17 and an expanded alert on August 20.
While she was able to return home by the end of Spetember, the court documents state that Bernacki was re-admitted to the hospital for medical care for congestive heart failure and failure to thrive in January, 2013. The lawsuit alleges that her original E. coli O157:H7 infection contributed to her decline and, ultimately, her death on January 16, 2013.
“Although growers of leafy greens have made huge strides in food safety since the E. coli outbreak of 2006,” said Bill Marler, attorney for the Bernacki family and publisher of Food Safety News, “this case shows that there is more to do.”
On its face, the upcoming trial of Vernon Hershberger, which starts today, is about food and dairy licensing and the Wisconsin farmer’s refusal to seek out certain permits. Hershberger is accused of four criminal misdemeanors. The first three include failing to have a retail food establishment license, operating a dairy farm as a milk producer without a license, and operating a dairy plant without a license. The fourth accusation is that Hershberger violated a holding order from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) in June 2010, when he cut the agency tape shuttering his farm store, and resumed serving his food club members.
While some of Hershberger’s supporters have wanted to see the trial turned into a debate over raw milk, the judge in the case, Guy Reynolds, reaffirmed the narrow focus on regulation when he ruled during a pretrial hearing Tuesday that issues related to raw milk can’t be introduced by either the prosecution or defense.
The technical legalities of the case, however, fail to convey the case’s national political importance. Other cases similar to Hershberger’s have sprouted around the country, from Maine to California, where owners of small farms are selling meat, raw dairy products, and other staples directly to consumers in search of wholesome food. The controversy, and attendant legal problems, stem from the fact that the farmers are increasingly selling their food via private contracts, outside the regulatory system of state and local licenses and inspections that govern public food sales.
Federal and state regulators have responded by seeking legal sanctions against farmers in Maine, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and California, as well as in Wisconsin. These sanctions include injunctions, fines, and even possible prison time. Food sold by unlicensed and uninspected food is potentially dangerous, say the regulators, since it can carry pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E.coli O157:H7, leading to mild or even serious illness.
While these cases are testing the limits of food regulation, they raise deeper and more fundamental questions. Why would hard-working, normally law-abiding farmers be teaming with educated urban and suburban consumers to flaunt licensing and permitting regulations and statutes that have held sway for decades? Why would parents, who want only the best for their children, be seeking out food that regulators say could be dangerous?
Indeed, if you talk to individuals who belong to Hershberger’s food club, many of them from the Madison, WI, area, they talk about food choices and health rather than permits and licenses. Jenny DeLoney, a Madison, WI, mother of three young children., says she buys food from Hershberger because she wants food from animals that are treated humanely, allowed to roam on the pasture. “I really want food that is full of nutrients and the animals to be happy and content.”
Jennifer Bell, a Madison mother of two children, has been buying eggs, beef, honey, and raw milk from Hershberger for the last three years. “I’ve seen a lot of improvements in my digestive system” during that time, she says. Her son’s stomachaches have disappeared as well. She believes Hershberger’s farm-raised food is more wholesome and nutritious than mass-produced food in the supermarkets, and that her and her family’s health improvements are testimony to that reality.
Another member, Joy Martinson of Mt. Horeb, says the fact that her health has improved has reinforced her sense that she should have a choice in her food: “I am an informed consumer and I choose to obtain healthy food directly from the farmer without government intervention.”
Hershberger himself talks about “the fundamental right of farmers and consumers to engage in peaceful, private, mutually consenting agreements for food.”
These individuals are clearly interpreting “health” and “safety” differently than the regulators. The consumers have seen such things as videos of downer cows being prodded into slaughterhouses and chickens so crammed into coops they can barely breathe. They have seen the statistics showing that eight percent of children today have allergies and nine percent have asthma. To these individuals, safety is much more than the single-minded focus regulators place on pathogens. To many of them, who are parents, safety means not only food free of pathogens, but food free of pesticides, antibiotic residues, genetically modified (GMO) ingredients, and excessive processing.
Some consumers are going further than claiming contract rights—they are pushing their towns and cities to legitimize private farmer-consumer arrangements. In Maine, residents of nine coastal towns have convinced town meetings to pass so-called “food sovereignty” ordinances that legalize unregulated food sales; towns in other states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, have passed similar ordinances.
The new legal offensive hasn’t gone over well with regulators. Maine’s Department of Agriculture filed suit against a two-cow farmer, Dan Brown, in one of the food-sovereignty towns, Blue Hill, seeking fines and, in effect, to invalidate the ordinances. A state judge in late April sided with the state, issuing an injunction barring Brown from continuing his unregulated food sales, and in effect invalidating the Blue Hill ordinance. Brown is planning an appeal.
At its heart, this is a struggle over a steady erosion of confidence in the integrity of our industrial food system, which has been hit by disturbing disclosures seemingly on a weekly basis. Members of Congress and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have in recent weeks escalated warnings about the growing danger of antibiotic-resistant pathogens emerging from farm animals, which consume about 80 per cent of all antibiotics in the U.S. The Atlantic reported last summer that medical specialists are seeing a spike in women with urinary tract infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, likely transmitted by chicken meat. Voters in a number of states have mobilized to push for laws requiring labeling of foods for the presence of GMO ingredients.
