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Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

Kruse wants court to subpoena Blue Bell; seeks to postpone trial until Nov. 8

13 hours 20 min ago

The trial date in the United States of America v. Paul Kruse has, for a second time, been postponed. Now it is set for Nov. 8. Pre-trial work in the criminal case is getting interesting.

The 66-year old Kruse, Blue Bell’s retired CEO, is charged with six counts of conspiracy and fraud linked to a deadly 2015  listeria outbreak involving the company’s ice cream products.

Kruse is a resident of Brenham, TX, where Blue Bell Creameries is headquartered. It’s about 90 miles east of Austin.

Chris Flood and John D. Cline, defense attorneys for Kruse, have asked the federal court to issue a subpoena duces tecum to Blue Bell Creameries with a pretrial return date of June 4, 2021. A subpoena duces tecum is a type of subpoena issued by a court that requires a party to produce certain requested documents. This type of subpoena is issued before trial as parties to a lawsuit gather information to be used in evidence.

Flood and Cline, with a sign-off from the government’s attorney Matthew J. Lash, make these points:

  •  The indictment charges a conspiracy and substantive offenses spanning the period Feb. 13, 2015, through April 20, 2015. During roughly half that period — from mid-March 2015 through, and after, April 20, 2015 — Blue Bell management, including then-CEO Kruse, obtained and relied upon legal advice from Hogan Lovells, a global law firm with considerable expertise in FDA matters. 
  •  Kruse intends to present evidence at trial concerning the advice Blue Bell received from Hogan Lovells. Kruse submits that this evidence is critical to his defense because it will tend to negate the intent to defraud that is an element of each of the charges against him. 
  • During the investigative stage of this case, Blue Bell withheld most, if not all, communications between Hogan Lovells and Blue Bell management during the mid-March 2015 through April 20, 2015, period based on the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine. Blue Bell, through counsel, has similarly declined to provide documents reflecting those communications to Kruse or his counsel. Kruse, therefore, intends to subpoena the documents. 
  • The attorneys expect Blue Bell to move to quash the subpoena based on the attorney-client privilege, the attorney work-product doctrine, and perhaps other grounds. Blue Bell’s anticipated motion to quash will likely require the Court to determine, among other potential issues, whether the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine are properly asserted, whether the protections of those privileges have been waived or otherwise lost, and whether Kruse’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to compel the production of evidence for his defense overcomes any valid privilege Blue Bell asserts for the documents. These are complex issues that will require thorough briefing and, potentially, in camera review of the subpoenaed documents by the court. 
  • Rule 17(c)(1) authorizes the court to “direct the witness to produce the designated items in court before trial or before they are to be offered in evidence.” To ensure adequate time before trial to litigate the issues outlined above and for the parties to review any documents the court orders produced, Kruse asks that the court authorize him to set a pretrial return date of June 4, 2021. If the court authorizes the pretrial return date, Kruse will serve the subpoena promptly on Blue Bell. 
  •  Matthew J. Lash, Assistant Director of the Consumer Protection Branch of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, has advised undersigned counsel that the United States does not oppose Kruse’s request for a pretrial return date for Rule 17(c) subpoena to Blue Bell. The United States takes no position at this time on the merits of the subpoena or any motion to quash.
  • For the foregoing reasons, Kruse asked the court to authorize him to set a pretrial return date of June 4, 2021, for this Rule 17(c) subpoena to Blue Bell. 

In May 2020, the company pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 

The subpoena duces tecum to Blue Bell is not the only pre-trial business that could get complicated. It expects to issue “one or more” to third parties.   

And lawyers for the defense and the government say the pre-trial is going to include “voluminous and ongoing discovery, the need to retain  experts and — potentially — litigate the scope of their testimony and the possibility of motion practice involving Rule 17(c) subpoenas.”

Discovery has so far produced 880,000 pages of material, including 58,800 pages that the government turned over to the defense as recently as Feb. 21.

Both sides anticipate using third-party experts at trial, which could require so-called Daubert hearings on the admissibility of such expert witness testimony. Such hearings can be held before and during trial.

The jury trial was to have started on July 26, 2021. However, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman signed off on the latest delay.  He found the additional time is in the best interest of both the public and the defendant.

The defense and the government have agreed to jointly work on filling out the calendar for pre-trial motions, disclosures by the prosecution and defense, proposed jury instructions, jury selection questions, and other pretrial matters.

It will be somewhat ironic if Blue Bell is drawn back into the case via the subpoena duces tecum. It paid  $19.35 million in fines, forfeiture, and civil settlement payments — the second-largest amount ever paid in resolution of a food safety matter — to put the matter behind the company once and for all.

The company pleaded guilty in a related case in May to two counts of distributing adulterated food products in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It agreed to pay criminal penalties totaling $17.5 million and $2.1 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations regarding ice cream products manufactured under unsanitary conditions and sold to federal facilities, including the military.

Charges against Blue Bell, and separately against Kruse, are associated with a 2015 listeria outbreak, in which  Blue Bell brand products were the source. A total of 10 people with listeriosis related to the outbreak were reported from four states: Arizona with 1, Kansas with 5, Oklahoma with 1, and Texas with 3.

All were hospitalized and three from Kansas died.

On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all of its products on the market at that point that had made at all of its facilities, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. It also closed its production facilities in four states.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the critical findings from recent inspections at the Blue Bell production facilities on May 7, 2015.

Listeriosis is a life-threatening infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium, commonly referred to as a germ, Listeria monocytogenes. People at high risk for listeriosis include pregnant women and newborns, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.

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Nine countries part of Salmonella outbreak linked to raw, frozen poultry products

13 hours 23 min ago

Nearly 200 people in eight European countries and the United Kingdom are involved in a Salmonella outbreak ongoing since May 2018.

Salmonella Enteritidis infections have been linked to frozen breaded chicken products from Poland with the most recent illness in the UK in December 2020.

Denmark has two infections, Finland has four, France has 33, Germany has six, Ireland has 12, the Netherlands has three, Poland has five, Sweden has six, and the United Kingdom has 122. One probable case was reported in Canada in 2019 but that person had travelled to Europe during the exposure period.

