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First hearing set for challenge to new WOTUS rule by major private landowners

11 hours 20 min ago

April 5 is the date of the first hearing for the many parties involved in a federal court challenge to a final rule posted this past December from EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers defining the d“waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the 1972 Clean Water Act.

Private landowners represented by several organizations filed a 42-page complaint on Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston. It says the Environmental protection Agency and the Army Corps over-stepped their authority and should have waited for a Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

The plaintiffs include:

  • American Farm Bureau  Federation, 
  • American Petroleum  Institute, 
  • American Road And  Transportation Builders 
  • Association, Associated General 
  • Contractors Of America, 
  • Leading  Builders Of America, 
  • Matagorda  County Farm Bureau, 
  • National  Association Of Home Builders
  • National Association Of  Realtors 
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association 
  • National Corn  Growers Association, 
  • National  Mining Association, 
  • National  Multifamily Housing Council
  • National Pork Producers  Council
  • National Stone, Sand, And Gravel Association 
  • Public Lands Council, 
  • Texas Farm Bureau, 
  • U.S. Poultry And Egg Association

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regn and Lt. General Scott A. Spellmon, chief of engineers, are the named defendants along with their agencies.

“Instead of providing much-needed clarity to the regulated community, however, all the Rule makes clear is that the agencies are determined to exert CWA (Clean Water Act) jurisdiction over a staggering range of dry land and water features — whether large or small; permanent, intermittent, or ephemeral; flowing or stagnant; natural or manmade; interstate or intrastate; and no matter how remote from or lacking in a physical connection to actual navigable waters, the complaint says. “Under the Rule, plaintiffs’ members will constantly be at risk that any sometimes-wet feature on their property will be deemed WOTUS by the Agencies using vague and unpredictable standards — making normal business activities in that area subject to criminal and civil penalties.”

Other points made in the Complaint include the following:

  • The rule  effectively reads the term “navigable waters” out of the CWA, contrary to Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159, 172 (2001) (“SWANCC”), replacing it with a “significantly affect” standard that has no basis in the CWA; 
  • It asserts improperly vague and malleable jurisdiction over features that “alone or in combination with similarly situated waters in the region” “significantly affect” navigable waters, interstate waters, or tributaries, determined by multiple indeterminate factors that provide no practical guidance to the regulated community, 88 Fed. Reg. at 3006; 
  • It asserts improperly vague and malleable jurisdiction over wetlands that are “neighboring” other nebulously defined features, 88 Fed. Reg. at 3143; 
  • The rule  improperly “alters the federal-state framework by permitting federal encroachment upon [the] traditional state power” over land and water (SWANCC, 531 U.S. at 173), which Congress expressly protected, see 33 U.S.C. § 1251(b) (it is “the policy of Congress” “to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, [and] plan the development and use . . . of land and water resources”); 
  • It exceeds the Agencies’ delegated authority under the Commerce Clause, SWANCC, 513 U.S. at 172.

The April 5 hearing by video will be held by federal Magistrate Judge Andrew M. Edison. The court will enter a docket-control order at the video conference. The parties are allowed to begin their discovery work prior to the April 5 video hearing.

The case that EPA would not wait for is Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which the Supreme Court has already held for oral arguments. The high court’s ruling is expected later this term, likely by June.

Chantell and Michael Sackett bought a building lot in a Priest Lake, ID.  subdivision 17 years ago. In preparation for building a house, they were doing some fill work when EPA ordered them to stop, saying the property involved the navigable waters of the United States and they needed a federal permit. When the agency demanded they restore the property to protect the watershed, the couple sued. 

That led to their first Supreme Court case in 2012 when they secured a unanimous decision confirming they indeed did have the right to challenge the EPA’s order in a court of law.

Their second trip to the Suprme Court, the current case, should help clarify the scope of the EPA’s regulatory powers under the CWA and whether EPA can expand the definition of “navigable waters.”

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Imported chicken and salmon show higher contamination, finds UK study

11 hours 22 min ago

According to a study in the United Kingdom, imported chicken and salmon were more likely to be contaminated than domestic products.

Researchers said the work, published in the journal Food Microbiology, demonstrated the diverse pathogens present in various foods of animal and plant origin.

They looked at the prevalence and co-occurrence of E. coli as an indicator organism, Klebsiella, Salmonella, and Vibrio in chicken, pork, shrimp, salmon, and leafy greens. The role of Klebsiella from food as a risk to human health is not known.

Imported frozen chicken was 6.4 times more likely to contain Salmonella than domestic chilled chicken, and imported salmon was 5.5 times more likely to be contaminated with E. coli. Factors linked to the presence of individual bacteria are relevant for food safety risk assessments and the design of surveillance programs, according to the study.

E. coli and Salmonella results
Seasonality was associated with E. coli and Klebsiella contamination in leafy greens, with higher detection in summer and autumn. Scientists said contributing factors might be the growing conditions, water sources, or weather patterns in different growing regions throughout the year.

The odds of Klebsiella contamination were higher in summer in chicken and pork samples. 

Between May 2018 and November 2019, 203 retail outlets were visited in Norfolk, England, and 1,369 food samples were purchased. In total, 311 raw chicken and raw pork, 157 raw salmon, 217 raw shrimp, 62 cooked shrimp, and 311 leafy greens were bought. The method used indicated presence rather than overall bacterial load.

E. coli was detected in the majority of raw chicken and raw pork samples and at a lower frequency in leafy greens, salmon, and shrimp. The odds of detection were higher in imported salmon than in domestic or unlabeled products.

Packs of washed leafy greens had a significantly higher prevalence of E. coli than unlabeled wash status packages but there was no difference between washed and unwashed items.

Salmonella was detected in chicken, pork, and raw shrimp. The frozen chicken was more often contaminated than chilled. All frozen chicken contaminated was imported and packed in the same country by nine suppliers.

Four samples of domestically produced pork were positive for Salmonella. Of the eight raw shrimp positive, seven were black tiger shrimp of which five were from conventional aquaculture.

Vibrio and co-detection
In the seafood tested, raw shrimp mainly were contaminated with Vibrio followed by cooked shrimp and salmon. Contamination of raw shrimp varied between imported and unknown origin with no domestic products sampled.

“The prevalence of Vibrio detected in this study warrants further inclusion of Vibrio as a microbial hazard into food risk assessments, a sentinel species of climate change effects on food systems and public health surveillance systems,” said researchers.

Klebsiella was found in all commodities, most often in washed leafy greens and least often in cooked shrimp. Risk factor analysis did not identify food presentation, store type, or origin of a product for any commodity as associated with its presence.

“The relatively high contamination observed in this study and the possibility of hypervirulent and multidrug-resistant strains in ready-to-eat foods such as leafy greens and other fresh produce warrants further investigation,” said researchers.

More than 30 percent of samples contained at least two target bacteria in chicken, pork, and raw shrimp. Salmonella was always detected with other bacteria, primarily E. coli, and to a lesser extent with other organisms.

