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IAFP features round table on the challenges and strategies for implementing water treatment in the field

6 hours 10 min ago

Day Three of the International Association for Food Protection 2020, A Virtual Annual Meeting featured a round table discussion, “This Is How We Do It: Challenges and Strategies for Implementing Water Treatment in the Field,” with speakers with expert knowledge in agricultural water treatment. This is a vital topic in the world of food safety because water is one of the most likely routes of pathogen contamination during fruit and vegetable production. 

“This is How We Do It: Challenges and Strategies for Implementing Water Treatment in the Field,” was a round table focused on agricultural water treatment.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule calls for water testing in order to verify the microbial quality of surface water that will contact the edible portion of produce during growing. Growers are being pushed toward the treatment of any surface water that will come into contact with produce before harvest.  

The round table featured the listed professionals:

  • Chelsea Davidson, Policy Analyst in the Office of Food Policy and Response contributing to the development of policy, regulations, and guidance related to the Food Safety Modernization Act
  • Vicki-Lynne Scott, Agriculture Field Food Safety and Water Industry Consultant
  • Channah Rock, Yuma Safe Produce Council/AZ LGMA (moderator)
  • Michelle Danyluk, Professor of Food Microbiology and Safety University of Arizona (moderator)
  • Jay Sughroue, Regional Manager at BioSafe Systems, LLC
  • Tim Jackson,   Driscoll’s Vice President
  • Paul Mondragon, Ag Partners Southwest
  • Faith Critzer, Associate Professor & Produce Safety Washington State University

Grower guidance is needed on effective treatment and monitoring strategies to ensure an adequate treatment that will reduce environmental impact and will ultimately protect public health. With limited guidance, water treatment decisions are likely to be unsuccessful and expend both excess time and money without the ultimate outcome of reducing generic E. coli and potential pathogen loading within a water source. Under this scenario, the result is little to no reduction in microbiological food safety risk, inconsistent outcomes, and potential damage to irrigated crops and long-term soil health.  Highlighted below are some of the questions these experts were asked and summaries of their answers.

 What are some of the concerns you have about agricultural water treatment? What are the potential problems that keep you up at night? 

This question was fielded by Tim Jackson. Validation is Jackson’s chief concern. He wants to make sure that farm systems are verified and working correctly. “We make sure any water touching fruits and produce is treated,” Jackson said. He also stressed that without treatment, in places like Florida, the water is not fit to be on produce. “We have alligators living in our water.”

From a practical perspective, what challenges do you and your company help overcome? 

This question was directed at Paul Mondragon and Ag Partners Southwest. Mondragon views his company’s role as communicating the water safety metric, defining the terms, and helping farm systems use the metrics to their benefit and the benefit of consumer safety.  Mondragon sees challenges in getting them to implement water safety treatments. “Such as fear, employees that are fearful of chemicals. There is just a general sense of fear with any chemicals.  They also have to clean birds, and they are worried about how the birds might become aggressive.” Mondragon wants his company to lay out the standard operating procedures so that farm systems are comfortable and there is no negligence. In the end, Mondragon says that there are two things to keep in mind and balanced, customers don’t want to pay any extra and they want it to pass all the safety metrics.

How did the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) arrive at water treatment as the best option for leafy greens? 

Vicki-Lynne Scott said that the FDA’s traceback information found that many leafy green outbreaks have been traced back to water as the likely cause of contamination. “We opted for a risk-based approach,” Scott explained, continuing to say that different water offers more or fewer risks. “Risk varies depending on how it will be supplied. Ground source, burro, or drip is a lesser risk. Cleaning or sanitizing water needs to be appropriate for that type of use.”

The attributes of a source water

 Jay Sughroue talked about the different attributes of source water that have to be looked at. “When we start looking at different qualities, pH, turbidity, temperature, and organic material,” Sughroue said that agriculture doesn’t often adjust their pH because there is just too much water to adjust. “It’s not something that is done.” He said that if growers and applicators see a large amount of turbidity, they can turn up their treatment. This is for cases like lots of rain. In general, Sughroue said that the higher the temperature the better, but the southwest in the warmer months shows that there are exceptions. “We see an increase in organisms, so they increase the dosage of treatment.” 

How do you help farm systems implement treatment successfully? 

Faith Critzer explained how farm systems have to have intense scrutiny and asked, “Are you doing the right thing? Overall, do you have scientific data to support your threshold limits?” Critzer stressed that each farm system is totally different and needs to be approached differently. It is important, Critzer said, to show farm systems how their treatment operations are going to get to the end goal.  

Efficacy Protocol for Reduction of Foodborne Bacteria in Preharvest Agricultural Water

Chelsea Davidson, who is a policy analyst in the Office of Food Policy and Response and contributes to the development of policy, regulations, and guidance related to the Food Safety Modernization Act, talked about the Efficacy Protocol for Reduction of Foodborne Bacteria in Preharvest Agricultural Water. More about this can be viewed here.