Mainly children ill
One in five people have been hospitalized and an 86-year-old woman died in France. Half of those sick are children younger than 18 years old. Three-fourths of patients are  younger than 45 years old.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment only covers one Salmonella Enteritidis sequence type. DG SANTE sent EFSA a request for the work on Oct. 30, 2020. It was originally planned to be published at the end of January but was postponed for one month because of the “multiple and complex” details with validation taking longer than anticipated.

Since January 2020, officials in the UK have recorded 480 salmonellosis patients infected by two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to frozen, raw, breaded chicken products.

In June 2020, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Public Health Scotland reported a cluster of 65 Salmonella Enteritidis cases, with sample dates ranging from September 2018 to May 2020. Patients were nationally distributed; 54 percent were male and the age range was a few months to 87 years old.

In 2018, eight infections were reported in the UK and nine in France. In 2019, the number increased to 45, involving six countries. Patient numbers peaked in 2020, with 131 reported by eight countries, according to the EFSA and ECDC assessment.

Among 74 patients interviewed in six countries, 64 reported consumption of chicken in some form including in restaurants, at home and at school during the week before illness. Chicken was eaten freshly-made, as breaded products, in the form of burgers, kebabs, salads and sandwiches. Specific types mentioned include nuggets, goujons, Kiev, drumsticks, thighs, wings, breast fillets, poppers, and skewers.

Product testing findings
During investigations in Germany, France and the UK, isolates of Salmonella Enteritidis matching the outbreak strain were detected. They were identified in poultry products sampled in 2018 and 2020. These items were not ready-to-eat (RTE) and were intended to be cooked prior to consumption.

Five batches of non-RTE poultry products tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis matching the outbreak strain. Three of these were manufactured by a Polish processing company where Salmonella Enteritidis was not detected in products or the environment. The five positive batches were traced back to different meat suppliers, slaughterhouses, and farms in Poland. Some of these farms had positives for Salmonella Enteritidis in 2020.

As part of investigations in the UK, different Salmonella Enteritidis strains behind other outbreaks have been isolated in poultry products traced back to the Polish processing company. Other Salmonella serotypes such as Infantis, Newport and Livingstone, as well as Campylobacter, have also been isolated in chicken from this firm. The company has introduced full thermal treatment of poultry products.

As the implicated products are frozen and have a long shelf-life plus a lack of identification of the origin of contamination, there is a risk that new infections may emerge with the outbreak strain, said EFSA and ECDC.

“Given that several Salmonella Enteritidis strains other than the outbreak strain and other Salmonella serotypes have been identified in the tested chicken products, these may constitute a recurrent risk for human Salmonella infections in Europe and the UK. The risk of infection is reduced at consumer level if the food label instructions regarding cooking (thermal treatment) and expiry dates are followed properly.”

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New study predicts food irradiation market growth over coming years

13 hours 26 min ago

An intelligence report published by Advance Market Analytics details insights about the potential future of food irradiation around the world, pointing to food safety among the benefits.

United States companies will contribute to the maximum growth of the global food irradiation market throughout the predicted period of 2021-2026, according to the report “Food Irradiation Market Outlook to 2026.”

Food irradiation — the application of ionizing radiation to food — is an ideal food safety practice because it does not make foods radioactive, compromise nutritional quality, or noticeably change the taste, texture, or appearance of them according to food safety experts in the United States and around the world. The process is mandatory for some foods imported to the United States. Some U.S. companies irradiate their raw ground beef.

Food irradiation improves the safety and extends the shelf life of foods by reducing or eliminating microorganisms and insects. Like pasteurizing milk, irradiation can make food safer for the consumer according to the study. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating the sources of radiation that are used to irradiate food. The FDA approves a source of radiation for use on foods only after it has determined that irradiating the food is safe.

With food irradiation, pathogens such as Salmonella or E. coli can be eliminated. In addition to this, food irradiation reduces the need for other pest controls which can harm food. This process has been widely accepted to maintain the quality of the food. These benefits are increasing the market growth, the researchers reported.

A thorough analysis of these factors including economic slowdown, local and global reforms and COVID-19 impact were conducted to determine future growth prospects in the global market. The report provides a detailed overview of key factors in the food irradiation market and factors such as driver, restraint, past and current trends, regulatory scenarios and technology development.

Overview of insights:

Market Drivers

  • Increasing concerns of food safety are contributing to the market growth. There have been increasing foodborne diseases that are caused through contamination. In addition, there has been increasing consumption of meat and raw food that can be protected from microorganisms through food irradiation. These factors are fueling the food irradiation market.

Market Trend

  • There is rising usage of irradiation in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Restraints

  • There is a lack of awareness about food irradiation that may hamper the market growth.

Opportunities

  • There is increasing consumption of raw foods, such as lettuce and spinach.

Challenges

  • There is a reluctance of some individuals to use the technology.

Major Players

  • Food Technology Service Inc. (United States), Sterigenics International Inc. (United States), IONISOS SA (France), ScanTech Sciences Inc. (United States), GRAY STAR Inc. (United States), REVISES Services (United Kingdom), STERIS Isomedix Services (United States), MDS Nordion (Canada), and SADEX Corp. (United States).

The full report can be found here.

Interested in learning more about food irradiation?
IBA, Aerial and Bühler have organized an online symposium fully dedicated to food irradiation. The International Food Irradiation Symposium (IFIS) is scheduled to run online March 9-11. Live sessions have been scheduled between 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central Europe Time (GMT+2) and all sessions will be available online for replay less than one hour after the ending of the session.

The symposium will feature six different modules:

Food Irradiation

  • An update on the current uses of food irradiation, from America to Asia and Australia through Europe.

Regulations

  • A review of the different legislations, by continent. With a specific focus on the European situation.

Food Quality

  • Impact of irradiation on food quality: Positive and non-desired effects for various applications corresponding to different levels of doses — phytosanitary, decontamination, and sterilization.

Dosimetry

  • Dose mappings, Monte-Carlo simulations and practical examples.