The most common co-occurrence was E. coli – Klebsiella. In raw shrimp, the top co-occurrence profiles included Klebsiella – Vibrio and E. coli – Vibrio. Five samples of raw shrimp contained all four tested bacteria.

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FDA to hold webinar on recent draft guidance for industry on lead in baby food

11 hours 23 min ago

The FDA is inviting the public and industry leaders to join a webinar at 1 p.m. EST on March 2 to discuss recent draft guidance on lead action levels for foods intended for children younger than two years of age.

Questions or comments must be submitted by Feb. 9 at the link below.

For those that can’t join live, the webinar will be recorded and posted to the FDA website.

The draft guidance, titled “Action Levels for Lead in Food Intended for Babies and Young Children: Draft Guidance for Industry,” issued in January informs industry on the proposed action levels for lead in a wide range of commercial foods targeted to children younger than two years of age. These draft action levels support the agency’s broader effort to reduce exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury from foods, and advance the FDA’s goals in the Closer to Zero action plan that seeks to eliminate certain heavy metals in baby food.

During the webinar, the FDA will provide an overview of the draft guidance and answer questions.

Featured speakers: 

  • Dr. Susan Mayne, Director, Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition
  • Dr. Conrad Choiniere, Director, Office of Analytics and Outreach,
  • Dr. Paul South, Director, Division of Plant Products and Beverages, Office of Food Safety at the Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition

To register for the webinar and to submit a question or brief comment related to this draft guidance in advance, please visit the registration page

The full draft guidance can be found here.

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FAO to hold a workshop on WGS for developing countries

11 hours 24 min ago

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is to organize a workshop later this year on the use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) for food safety management.

People have until Feb. 17 to apply for a place and FAO will select participants from 10 to 12 low- and middle-income countries.

The event is for government-sector professionals from low- and middle-income countries to discuss the application and integration of WGS into national food safety work.

In many developing countries, the understanding of the benefits and implications concerning the use of genome sequencing in food safety has been low, said FAO.

The UN agency said the COVID-19 pandemic changed the context around the use of genomic sequencing and its usefulness to detect, quantify and analyze microorganisms. Many people, including the general public and policymakers, have become familiar with terms such as the genome, PCR, variants, and sequencing.

A workshop at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy from April 18 to 20 will discuss the needs and practical applications of the technology to improve food safety. The event is in-person and no real-time streaming or online participation is planned.

Practical guidance will support understanding the use of WGS in food safety management, benefits, drawbacks, and challenges for countries with limited capacities and resources.

People have until Feb. 17 to apply for a place and FAO will select participants from 10 to 12 low- and middle-income countries.

Experts named on the scientific panel
Meanwhile, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) has announced its line-up for 2023 to 2027. A total of 93 scientific experts from 33 countries were selected in response to a call for applications in 2022.

The list features 20 people based in the United States including Arie Havelaar, William Burkhardt, Kathleen Gensheimer, Donald Schaffner, John Mark Carter, Clare Narrod, and Todd Callaway.

Members will be considered for JEMRA activities such as meetings, preparation of review papers, and peer reviews, according to the expertise required. They participate as individuals and not as representatives of their countries, governments, employers, or organizations. Experts are required to declare any potential interests associated with the subjects under consideration.

JEMRA provides scientific advice on microbiological hazards including risk management options aimed at improving food safety. 

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Pindjur vegetable spread recalled in Canada over glass in product

February 2, 2023 - 4:07pm

Groupe Phoenicia Inc. is recalling Cedar Phoenicia brand Pindjur Vegetable Spread because of pieces of glass in the product.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the recalled product was sold in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

There is concern that consumers may have the product in their homes because of its long shelf life.

Recalled product:

BrandProductSizeUPCCodesPhoeniciaPindjur Vegetable Spread500 ml0 62356 50221 8Best Before 2024 AU 19L 21231 EU

Consumers and retailers should not use, sell, serve or distribute the affected product.

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Evaluating the food safety risk of online food delivery during the pandemic

February 2, 2023 - 12:06am

World Universities Network researchers have investigated the food safety risk of online food delivery platforms against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in demand for online food delivery services for everything, from groceries to cooked meals around the world, including in the United States. The food safety risk of so much food being delivered this way has gone largely unexplored.

Researchers in Taiwan, however, have investigated the food safety literacy of both consumers and proprietors of online food delivery services during the pandemic in Taiwan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the enforcement of lockdowns and shelter-in-place policies across the world. As a consequence, there was also an increase in the use of online shopping and online food delivery services.

The use of online food delivery services was so widespread, that in Taiwan, about 56 percent of the population has used these services during the pandemic. From fruits and vegetables to snacks and cooked meals, food delivery services offer a wide range of foods to consumers. But along with the improved convenience and access to food, these foods can also prove a risk in case they are undercooked, or if appropriate hygiene and temperature control is not maintained during their transport and preparation.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Hsiu-Ling Chen from National Cheng Kung University, investigated the potential food safety risk of using online food delivery platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan. They performed a cross-sectional study with data on demographic characteristics, habits around the usage of online food delivery services, and food safety literacy from 367 consumers and 122 delivery personnel.

They found that the primary reason for the use of online food delivery platforms was convenience. Reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 and enticing offers and discounts ranked second and third, respectively. They also found that the most commonly ordered foods were hot cooked rice or noodles, hand-shaken beverages, and hot cooked meat. Importantly, the use of online food delivery platforms increased by more than 20 percent after the onset of the pandemic. Moreover, there was an 8.5 percent increase in people who ordered food online 4 to 6 times a week.

“A key finding of our study is that, overall, the food safety literacy of the consumers is very good; however, there is a need to strengthen literacy on meal received temperature and food registration temperature, especially in the 21 to 30 year age group,” says Professor Chen.

From the data from food delivery personnel, the researchers found that about 30 percent of them conducted about 16 to 20 deliveries a day. About half the food delivery personnel used alcohol to clean the food delivery boxes. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was an increase of 18 percent in food delivery personnel who cleaned the boxes 2 to 4 times a day. The findings indicated that the overall food safety literacy of food delivery personnel was very good. However, there were lower scores on knowledge of the temperature of the meals.

The researchers used this information to formulate recommendations to communicate the food safety risk of online food delivery services. The foremost recommendation was for online food delivery companies to incorporate temperature control equipment within their delivery boxes or provide a thermometer to check the temperature of the meal. Another way to maintain the temperatures of the foods would be to separate the hot and cold meals inside the delivery box with a divider. The second recommendation is to improve the quality of leak-proof packaging, as food leakage was one of the most commonly encountered problems with online food delivery services.

“Another way that online food delivery companies can improve food safety is by being transparent about their relevant hygiene certifications with labels. Food delivery personnel can also disclose the delivery conditions of the food,” adds Professor Chen.

In conclusion, this study provides insights into the food safety scenario of online food delivery services in Taiwan, as well as some key recommendations on areas for improvement. 