Eroding confidence in the food system is no small matter. It threatens large corporations in serious ways if long-established food brands come under prolonged and severe public questioning. It threatens economic performance if foods deemed “safe” become scarcer, and thus more expensive. And it is potentially explosive politically if too many people lose confidence in the competence and expertise of the food regulators, and encourages folks to seek private solutions.
The battle seems almost certain to intensify, as more farmers like Hershberger hook up with consumers for private food sales and regulators hunker down to deter the end run around existing regulatory protocols. No matter what the jury’s decision in this case, we will hopefully see the emergence of a new broader view and discussion about the meaning of food safety.
Without necessarily knowing the term “traceability,” consumers have been calling for it in their food system for a long time. The evidence of that comes from the food industry itself, with its increased emphasis on where food came from. Many companies now highlight certain locations or farmers in brand names, commercials, or through packaging and labels.
Food marketing has become more and more about the story of the product and how it got to the shelf at the grocery store or onto the plate at a restaurant.
But now that question has been taken one step further, as consumers wonder whether the information they are given is accurate, or whether the company has the whole picture. In the European Union, consumer confidence in labeling information was shaken during the recent horsemeat scandal, when beef sold at retail and in restaurants was widely found to contain horsemeat.
The ability to follow meat to its source is important not only from an integrity standpoint but from a safety standpoint. In the case of a foodborne illness outbreak, tracing contaminated meat back to its source quickly is key.
What’s happening in the United States to ensure that meat can be traced back through every step of production, and that what’s on the label reflects exactly what’s in the package?
Proactive industry coordination for better traceability
Part of the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, emphasizes more rapid and accurate determination of foodborne illness outbreak sources, a feat that requires accurate traceback information. While FSMA affects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and has no regulatory impact on the meat industry (meat is under USDA’s jurisdiction), the yet-to-be-defined traceability requirements in the 2011 law have influenced the meat industry to analyze its own traceback systems. Industry leaders have formed mpXML, a non-profit trade association focused on data tracking along the supply chain.
Earlier this month, mpXML released a “model for critical tracking event traceability.” Board member Douglas Bailey, who also works for USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, said the model was “a deliberative document that should be used to educate and inform future discussions about what we should change about traceability here in the U.S.”
“We don’t take a position in the paper on whether this is too burdensome or whether we should do more,” Benson said in an interview with Food Safety News. “This is just an example of what [a traceability system] would look like.”
The mpXML model, which included contributions by employees at Tyson Foods, Safeway, Wegmans, GS1 US, Food Services of America, and others, looked at six different “events” that occur along the supply chain to determine what data collection must be done at each point. Those events include input and output transportation, shipping, receiving, consumption and disposal.
“If you’re a supply chain company, you need to understand if you have one of those events that needs to be documented, and you need to understand what you need to document for that event,” Benson said. “Once you understand that, the next question is how can I efficiently capture it.”
Benson said there are two top priorities for improving traceability in the meat industry. The first is consistency in “global identifiers,” such as avoiding retail and supplier SKUs that do not help in tracing back up the supply chain. The second is focusing on consumption and disposal events.
According mpXML, a consumption event occurs when “a traceable product becomes available to consumers.” A disposal event occurs when “a traceable product is destroyed or discarded or otherwise handled in a manner that the product can no longer be used as a food ingredient or become available to consumers.”
“[Consumption and disposal events] are so poorly understood by health authorities,” Benson said. “The suppliers do a pretty good job of documenting the input and the output. It all goes downhill from there, as it moves through the supply chain.”
The consumer advocate’s point of view
Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, agreed that meat tracing can fall apart as it gets closer to the consumer, especially at the grocery store where butchers are grinding meat to sell by the pound.
“There have been a number of cases of an outbreak of illness, then when FSIS is doing their traceback activities and they get to the retail store, the record keeping is not sufficient for them to be able to determine where the product came from, and when it was ground in the store,” Waldrop said in an interview with Food Safety News. “They kind of hit a dead end.”
There are other areas along the supply chain where following the product back to the next step becomes difficult, most notably from when the cow leaves the feed lot to when it leaves the slaughterhouse as beef.
“It’s not really a strong link between what goes in the plant and what goes out of it,” Waldrop said. “And part of it is because animal ID has been discussed as an animal disease traceability system and not a food safety traceability system.”
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulates live animal identification. The agency released its final rule on animal traceability on December 20, 2012. Under the new regulation, if livestock is transported across state lines, it has to be identified and certified by veterinarian inspection.
In a statement, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the law will “target when and where animal diseases occur, and help us respond quickly.”
Waldrop said the Consumer Federation of America believes a safe meat industry should begin on the farm.
“We definitely support an on-farm approach to food safety,” Waldrop said. “There is no federal agency that has jurisdiction [over food safety] on the farm. FSIS’s jurisdiction starts at the slaughterhouse door. As a result, you can’t set requirements [on the farm]. You have to figure out ways to incentivize producers to make those changes.”
But as seen in the EU this year, traceability of meat products is not only about foodborne illness. Widespread economic adulteration and fraud through misbranding have now been revealed as realistic concerns. The obvious question is can that type of scandal happen in the United States?
Former USDA chief veterinarian Dr. Bill James says our web of regulatory safeguards makes it unlikely.