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Mystery surrounds two new E. coli outbreaks with genetic links to past Romaine events

October 28, 2020 - 5:52pm

With Halloween only hours away,  two new E. coli outbreaks have shown up to haunt the nation’s Romaine growers because genetic links to the past have been discovered.

The two outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157: H7 (STEC) illnesses are under investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control, and Prevention (CDC), along with various state and local health departments.

“We do not know what food is causing people to get sick or whether it involves an FDA-regulated food product, said  Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response.  “However, we have seen similar recurring, emerging, or persistent strains of E. coli in recent outbreaks. E. coli O157: H7 can contaminate many foods, and we cannot assume that the current outbreaks are linked to historically associated foods like romaine and other leafy greens. There is no information currently to indicate that people should avoid any specific food.”

“We are issuing this update early in our investigation as part of our continued commitment to transparency and early communication, ” he added.  “We are also working toward making a new resource available soon on our website to provide early updates on new and active investigations. We are closely working with our partners at the CDC and the states to pinpoint the sources of the E. coli O157: H7 illness outbreaks and will share information as it becomes available.”

Additional Information:

  •  Two distinct outbreaks of foodborne illness of E. coli O157: H7 (STEC) are under investigation involving recurring, emerging, or persistent strains.
  • To support the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, the FDA is conducting traceback investigations, on-site inspections, and sampling in an effort to rule in or rule out suspect foods.
  • While there have been no specific foods definitively linked to these outbreaks, the FDA has taken a number of actions to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks and strengthen safeguards for consumers as part of our New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, including the issuance of the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan, which outlined actions that the FDA plans to take in 2020 to advance work in three areas: prevention, response and addressing knowledge gaps. Actions completed this year include:
    • Publication of a report following our investigation into three 2019 outbreaks of E. coli O157: H7 in leafy greens grown in the Salinas Valley, California, which further increased our understanding of how leafy greens may have become contaminated and the impact of animal activity on adjacent and nearby land.
    • In collaboration with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), prioritized inspections and other surveillance activities at farms identified by traceback in the 2019 outbreaks during the 2020 growing/harvest season specifically to further investigate harvest operations and factors in the environment that may have contributed to the introduction and transmission of E. coli O157: H7 that led to the contamination of romaine lettuce in the Salinas Valley growing area.
    • Initiated a longitudinal research study with CDFA and other agricultural partners in California to improve food safety through our enhanced understanding of the ecology of human pathogens in the environment that may cause foodborne illness outbreaks. In addition, our inspection activity in the Central Coast, Central Valley, and Imperial Valley in California and in Yuma, Arizona, includes sampling and testing for pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella with a new sampling assignment as well as sampling assignments for the last few years.

 

 Outbreak 1 – possibly linked to the 2018 Yuma Romaine E. coli Outbreak.

As of October 28, 2020, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 have been reported from eight states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 6, 2020, to October 5, 2020. Ill people range in age from  2 to 75 years, with a median age of 24 years. Sixty-seven percent of ill people are female. Of 16 ill people with information available, 8 hospitalizations have been reported, including 1 person who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. One death has been reported from Michigan.

Several ill people have been identified as part of an illness cluster at a restaurant. An illness cluster is defined as two or more people from different households who report eating at the same restaurant location, attending a common event, or purchasing food at the same grocery store in the week before becoming ill. Investigating illness clusters can provide critical clues about the source of an outbreak. If several unrelated ill people ate or shopped at the same location of a restaurant or store within several days of each other, it suggests that the contaminated food item was served or sold there.

The strain of E. coli O157: H7 causing illness in this outbreak has previously caused outbreaks linked to different sources, including an outbreak linked to romaine lettuce in 2018. However, food linked to a previous outbreak alone is not enough to prove a link in another outbreak of the same strain. This is because different foods can be contaminated by the same strain of bacteria.

Outbreak 2 – possibly linked to 2019 Salinas Romaine E. coli Outbreak.

As of October 28, 2020, a total of 23 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 have been reported from 12 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from August 17, 2020, to October 8, 2020. Ill people range in age from 5 to 81 years, with a median age of 21 years. Sixty-seven percent of ill people are female. Of 15 ill people with information available, 10 hospitalizations have been reported, including 2 people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before they got sick. People have reported eating a variety of foods, including leafy greens. Of the 13 people interviewed to date, all reported eating various types of leafy greens, like iceberg lettuce (9), romaine lettuce (8), mixed bag lettuce (6), and spinach (9).

This outbreak is caused by the same strain of E. coli O157: H7 that caused an outbreak linked to romaine lettuce in 2019. However, food linked to a previous outbreak alone is not enough to prove a link in another outbreak of the same strain. This is because different foods can be contaminated by the same strain of bacteria.

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WHO food safety expert speaks at IAFP

October 28, 2020 - 4:46pm

The Coronavirus pandemic, why producing food is not like selling T-shirts, and technology’s role in outbreak investigation were highlights of a talk today by a food safety expert at the World Health Organization.