For more about this study, watch this video, here

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Well-known Seattle restaurant at the center of outbreak investigation

February 2, 2023 - 12:05am

Seattle’s popular Tamarind Tree Vietnamese restaurant plans by the end of 2023 to move from its location of the past 20 years in the Little Saigon district of the International District to a more uptown building on Capitol Hill.

What Tam Nguyen, owner of Tamarind Tree, did not plan on was being at the center of a public health investigation over an outbreak of Shigellosis associated with symptoms reported including diarrhea, cramps, nausea, fever, chills, and vomiting.

Public Health of Seattle and King County reported that as of Jan. 27, 17 people from seven separate meal parties reported becoming ill after eating food from the Tamarind Tree Restaurant. These 17 people ate at this restaurant on January 15, 16, and 17, 2023. None of the restaurant staff have reported illnesses.. 

Environmental Health Investigators from Public Health visited the restaurant on January 24. They observed improper food handling practices, including blocked access to handwashing facilities, improper storage of wiping cloths, risk of cross-contamination, and lack of maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing of food equipment and physical facilities. 

Environmental Health investigators had done a routine inspection on Jan. 18. They observed several risk factors that could contribute to foodborne outbreaks, including bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.

Investigators closed the restaurant during their visit on Jan. 24. The restaurant was required to complete a thorough cleaning and disinfection. 

Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff is not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 48 hours. They also provided education about preventing the spread of gastrointestinal illness — including proper handwashing and preventing bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. 

Five of the seventeen people who became ill tested positive for Shigella. Three of those five have confirmatory testing indicating Shigella sonnei, a species of Shigella. Symptoms among those who did not get tested are suggestive of a Shigella infection. 

 About Shigellosis

  • Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Shigella.
  • Most who are infected with Shigella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Some people may have no symptoms.
  • Illness from Shigella usually resolves in 5 to 7 days but recovered individuals may still spread the bacteria. 
  • Ill people with suspected shigellosis should not work in food handling, patient care, or childcare settings, and ill children with suspected shigellosis should not attend daycare or school until they have seen a healthcare provider and been tested for Shigella infection, even if their illness is mild. Persons with Shigella infection who work in or attend these sensitive settings must be cleared by Public Health before returning.
 Prevention
General advice for reducing the risk of contracting Shigella:
  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing any food or eating.
  2. Wait at least 24 hours after the last episode of vomiting and or diarrhea before preparing any food for others.
  3. Wash hands, cutting boards, and counters used for food preparation immediately after use to avoid cross-contaminating other foods.
  4. Avoid sexual activity with those who have diarrhea or who recently (within the past several weeks) recovered from shigellosis.

It is not known if the outbreak might delay Tamarind Tree’s move to the R Building at 619 E. Pine, planned for late 2023. Nguyen is known for overcoming obstacles. He reached Seatle in 1980 from Saigon with a layover at a Malaysian refugee camp.

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Nordic nations assess seaweed safety

February 2, 2023 - 12:04am

Heavy metals are the main hazard for consumers when eating seaweed harvested in Nordic countries, according to a report.

The report covers the safety of seaweed used as food, with a focus on chemical and microbiological hazards. The main hazards for seaweed harvested in Nordic countries are iodine, cadmium, and inorganic arsenic. Other issues are nickel, lead, and mercury, Bacillus in heat-treated products, kainic acid in dulse seaweed, and allergens.

Experts said levels of heavy metals and iodine vary greatly between and within species and can be affected by age, growing conditions, and processing methods. Data on iodine, cadmium, inorganic arsenic, lead, and mercury in seaweed from different Nordic nations have confirmed the variations.

In 2020, a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers started involving food agencies in Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, and Norway and a report has recently been published.

Need for seaweed-specific rules
The authors of the report called for a common Nordic approach because of differences in tradition, food culture, production methods, seawater quality, and types of seaweed species used. They recommended developing food safety legislation for seaweed, in which it should be classed as a specific group of foodstuffs, with subgroups for different species.

Europe lacks specific rules on food safety for the products. In the EU, there is limited experience in using seaweed, and little is known about the potential risks and benefits to human health when it is consumed. There are also no international standards on seaweed safety, such as Codex guidelines.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published findings on dietary exposure to metals and iodine in seaweed. The highest mean occurrence levels were reported for iodine. For heavy metals, the biggest mean levels were for arsenic, in particular total arsenic but also in a few samples for inorganic arsenic and cadmium. Mean concentrations of mercury in seaweeds were the lowest. The highest levels were reported for brown seaweeds, followed by red and green seaweeds.

In 2022, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report looking at microbiological, chemical, and physical hazards linked to eating seaweed and aquatic plants.

Guidance is needed for producers and public agencies to ensure food safety, facilitate uniform control and trade, and support innovation and growth, according to the Nordic report.

Nordic species are used as ingredients in foodstuffs such as spices, bread, pesto, fish cakes, beverages, and food supplements and as a main ingredient in snacks, crisps, soups, salads, pasta, and smoothies. Imported species nori, kombu, and wakame are used in sushi and other Asian dishes.

Potential hazards identified
Seaweed can be produced by aquaculture or harvested from wild stocks in the sea. It is sold fresh or after processing, such as drying, rinsing, blanching, freezing, and fermentation. Processing methods may alter the risk as it is possible to reduce iodine content. However, some products may still contain high levels after this step.

In general, brown algae have the most iodine content, with the highest levels found in the species sugar kelp, winged kelp, oarweed, and tangle. Red and green algae species have lower levels of iodine, except for the red algae wrack siphon weed. Oarweed can have very high levels of inorganic arsenic, while cadmium is highest in several brown and red algae.

One outbreak in 2019 was caused by Norovirus in frozen wakame seaweed salad from China. The salad was suspected of being the cause of more than 100 cases from at least 11 eateries in different areas of Norway. Microbial contamination may occur when seaweed is harvested from polluted water or after harvest due to factors such as poor handling.

Other issues may include physical hazards such as sand and stones or allergens from seaweed or traces of crustaceans, mollusks, or fish.

Hazards in seaweed in Nordic countries may change in the future, with new data from research, and conditions may be affected by climate change, such as increased sea temperature. New seaweed species may also be introduced to Nordic waters.

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IAFP seeks nominations for Association awards

February 2, 2023 - 12:01am

The leaders of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) are asking for nominations for the association’s annual awards. The deadline for all award nominations is Feb. 14.

The awards will be presented at IAFP’s annual conference, which is set for July 16-19 in Toronto, Canada.

The categories range from the Black Pearl Award — the association’s top award — for corporate excellence in food safety to travel scholarships for food safety students who want to attend the IAFP annual conference.

Those submitting nominations are not required to be an IAFP member for most of the awards. Nominations for all awards, unless otherwise indicated, are due by Feb.14 and can be completed through the IAFP website.

The association encourages its members to apply for travel expense awards for employees of state or provincial health or agricultural departments in North America. There is also an IAFP travel award for food safety professionals in a country with a developing economy to attend the IAFP annual meeting and conference. Student travel scholarship criteria is available on the IAFP students’ page.