“The multiple interlocking import controls FSIS has in place – including country equivalence, plant certification, product eligibility, foreign audits, import re-inspection, and species testing – make the chances of a European-style horse adulteration scandal here immeasurably small,” James said in an interview with Food Safety News. “Add to this fact that there has been no horse slaughter here in the U.S. for years. In my professional opinion FSIS has taken all reasonable precautions to prevent such an event.”
James said that DNA species testing by FSIS is conducted for up to six species, including beef, pork, lamb, poultry, deer, and equine. According to James, in 2011, the FSIS did 11,308 species tests on 2,272 samples, and had three failures. In 2012, FSIS conducted 2,772 on 555 samples tests and had zero failures. The department tested 80 samples for equine in 2011 and 2012, and none were positive.
There is no federal law on the sale or consumption of horsemeat, but starting in 2006 and ending in 2011, Congress annually prohibited the use of any user fees or federal funds to go toward antemortem (pre-slaughter) inspection, effectively ending all domestic horse slaughter operations.
In 2011, after a GAO report titled “Horse Welfare: Action needed to address unintended consequences from cessation of domestic slaughter,” Congress ended the ban on federal money being spent on horse inspection.
Since the ban was lifted, horse slaughterhouses have applied to FSIS for inspectors. Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the Associated Press that a slaughter facility in New Mexico would open unless Congress acted, stating that the USDA is “duty-bound to do what needs to be done to allow that plant to begin processing.”
Even with the possibility of horse slaughter resuming domestically, James is not concerned.
“That product is going to demand a higher price on export than they could get for labeling as something else,” James said. “There is not an economic incentive to do so.”
Last week I told my colleagues that I did not want to hear anything more about the damn “Farm Bill.” It’s taken up more time than the Korean War did, and I was sick of hearing about it. Then they caught my attention by telling me about the catfish amendment. Yes, after assigning catfish inspection to USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress in this new Farm Bill appears set to return that responsibility to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It’s these little twists and turns that make me love the “Farm Bill.” Since USDA supposedly got the job in 2008, it has not inspected a single farm-raised U.S. catfish. (To her credit, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA under secretary for food safety, has promised Congress she’d have a final rule out by the end of this fiscal year, which would bring about the catfish inspections if they stayed at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and not transferred to FDA.)
But it has been one of those long, drawn out Washington D.C. stories. While the food safety community has mostly stood behind the domestic catfish industry on this one, we’ve had to feel just a little whacky as no one at USDA or elsewhere in the executive branch of government much liked where this was going. They always seemed to imply that Boeing might lose a multi-billion airplane order just because we want to make the world safe for catfish Po’ Boys.
While never happening, USDA catfish inspection did become a poster-child of government waste with the likes of John McCain charging that it was costing taxpayers $20 million. I never understood where that one came from as USDA only had a handful of staff work on the issue for about year.
But now if these Farm Bill committee votes are any indication, the job of not inspecting catfish will go back to FDA, where it will continue not inspecting more than 99 percent of imported catfish each year as it does with all the other foreign seafood coming ashore in the USA.
The fact that FDA inspects less than 1 percent of imported seafood, added to a high percentage of food fraud that appears to be happening at the docks, does not make one feel warm and fuzzy about the safety of fish in general. Recent studies say 33 percent of imported fish is mislabeled as one species when it really is another.
But this is topic the Farm Bill crowd does not seem to want to get into. The public is asleep on the issue. Nobody has given fish species mislabeling a catchy name like “pink slime” and so far no “horse fish” has been found. So even though there is a bill in the hopper to do something about it, the Farm Bill crowd can ignore the problem.
After all, they are there to divvy up the money we borrow, not get into messy details about the near total lack of seafood safety. (By the way, do the Chinese still show up for our T-Bill auctions?)
So, catfish non-inspection is going to return to FDA. Its inspection of foreign seafood is like a man trying to drink from a fire hose, it cannot keep up with the rapid increase in foreign fish coming across U.S. docks.
In 2012, there were 70 Import Refusal Actions against imported tilapia, the white fish species brought in to undercut U.S. farm-raised catfish. Among the reasons: Salmonella (33); illegal drug residues (13); filthy (12) Salmonella and drugs (8), and unsanitary (4).
The illegal drug residue included findings of cancer-causing nitrofurans in Vietnamese pangasius. Imported Chinese-sourced channel catfish led last year’s refusals.
“How can Americans protect themselves from tainted imported seafood when restaurants do not identify the county of origin of seafood they serve?” Catfish Farmers of America asked in commenting on the 2010 import refusals.
The Jackson, MS-based group represents catfish farms mostly located in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It says USDA inspection of catfish is a food safety issue. Such leading consumer and food safety groups as The Consumer Federation of America, Food and Water Watch, and STOP Foodborne Illness have backed it in that position.
In Washington, D.C., however, money is the only consideration. And, in that world the Catfish Farmers of America are depicted as merely looking for protectionism in a world of free trade. How can we hold whatever comes in from Vietnam or China to the same inspection standards as we have for U.S farm-raised catfish?
U.S. farm-raised catfish does have a few advantages. They are raised in fresh water ponds and fed high protein pellets that float on top of the water. They’ve been found to be an excellent source of protein, not fed any antibiotics or hormones or iodine.
USDA was never wild about taking on catfish, mainly because it would divert resources from meat and poultry inspection. The U.S. Government Accountability Office jumped on the issue, raising concerns about duplication with catfish going to USDA but the other fish being left back at FDA.