Technical Solutions

  • An overview of the different irradiation modalities and their respective applications including review of low energy electrons, high energy electrons, and photons.

Workshops

  • 3 practical workshops to follow a food product along the different steps of irradiation, dosimetry, physico-chemical and nutritional analysis in labs.

For more information or to register for IFIS, visit their website.

About AMA: Advance Market Analytics works in the Market Research Industry. It provides quantified B2B research to Fortune 500 companies on high growth emerging opportunities that will impact more than 80 percent of worldwide companies’ revenues.

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Investigators still looking for source of outbreak of E. coli infections in Austria

13 hours 26 min ago

Austrian authorities are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections that has affected a handful of people.

Between September and December 2020, six people fell ill with infections from E. coli O146:H28. Those sick live in five federal states. Two people needed hospital treatment.

As yet, there is no indication as to the source of the outbreak, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). It is understood other countries in Europe have not reported related infections.

The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) has instructed AGES to investigate the outbreak with the relevant state authorities.

Austrian food testing in 2018 found E. coli O146 in three samples of fresh game meat and one sample of fermented sausage. In 2017, four isolates were typed as E. coli O146 from two samples of raw meat from wild ruminants, fresh bovine meat and a fermented sausage.

The latest Zoonoses Report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows E. coli O146 was the fifth most frequent serogroup reported in confirmed human infections in 2018.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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Study looks at USA outbreaks of foodborne Salmonella Enteritidis from 1990-2015

February 25, 2021 - 12:05am

A Michigan team of researchers has published “Outbreaks of Foodborne Salmonella Enteritidis in The United States 1990-2015: Epidemiologic and Spatial-temporal Trends Analyses” in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. The 37-page report is posted in the Journal’s February issue.

Results, according to the abstract, “found that egg-based dishes were the most common food vehicle reported in SE outbreaks at 273 (24 percent), followed by other implicated food items of meat 130 (11 percent); vegetables 96 (8 percent); chicken items 95 (8 percent); dairy products 55 (5 percent); and bakery items 8 (1 percent) in the United States.

Compared to egg-based dishes, other food items such as meat, chicken, vegetables and dairy items have significantly contributed to SE outbreaks during the 15 year study period.

Of 1,144 SE outbreaks, 402 (35 percent) occurred in the Northeast region, followed by the South region at 253 (22 percent); West region 250 (22 percent); and the Midwestern region 239 (21 percent).

The study team of Azam Ali Sher, Bahar E. Mustafa, Sue C. Grady, Joseph C. Gardiner, and A. Mahdi Saeed includes four authors from Michigan State University with one researcher from the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad, Pakistan. They’ve focused on epidemiological and spatiotemporal trends analyses attributed significant proportions of the foodborne Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks to food vehicles other than eggs.

They say the results of their study can be used to plan effective strategies to mitigate the increasing occurrence of foodborne SE outbreaks. Among the findings:

• Meats and vegetable-based in addition to egg-based food items underly Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) outbreaks in the USA.

• Special food regulations and precautions should be implemented to prevent foodborne SE infections in the summer season.

• Besides restaurants, there is a timely need for public education to reduce SE infections in homes or private residences.

• Active disease surveillance should be enhanced to mitigate the increasing burden of SE infections in the country.

The study objective was to assess the roles of eggs and other food vehicles as risk factors associated with Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks aiming to address the endemicity of SE infection in the United States.

The researchers retrieved and analyzed the data of all SE outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 1990 to 2015. Descriptive and analytical statistical methods including negative binomial regression models for rate-ratios estimation were used.

The International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID) is published monthly by International Society for Infectious Diseases. IJID is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal and publishes original clinical and laboratory-based research, together with reports of clinical trials, reviews, and some case reports dealing with the epidemiology, clinical diagnosis, treatment, and control of infectious diseases with particular emphasis placed on those diseases that are most common in under-resourced countries.

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EU extends changes to control rules again because of COVID-19

February 25, 2021 - 12:04am

Temporary rules covering official controls in Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic have been extended for the fourth time. The implementing regulation covers a variety of activities to ensure food and feed law, as well as rules on animal health and welfare and plant health and protection products.

The controls initially came into force in March 2020 and will now last until July 2021. Official controls are done by authorities in EU countries to verify business compliance with legislation.

Member states told the Commission that because of the crisis linked to COVID-19 there are “serious disruptions” in the functioning of their control systems. There are also difficulties to perform official controls and other tasks on certificates and attestations with respect to movements of animals and goods into and within the EU and problems organizing physical meetings with operators and their staff.

Interim changes
The temporary rules were originally planned to end in June 2020, but that was extended to August, then to October 2020, and again in February. The termination is now set for July this year.

It was previously disclosed that 19 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden had taken up the measures to contain risks to human, animal and plant health and animal welfare. They include remote official controls and scanned or electronic documents being accepted for some commodities.

Issues included the clinical examination of animals, certain checks on products of animal origin, plant products and on food and feed of non-animal origin, and testing of samples in official laboratories.

The latest update reintroduces the option to allow people authorized by national authorities to perform official controls and other such tasks. They must follow instructions given by the authority, act impartially and not have any conflicts of interest.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) previously said the flexibility for member states to carry out food checks has included the possibility, under certain conditions, to have staff working for a food business to perform the controls.

“While the need for exceptional, temporary measures may arise in times of crisis, transparent communication and information is needed on the concrete effects of any derogations on the ground. Moreover, it is essential to ensure that any exceptional arrangements last for no longer than necessary and do not put food safety and consumer health at risk,” according to officials.

Online food offers relating to COVID-19
Meanwhile, the EU Commission has updated findings from an operation on online offers and advertising of food related to COVID-19.

National authorities observed that more products sold via the internet are being advertised as being able to cure or prevent infection by coronavirus. This claim is not supported by scientific evidence.

Notified national and cross border cases have hardly changed since there recent update in December 2020 with the number of notifications recently going down. As of Feb. 12, there are 539 national patients and 85 cross-border ones.

The operation began in April this past year and the way forward will be discussed with member states in the coming weeks with it planned to end in spring this year.