2022 Award Recipients can be found here.

Some of the awards scheduled to be presented in 2022 are:

Black Pearl Award

Award showcasing the Black Pearl. Presented in recognition of a company’s outstanding achievement in corporate excellence in food safety and quality. Sponsored by: F&H Food Equipment Company. Fellows Award

Presented to member(s) who have contributed to IAFP and its affiliates with distinction over an extended period of time.

President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Given at the discretion of the IAFP president to recognize an individual who has made a lasting impact on “Advancing Food Safety Worldwide” through a lifetime of professional achievement in food protection.

Honorary Life Membership Award

The Honorary Life Membership Award recognizes IAFP members for their dedication to the high ideals and objectives of the International Association for Food Protection and for their dedicated service to the Association.

Harry Haverland Citation Award

$2,500 honorarium presented to an individual for years of devotion to the ideals and objectives of IAFP. Sponsored by Eurofins.

Food Safety Innovation Award

$2,500 honorarium presented to an individual or organization for creating a new idea, practice, or product that has had a positive impact on food safety, thus, improving public health, and the quality of life. 

International Leadership Award

$2,000 Honorarium and reimbursement to attend IAFP 2023. Presented to an individual for dedication to the high ideals and objectives of IAFP and for promotion of the mission of the Association in countries outside of the United States and Canada. Sponsored by: Food Safety Net Services (FSNS).

Food Safety Award

$2,000 Honorarium. This award alternates between individuals and groups or organizations. In 2023, the award will be presented to a group or organization for highly significant food safety development or in recognition of a long history of outstanding contributions to food safety. Sponsored by: Consumer Brands Association (CBA). 

Frozen Food Foundation Freezing Research Award

$2,000 Honorarium. Presented to an individual, group or organization for preeminence and outstanding contributions in research that impacts food safety attributes of freezing. Sponsored by: Frozen Food Foundation.

Institut Merieux Young Investigator Award in Antimicrobial Resistance

Payment of €10,000 to support further research work by the laureate. Presented at the IAFP Annual Meeting to an active IAFP Member who has shown outstanding ability and professional promise as a researcher in food microbiology/food safety, focusing on antimicrobial resistance. Sponsored by: Institut Merieux.

Maurice Weber Laboratorian Award

$2,000 Honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding contributions in the laboratory, recognizing a commitment to the development of innovative and practical analytical approaches in support of food safety. Sponsored by: The Fred and Elizabeth Weber Trust. 

Larry Beuchat Young Researcher Award

$2,000 Honorarium. Presented to a young researcher who has shown outstanding ability and professional promise in the early years of their career. Sponsored by: bioMérieux Inc. 

James M. Jay Diversity in Food Safety Award

Recognizes an active IAFP Member who has made significant contributions toward fostering diversity within food safety-related careers, activities, or research. The award consists of a plaque and a $2,500 honorarium. Sponsored by: 3M Food Safety.

Ewen C.D. Todd Control of Foodborne Illness Award

$1,500 Honorarium. Presented to an individual for dedicated and exceptional contributions to the reduction of risks to foodborne illness. Sponsored by: Marler Clark Attorneys at Law. 

Sanitarian Award

$1,500 Honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the profession of the Sanitarian. Sponsored by Ecolab Inc.

Elmer Marth Educator Award

$1,500 Honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the arena of education in food safety and food protection. Sponsored by: Nelson-Jameson Inc. 

Harold Barnum Industry Award

$1,500 Honorarium. Presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP and the food industry. Sponsored by: MERCK Animal Health. 

Ivan Parkin Lecturer

The Ivan Parkin Lecture was established by the International Association for Food Protection in 1986 to honor individuals who have had a significant impact on the field of food safety.  Each year a prominent food safety leader is selected to deliver the Ivan Parkin Lecture at the Opening Session of IAFP’s Annual Meeting.

John H. Silliker Lecturer

The John H. Silliker Lecture was established by Silliker Inc. (now Merieux NutriSciences) in 2004 to recognize the achievements of Dr. Silliker through the practical application of scientific principles to improve food protection.  The John H. Silliker Lecture provides an avenue for recognized experts to present important and timely information on topics of significance to food protection at the IAFP Annual Meeting.

Travel Award for Food Safety Professionals in a Country with a Developing Economy

Travel funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection. Presented to food safety professionals working full-time in the field of food safety in a country with a developing economy. Sponsored by: IAFP Foundation.

Travel Award for Health or Agricultural Department Employees in North America

Travel funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection. Presented to city, county, state, or provincial health or agricultural department employees (epidemiologists, food and molecular microbiologists, and environmental health specialists) working in North America. Sponsored by: IAFP Foundation.

Student Travel Scholarship

Travel funds to attend the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection. IAFP recognizes that students from around the world are the future leaders in the field of food safety. Since 2004, the IAFP Foundation has been dedicated to enhancing the career potential of exceptional students through the annual IAFP Student Travel Scholarship Program. Sponsored by: IAFP Foundation.

Peanut Proud Student Scholarship Award

Provides a $2,000 academic scholarship and travel funding for a U.S. graduate student in the field of food microbiology — and specifically in the area of and peanut butter food safety — to attend the annual meeting. Peanut Proud is a nonprofit industry organization based in Georgia Sponsored by: Peanut Proud.

J. Mac Goepfert Developing Scientists Awards

Presented to students (enrolled or recent graduates) in the field of food safety research at accredited universities or colleges. Qualified individuals may enter either the technical or poster competition. Sponsored by: IAFP Foundation.

Undergraduate Student Award Competition

Presented to two undergraduate students at accredited universities or colleges who have entered this poster competition, based on the criteria. Sponsored by: IAFP Foundation

President’s Recognition Awards

Etched glass paperweight-type award. This award is given at the discretion of the IAFP President to recognize an individual(s) for special effort, project, and contribution of time or expertise that resulted in the betterment of IAFP.

C. B. Shogren Memorial Award

Plaque and $500 Honorarium. Presented to the Affiliate demonstrating exceptional overall achievement in promoting the mission of the International Association for Food Protection “to provide food safety professionals worldwide with a forum to exchange information on protecting the food supply.”

Samuel J. Crumbine Award

From 1955 to 1966 two awards were given: the first for general environmental health, the second for food protection. From 1968 to 1973, the award was suspended because of a general lack of innovation in food protection programs during that period. The award is sponsored by the Conference for Food Protection (CFP), in cooperation with the American Academy of Sanitarians, American Public Health Association, Association of Food and Drug Officials, Food Marketing Institute, Foodservice Packaging Institute, International Association for Food Protection, National Association of County & City Health Officials, National Environmental Health Association, National Restaurant Association, NSF International, and Underwriters Laboratories.

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Finland joins countries with travel-related Shigella cases

February 2, 2023 - 12:00am

Finland is the latest country to report Shigella infections in people returning from Cape Verde.

The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) recorded eight patients with shigellosis in November and December 2022, with a history of travel to Cape Verde.

Based on typing, the strains in five of these cases match those found in other European countries. Almost all Shigella infections found in Finland originate from abroad.