It’s hardly the only area of duplication between the two major food safety agencies. USDA grades eggs, but whether they are contaminated is up to FDA. Cheese and meat pizzas get into different regulatory lines.
Dr. Richard Raymond, the former USDA under secretary for food safety, says the duplication problem could be solved if Congress would just allow FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to do something trading of responsibilities.
But that would make too much sense. Sending catfish back to FDA so more than 99 percent will not be inspected there is just the sort of solution Congress comes up with. This could bounce back and forth for years.
Maybe, to protect its brand what U.S. catfish farmers should do is for for labeling in the home states. The genetically engineered food crowd has already warmed up state lawmakers to the concept of state labeling. Alaska has already done it for salmon.
If there was a little American flag planted in my catfish Po’ Boy, then I’d know it was U.S. farm raised, under a HACCP plan, inspected, and tested. I’d like that a lot.
At least 51 people are now known to have fallen ill in a Salmonella outbreak linked to a North Carolina Holiday Inn, reported the Cumberland County Health Department Friday.
That number is up from the 44 illnesses reported by the Department just one day earlier. The source of the outbreak is thought to be the Holiday Inn Bordeaux in Fayetteville, NC, which operates two restaurants: The All American Sports Bar and Grill and the fancier Café Bordeaux.
Five people have been hospitalized as a result of their infections, according to CCHD.
The Department is asking those who ate at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux on or after May 1 and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection within three days of that visit to report their illness by calling 910-433-3638.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, muscle aches and fever.
Health officials are recommending that people take precautions to avoid spreading of the foodborne bacteria.
“To stop the further spread of the illness, the Health Department advises that handwashing is the best control measure,” the Health Department said in a press statement. “People with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea symptoms need to make sure they are staying hydrated and should seek medical care from their private doctor, urgent care or emergency room if their symptoms do not improve.”
CCHD has also set up a “Salmonella Hotline,” staffed by registered nurses, for consumers with questions. The hotline number is 910-433-3824.
Two Minnesota children under the age of 1 are reported ill in a Salmonella outbreak linked to nationally recalled Krinos brand tahini sesame paste, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
The illnesses have been associated with a small cluster of Salmonella Mbandaka illnesses in other states, MDH spokesman Doug Schultz told Food Safety News. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now investigating illnesses potentially connected to the outbreak, said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.
Schultz said he did not believe the children were related to each other. Neither child was hospitalized and they are both recovering.
The tahini, distributed to retailers nationwide, has been voluntarily recalled since April 28 for contamination of Salmonella Montevideo and Mbandaka. Following an expansion on May 9, the recall now includes tahini products with expiration dates ranging from Jan. 1, 2014 to March 15, 2015.
The product is sold in 1 LB glass jars, 2 LB glass jars and in 40 LB plastic pails. The UPC codes for those products are:
1 LB jar, 0-75013-28500-3
2 LB jar, 0-75013-28510-2
40 LB pail, 0-75013-04018-3
According to the company, the recalled lots have a code stamped on the lid dated between “EXP JAN 01 – 2014 up to and including EXP JUN 08 – 2014” and “EXP OCT 16 – 2014 up to and including EXP MAR 15 – 2015.”
A juice maker in Carrizozo, NM must prove to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it can achieve a 5-log reduction of “the pertinent microorganisms” for the shelf life of its apple cider.
FDA only recently released a Feb. 20 warning letter sent to James P. and Patricia R. Niebaum, owners of the Carrizozo Orchard, known locally for its apple, cherry and raspberry ciders.
The warning letter stems from a late 2012 FDA inspection of the juice processing facility, located about 140 miles southwest of Albuquerque, along with the owners’ response to the agency’s Form 483 inspection report. FDA found Carrizozo’s apple cider adulterated because of serious deviations from the juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations.
In responding to the inspection, the warning letter says the juice maker did not verify how it was going to implement a 5-log bacteria reduction process for the apple cider. A 5-log reduction requires that the number of microbes be reduced to the point where the number is 100,000 times smaller than the starting point.
FDA said the apple cider is being repackaged without a 5-log reduction.
Federal inspectors found that the juice maker lacks both a HACCP plan for apple cider and a standard operating procedure for sanitation for the facility. The warning letter advised the company of “eight key areas of sanitation” that must be addressed.
The safety of the water, maintenance of hand washing, hand sanitizing and toilet facilities, employee health and the exclusion of pests from the facility were among areas specially called out.
Gamblers in Las Vegas taking advantage of all those free drink offers might soon be ordering up a nice cold glass of raw milk.
With only two dissenting votes Thursday afternoon, the Nevada Senate’s Committee on Health and Human Services gave a “do pass” recommendation to Assembly Bill (AB) 209, making raw milk sales legal statewide. AB 209’s next stop will likely be a vote by the full Senate before it adjourns on June 3. It already passed the Assembly on a unanimous vote on April 22.
While permitting raw milk sales “anywhere in the state,” the Nevada raw milk bill is clearly aimed the Las Vegas market. AB 209 is the last piece of the puzzle needed by a Nye County dairy to be completed in order to begin producing raw milk intended for the metro area.
Nye County last year established a county milk commission to regulate Amargosa Creamery as it moved into the production of raw milk and raw milk products. Existing state law allows “certified” raw milk to be sold anywhere in the state, but raw milk produced under the authority of a county milk commission can only be sold in that county.