Action has now been taken in almost 500 cases, with this being in co-operation with e-commerce platforms on nearly 100 occasions. The number of ongoing investigations has fallen from about 300 to 150.

The main outcomes are the offer being taken down or the health claims removed or changed, but injunctions and fines have been issued.

Italy has been involved in more than 200 reports, with Germany’s 61 the next highest followed by Netherlands, France and Czech Republic. Dietetic foods, supplements and fortified foods is the main product category with 585 alerts, while only a handful relate to cocoa preparations, coffee and tea; herbs and spices; honey and royal jelly; or fats and oils.

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Researchers find connection between meat-production chain contamination and UTIs

February 25, 2021 - 12:03am

Researchers have found epidemiologic and genomic evidence that the meat-production chain is a possible major source of Staphylococcus saprophyticus causing human urinary tract infections.

The study titled, “Foodborne Origin and Local and Global Spread of S. saprophyticus Causing Human Urinary Tract Infections,” provides insight into the origin, transmission, and population structure of pathogenic S. saprophyticus and identifies possible new virulence factors.

S. saprophyticus is a Gram-positive bacterium that is a common cause of urinary tract infections, especially in young females. It is also found in pigs and cows and may be a source of human gut colonization and human S. saprophyticus infection through transferred contamination of meat by the meat-processing chain.  S. saprophyticus UTIs have a  greater successful treatment rate than  Escherichia coli UTIs, but they also have a  higher recurrent infection frequency. Rare complications of S. saprophyticus UTI include acute pyelonephritis, nephrolithiasis, and endocarditis.

The researchers, led by  Opeyemi U. Lawal a postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto de Tecnologia Quimica e Biologica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (ITQB-NOVA), Oeiras, Portugal, conducted a phylogenomic analysis of 321 S. saprophyticus isolates collected from human UTIs worldwide during 1997–2017 and 232 isolates from human UTIs and the pig-processing chain in a confined region during 2016–2017. 

The study used phenotypic, genomic, and pangenome-wide association study (pan-GWAS) approaches to characterize S. saprophyticus both globally and locally. In addition, the researchers identified adaptive features that drive S. saprophyticus evolution, defined the S. saprophyticus population structure, investigated dissemination routes and identified new pathogenicity factors.

The full study can be found here.

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Studies highlight outbreaks in India and Philippines

February 25, 2021 - 12:02am

Three studies have been published describing water and foodborne outbreaks in India and the Philippines.

The articles, in a supplement of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, involve Salmonella, Hepatitis A and suspected anthrax. They are accepted conference abstracts that were to be presented at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases in September 2020 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The first is an outbreak of ceftriaxone-resistant Salmonella Typhi attributed to eating chicken at a hotel in Tiruchirappalli, India in 2018.

Link to hotel
In May 2018, India’s National Centre for Disease Control’s antimicrobial resistance surveillance network was notified by the Tamil Nadu State Surveillance Unit about ceftriaxone-resistant Salmonella Typhi cases in Tiruchirappalli city, central Tamil Nadu.

Researchers defined a case as occurrence of culture positive Salmonella Typhi with ceftriaxone-resistance in a resident of Tiruchirappalli city, during January to June 2018. They were identified by reviewing records of hospitals and laboratories.

Based on descriptive epidemiology and a few patient interviews, scientists hypothesized that eating at a hotel could be a potential exposure and tested this with a case-control study. A second such study was done to identify the food caused the outbreak.

Seven of 51 typhoid case-patients had ceftriaxone-resistance. The age range was 12 to 42 years old and five were men. All seven had fever and hospital stays ranged from four to 23 days.

Five of the seven cases reported eating food at a hotel prior to illness. Incidence of ceftriaxone-resistant typhoid was higher among patients who ate at this hotel than controls. Incidence of ceftriaxone-resistant typhoid were higher among cases who ate chicken gravy at the hotel than controls. Food handlers did not have typhoid carrier status.

“The cluster of ceftriaxone-resistant Salmonella Typhi was due to eating chicken gravy at a hotel in central Tamil Nadu. We recommended proper processing of chicken and continuing surveillance for ceftriaxone-resistance,” said researchers.

Hepatitis A infections
The second study reported a Hepatitis A outbreak with Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Poona infection in south India. The outbreak of Hepatitis A with salmonellosis occurred in an urban settlement of Vellore, India between July and August 2019.

In June 2019, researchers observed clustering of jaundice cases in a pre-established cohort, and conducted an outbreak investigation, interviewing children and adults, from clusters of identified cases.

Between April and August 2019, they identified 58 cases of jaundice. Of these, 57 were children younger than age of 15, with one aged 19 years old. A total of 24 children with jaundice received a blood culture. Two of the cultures grew Salmonella Typhi, and one Salmonella Poona.

“Our findings highlight that hepatitis A infection can present as sporadic outbreaks in communities with sub-standard water and sewage systems, along with the co-infection of other enteric infections such as invasive salmonellosis,” said researchers.

They also said population-based surveillance for hepatitis A is required in India, to identify people and geographical regions at risk, and potentially plan strategies for vaccination.

Water buffalo meat
Finally, in March 2017, a field investigating team was sent to Cayapa Village, Abra, Philippines because of increasing reports of foodborne illness.

Twenty-nine suspected cases were identified with an age range from 6 to 77 years old and 15 were males. All ate water buffalo meat. Clinical manifestations were abdominal pain, fever and diarrhea. Interviews revealed that a water buffalo was butchered and sold amongst the villagers. All 11 serum specimens and five soil samples were negative for Bacillus anthracis.

Researchers said findings indicate a point source outbreak of gastrointestinal Anthrax.

“Though, bacterial isolation were both negative for human specimen and environmental sample, all clinical manifestations were consistent with Bacillus anthracis rather than other foodborne bacterial pathogens,” they said.

An educational campaign was conducted with information that sick or dead animal by-products should not be sold or eaten and need to be properly handled and disposed of.

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CORE outbreak investigation table provides details about ongoing work

February 25, 2021 - 12:01am

The table below shows outbreak investigations being managed by FDA’s CORE Response Teams. The investigations are in a variety of stages. Some outbreaks have limited information with investigations ongoing, others may be near completion.