During 2022, more travel-related shigellosis cases than usual were recorded in several European countries. Patients are linked by trips to Cape Verde.

Related cases have been reported by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Denmark, and Portugal.

In Sweden, 30 infections have been identified since mid-November. Analysis of bacterial isolates found some are Shigella sonnei and others are Shigella boydii. Infections with different pathogens, such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia, have also been noted.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is investigating with national authorities the source of infection of the travel-related cases of shigellosis in Cape Verde.

Illness claims
Holiday Claims Bureau and Hudgell Solicitors in the UK are representing people with confirmed Shigella infection linked to hotels in Cape Verde. Holiday Claims Bureau also has clients who contracted Salmonella and E. coli infections following stays at the same hotels.

More than 500 people have asked lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate illnesses linked to trips to Cape Verde. Holidaymakers stayed at seven hotels in the country. People have tested positive for bacterial pathogens including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, and E. coli. All had been on holidays booked through tour operator TUI.

Shigella bacteria cause an infection called shigellosis. Most infected people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually begin a couple of days after infection and last a week. Travelers may be exposed to the bacteria through contaminated food, water, or surfaces. Those with a Shigella infection can spread it to others for several weeks. People should wash their hands with soap and water before preparing and eating food to help control the pathogen.

Finally, THL and Ruokavirasto (Finnish Food Authority) is helping to organize a training course on investigating food- and waterborne outbreaks in May and June.

An online session is scheduled on May 25 to 26 and in-person training is planned in Tuusula on June 6 to 8. It will consist of lectures and practical exercises and is intended as further education for those part of outbreak control groups, food inspectors, doctors, and veterinarians.

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Two and a half million pounds of Kroger, Great Value, Goya, and more brands of canned meat recalled nationwide over packaging defect

February 1, 2023 - 11:14am

Conagra Brands, Inc., of Fort Madison, Iowa, is recalling approximately 2,581,816 pounds of canned meat and poultry products because of a packaging defect that may cause the products to become contaminated without showing any outward signs of contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

Recalled brands include Armour, Kroger, Goya, Prairie Belt, Hargis House, Grace, and Great Value. 

The problem was discovered when the establishment notified FSIS after observing spoiled and/or leaking cans from multiple production dates at the establishment’s warehouse.

A subsequent investigation by the establishment determined that the cans subject to recall may have been damaged in a manner that is not readily apparent to consumers, which may allow foodborne pathogens to enter the cans.

FSIS is concerned that some products may be on retail shelves or in consumers’ pantries.

The meat and poultry products were produced between Dec. 12, 2022, and Jan. 13, 2023. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

Recalled products:

  • The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P4247” on the product cans.
  • Labels and product codes can be viewed here.

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to the consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness 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.

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EU eases melon rules but tightens checks on vanilla extract from U.S.

February 1, 2023 - 12:04am

The European Commission has relaxed checks on melons from Honduras but added controls for vanilla extract from the United States.

Changes were made as part of updated legislation on the rate of official controls and emergency measures for food of non-animal origin imported into Europe. Rules are modified every six months.

Decisions are based on notifications made in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal and information from documentary, identity and physical checks by member states in the first part of 2022.

Requirements for checks on 10 percent on Galia melons from Honduras, put in place in January 2022 after a multi-country Salmonella Braenderup outbreak, have been removed. In 2021, 350 people fell sick, mostly in the UK but there were four cases in the United States and two in Canada.

Ethylene oxide and food dyes
Consignments of vanilla extract from the United States will need to be accompanied by an official certificate stating that results of sampling show compliance with EU rules on maximum residue levels for ethylene oxide. Shipments dispatched before mid-February can enter the EU until Oct. 16 without this certificate. However, they will be subject to checks at a frequency of 20 percent. 

Other ethylene oxide-related changes include food supplements containing botanicals from South Korea, locust bean products from Morocco and Malaysia, tomato ketchup and other tomato sauces from Mexico and calcium carbonate from India.

Betel leaves from India have had an increased level of official controls and special conditions because of the risk of Salmonella contamination since January 2019. However, they have not been imported into the EU for three years so this has been modified to checks on 30 percent of shipments.

Sesame seeds from Nigeria have been subject to a higher level of controls because of Salmonella since July 2017. Half of consignments will now need to be checked and include an official certificate showing compliance with EU laws. Possible Salmonella contamination means sesame seeds from Türkiye will be checked at a frequency of 20 percent.

Increased controls on turnips from Lebanon have been in place since July 2018 because of the risk of contamination by Rhodamine B, which is a dye that should not be used in food. The rate of checks is at 50 percent and batches will need to include an official certificate showing compliance with EU rules. However, tighter checks on turnips from Syria due to Rhodamine B have been removed.

Controls on palm oil from Côte d’Ivoire for Sudan dyes have been set at a frequency of 20 percent. These dyes are used to color non-food products and are not permitted in food in the EU.

Mycotoxin modifications
There is no change to the 20 percent frequency of checks on peanuts, peanut butter and peanut paste for aflatoxins from the United States.

Groundnut, also known as peanut, products from Argentina have been checked at a higher frequency for aflatoxins since October 2019 but better compliance has resulted in this measure being removed.

A high rate of non-compliance means groundnut products from Bolivia will need an official certificate showing results of compliance with EU rules and will be checked at a frequency of 50 percent.

Brazil nuts from Brazil no longer need an official certificate showing compliance but will be checked at a rate of 50 percent for aflatoxin.

The frequency of checks on rice from Pakistan for aflatoxin and Ochratoxin A has been increased to 10 percent. Controls on some peppers from India due to aflatoxin have been reduced to 10 percent.

Dried fig products from Türkiye will be assessed for aflatoxin at a frequency of 30 percent. Contamination by pyrrolizidine alkaloids means cumin seeds and dried oregano from Türkiye will have to be checked at a level of 20 percent.

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A new day: IFT weighs in on the future of the FDA

February 1, 2023 - 12:03am

— OPINION —

By Bryan Hitchcock

At the request of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA (FDA Foundation) launched an external evaluation of the FDA’s Human Foods Program on September 8, 2022. The goal was simple: examine ways to better secure the nation’s food systems and supply chain. The evaluation examined everything from structure and leadership to resources and culture.

On December 6, 2022, the Foundation shared its recommendations on steps the FDA can take to improve how it executes its regulatory responsibilities and strengthen its relationships with state and local governments. The 51-page report called for sweeping changes throughout the agency, and its impact has been swift.

Media, activists, and the public alike viewed the report as “scathing” and being highly critical of the FDA. Among the issues impacting the FDA, the lack of a single clearly identified person to lead was cited in the report as one of the biggest deterrents to the program’s effectiveness. The report also recommended the FDA be restructured so policy and enforcement are more closely aligned.

Since the release of the report, many have been left to wonder what the future will look like for the agency whose public health mission touches everyone while overseeing 78% of the U.S. human food supply, animal feed as well as good nutrition promotion. 