As currently drafted, AB 209 permits Nye County-produced raw milk and raw milk products to be sold anywhere in the state. But raw milk produced in California will no longer be able to be sold in Nevada.
Organic Pastures, the nation’s largest raw milk producer located in northern California, used to sell products in the Reno/Lake Tahoe market. OP agreed to stop at the behest of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which bans interstate sales of raw milk.
While Nevada lawmakers are mostly going along with the plan to open Las Vegas to Nye County’s raw milk, some do have doubts. State Sen. Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) said she could not bring herself to vote for a bill that’s opposed by the Nevada state health officer.
State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) said he recognizes the potential health risks, but thinks it is best to go forward with the regulatory structure for raw milk that is contained in AB 209. The bill requires labeling, daily testing and liability insurance and imposes a fee structure.
In April 2012, the Nye County dairy announced a raw milk business plan that it said would initially involve ten milk cows, with the potential to expand to up to 60. Nye County is located immediately north of Vegas.
The House Agriculture Committee voted to repeal a controversial catfish inspection program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture late Wednesday night – a sign the program, which was mandated by the 2008 farm bill to help protect U.S. catfish farmers from cheap imports, may be headed for the chopping block.
In the last attempt at the farm bill last summer, the Senate moved to repeal the USDA program, but the House version had sought to renew the program, against the recommendation of the Government Accountability Office, which has deemed the inspection scheme wasteful and duplicative. The White House has also come out in favor of cutting the program.
During the late night farm bill markup, the House Agriculture Committee voted 31-15 for an amendment introduced by Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) to strip catfish inspection from USDA, which would move the fish back under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency that oversees the safety of all other seafood products.
It’s not clear whether the program will ultimately be repealed in the final farm bill. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced a similar measure in the Senate, but it would need to be introduced as an amendment when the bill is considered by the full Senate, which will likely be next week.
On Thursday the National Fisheries Institute, a broad-based seafood industry group, praised the House agriculture panel for voting to nix the catfish inspection program at USDA.
“The committee chose sound fiscal policy and a commitment to grow rural economies by protecting trading opportunities in export markets for American farm products,” said Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for NFI. “We look forward to a Farm Bill, signed into law by the President, that reflects the Committee’s action on repealing this program.”
On Thursday, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, told a Senate subcommittee for agriculture appropriations that the Food Safety and Inspection Service is planning to release a final rule on catfish inspection, which has been delayed for years, by Oct 1.
“The catfish industry is very important in deep South states,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), when inquiring about the status of the program in the hearing on Thursday.
“I know how important this is for you and the producers in your state,” said Dr. Hagen. “I think this has turned out to be more complicated than we thought it would be. I am committed to getting a final rule out by the end of the fiscal year…our staff knows this is a priority.”
Sen. Cochran thanked Dr. Hagen and said, “We appreciate your good efforts.”
Cochran, who represents the number one catfish producing state, has long urged the USDA to move forward on developing an inspection program (the USDA has yet to inspect any catfish since the 2008 farm bill granted it jurisdiction over the fish). The idea was to hold the flood of imported fish from southeast Asia to the same health and quality standards as U.S.-grown catfish.
But the GAO has sharply questioned whether the USDA inspection program would improve food safety, pointing out that federal regulators are using “outdated and limited” information in their risk assessment, upon which the inspection program would be based. In their risk assessment, FSIS identified just one outbreak of Salmonella (in 1991), but the incident “was not clearly linked to catfish.” According to GAO, no catfish-linked Salmonella outbreaks have happened since.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and other federal agencies have argued that it is more likely that chemical and drug residues in farm raised catfish are potential hazards, but, according to GAO, the White House Office of Management and Budget told FSIS that Salmonella was the most practical hazard to evaluate because of the strong data on Salmonella-linked deaths and illnesses in the United States.
A spokesman for FSIS told Food Safety News last month that the agency currently has a “core staff” of four people working on “further policy development in anticipation of potential implementation of the catfish inspection program,” but since developing a proposed rule in 2011 the Office of Catfish Inspection has been folded into other program areas.
According to GAO, between 2009 and 2011, FSIS spent $15.4 million on developing the program and was expected to spend an additional $4.4 million last fiscal year.
Last month, the International Food Information Council Foundation released the third edition of its report: Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding. What sounds like a reasonable and helpful document is in fact the product of a well-oiled PR machine whose board of trustees includes executives from such food giants such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and Mars.
In response to such tactics, I have authored a new report for Center for Food Safety that exposes the well-funded organizations and highly-sophisticated public relations strategies increasingly deployed to defend the food industry.
Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups describes how Big Food and Big Ag hide behind friendly-sounding organizations such as: the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and the Alliance to Feed the Future. The idea is to fool the media, policymakers, and general public into trusting these sources, despite their corporate-funded PR agenda.
With growing concern over the negative impacts of our highly industrialized and overly processed food system, the food industry has a serious public relations problem on its hands. Instead of cleaning up its act, corporate lobbyists are trying to control the public discourse. As a result, industry spin is becoming more prevalent and aggressive.
For example, the same group cited above – the International Food Information Council – in addition to publishing industry friendly reports, also infiltrates professional conferences such as the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s trade association for registered dieticians.