The Food and Drug Administration will issue public health advisories for outbreak investigations that have resulted in specific, actionable steps for consumers — such as throwing out or avoiding specific foods — to take to protect themselves, according to the outbreak table page.

Not all recalls and alerts result in an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Outbreak investigations that do not result in specific, actionable steps for consumers may or may not conclusively identify a source or reveal any contributing factors, according to CORE’s outbreak table page. If a sources and/or contributing factors are identified that could inform future prevention, FDA commits to providing a summary of those findings, according to CORE officials.

To use active links represented in this table, please click here to go to the table on the FDA’s website.

Click on the image to go to the FDA page where outbreak links are active.

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More soft cheeses added to concerns linked to Listeria outbreak

February 24, 2021 - 5:45pm

Federal officials have broadened a warning about soft cheese linked to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. The warning now includes all cheese sold under the brand name El Abuelito.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and due to the severity of Listeria infection, the FDA is expanding its warning to include all El Abuelito brand cheeses until more information is known. According to the firm’s website, this includes queso fresco, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, and crema. The FDA is working with the firm to recall any additional products that could be contaminated and has initiated an on-site inspection of the facility,” according to the updated outbreak warning posted by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve any El Abuelito brand cheeses, including, but not limited to, the recalled El Abuelito cheeses listed below. Additionally they should not eat, sell, or serve any recalled Rio Grande and Rio Lindo brand queso fresco cheeses.”

The FDA recommends that anyone who purchased or received any El Abuelito brand cheeses or recalled products use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

The company reports it has ceased production. It’s recall notice says implicated products include El Abuelito, Rio Grande, and Rio Lindo brand queso frescos, distributed to Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. To view photos of the recalled cheese, please click here.

As of the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people have been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain. Nine of them have been so sick they required hospitalization. Patients are spread across five states. The most recent person to be confirmed infected became sick on Feb. 9. There can be a delay of a month or more in the infection testing and reporting process before patients are added to outbreak totals.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any recalled cheese and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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Letter From The Editor: Does the USDA do it?

February 24, 2021 - 12:05am
Opinion

Tom Vilsack is again the Secretary of Agriculture, having won U.S. Senate confirmation in a 92-to-7 vote Tuesday. Sonny Perdue is back home in Georgia playing with his grandchildren. Long live the Secretary of Agriculture, but it’s going to be difficult for some to see much difference with this transition. We are talking about two popular former governors of big farm states with closes ties to big agriculture.   

I’ve been trying to understand this more by closely following this transition, or at least what little of it was carried out in public. I’ve even taken to reading books about transitions. Author Michael Lewis wrote “The Fifth Risk” in 2018 with this little gem:

“There’s a drinking game played by people who have worked at the Department of Agriculture; Does the USDA do it? Someone names an odd function of government (say, shooting fireworks at Canadian geese that flock too near airport runways) and someone else has to guess if the USDA does it. In this case, it does. “

Let me start by saying that I’ve come to agree with the many smarter minds than mine that federal food safety should become the responsibility of a single independent agency more on the style and structure common among our European friends.

Since I’ve been at this desk, there’s been any number of Blue Ribbon reports suggesting such a reorganization. It is not that I’ve disagreed with these reports, it’s that I’ve just looked at the mess we have now with all its structural ties going back to Congress and could not see how the reorganization could be accomplished from a political standpoint.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees and their various subcommittees control about one-fifth of the U.S. economy. At his Feb. 2 confirmation hearing, Vilsack demonstrated masterful command of all that falls under USDA’s empire. It was an amazing performance as each senator pitched the secretary past and present on their own interests and Vilsack knocked them out of the park.

The broad array of subjects goes far beyond what most of us would think of as agriculture. Vilsack showed up ready to talk about anything from the concentration of ethanol or how goes the installation of broadband in rural America. And there’s only going to be more expansion for USDA into other areas. Climate change is next up, putting the day when a farmer can order changes to his weather is probably not that far off.

But there were no questions about food safety, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection service, or the post of Under Secretary for Food Safety. In watching the transition, I learned something that’s been staring me in the face for years.

The Senate Agriculture Committee does not have a subcommittee on food safety.

How is it, you say, that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) with nearly 10,000 meat and poultry inspection personnel with a $1 billion annual payroll is without oversight. And how is it that the Office of Food Safety reports to nowhere.

And might this missing subcommittee be the real reason why that for half the time during the past 25 years the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety seat has been vacant? The Under Secretary for Food Safety is the highest food safety position in the federal government, but more often than not it stands empty. As is the case at this present time.

So, here’s the plan that could work if the food safety community united.   First, we need to persuade the Senate Ag Committee to establish a Subcommittee on Food Safety. During its first year, the Subcommittee on Food Safety would study and recommend a single federal food safety authority.

The timing is ripe. It has always seemed that the world of drug and medical device approvals dominates FDA. The COVID-19 pandemic has only complicated FDA’s role, with vaccine reviews and the like. The CDC and other federal labs are also under strain. Within all that’s gone on,  the spin-off of food safety in line with world models might well ease the burden for FDA and labs.

For the many authors of those Blue Ribbon studies, now would be a good time to update us with your thoughts. I’d like to have a single agency chief with a 10-year term that’s filled with a live human with unimpeachable credentials.

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China records large spike in mushroom poisoning incidents

February 24, 2021 - 12:04am

The amount of mushroom poisonings and the number of people affected doubled this past year in China compared to 2019.

In 2020, the number of investigations reached 676, involving 102 species of poisonous mushrooms, 24 of which were newly recorded in China.

Mushroom poisoning incidents from 24 provincial-level administrative divisions involved 1,719 patients and 25 deaths. In 2019, 276 incidents involved 769 patients and 22 deaths.

In 2020, the number of cases ranged from one to 27, and 14 outbreaks involved more than 10 patients. Most incidents were reported in Hunan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Zhejiang and Sichuan. Of these, 93 patients from 24 incidents had eaten poisonous mushrooms purchased from a market or given by friends; 51 people from 12 outbreaks had been poisoned after eating dried mushrooms; and 404 patients from 131 incidents with seven deaths ate mixed mushrooms. Experts in the China CDC Weekly journal strongly advised people to avoid having mixed wild mushrooms and alcohol.