Looking Ahead
The FDA has played a critical role in ensuring the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world, but that food supply is evolving, and the FDA must evolve as well. This idea is widely accepted; the only question is what should that evolution look like?  

To start, there must be an even greater emphasis on incorporating science and technology to better protect our food supply. The creation and roll-out of the Food Safety Modernization Act and most recently FSMA Sec. 204 Traceability Rule as well as the Agricultural Water Rule are positive steps towards a new era of smarter food safety. The Traceability Rule, for example, will enhance recordkeeping standards for producers, manufacturers, processors, packers, food service operators, retailers, and other supply chain participants with foods identified on the Food Traceability List. It identifies critical tracking events in the supply chain, such as cooling, initial packing, shipping, receiving, and transforming the goods that would require records to be captured containing key data elements. The Agricultural Water Rule focuses on a key risk point for some foods. In short, these regulatory systems focus on addressing foods that have been known to cause foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls. 

But that is only one part of the food-safety puzzle the FDA must solve. Realizing FSMA’s food safety prevention goals require a nimble and forward-looking organization. The FDA must evaluate and increase resourcing levels while anticipating increased challenges and complexities to further improve on the delivery of an even safer food supply for U.S. consumers. This means prioritizing food safety risk assessment and increasing its focus on what processes can be employed in identifying areas of concern, such as toxic elements and allergens.  

The new version of the FDA must also drive a greater level of resiliency through global harmonization of U.S. regulations on key components in the food supply. Harmonization of regulations ensures that foods can be delivered from other countries when resiliency issues arise.

Inter-agency collaboration must continue to evolve, as well. FDA has worked closely with federal agencies such as the USDA and CDC, as well as other departments at the state and local levels, but there are opportunities to further advance these efforts. These federal, state, and local agencies look to the FDA for its leadership and coordination. One area where further coordination is needed is in food and nutrition research. While FDA has a limited research budget, its expertise is critical in driving food and nutrition research decision-making in other agencies.

Finally, the FDA must continue improving on its consumer awareness and education as it seeks to earn or regain the public’s trust. Updating the Nutrition Facts Label, the 2020 launch of the national consumer education campaign, the pending Healthy claim and front-of-pack labeling research are positive steps, but there’s more work that needs to be done. Increasing the timeliness of decisions on proposed rules and standards aimed at addressing significant public health-related concerns is critical to building trust with the public and building an FDA better prepared for the future of food.

Yesterday’s FDA announcement aligns well with these outlined priorities. Emphasizing clear organizational structure and leadership focused on operational efficiencies will unlock resources as the first step in meeting the future food system challenges. The important role of science and technology, nutrition science and stakeholder partnerships across state, local and non-governmental organizations are clearly highlighted in today’s announcement.

Despite its standing as a global leader in food safety, the FDA is facing big challenges with a food system that is constantly changing. The FDA must evolve to address current and future food safety challenges, as well as deliver on its public health mission. It must also continue to work closely with leading organizations like the Institute of Food Technologists to ensure the global food supply is the safest it can be, especially during this current period of change.

For more information on today’s announcement, click here. To learn more about what IFT is doing to advance the science of food at ift.org.

About the author: Bryan Hitchcock is chief science and technology officer at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific organization committed to advancing the science of food and its application across the global food system. He joined IFT in 2019 as senior director, food chains, and executive director of the Global Food Traceability Center. Prior to joining IFT, Hitchcock spent nearly two decades at PepsiCo, serving in a variety of process and product development leadership roles.

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Survey finds people still taking food safety risks to save money

February 1, 2023 - 12:02am

People’s dangerous food safety behaviors related to reducing energy bills and saving money have stayed largely the same as the previous month, according to a survey.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Consumer Insights Tracker found 15 percent of participants turned off a fridge and/or freezer containing food in December compared to 13 percent in November.

People were asked about steps they had taken at least once in the past month to reduce energy bills and save money.

Overall, 23 percent of participants changed settings on their fridge or freezer so that food was kept at a warmer temperature. This was 21 percent in November.

Around a quarter lowered cooking temperatures and reduced the length of time food was cooked for, which was similar to the month before.

Also, 61 percent of respondents used cheaper cooking methods such as a microwave, air fryer or slow cooker instead of an oven to heat or cook food. Up slightly from 58 percent in November.

Changing habits
The latest monthly survey was done online from Dec. 16 to 19, 2022, with 2,000 adults in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

More than 1 in 5 reported that they had eaten cold food as they could not afford to cook hot food, which is up from 18 percent in November 2022.

A total of 29 percent of participants said they had eaten food past its use-by date because they couldn’t afford to buy more. This is up from 26 percent in November.

In December 2022, people were asked about their level of concern when doing food shopping. Half felt concerned about the quality of food, which is significantly higher than 35 percent in December 2021 and 43 percent were worried about the safety of food, which is up from 32 percent in December 2021.

Other behaviors included buying reduced food items that are close to their use-by date and purchasing more long-life and fewer fresh items.

In the latest survey, 38 percent of participants felt concerned about the safety of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent concerned about the safety of imported food. Also, 42 percent felt concerned about the quality of food produced in the UK, compared to 52 percent worried about the quality of food from outside the UK.

Larger ONS analysis
Separate data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows about one in five adults reported eating smaller portions and food past its use by date in winter 2022.

Adults more likely to report both of these included those experiencing moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms; renting; with diabetes; with a health condition and with one or more dependent children.

About half of the adults said they spent less on food and essentials because of the cost of living, in the survey period of late November to December.

To reduce gas and electricity use at home, some people were cooking less, not heating or re-heating food to safe temperatures and unplugging the fridge or freezer.

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IAFP makes last call for applications for Student Travel Scholarships 

February 1, 2023 - 12:01am

The deadline for applications for the Student Travel Scholarship to attend IAFP 2023 Annual Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is Tuesday, Feb. 14.

IAFP will select up to 20 qualified students and award them with a plaque and travel funds to attend the Annual Meeting of the International Association for Food Protection.

Since 2004, the IAFP Foundation has been dedicated to enhancing the career potential of exceptional students through the annual IAFP Student Travel Scholarship Program.

The scholarships are provided through contributions to the IAFP Foundation. Scholarships will be awarded to students from countries with developing economies from outside North America, and from North America. Also, up to two travel scholarships will be awarded to students attending Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) in North America.

Criteria for Applicants:

 • Be a Student Member of IAFP 

• Be a full-time graduate or undergraduate student 

• Demonstrate interest in and commitment to food safety and quality as a student enrolled full-time in a food science, microbiology, toxicology, or other program related to food microbiological or toxicological safety (undergraduate or graduate level) at a college or university at the time of the application deadline

• Submit an application as instructed on the application website by Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023

▪ Outstanding qualifications/contributions made throughout the student’s academic career 

▪ Potential value the student possesses toward making significant future contributions in the food safety profession

Applications will be accepted through Feb. 14, 2023. Students can apply here.

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FDA increases alert status of certain imported seafood, papayas, cantaloupe

February 1, 2023 - 12:00am

The Food and Drug Administration is continuing its use of 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 here to go to the FDA page with links to details on specific alerts.