In 2011, IFIC moderated a panel at this event called, “How Risky is Our Food? Clarifying the Controversies of Chemical Risks,” in which the take-away message was not to worry about pesticides, and anybody who tells you otherwise is scaremongering and non-scientifically valid. At the 2012 conference last fall, IFIC was back again, with representatives on four separate panels, including dispelling any concerns about food additives.
In addition to IFIC, other front groups that have been around for some time include the notorious industry attack dog, Center for Consumer Freedom, which began in the 1990s with funding from tobacco giant Philip Morris.
In the recent controversy in New York City over limiting the size of sugary beverages, CCF took out full-page ads in major newspapers showing Mayor Michael Bloomberg dressed as a woman with the tagline, “New Yorkers need a Mayor, not a Nanny.” Name-calling and scaremongering are very effective tactics for distracting away from the issue at hand: a serious public health problem.
Big Soda also invented an entirely new front group to do its bidding called “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices,” which pretended to represent individuals, but in fact was funded by the American Beverage Association, the Washington DC-based lobbying arm of the soft drink industry. It’s a brilliant strategy when you realize that creating a group named “Coke and Pepsi Opposing Public Health in New York” just wouldn’t fly.
By relying on a front group such as the Center for Consumer Freedom to do its dirty work, well-known companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are able to keep their noses clean, and their valuable brand reputations intact.
This report is extremely timely because now more than ever new front groups are forming so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. And with deliberately confusing names such as Alliance to Feed the Future, Center for Food Integrity, and Global Harvest, it can be challenging to tell the good guys from the bad. I often have to remind people not to confuse the industry front group Center for Food Integrity with either the Center for Food Safety or the Food Integrity Campaign. Front groups position themselves cleverly to try and confuse media outlets, which too often just assume the information is coming from a reliable source.
The new report answers such questions as, “What is the Different Between Trade Groups and Front Groups?” (mostly that trade groups lobby, while front groups rely more on PR), “What are Common Front Group Tactics?” (scaremongering and buying science, for example) and “How Can We Fight Front Groups?” Most importantly, the report contains numerous examples of front groups, including recently formed groups created in response to heightened criticism and awareness, along with scientific “institutes” invented by such food giants such as Coca-Coca, Nestlé, and General Mills.
Junk food companies, the biotech industry, and big agribusiness are all on the defense because the nation is waking up to the myriad problems our industrialized food system has created, from public health epidemics to environmental disasters to horrific exploitation of humans and animals alike. It’s a testament to the food movement’s success that industry is responding with such sophisticated and well-funded public relations efforts.
But we can’t allow these disingenuous and deceptive tactics to undermine our good work. It’s imperative that reporters, policymakers, and the general public do their homework to learn exactly who is behind these industry front groups and not fall for their biased propaganda and public relations stunts. You can start by reading and sharing this report, which you can download HERE.
This article was originally published by the Center for Food Safety Blog March 14, 2013.
At least seven people in Stephens County, Ga., have fallen ill with E. coli in the last several weeks, leading health officials in the area to begin investigating the source of the outbreak, local radio station WNEG reports.
Two of the patients were hospitalized and are now recovering. Most of the seven sickened have been confirmed to have E. coli O157:H7.
Environmental health officials are still investigating the possible source of the outbreak, Georgia District 2 Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer told Food Safety News.
“The message we’ve been telling people in the area is that if they experience symptoms like diarrhea for an unusual amount of time, they should seek medical attention,” Palmer said. “We want to make sure people wash raw vegetables and cook their meat, or if they have meat on a surface in their kitchen, clean it thoroughly. They should also wash their hands thoroughly after preparing raw meat.”
Food Safety News will follow this story as the investigation continues.
Update (5/16, 4:00 p.m. EST): Health officials in Cumberland County have updated the case count from 18 to 44 individuals sickened. The story below has been amended to reflect the updated numbers.
At least 44 people have fallen ill with symptoms of Salmonella infection in an outbreak connected to the Holiday Inn Bordeaux in Fayetteville, N.C., according to the Cumberland County Department of Public Health.
Five patients have been hospitalized. Of those sickened, 36 reside in North Carolina and eight were visiting from out-of-state.
The inn serves food at two restaurants, the All American Sports Bar and Grill and the Café Bordeaux, as well as the banquet kitchen.
The Cumberland County Health Department is asking those who consumed food or beverages at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux since May 1 and developed symptoms within three days to call the department at 910-433-3638.
“To stop the further spread of the illness, the Health Department advises that handwashing is the best control measure,” the Health Department said in a press statement. “People with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea symptoms need to make sure they are staying hydrated and should seek medical care from their private doctor, urgent care or emergency room if their symptoms do not improve.”
“The Health Department has also set up a ‘Salmonella Hotline’ at 910-433-3824,” the statement read. “Cape Fear Valley Health System has a Care Link health education line staffed by registered nurses. Call at 615-LINK (5465) with questions about Salmonella infection.”
Two food safety emergencies in College Station, TX – an E. coli outbreak and a fumigant problem in a grocery store – do not have anything to do with one another.
“At this time, the two incidents do not appear to be related,” Sara Mendez of the Brazos County Health Department told Food Safety News.
She was referring to April’s outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that was centered on College Station and Tuesday’s emergency closure of the BCS Asian Market, also located in College Station, after food safety inspectors came across a dangerous chemical at the store.