Peter Ben Embarek gave the John H. Silliker Lecture on this final day of the International Association for Food Protection’s (IAFP) annual conference and meeting.

When asked what was keeping him up at night, Ben Embarek said for the past few months it has been COVID-19 while on a previous occasion it was the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

“Even though it is a public health issue, it is an infectious disease, it also has a food-related element. They are both linked to how we are producing food. They both started in these environments where animals and humans are closely interacting in the process of producing food animals.”

Evolving COVID-19 situation
Ben Embarek said when Switzerland was locked down earlier this year the only shops open were pharmacies and supermarkets.

“This shows how critically important it was and still is to maintain our food supply, to make sure people still have access to food even though everything else is shut down. At that time it was clear that we needed to have guidance, recommendations, and tools to help industry and national food safety authorities to keep our food supply running and make sure we kept workers throughout the food production chain healthy. This guidance, after a few months, is already in need of updating showing how fast our understanding and knowledge around COVID is evolving.”

Another important element was the need to understand to what extent the virus can survive on food surfaces and food.

“We know it survives on frozen and refrigerated food and when these products are moving in international trade they start to create a problem as we have seen in recent months, in particular in China. There are regular findings of frozen imported products contaminated with the virus and they are taking trade measures against these products,” said Ben Embarek.

“It is true in many instances it is probably only the RNA we are detecting but apparently in some instances, viable viruses are also found and we know from experimental studies that the virus doesn’t lose viability during the freezing period of several weeks corresponding to normal trading patterns in international commerce.

“Another concerning element is in August, the Chinese CDC announced the conclusions of investigations into one of their largest outbreaks in Beijing in June where they had some 800 cases linked to a wholesale market. They concluded the virus was introduced through the frozen goods brought into the market. We haven’t seen any details from this investigation and to what extent transmission could have happened. We have to be a bit cautious and even if there it is not a huge risk or problem, we need to better understand what is happening under these conditions where we are handling frozen and refrigerated products in wet and humid environments.”

Same pathogens, different products
Ben Embarek also runs the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

“The trends we have seen in recent years is an increase in events involving traditional pathogens in new commodities such as outbreaks linked to fruits, vegetables, salads and increasingly they involve frozen berries being traded internationally,” he said.

“These are quite interesting because with new technologies and agricultural know-how berries are being produced cheaply all over the planet in places where hygiene and attention to water quality and irrigation are perhaps not what it should be. It illustrates the changes we are seeing in world production and the spread of production technologies without having the associated spread of tight control and high hygiene standards and that is unfortunately what is characterizing the food safety picture today. This disconnect between capacities to produce almost anything everywhere without having the associated high level of food control.”

The use of whole-genome sequencing helped in understanding the large South African Listeria outbreak in 2017 and 2018, said Ben Embarek.

“Without the use of this technology we would have had a much larger outbreak and it would have been much more difficult, and perhaps impossible, to find the source. At the same time as this large outbreak was unfolding, the country was also having a number of smaller outbreaks in the background with different strains of Listeria linked to different products. Without the use of WGS it would have been difficult to disentangle these different outbreaks from the large one and identify the source,” he said.

“It is not going to be the technology that will solve everything in the future but it will help detect and solve outbreaks much faster. Finding the source of an outbreak helps us understand what went wrong and each time we have that information we can correct and learn from these errors and problems we were not aware of in raw materials and processes. It will help us slowly build a safer food safety environment. It is true we will still need food microbiologists and people able to culture bacteria to understand the biology of bacteria and viruses in food and the environment.”

Food safety is not like selling T-shirts
Certain food safety regulators, producers, and researchers are learning from these events but there is a large group that doesn’t seem to be learning anything, said Ben Embarek.

“Clearly there are too many cowboys out there producing and distributing food that should not be allowed to do that because managing food hygiene and safety is something that requires a certain level of understanding of the problems and seriousness of dealing with these things,” he said.

“It is not like producing a T-shirt where if you cut corners and the consumer is not happy with your T-shirt it will last three months and next time he or she will not buy the same T-shirt but you will still be producing T-shirts and no harm will have been done.

“If you cut corners when producing the food you might end up killing somebody or someone’s baby and that is far more serious. Unfortunately, we seem to have the same laissez-faire attitude towards allowing who can produce and who cannot and that is something that will and must change, we cannot continue to have that type of dual level of seriousness in the way we produce food. We are in a globalized environment where any food product can end up on any table around the globe.”

There also needs to be a way of engaging different stakeholders, according to Ben Embarek.

“Food producers are sitting on an enormous goldmine of information through all the data they are generating compared to national authorities, inspection services, and research institutions. The bulk of the data is with industry and unfortunately, that goldmine is not being tapped, we are just throwing away all this data after it is used for the purpose for which they are generated and we forget that if we combine with data generated elsewhere and by others we could have a better understanding of our food environment.

“We are still, in 2020, in the dark when we look at our food supply and environments, we have small windows of light here and there where we have a semi ok understanding of what is in our food and how it is evolving in terms of hazards and risks but the vast majority of information is not visible.”