Click on chart to enlarge. Use link above to go to FDA page with links to specific alerts.

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Jambalaya and gumbo products recalled over lack of inspection

January 31, 2023 - 3:54pm

Wild Cajun Meals LLC, of Garland, TX, is recalling approximately 18,418 pounds of frozen, fully cooked jambalaya and gumbo products that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The problem was discovered during routine FSIS surveillance activities when it was determined that the frozen, fully cooked jambalaya and gumbo products did not have the USDA mark of inspection and were produced in an establishment that was not inspected by USDA. FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. 

These items were shipped to retail locations in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

The frozen, fully cooked jambalaya and gumbo items were produced beginning in Sept. 2021 and have various sell by dates.

Recalled products:

  • 32-oz. Plastic containers of “Lady Jambalaya Homemade Jambalaya.”
  • 32-oz. Plastic containers of “Lady Jambalaya Homemade Gumbo.”

The products subject to recall do not bear the USDA mark of inspection because Wild Cajun Meals, LLC is not a federally inspected establishment.

As of the posting of this recall, there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to the consumption of these products.

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.

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Commissioner details his plan to revamp organization, and supervision at FDA

January 31, 2023 - 11:01am

After much hullabaloo, the FDA commissioner has revealed a rough draft of a plan to reorganize the food side of the Food and Drug Administration.

At the center of the plan is the creation — or recreation — of a deputy commissioner of foods post that was eliminated by Commissioner Robert Califf’s predecessor Scott Gottlieb. However, based on Califf’s announcement today, his plan to create a Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods does not provide the clear chain of command that everyone from Congress to consumer groups including STOP Foodborne Illness has been calling for.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mike Taylor told Food Safety News. Taylor was the most recent person to be in a deputy commissioner for foods post at the FDA, serving in the position from 2010 until mid-2016 when he retired. He is now co-chair of the non-profit STOP Foodborne Illness.

Mike Taylor

“The question is what authority the deputy commissioner will have. We need a direct line management approach. Without a direct line approach, the program remains fragmented.”

Taylor gave a nod to the fact that Califf inherited a hot mess when he took the helm of the FDA in 2022. He said progress in the area of food safety at the FDA that was made under Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from 2009 to 2015 was undermined by Gottlieb during his time as FDA commissioner.

“Gottlieb reversed the progress made by Hamburg. It created problems and was a step backward,” Taylor said.

In trying to move forward, Califf’s plan includes the creation of a Human Foods Program to be overseen by a Deputy Commissioner for Human Foods. In his announcement today he said there will be a nationwide search to find the right person, but he did not provide a timeline or any other details about the post.

Califf’s plan also includes tweaking some other areas on the food side of the Food and Drug Administration.

“I am also announcing a transformative vision for the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA, the FDA’s field-based operations) to support the FDA organization as a whole,” the commissioner’s statement said.

Califf also described a rough outline for other aspects of his plan.

“Under this plan, the functions of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), Office of Food Policy and Response (OFPR), as well as certain functions of ORA will be unified into (the) newly envisioned organization called the Human Foods Program,” Califf said in the announcement.

“. . . The Deputy Commissioner will have decision-making authority over policy, strategy, and regulatory program activities within the Human Foods Program, as well as resource allocation and risk-prioritization.”

It is, however, still unclear how the various food entities of the FDA will be linked in terms of a chain of command. The watchdog group Consumer Reports has been following the issues at the FDA closely and its director of food policy wants to know more about Califf’s plan and is waiting to see whether it will have any impact.

Brian Ronholm

 “While the intentions are good and there are positive elements to the plan, it was disappointing because this vision fails to fully unify the Foods Program and give the deputy commissioner the broad authority and accountability to integrate and coordinate all the human and animal foods resources and activities,” Consumer Reports’ Brian Ronholm told Food Safety News.

As Consumer Reports director of food policy, Ronholm, like former deputy commissioner Taylor, wants to see clear lines drawn.

“Given the lack of direct line authority over key ORA components under the plan, it essentially would cement the current structural dysfunction that led to the infant formula crisis,” Ronholm said.

The infant formula crisis referenced by Ronholm brought into the public spotlight what some observers had been watching since Gottlieb’s structural changes in the FDA’s setup. The crisis this past year that saw empty shelves and parents driving for hours to find food for their babies resulted in a congressional hearing that had House committee members grilling Califf like a burger at a tailgate party.

During the hearing, details about the chain of command at the FDA came to light and consequently Califf sought a review by the quasi-governmental entity known as the Reagan-Udall Foundation. According to the organization’s website, “The Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration is an independent 501(c)(3) organization created by Congress to advance the mission of the FDA to modernize medical, veterinary, food, food ingredient, and cosmetic product development, accelerate innovation, and enhance product safety.”

Califf announced his intention for the foundation to do a review of the food side of the FDA in late spring 2022. He said the foundation would have 60 days from the beginning of its work to submit its final report. It took several months for the foundation to begin the project. It submitted its report in December 2022.

The report agreed with onlookers such as Consumer Reports, Consumer Brands, STOP, and members of Congress on many points. The most damning assessment was the conclusion that the food side of the FDA was indeed fragmented and lacking in a clear chain of command which lead to inefficiencies at best and complications of food safety work at worst.

Shortly after the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s report came out, Califf promised to release a plan by late January this year to address the issues raised. He met that deadline with hours to spare. He also promised to have additional details by the end of February, to which he committed again today.

Robert Califf

“I look forward to providing additional public updates by the end of February on our progress, organizational design and timeline,” Califf said in his written announcement.

In addition to discussing the fragmented and inefficient organization at FDA, Califf said the Reagen-Udall report “noted several areas of need, including modernizing data systems, providing more resources and authorities, improving emergency response systems, and building a more robust regulatory program.”

The Reagan-Udall review was ongoing concurrently with an internal FDA review of the agency’s infant formula supply chain response completed in 2022. Califf said his plan addresses concerns identified in both reports.

“I believe this proposed approach addresses the recommendations outlined in both reports and takes into consideration feedback from stakeholders, as well as the voices of employees working in the Human Foods Program who had an opportunity to share input through numerous interactive and listening sessions over the past month,” according to Califf’s announcement. 

In addition to the creation of a deputy commissioner, other key elements of the proposed new Human Foods Program organization include: 

  • Creation of a Center for Excellence in Nutrition that prioritizes the agency’s ongoing efforts to help American consumers make more informed food choices. The FDA proposes to establish an Office of Critical Foods, as directed by the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, within this center.
  • Establishment of an Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships that will focus on coordinating and integrating food safety and response activities with state and local regulatory partners. Califf said he knows the FDA cannot be everywhere, at all times, and that relationships with state and local regulatory partners will be more important than ever going forward. 
  • To help support the agency’s scientifically grounded decision-making activities, a Human Foods Advisory Committee will be established. The committee will consist of external experts to advise on challenging and emerging issues in food safety, nutrition, and innovative food technologies. 
  • There will be an emphasis on strengthening enterprise information technology and analytical capabilities to fulfill the promise described in the FDA’s New Era of Food Safety program and support the improvement in the workflow that will accompany these changes. As part of this proposed new vision, ORA’s operating structure will be transformed into an enterprise-wide organization that supports the Human Foods Program and all other FDA regulatory programs (e.g., agency centers) by focusing on its critical activities. This realignment will allow ORA to be singularly focused on excellence in its core mission – inspections, laboratory testing, import, and investigative operations. 