That inspection by both the Brazos County Health Department and the Texas Department of State Health Services uncovered aluminum phosphide — which local hazardous materials first responders say is an extremely dangerous chemical. Called Fumitoxin, it is a pesticide that requires a license to use.
College Station’s Hazmat (hazardous materials) team removed the dangerous chemical from the BCS Asian Market to Fire Station 2 on the city’s Rio Grand Boulevard, an action that required the entire area to be locked down Tuesday afternoon for about an hour. Even Fire Station 2 was evacuated for a time until the transfer was achieved.
Since it opened in 2006, BCS Market has been closed three previous times and now requires three inspections a year. In addition to the pesticide, the current closure was for food storage problems including rotten and moldy products, insect and rodent activity and cross-contamination problems.
The market remained closed on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the source of the April E. coli outbreak is continuing by both the Brazos County Health Department and the Region 7 offices of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Ten illnesses, five confirmed and five probable, are attributed to the outbreak. The adults have recovered but two College Station boys are still at Children’s Hosptial in Houston. Both suffered from HUS, a complication of E. coli infection that affects the kidneys, but their conditions have been upgraded to fair.
During a nationwide teleconference on Monday Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged “strict market supervision and harsh penalties” to improve food safety and assure costumers that something like the melamine milk scandal will never happen again.
“Perpetrators must pay such a high price that they can not afford,” said Keqiang, according to official news outlet Xinhua. The comments come on the heels of yet another string of food-related scandals in China.
Despite several widespread crackdowns and mandating harsher sentences, including the death penalty in some cases, shocking accounts of fraud and adulteration keep cropping up on nearly a weekly basis. The latest uproar started this month when Chinese authorities busted a crime ring that sold more than $1 million of meat labeled as lamb that was actually rat, fox and mink.
The news came as the government announced that authorities had arrested 904 suspects in a recent food safety enforcement campaign; 63 of those individuals were arrested in connection to the rat meat scandal, which authorities said had been operating since 2009.
The report was supposed to assuage fears by illustrating that the government was taking action, but instead the news has sparked more outrage over the state of food safety in China.
Police in Zhejiang posted a detailed photo guide to identifying fake mutton on Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging site similar to Twitter, to help consumers identify the fraud on their own.
“All those times I went to get hotpot, turns out most of the time what I was eating was rat meat,” responded one microblogger, with a vomiting emoticon in their message, according to a report by a Wall Street Journal blogger in China.
While the rat meat scandal garnered major international news coverage for its shock value – and because it looked like it might be linked to fast food giant Yum Brands – there are lots of other food safety issues causing Chinese consumers to worry.
During their recent three month enforcement effort, Chinese authorities said they uncovered 382 cases involving just meat-related offenses and seized more than 20,000 tons (or more than 40 million pounds) of illegal products. Crimes included injecting meat with water, using illegal chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, and selling meat that was from diseased animals or altogether fake.
In the past two months, fears over H7N9 have negatively impacted poultry consumption in some areas of China, even as health authorities assure consumers cooked poultry is not a vector for influenza, and 16,000 dead pigs found in rivers near Shanghai, including one that provides drinking water to the city of more than 23 million. Local health officials assured residents that their drinking water remained safe, but social media was ablaze with concern about the water.
“The police are now focusing on crimes involving dairy products,” Chinese media reported two weeks ago. “There are some deep-seated food safety problems which have not yet been solved.”
Too many repeat violations are occurring at federally inspected pig slaughter plants, and the problem lies with inadequate enforcement, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General. The IG‘s conclusion is found in a recently released audit report on USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) inspection and enforcement activities at the nation’s swine slaughter plants.
“FSIS’ enforcement policies do not deter swine slaughter plants from becoming repeat violators of food safety regulations,” the IG report says. During a three-year period ending with 2011, the IG said FSIS issued 44,128 noncompliance records (NRs), but only 28 of the nation’s 616 swine plants ever faced suspension.
NRs are citations for violations of sanitation regulations. “Mission-critical” violations are suppose to be entered into the FSIS monitoring system known as the Public Health Information System (PHIS) and subject to more aggressive enforcement by district offices.
From issuing NRs, inspectors in swine slaughter plants are charged with taking regulatory control with such actions as retaining product, rejecting equipment or facilities and slowing or stopping the lines to take immediate corrective action.
Following regulatory control, FSIS district offices are empowered to suspend, withhold the mark of inspection or even withdraw inspectors from the plant. But the IG says suspensions are rare and in the four-year scope of its investigation, no withholding or withdrawing actions were ever taken.
“For the few plants that were suspended, the suspensions only briefly interrupted plant activity,” says the IG report.
The audit found that even when a pattern of NRs were linked by the PHIS and the number of repeat violations were high, FSIS officials “did not feel a need to pursue progressively stronger enforcement action” if there was no immediate public health risk.
“We disagree with this practice because the plants repeated the same serious violations with little or no consequence,” the IG report says. Examples cited included:
- A South Carolina plant that slaughtered 2,700 swine per day with violations that included 43 NRs for pests, such as cockroaches, on the kill floor.
- A Nebraska plant that slaughtered 10,600 swine per day with 607 NRs, including 214 repeats, among them 50 for contaminated carcasses with “fecal material which was yellow (and) fibrous.”