Ben Embarek also spoke about the challenges involved in feeding a growing world population, food waste, food production by robots, and changing diets with a move away from meat.

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Experts give insight into food safety in Africa

October 28, 2020 - 12:13am

African experts have highlighted the main food safety concerns, challenges, and potential solutions for the continent at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) virtual annual meeting.

The roundtable discussion included specialists from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Gambia. The majority highlighted mycotoxins as one of the top issues.

Lucia Anelich, director of Anelich Consulting, presented the situation in South Africa.

“Our main food safety issues from a bacterial point of view are Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, particularly E. coli O157, and Campylobacter. We are not spending a lot of time and effort on Campylobacter although it is believed to be problematic in the country, particularly in the poultry sector. From a mycotoxins perspective, our main problems are aflatoxins, fumonisin, and to a certain extent deoxynivalenol.”

Move to update rules in South Africa
Anelich said not all the system is risk-based but there is a push to revise regulations and standards.

“Food safety management system implementation is mainly voluntary and it has become a customer requirement. So if a company wants to do business with another they will require a specific FSMS is in place and certified by an accredited certification body,” she said.

Roundtable speakers

“There is one exception, we do have a HACCP regulation but it is only mandatory for two categories, meaning they must have a HACCP system in place that is certified by an accredited certification body and the accreditation should be done by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).

“These categories are peanut sorting and peanut butter manufacturing because of the concern of aflatoxins with peanuts that are grown here or imported and the second category became enforceable in March 2019 on all processed ready to eat meats including polony and sausages and the reason for this was the listeriosis outbreak in 2017 and 2018.”

Anelich Consulting and Food Focus are hosting a Virtual Food Safety Summit 2020, South Africa, on Nov. 3, 2020. Speakers include Bill Marler from Marler Clark, Frank Yiannas of the U.S. FDA, and Wayne Anderson at the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Speakers agreed to the African Union, which consists of the 55 member states in Africa, was becoming more involved in food safety with plans ongoing to set up an African Food Safety Agency. It is also working with the African Continental Association of Food Protection at a food safety conference next year. This move has FAO and African Development Bank support.

Informal markets in Ethiopia
Kebede Amenu, from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, said there is a high prevalence of foodborne illness in the country even though there is no concrete epidemiological investigation.

“One of the factors could be community preference for raw animal source foods. Raw beef consumption is a very common thing. Raw milk is more in rural areas and about 80 percent of the country is rural. We find outdated laws and also irregularities in the implementation. There are some laws but they are not consistent and scattered in different governmental organizations and such lack of coordination is difficult for the country,” he said.

“There is a predominance of informal food markets. So there is a dilemma in terms of the policy, some people say informal is good because it is securing food for the poor, others say it should be regulated. On food fraud and adulteration, there has been economic growth in Ethiopia for the last 10 years and because of this, there is a movement of people and urbanization. With this, it means people should get food and because of this there is an opportunity to market food without much strict regulation and people tend to adulterate food.”

Amenu said there were some promising initiatives in terms of generating evidence for actions.

“Evidence-based decisions and actions are the most cost-effective and visible. Epidemiological evidence and risk-based initiatives are there for the last five years. The other difficulty is with the evidence there, the problems are identified, solutions are there but there should be an investment in infrastructure. Change is also related to the behavioral setup of the community including policymakers and implementers; that is how change can really happen in terms of the way people are preparing, consuming, and so on.”

A previous large outbreak in Kenya
Dr. Moses Gathura Gichia, the former coordinator of the FAO/WHO regional coordinating committee for Africa, gave the view from Kenya.

“According to the WHO 2015 report on foodborne diseases, by the time we are through with our panel discussion 16 people would have passed on due to various foodborne diseases. Out of which, we would have lost four people due to non-typhoidal Salmonella,” he said.

“Food handling is still a major concern in Kenya. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place like handwashing and sanitizing we expect a study to be done which may show whether the incidence or prevalence of foodborne diseases has gone down.”

Gathura said the other area of food safety concern is mycotoxins and particularly aflatoxin.

“The staple diet in Kenya is maize. When maize is contaminated with aflatoxin it means so many people are at risk. In 2004, there was an outbreak of aflatoxin in Kenya which affected 317 people and 125 died. Samples collected showed the level of contamination with aflatoxin was 800 hundred times higher than the accepted standard of 10 parts per billion. Climate change is an area of collaboration with the international community. The aflatoxin outbreak was preceded by changing weather patterns,” he said.

“Kenya has 23 pieces of legislation on food safety with various governing institutions. That makes it very difficult to coordinate what the right hand is doing and what the left hand is not doing. There has been a move since 2004, to merge all those bodies to have a single food safety control system. It has not worked until now, unfortunately.”

Aflatoxin issue for processors in Nigeria
Adewale Obadina, from the Federal University of Agriculture in Nigeria, said microbiological contaminants were a major challenge in ready to eat fruit and vegetables.