Main types behind intoxication
There were also more occasions when patients consumed a combination of poisonous mushrooms, which increases difficulty and risk for diagnosis and treatment because of the different symptoms.

Like in 2019, mushroom poisonings occurred in every month but mainly from June to October. There were two peaks in June and September involving 428 and 412 patients, and eight and three deaths, respectively.

The most lethal species of those identified were Lepiota brunneoincarnata with five deaths and Russula subnigricans, and Amanita subpallidorosea with four deaths each. Chlorophyllum molybdites caused the most poisonings, being mentioned in 154 incidents with 304 patients.

Lepiota brunneoincarnata, the most dangerous species in 2020, was responsible for 15 incidents, 29 patients, and five deaths as the lone cause or in combination with other species.

A total of 56 species causing gastroenteritis were identified from intoxications in 2020. Among them, Baorangia major, Chlorophyllum demangei, Entoloma caespitosum, Gymnopus densilamellatus, Lactarius atromarginatus, Lactifluus deceptivus, Micropsalliota furfuracea, Neonothopanus nambi, Pulveroboletus subrufus, Russula rufobasalis, and Tricholoma stans were newly discovered as lethal and were added to the poisonous mushroom list.

Controlling the problem
Another 28 species causing psycho-neurological disorders were linked to incidents including Clitocybe subditopoda, Gyromitra venenata, Mallocybe fulvipes, and Pseudosperma yunnanense, which were new species added to the poisonous mushrooms list.

Gyromitra venenata was discovered in incidents in the Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and were the first reported poisonings because of gyromitrins in China since 2000. The rare poisoning Shiitake mushroom dermatitis was also reported. Hemolysis poisoning caused by Paxillus involutus was recorded for the second time since the beginning of this century, resulting in one death in Inner Mongolia.

Epidemiological investigations, timely and accurate species identification, toxin detection, and appropriate diagnosis and treatment are key to control mushroom poisoning, said researchers.

“The growing number of poisonous mushroom identifications suggests that what we know only a portion of the variety of poisonous mushrooms. Many species need to be formally described and their edibility is not clear,” they said.

“Promoting knowledge about safe consumption of mushrooms is essential to reduce mushroom poisonings. It is not wise to collect and eat wild mushrooms.”

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Irish complaints include hair, snails, moths, stones, live insects in food

February 24, 2021 - 12:02am

Consumer complaints in 2020 included hair in foods, glass in soup and insects and rodent droppings in products, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

In total, 2,772 grievances were handled by the FSAI’s advice line this past year, with 34 percent relating to unfit food and 30 percent to poor hygiene standards.

This was a decrease on the 3,460 complaints in 2019. The reduction largely reflects the impact of COVID-19, where many food service businesses were temporarily closed for long periods throughout the year, according to officials.

Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently recorded in 2020, according to FSAI. These reports included allegations of food containing insects, plastics and other objects.

Examples of complaints included hair reported several times in a number of foods; glass in soup and fried noodles; live insects crawling through rice; and snails in a packet of spinach and a bag of frozen mixed fruits. Small pieces of stone, moths and rodent droppings in food were also mentioned.

Complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises cited live mice and evidence of rodent activity in a café; staff’s lack of personal hygiene, the smell of sewage in food premises; and no hot water for handwashing.

Decline in food poisoning complaints
A total of 937 complaints were about unfit food, 823 on hygiene standards, 100 for incorrect information on food labeling and 78 concerning non-display of allergen information. In 2019, almost 800 complaints were recorded for suspected food poisoning but this fell to just 429 in 2020.

The advice line also handled 7,767 queries from people working in the food service sector, manufacturers, retailers, researchers, distributors and consultants. Some of the main topics were legislation on food labeling requirements, food supplements, requests for FSAI publications, information on Brexit, and food business start-up details.

The impact of COVID-19 and Brexit on food businesses resulted in 720 coronavirus related queries and 569 about the UK leaving the EU from companies.

FSAI previously reported that 42 enforcement orders were given to food businesses this past year compared to 125 in 2019. This was attributed to the impact of the pandemic as firms were closed for part of 2020.

Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, urged businesses to take advantage of the available resources to ensure they are meeting legal requirements.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, our advice line has been a valuable resource for consumers who continued to contact us with complaints about food safety and hygiene in food businesses even with the Level 5 restrictions which resulted in the temporary closures of many food businesses,” she said.

“The consistently high number of complaints shows us that consumers are continuing to grow increasingly aware of their right to safe food, and also the food safety and hygiene standards which should be in place across all food businesses.”

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Dueling inspection systems produce another round of competing data

February 23, 2021 - 12:05am

For the past quarter-century, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has run two options for inspecting hogs. The HACCP-based Inspection Model Project or HIMP evolved into the New Swine   Inspection System or NSIS pilot in 2014. And HIMP, or NSIS,  have grown up alongside traditional hog inspection protocols used for decades.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) produced HIMP as a more flexible, more efficient, fully integrated inspection system for meat and poultry.

“The HIMP system, in contrast with the traditional inspection system, focuses more control for food safety and other consumer protection activities on the establishment with agency personnel focusing on carcass and verification system activities,” a USDA history says.

“FSIS expects this system to yield increased food safety and other benefits to consumers and will permit FSIS to deploy its in-plant resources more effectively.”

During 25 years, the HIMP or NSIS pilots and traditional inspection have produced plenty of data with differing analyses.

The rule for the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) was made final in 2014, but the New Swine Inspection Service (NSIP) did not become final until 2019. Various lawsuits were filed against the final swine rule,  some focused  on the line speed issue, which involves the speed for removing slaughtered animals from the kill room floor

Three activists groups, the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and the Humane Farming Associations are plaintiffs in one of those lawsuits. They’ve turned to the historic tactic of using data for both pilot and traditional inspections to argue that pilot plants have a higher rate of contamination when compared to the traditional ones.