“As a next step, the FDA will need to develop the vision announced today into a concrete reorganizational proposal in close coordination and communication with internal and external stakeholders while ensuring we meet our labor obligations,” Callif concluded. “While details of this proposal continue to be developed, CFSAN, ORA, and OFPR will continue to operate under their current structures, with my direct oversight.”

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It’s the 10th anniversary of the PCA indictment and the courts are still working on it

January 31, 2023 - 12:05am

This February is the 10th anniversary of the criminal indictment of Peanut Corporation of America’s executives. And the two defendants who remain in federal custody are still actively pursuing release, meaning there have only been a few moments in the past decade when these cases have not been active.

The criminal prosecution of the PCA executives was a milestone in food safety as it meant the food industry was being held responsible for an outbreak that caused hundreds of illnesses and several deaths.

The legal action began in February 2013 when the federal indictments of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, Samuel Lightsey, and Mary Wilkerson were unsealed in a federal court in Albany, GA. A separate indictment for Daniel Kilgore was opened later.

During the four years after the multistate Salmonella outbreak that was linked to PCA peanut butter and paste made at its Georgia plant, little was revealed about the federal criminal investigation that was known to be underway. The unsealed indictments filled in the details.

February 2013 was a busy month. The defendants obtained attorneys, entered their pleas of not guilty and obtained conditions for release. Stewart Parnell, who was chief executive of the already bankrupt PCA, put down $100,000 as bail.

Stewart Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael, and Mary Wilkerson all went to a jury trial during the following summer. Wilkerson was PCA’s quality control officer. Lightsey and Kilgore, who were plant operations managers, both plead guilty in exchange for consideration from the government at sentencing.

The charges included conspiracy, Introduction of Adulterated Food into Interstate Commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, Introduction of Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Obstruction of Justice.

Jury convictions would in sentences of 28 years for Stewart Parnell, 20 years for Michael Parnell, and 5 years for Wilkerson. As for the two who took guilty pleas, Kilgore was sentenced to 6 years and Lightsey’s sentence was 3 years. Kilgore, Lightsey, and Wilkerson have all served their time.

All totaled 62 years of prison time was handed out to PCA executives for the indictments that were unsealed 10 years ago in February. The convictions and sentences were all associated with a fatal multistate outbreak of human infections of Salmonella serotype Typhimurium. Confirmed cases occurred from Sept. 1, 2008, to March 21, 2009.

Lab work in Minnesota, Connecticut, Michigan, and Colorado, all helped the FDA connect the outbreak to PCA’s King Nut peanut butter made in Blakely, GA. Hundreds of other peanut butter brands and products containing peanut paste were recalled.

The PCA convictions and sentences were reviewed on appeal to the 11th Circuit of U.S. District Court in Atlanta and were upheld. But that wasn’t the end of appeal options

Since 2019, the Parnell brothers separately have been pursuing Habeous Corpus motions to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentences under what is known as Section 2255 proceedings.

Both are essentially claiming infective trial counsel. They won public hearings that required all their trial attorneys to testify, but Magistrate Judge Thomas Q. Langstaff ruled against them.

Judge W. Louis Sands, the trial judge, has upheld Langstaff in the Stewart Parnell case. In the final days of 2022, Stewart Parnell appealed his HabeousCorpus case to the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Michael Parnell is still waiting on Judge Sands to issue an opinion in his case.

“In his § 2255 motion, Petitioner(Stewart Parnell) sets out two (2) grounds for relief, raising the following ineffective assistance of counsel claims pertaining to his retained trial representation:

1. Counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to seek a change of venue due to adverse pretrial publicity, jurors’ preconceived notions, and the amount of media exposure throughout the entire division of this Court.

2. Counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to move to strike-for-cause jurors with knowledge of the allegations of death caused by the salmonella outbreak.”

While they wait, 68-year-old Stewart Parnell remains incarcerated at the Hazelton federal prison in South Carolina with a release date that is 15 years out on July 7, 2038. Brother Michael, 64, is waiting for an Oct. 1, 2031, release fate at the federal lockup at Fort Dix, NJ.

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Irish officials search for the source of the Salmonella outbreak

January 31, 2023 - 12:03am

Health officials in the Republic of Ireland are investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 20 people.

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases associated with the epidemic is 26 and people fell ill between Nov. 30 and Dec. 25, 2022.

Patients range in age from 10 to 91 years old; 14 are male and 12 are female, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak was identified through routine whole genome sequencing.

The outbreak control team includes the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), regional departments of public health, HSE environmental health officers, the National Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria Reference Laboratory, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and the Marine (DAFM), and colleagues from Northern Ireland.

The source of the infection remains under investigation. Officials would not say if the outbreak was linked to a recall of raw chicken products in late January.

Western Brand recalled batches of raw chicken because of the detection of Salmonella Typhimurium. They were sold at retailers including Aldi, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Lidl as well as being distributed to Northern Ireland and the Netherlands.

Products were sold as fresh and are past their use-by date, however, they are suitable for freezing. Consumers were advised not to eat the affected batches if they have them in their freezers. 

In late 2022, the FSAI started a survey on the microbiological quality of chilled and frozen coated poultry meat preparations and poultry meat products intended to be eaten cooked and tested for Salmonella.

DAFM has revealed eight recent instances of poultry flocks testing positive for Salmonella Typhimurium.  

Rise in enforcement work
Meanwhile, almost 80 notices were served to businesses for breaches of food safety legislation in 2022, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The 77 enforcement orders are up from 59 in 2021. The increase follows almost a full year of normal business operations after the remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in early 2022. 

Overall, 65 closure orders and 12 prohibition orders were issued by environmental health officers in the Health Service Executive, officials from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, and officers of the FSAI.

Recurring issues included improper storage of food with risk of possible contamination; a lack of pest control procedures; monitoring and pest proofing; a lack of proper temperature control in the storage; preparation and distribution of food and inadequate staff training in relation to food safety, personal hygiene; and recordkeeping.

FSAI urged businesses to adhere to food safety legislation, appropriately train staff to produce, serve and sell safe food and ensure premises are adequately pest proofed.

Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said it was disappointing that month after month, inspectors found similar, basic, and fundamental breaches of food law.

“Through the hard work of our partner agencies and food inspectors in 2022, food businesses that disregarded the law and put consumer health at risk were stopped. However, this should not be happening. Enforcement orders are served on food businesses only when a risk to consumer health has been identified or where there are a number of ongoing breaches of food legislation. Food businesses should not be falling short of their legal requirements. They should adhere to food safety regulations at all times,” she said.

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