“There is poor hygiene at all stages of the food chain – different food processors don’t keep good hygienic practices which is one of the major hazards, improper storage and handling also affect the finished product and raw materials. All this contributes to the food safety challenge in the country,” he said.

Obadina said aflatoxin was also a problem.

“It is becoming more and more difficult for people to be able to identify aflatoxins along the value chain and this is because processors are mainly illiterate, so for them to take the sample to the lab for analysis is very difficult. So when you try to encourage them to follow good agricultural practices and good hygienic practices to reduce the risk of aflatoxins it is always a challenge for them.

“There is a need to develop an on-site rapid test kit for aflatoxins so these farmers and processors can do the test, that is not quantitative, a qualitative test on the field and be sure that the cereal, legume or crop they want to process or sell is dangerous or not and know how to handle that.”

Wet and informal markets also need to be improved or modernized, said Obadina.

“The majority of the food that people consume is obtained at informal markets and the way it has been set up, it contains a higher risk of food hazards. There is a need for international communities to come and collaborate to see how the wet or informal markets can be improved to the level of farmers’ markets in developed countries.”

Mycotoxins damage export hopes for Gambia
Abdoulie Jallow, of the Food Safety and Quality Authority of the Gambia, said the agency was created in 2011 on the back of issues such as losing exports to Europe because of aflatoxins in peanuts.

“Like other parts of Africa we have a lot of food safety issues including microbial contaminants. Fortunately for us, vegetables are not consumed much raw, they are processed and cooked so it is not a big problem,” he said.

“However, it is a problem in milk, as it is consumed raw in all the country, if you want pasteurization you have to buy imported milk. In the rainy season, we see an increase in foodborne disease because the amount of milk produced increases so the consumption also increases and this also increases microbial related diseases.”

Jallow said informal and small scale food processing is a problem because it is almost impossible to regulate.

“Most food safety issues come from here as it is the main food source for the population, especially in rural areas. Another issue is food storage and handling which is related to mycotoxins because after most of our peanuts are produced and brought to the ports for export if it is not well handled and stored then mycotoxin levels increase, and before they get to the EU market the aflatoxin levels are so high they cannot be shelled and they have to be brought back.”

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Kruse defense team is ready to tell what really happened during 2015 listeria outbreak

October 28, 2020 - 12:13am

When he makes his first court appearance tomorrow in Austin, TX, former Blue Bell Creameries President Paul Kruse will not be alone.

Chris Flood of Houston and John D. Cline of San Francisco, the defense team that got him off on the same charges in July, is again defending Kruse, the 66-year old resident of Brenham, TX.

This time, Kruse faces charges from a federal Grand Jury indictment for conspiracy and six counts of wire fraud over an alleged cover-up involving the 2015 listeria outbreak.   Each of the seven federal felony counts carries a maximum penalty of 20  years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Kruse retired as Blue Bell’s long-time leader three years ago.  He’s held a license to practice law in Texas for the past 40 years but made his bones in business.

Federal prosecutors filed the same charges as information last May, but Flood and Cline successfully argued the U.S. District Court for Western Texas lacked the jurisdiction at that time because their client had not given up his right to Grand Jury proceedings.

At 2 pm Thursday, Kruse will make his first appearance on the renewed charges before federal Magistrate  Judge Andrew W. Austin.    His defense team is ready to argue that under the federal statute of limitations, the Grand Jury charges came too late to be prosecuted.

The assertion that time has expired for any prosecution of Kruse involving events surrounding the 2015 outbreak was raised in the first court case but went unresolved when all charges against Kruse were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Since the national emergency was declared in March for the coronavirus pandemic, federal courts have “stopped the clock” on everything from speedy trial rules to discovery deadlines.   Whether a 5-year statute of limitations includes an off-switch for emergency periods will likely end up as an appellate issue,

Flood also says the charges against Kruse “aren’t true,” and the defense team is looking forward  “to explaining what really happened in 2015 at Blue Bell.”

A summons ordering Kruse to appear was issued by the Magistrate judge on Oct. 21 and returned as executed the day.   Judge Robert Pitman was assigned as the trial judge.   During the previous case,  Kruse remained free on a $50,000 signature bond.

Trial attorneys Matthew J. Lash and Patrick Hearn are assigned as the prosecutors by the Department of Justice (DOJ).  Hearn successfully prosecuted Peanut Corporation of American executives in 2014.

The 2015 listeria outbreak sickened ten people in four states and killed three in Kansas.   The listeria spread from inside Blue Bell and the 18-page Grand Jury indictment charges Kruse with conspiracy and wire fraud.

“Rather than send a public notification about the contaminated products to customers and consumers,” the indictment says, ” the defendant PAUL KRUSE ordered his sales employees to pul products from customers ‘shelves without disclosing the reason.  Defendant PAUL KRUSE also created a written statement that concealed that certain Blue Bell products might contain Listeria Monocytogenes, and he directed his sales employees to give that statement to customers who asked about the removal of products.”