But a North American Meat Institute (NAMI) spokesman says the activities are putting a spin on the data that is “fundamentally flawed and shows they do not understand the basic tasks required of FSIS inspectors in both traditional and NSIS facilities”

Food and Water Watch, for the plaintiffs, conducted an analysis of FS-2 violations for HIMP and traditional establishments.

The consumer advocates conclude there are significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses for the pilot plants than for the traditional ones.

FSIS claims NSIS improves the effectiveness of hog slaughter with better use of agency resources, allowing processors to reconfigure lines and vary speeds.

The Center for Food Safety found the NSIP plants had nearly double the violations of the traditional plants. The NSIP plants were also twice as likely to be cited for contamination, it said.

Such FS-2 violations are for food safety standards involving fecal matter, digestive or ingesta, and milk, all substances that may contain human pathogens including Salmonella. The FSIS has a zero-tolerance policy for  FS-2 violations. No FS -2  violations of carcasses are permitted.

NAMI took exception to an apples and oranges comparison that it claimed is at the heart of the Food and Water Watch analysis. It said NSIP facilities have more inspection tasks than traditional plants and are subject to additional regulations. An inspector in an NSIP plant looks at 24 carcasses versus 12 by the traditional inspector.

“Statistically, if you are performing an offline inspection task for FS-2 violations looking at 24 carcasses, you are likely to find more violations, NAMI said.

Salmonella contamination in pork is responsible for an estimated 69,000 illnesses annually.

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EU countries battling lack of resources for food controls

February 23, 2021 - 12:03am

Many European countries are struggling to perform all their planned checks on businesses because of resource issues, according to a report.

The analysis covers national and EU Commission controls during 2017 and 2018 on food and feed law, animal health and welfare, plant health and protection products, organic farming and quality schemes. Findings are from before the Official Controls Regulation (OCR) came into force in December 2019.

Official controls are done by authorities in EU countries to verify business compliance with legislation. Member states are responsible for running risk-based official controls, which are planned in their multi-annual national control plans (MANCP). Most countries reported that staffing levels, financial and equipment resources were key issues impacting the plans.

Relaxed attitudes to food safety backfire
Information from Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden shows budget cuts resulted in reduced staff levels, sometimes declining further from previous years, and insufficient financial and material resources.

Finland, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain admitted they could not perform all tasks planned in their MANCPs. Malta, Spain and Sweden mentioned difficulties in recruiting qualified staff, a problem that food businesses also faced. In the Czech Republic, France and Netherlands, staff numbers were increased to deal with specific issues such as food fraud and preparation for Brexit.

Improved data analysis, training, use of IT tools and desk-based controls helped improve efficiency of official controls. As did use of whole genome sequencing for analysis of Listeria outbreaks and creation of control networks in specialized sectors such as food additives and flavorings.

There cannot be any complacency toward food safety and all planned control activities need to be implemented, said the EU Commission.

“Relaxed attitudes to food safety always backfire and when they do, it may not only threaten public health but also affect the trust of our citizens as well as our trading partners in the EU food system as a whole,” according to the Commission.

Non-compliances and enforcement
Most non-compliance issues reported by national authorities concerned failures in good hygiene practices, maintenance of infrastructure and operators either failing to perform or register the results of their own checks.

Risks associated with non-compliance situations found during official controls related to loss of traceability and food safety hazards such as allergens, food poisoning and chemical contamination.

Most countries indicated that business operators still lack an understanding of legal requirements. Factors such as a high rotation of workers, difficulties in finding qualified staff and insufficient training contribute to poor implementation of some rules by companies, according to the report. Lower profit margins were also mentioned as an underlying cause of non-compliances. Netherlands said that publishing results of official controls led to a higher level of compliance by food businesses.

Enforcement included verbal and written warnings, seizure and destruction of goods, temporary removal or restriction of approval, fines and referral to court. Finland and Luxemburg restricted operators’ access to financial support. Enforcement in the distribution, sale, labeling and use of pesticides and the labeling of food products for the consumer also remained significant challenges.

Food fraud and online sales as challenges
The fipronil in eggs incident is covered in the reports of Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands and Poland.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Slovenia and the United Kingdom mentioned food fraud and internet sales as posing challenges. Austria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal noted cooperation with other authorities on food fraud had improved in recent years.

DG Sante’s controls on member states found they have the systems in place to ensure implementation of EU requirements but in some countries there are deficiencies in execution of official controls and there was still room for improvement.

Only Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia submitted their 2017 and 2018 reports on time. Some countries were very late with the Commission getting the last report covering 2017 in April 2019 and in June 2020, it had still not received one report for 2018.

All member states said they define the frequency of official controls through risk-based assessments but none described the methodology used. Third-party assessment bodies certify EU food and feed businesses under different private quality assurance schemes. Some nations use information from these programs in their risk assessments. None of the annual reports had information on the effectiveness of official control systems.

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USDA finds no evidence of intentional harm from seed deliveries

February 23, 2021 - 12:02am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn’t found any evidence that someone was deliberately trying to cause harm with unsolicited seed deliveries, according to an investigation report.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) evaluated thousands of reports of seed deliveries from all 50 states that began in July 2020. Many of the seeds were for human food.

APHIS found some of the seeds were sent to the United States unsolicited but others were ordered with people unaware they were coming from a foreign country. Most of the shipments were illegal because they entered the U.S. without a permit or phytosanitary certificate.

“Plants and seeds for planting purchased online from other countries can pose a significant risk to U.S. agriculture and natural resources because they can carry harmful insects and pathogens,” said Osama El-Lissy, plant protection and quarantine program deputy administrator.

Global scale
Officials believe the unordered packages are part of an internet brushing scam. Sellers will often ship inexpensive items to increase transactions. The more transactions a seller completes, the higher their rating and the more likely that their items will appear at the top of search results on an e-commerce site.

Canada, India, Israel, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and Finland were some of the countries affected. Seeds appeared as if they had been shipped from China, Taiwan or Singapore. According to the labels, contents were often listed as jewelry or toys.