- An Illinois plant that slaughters 19,500 swine per day with 532 NRs and 139, or 26 percent of them, including repeats for “fecal matter and abscesses on carcasses…”
“Since microbiological tests are performed only on a sample of carcasses (whereas visual and manual inspections are required on all carcasses), we questions whether this is a better measure for food safety due to its limited use,” the IG report says.
Further, the IG says FSIS does not distinguish between serious violations and minor infractions in its NRs. It points out how an NR for a document dating error and an NR for fibrous fecal material on a carcass are now given equal weight.
FSIS Administrator Al Almanza responded to the 11 recommendations from the IG largely by agreeing with them and outlining a work program for accomplishing them.
For example, the IG recommends progressively stronger enforcement actions against plants with serious or repetitive violations. Almanza said the agency will take stronger enforcement actions based on Food Safety Assessments by Jan. 1, 2014.
The IG also recommended that FSIS come up with a system to classify all food safety NRs, and the FSIS administrator is promising to implement such a system on PHIS, also by Jan. 1, 2014.
Also getting attention in the IG report was FSIS’ pilot program, known as the HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for swine. HIMP for swine is limited to five large plants, but the IG said three of those five plants made the top ten for NRs.
“In the 15 years since the program’s inception, FSIS did not critically assess whether the new inspection process had measurably improved food safety at swine HIMP plants—a key goal of the HIMP program.”
FSIS has promised a complete evaluation of the HIMP hog program by March 31, 2014.
The IG’s findings on the HIMP in swine were quickly embraced by opponents of the program. Food & Water Watch said the report identified “major deficiencies” in HIMP, which it calls an ill-conceived privatization scheme. In addition to F&WW, unions representing meat inspectors oppose HIMP in both poultry and swine plants.
F&WW claims FSIS has spent $141 million on the PHIS system, which still has implementation problems.
Health experts have long promoted one simple, consistent message when it comes to salt intake: cut back. Now, a review from the Institute of Medicine suggests that a diet too low in sodium may actually be unhealthy for those at risk for heart problems.
This conclusion was drawn by a committee designated by IOM tasked with reviewing existing research on the effects of sodium intake.
After analyzing 39 studies that fit its criteria for review, the committee found that drawing any sort of conclusion about the impact of a low-sodium diet was difficult given the wide range of methodologies used in each study.
Despite this variability, the committee said the current body of evidence still shows a positive relationship between salt intake and heart disease. And while the authors were unable to draw a conclusion about the effects of low levels of salt (less than 2,300 mg per day) on the general population, they did find convincing evidence that low sodium intake could lead to adverse effects in patients with mid- to late- stage congestive heart failure.
“The evidence on health outcomes is not consistent with efforts that encourage lowerng of dietary sodium in the general population to 1,500 mg/day,” conclude the authors. “Further research may shed more light on the association between lower—1,500 to 2,300 mg—levels of sodium and health outcomes.”
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued by the federal government, recommend limiting daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg for the general population. For those at a higher risk for heart disease, including people over age 51, African Americans and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the Guidelines recommend consuming 1,500 mg or less per day.
But according to the IOM report, this latter recommendation is not backed up by research.
Consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public interest greeted the study with concern, saying it takes the focus off of the main concern for most consumers: high salt intake.
“What the committee failed to emphasize is that most Americans are deep in the red zone, consuming 3,500 to 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day,” said CSPI Nutrition Director Bonnie Liebman. “It’s clear that those excessive levels increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Whether we aim for 2,300 or 1,500 milligrams a day is irrelevant until we move down out of the red zone.”
“The committee was boxed in by a narrow charge to examine only studies that looked at hard endpoints like heart attacks and strokes,” continuted Liebman. “Because of flaws in those studies, the committee did not conclude that low sodium intakes are harmful.”
The salt industry, on the other hand, praised IOM for considering the other side of the salt coin.
“We are pleased to see that the IOM report has recognized that lowering sodium intake too much may actually increase a person’s risk of some health problems, said Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute, in a statement Tuesday. “IOM’s recommendation that more study is needed is a positive first step toward a more objective dialog about the complex effects of sodium reduction on overall health.”
“There is no scientific justification for population-wide sodium reduction to such low levels and the recognition by the IOM experts that such low levels may cause harm may help steer overzealous organizations away from reckless recommendations,” said Salt Institute Vice President of Science and Research Mort Satin.
The full report is available for download here.
After a 40-year absence, enemies lists are making a comeback in Washington D.C. The ordinarily mild-mannered Center for Food Safety (CFS) Tuesday put out a list of what it called “food industry front groups” that it charged with being guilty of deceptive practices.
“Front groups like these have long served as an industry tool to delude and deceive the public, and to avoid much-needed government regulation,” said CFS Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell. He said the list demonstrates “largely hidden industry influence.”
The report that goes with the list says tactics practiced by the “front groups” commonly involve phony grassroots efforts, name calling, buying science and scaremongering. It blames such front group tactics for the loss in California last fall of Proposition 37 to require labeling genetically modified food.
The groups CFS doesn’t like much include established and newly formed organizations and apparently any scientific institute associated with a food manufacturer. There’s been no reaction yet from any of those who made the list. Thier names by the category assigned by CFS follow:
Scientific Institutes of Food Manufacturers
Publishing lists of one’s enemies fell out favor 40 years ago after President Nixon, a devotee of the practice, resigned from office. It resurfaced only recently when the IRS admitted it began harassing U.S. conservative groups in 2011.