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Hospital food review includes food safety focus

October 28, 2020 - 12:12am

A review into hospital food in England following a fatal Listeria outbreak this past year includes plans to improve food safety.

The work, ordered by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in June 2019, was welcomed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In 2019, nine people developed listeriosis and six died after eating sandwiches supplied to hospitals by the Good Food Chain. The meat was produced by North Country Cooked Meats and distributed by North Country Quality Foods.

The review panel was chaired by the former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, Philip Shelley, with Prue Leith as an independent adviser. Members included the FSA, Public Health England as well as catering and food industry associations.

Stronger on food safety
Proposals include having food safety specialists in each NHS trust, hospitals implementing food safety management systems, and compulsory reporting of concerns across the hospital food chain. NHS Trusts must also recognize they are food business operators responsible for ensuring what they provide is safe.

The aim is to ensure NHS catering suppliers, workers and contractors are meeting high standards to prevent foodborne infection. This includes training hospital workers, including non-catering staff such as nurses, on food hygiene matters relevant to their work.

Emily Miles, chief executive of the FSA, said: “We have seen the devastating consequences that foodborne disease outbreaks can have, and we welcome the recommendations to improve food safety in this report. It is vitally important that all NHS Trusts recognize their legal responsibilities to ensure the food they sell and serve is safe to eat.”

The FSA submitted evidence to the panel on the food safety element of the review.

This showed Listeria monocytogenes in sandwiches and salads was the most common factor in outbreaks of foodborne illness in hospitals. It also indicated that premises with high food hygiene rating scores are less likely to be associated with foodborne illness and highlighted potential risks associated with food produced on and off-site.

Evidence from 16 outbreaks in hospitals showed involved NHS Hospital Trusts have not always recognized their legal obligations as food businesses leading to food safety failures. The increased vulnerability of patients means shortcomings in hygiene practices, failure to consistently follow food safety advice, and over-reliance on accreditation schemes contributed to some outbreaks.

Making food onsite
The government announced it will establish a group of NHS caterers, dietitians, and nurses to take forward the recommendations and decide on the next steps. One recommendation is agreeing to national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including compulsory food hygiene and allergen training.

Craig Smith, chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), said the group supports the plans.

“Yet we simply can’t move forward without capital investment in our hospital catering operations, and we urge the government to release details of funding plans to support these initiatives,” he said.

“We must not lose sight of the reason this review was called for in the first place. The HCA welcomes the call for appropriate training for everyone involved in the foodservice. Recognizing the importance of food, and its role in wellbeing, and how food safety needs to be considered at all times.

“Without adequate kitchens, it is impossible to prepare food safely. The case for investment in hospital kitchens has been made and this is a once in a generation opportunity to get kitchens back into hospitals at the design and build phase.”

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FAO and OIE rally against swine fever a.k.a. “the other virus”

October 28, 2020 - 12:11am

The world needs to rally under a new initiative to bring the deadly pig disease known as African Swine fever (ASF) under control.

That’s the word from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)  the two world bodies calling on all nations to join the Global Control of ASF Initiative.

ASF or swine fever is “the other virus” that experts are worried about. It’s on fire from domestic pigs in North Korea to wild boars in Germany. North America, including the United States and Canada, remains swine fever-free. The same cannot be said for Africa, Asia, and Europe and the spread puts North America at risk.

No vaccines or treatments yet exist for swine fever, meaning the only response is to kill all the pigs once it arrives. African swine fever, however, has no direct impact on human health as it is not transmissible from animals to humans.

The highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease is causing massive economic damages around the world, according to OIE. It affects food security and the livelihoods of vulnerable populations, according to FAO.

The recently-launched Global Control of ASF will coordinate and strengthen the control measures to minimize the impact of swine fever.

An Oct. 28-30 call to action brings FAO and OIE together with industry, governments, and specialists to promote the initiative. More than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe are currently affected. ASF has led to the loss of 7 million pigs in Asia alone, and unofficial numbers might be much greater

“Our goal is to prevent the spread – and ultimately eradicate – this disease, leveraging the latest science, best practices, and international standards,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a video message to the participants. “

“Today, no country is safe from African swine fever,” said OIE Director-General Monique Eloit. “The number of countries across the world reporting outbreaks to the OIE continues to grow. This corresponds to the biggest animal disease outbreak of our generation.” 

Government of Canada

African swine fever (ASF) is a viral disease that only impacts pigs. It poses a significant risk to the health of the Canadian swine herd, pork industry, and the Canadian economy. ASF is highly contagious for pigs and can spread rapidly through both direct and indirect contact with infected pigs or pig products, as well as contaminated farm equipment, feed, and clothing.    Canada provides more ASF information here.

USDA

ASF is found in countries around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. More recently, it has spread through China, Mongolia, and Vietnam, as well as within parts of the European Union. It has never been found in the United States – and we want to keep it that way.   USDA provides more ASF information here.