In Canada, seeds were from a range of plant species, including tomato, strawberry, rose and citrus, as well as some weed seeds common in the country such as shepherd’s purse and flixweed.

A French investigation found the plant species were common in Europe with no invasive exotic types found. Laboratory analyzes on some of the seeds did not find any regulated pests. The EU Commission is in contact with law enforcement agencies and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) about the issue.

Guidance to help compliance
The Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) reported that traces of genetically modified material were found in seeds studied in Denmark. Analysis in Brazil found live mites, the presence of three different types of fungi and two samples containing bacteria.

In the United States APHIS has been working with e-commerce companies to remove online sellers that illegally import propagative materials, including seeds. The agency has also been trying to ensure these companies, and the sellers who use their platforms, are complying with USDA import regulations.

APHIS is providing additional guidance to help online buyers and sellers comply with U.S. laws when they import seeds and live plants for planting from other countries. The information, available here, will help protect U.S. agriculture infrastructure and natural resources from potential invasive pest and disease threats.

The guidance explains buyer and seller responsibilities; outlines required documents, such as import permits and phytosanitary certificates; gives information on plant and seed species with additional import requirements; and lists which types of plants and seeds are not allowed to be imported into the country.

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Alerts include concerns about seafood, food colorings, sulfites

February 23, 2021 - 12:01am

Editor’s note:
The Food and Drug Administration uses import alerts to enforce U.S. food safety regulations for food from foreign countries. The agency updates and modifies the alerts as needed.

Recent modifications to FDA’s import alerts, as posted by the agency, are listed below. Click on the table to go to the FDA page with links for specific details about various alert modifications.


Click on the table to go to the FDA page with links on individual alerts.

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48.4 tons of ineligible beef from China caught and recalled

February 22, 2021 - 9:27pm

Chino, CA-based GLG Trading Inc. late Monday recalled almost 97,000 pounds of beef tallow products that were imported from the People’s Republic of China, an ineligible country for beef, without the benefit of FSIS import re-inspection, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said.

The following heat-treated shelf-stable Hotpot Seasoning items containing beef tallow are subject to recall:

  • 17.6-oz. vacuum-sealed packages of “Ming Yang Hotpot Seasoning (Slightly spicy).”
  • 17.6-oz. vacuum-sealed packages of “Ming Yang Hotpot Seasoning (Super spicy, Extremely).”
  • 12.07-oz. vacuumed- sealed packages of “Ming Yang Hotpot Seasoning (Medium spicy, Mala).”

The products subject to recall do not bear a Federal mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distributors, retail locations and restaurants in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New York and Texas.

The entry attempt was discovered during verification activities.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions related to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

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U.S. officials say there’s nothing to suggest food or food packaging spread of COVID-19

February 22, 2021 - 12:05am

There is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19,  according to the Department of Agriculture , the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., issued a statement that takes exception to China’s latest contention about the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our confidence in the safety of the U.S. food supply remains steadfast. Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2,” the statement says.

“It’s particularly important to note that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is spread from person to person, unlike foodborne or gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food. While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’s genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of the virus resulting in human infection. Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.

“The USDA and the FDA are sharing this update based upon the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging. For example, a recent opinion from the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) stated: ‘Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to date, there has not been any evidence that food, food packaging or food handling is a source or important transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 resulting in COVID-19.’ Additional literature reviews and analyses from other countries agree.

“In addition, considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans. Furthermore, the transmission has not been attributed to food products or packaging through national and international surveillance systems. Food business operations continue to produce a steady supply of safe food following current Good Manufacturing Practices and preventive controls, focusing on good hygiene practices and keeping workers safe.

Based on the scientific information that continues to be made available over the course of the pandemic, the USDA and FDA continue to be confident in the safety of the food available to American consumers and exported to international customers.

Additional Information:

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Nearly 500 sick as FSA renews breaded chicken warning

February 22, 2021 - 12:03am

Public health officials in the United Kingdom are continuing to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to raw breaded chicken.

From January this year, there have been 480 patients confirmed with salmonellosis caused by two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis and linked to consumption of frozen, raw, breaded chicken products.

The first warning came in October 2020 when almost 400 people were sick, mainly in England but also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Renewed warning
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Public Health England (PHE), Public Health Scotland and Public Health Wales said people need to take care when storing, handling and cooking chicken items at home, such as nuggets, goujons, dippers, poppers and kievs.

Inadequate cooking and cross-contamination in the kitchen during food preparation can lead to salmonellosis.

For patients where information is available, a third have needed hospital treatment and four people have died. It is not known whether Salmonella infection was a contributory factor in the deaths, and one fatality was attributed to COVID-19.

The majority of those sick are aged 16 years old or younger and more males are affected than females.

Ian McWatt, FSS deputy chief executive, said 42 people are sick in the country.

“While the numbers of cases in Scotland related to this outbreak remain relatively low, it is important to remind people that they should always check and follow the cooking instructions on food packaging, as different brands of the same product may have different preparation processes. Ideally, these products need to be handled as other types of raw chicken,” he said.

Further recalls
Two recalls were issued this past week bringing the total to six in connection with the incident. The chicken products are from Poland.

The first action saw SFC recall certain batches of SFC chicken poppets in 190-gram packages with best before dates of Sept. 24 and Oct. 31, 2021, and Feb. 28, 2022, and take home boneless buckets in 650-gram packages with a best before date of Nov. 28, 2021, because Salmonella was found in the products.

The second was Vestey Foods’ recall of Chick Inn 32 jumbo chicken nuggets in 650-gram packages because of Salmonella. The product has a best before of end of January 2022 and was sold at Heron Foods, B&M, and B&M Express stores.

Previous recalls have been conducted by supermarkets Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.

Colin Sullivan, chief operating officer at the FSA, said: “Cooking food at the right temperature and for the correct length of time will ensure that any harmful bacteria are killed.”

The renewed warning was because of the long shelf life of products and the fact that infections caused by these Salmonella strains continue to be recorded, according to the FSA.

Saheer Gharbia, head of the gastrointestinal pathogens unit of PHE’s National Infection Service, said: “Cases continue to be reported, albeit at lower levels than last year, following the control measures taken to date.”

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