U.S. regulatory food safety update from Yiannas and Brashears

October 27, 2020 - 12:09pm

Day two of The International Association for Food Protection 2020, A Virtual Annual Meeting featured a “U.S. Regulatory Update on Food Safety,” from Frank Yiannas, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, and Mindy Brashears, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety of the USDA.

Yiannas and Brashears provided insight into the latest information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture  Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS). 

USDA FSIS regulatory update 

Mindy Brashears was confirmed by a Senate vote this past March. Prior to joining USDA, Brashears was a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University.

Brashears started her update by talking about the impact COVID-19 has had on FSIS operations.

“As a scientist, I want to stick to the facts,” Brashear explained. “The first thing I want to say is that there is no evidence that COVID-19 is a food safety risk.” Brashears is aware that there are a number of claims about the transfer of COVID-19 through food. She sees it as her job and others in the industry to speak out loudly against this, and make sure consumers know what the science is saying, that COVID-19 is not a food safety risk.

She addressed the uptick in worker illness, particularly in meat processing facilities. Brashears explained how the situation stabilized as protective measures were taken — face masks, plexiglass shields, and more.

“We learned that Agriculture is essential. People started buying meat when they were worried that there might be a shortage.” Brashears said she was thankful that meat and the food supply, in general, didn’t get to the point of other shortages, like toilet paper.

Brashears is proud of how FSIS has handled the challenge. “There was not a single facility that shut down due to lack of FSIS inspection.” 

USDA FSIS’s three goals:

  • Lead with Science 

“We try to cover the entire farm to table continuum,” Brashears said. FSIS has a wide breadth of scientists, three labs, and cover a lot more than just inspections. Brashears doesn’t want the agency to be a barrier for food safety innovation, instead, she wants to get new tools, techniques and technology approved quickly.  She used the example of the “Modernized beef inspection” that took 20 plus years to implement. She said it should have been done much faster.

  •  Influence Behavior changes

Brashears says the FSIS is focused on consumers because they are so important. They are the last line of defense. The FSIS is pushing innovative research and education ideas that will lead to behavior changes.

  • Build relationships

Brashears said it is important that FSIS has a great relationship with the FDA and stakeholders. 

On the science side, the FSIS is building relationships with research institutions and universities through fellowships for graduate students.

FDA Food Policy and Response regulatory update

Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the Food and Drug Administration. Yiannas is the FDA’s top administrator to reduce food safety risks and achieve high rates of compliance with FDA food safety standards. Yiannas came to FDA from past leadership roles with Walmart and the Walt Disney Co. He has been recognized for his role in elevating food safety standards and building effective food safety management systems based on modern science and risk-based prevention principles.

Yiannas is also the former president of IAFP, and said how returning to speak at conferences like this is something of a homecoming for him.

New Era of Smarter Food Safety

Yiannas started by thanking everyone who works in the food industry.

“I’d like to salute the heroism of workers at all points of the food supply chain who have not been able to stay home, to shelter in place,” Yiannas said that he has been impressed by how the industry has responded during the pandemic. “Through it, all our food supply has been remarkably resilient.” 

He shared some of the highlights coming from the FDA’s plan, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety:

Tech-enabled Traceability

  • Proposed Food Traceability Rule
  • Harmonize the information and data needed for enhanced traceability.
  • Food Traceability List
  • Lays the foundation for end-to-end traceability

Smarter Tool and Approaches for prevention

  • Using AI to prevent violative imported foods from entering commerce. 
  • Yiannas says that technological advances have enabled the FDA to improve predictive models and apprehend violations before they happen. For example, “We have increased our (the FDA’s) predictive ability by 300% as to which containers could have violations.”

New Business Models and Retail Modernization

The FDA is modernizing by adapting to new trends.

  • Online grocery shopping is likely to increase by 20 percent within the next few years.
  • One survey reports that 31 percent of U.S. households are already using online grocery services.

Food Safety = Behavior

Yiannas stressed that the FDA must get better at implementing the science and research that is being discovered.

  • Behavioral Science Principles
  • Social Marketing Plan
  • Measure Culture and Behavior

Progress on Produce Safety

Lastly, Yiannas listed the improvements and work the FDA has done recently but stressed that there is more to do because, as he said, “One foodborne illness is too many.”

  • Outbreak Investigations
  • 2020 Leafy Green Action Plan
  • EPA-Registered Agricultural Water Treatments
  • Proposed Agricultural Water Rule
  • Food Safety Partnership with Mexico
  • Papaya Action Plan
  • Cyclospora Advancements

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Faster line speeds may not be the food safety issue some thought

October 27, 2020 - 12:04am

During the modernization era for meat and poultry, how fast carcasses are moved across the slaughter floor is an issue that’s created controversies involving both food safety and worker safety.

Line speed, as it is called, is a current issue before multiple federal  Courts and Congress.

Dr. Mindy Brashears, Under Secretary of USDA for Food Safety, inherited the task of resolving modernization issues from the previous and current administrations. New inspection rules were first adopted for poultry in 2014 and followed by swine in late 2019.

Beef plants are also getting the option of filing for modernization waivers.

And while the line speed controversies have continued to boil, it has not resulted in much new information –until now. A new study finds increased line speed in young chicken slaughter establishments does not increase Salmonella contamination risks.

“From FSiS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) perspective, it does help us,” Brashears told Food Safety News.

Data was collected for 2018-2019 from 97 young chicken slaughter establishments to determine how differing line speeds impacted the frequency of positive Salmonella samples.

Dr. Louis Anthony (Tony) Cox, Jr., in association with the University of Colorado Denver, produced the study. Cox is an MIT-Harvard trained expert in statistics, regression analysis, and mathematics. Many National Academies, World Health Organization, EPA, USDA, and other agencies have named Cox to various projects, committees, and advisory boards.

In 2014, the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) gave the young chicken and turkey establishments a new option. Before NPIS, four online FSIS inspectors worked the line to spot unacceptable carcasses at a speed of 140 birds per minute(bpm) based on 35 bpm for each inspector.

Under NPIS, establishment employees are required to sort, wash and trim the poultry before it is presented on the line to a single FSIS inspector. It is supposed to be a faster, more efficient system.

Cox says the question is whether NPIS young chicken establishments can maintain process control at higher line speeds while keeping down microbial hazards such as contamination of carcasses with Salmonella.

Brashears says before NPIS was adopted in 2014, FSIS had some 20  years of data from its HIMP pilot program. It was sufficient to justify a line speed increase to 175 bpm.  “All that data told us it would be safe,” she said.

But, Brashears says because of the large number of concerned comments about line-speed, including many about worker safety, the agency backed off and kept the 140 bpm limit.

FSIS did allow the 20 establishments from its two-decade-long  HIMP pilot program to continue at 175 bpm under waivers. Safe, wholesome, and unadulterated production while meeting Salmonella reduction performance standards were also required for a waiver.

Beginning in early 2018, FSIS began offering line speed waivers to companies that were not in the original HIMP pilot. It required the poultry slaughter establishment to “incorporate measures into their food safety systems to maintain process control when operating at faster line speeds.”

To obtain line speed waivers, it required being in the NPIS for one year and meeting Salmonella performance standards. Not all establishments operated at 175 bpm even with waivers for various reasons.

The Public Health Information System (PHIS) was used to collect the data for the line speed study from on-site veterinarians.

As for the new study findings, it found that increased line speeds don’t increase risk or harm. “Current evidence seems to indicate, however, that the mix of changing conditions in production and slaughter –including accelerated line speeds–result in a product that is not contaminated more often than it was before line speeds were increased,” the study report says.

“The analysis presented here indicates that today’s establishments running at higher line speeds do not cause increased Salmonella risk under the conditions present during this study, ” it continues. “Although there have been useful clarification and much discussion of various sources of risk at higher line speed in regulatory, industry, and food safety circles in the decades since the NRC report, including discussions of occupational safety (Ronholm, 2018), to our knowledge this is the first study to provide recent survey data on today’s establishment addressing the issue of line speed and Salmonella contamination rates on chicken carcasses.”

The National Research Council or NRC called for line speed studies in a report 30 years ago.

The study was done with support from the Poultry Science Association Inc. for publication in Poultry Science.

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Researchers call for change in approach to Listeria in low risk foods

October 27, 2020 - 12:03am

Researchers have provided alternatives to the zero-tolerance approach used in the United States to manage Listeria in low-risk foods.

The U.S. has this method for all ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, regardless of risk profile, so all positive tests prompt a recall.

“A blanket zero-tolerance policy for all RTE foods provides a very strong disincentive for zone 1 (product contact surface) testing, as well as a significant disincentive for finished product testing. More specifically, the challenge with a zero-tolerance approach for all foods is that all positive test results will lead to a recall, therefore potentially limiting the willingness to frequently sample,” said researchers in the journal Food Control.

“To compensate for moving away from a zero-tolerance approach for low-risk foods, the industry would likely be willing to do a higher frequency of testing, which would enable them to generate and use more data, including next-generation tools, to inform risk-based decision-making, long before committing products to commerce.”

Researchers said there was a need for globally harmonized public health approaches to definitions of RTE and not ready-to-eat (NRTE) foods.

Listeria regulation
Many other countries have microbiological criteria for Listeria monocytogenes of 100 colony forming units per gram for low-risk foods that do not support the growth of the organism.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approach to meat safety differs from that used by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assure the safety of other foods.

The American Frozen Food Institute’s (AFFI) Listeria monocytogenes international expert panel was created in December 2018 as part of efforts to merge research and data with scientific thinking on regulatory policies on the prevalence of the pathogen in foods. The panel set out to develop a scientific basis and rationale for Listeria monocytogenes regulation.

“The frozen food industry is committed to advancing food safety practices to prevent and control Listeria monocytogenes. We’re grateful for the insights and guidance from the Listeria monocytogenes international expert panel and believe their new recommendations should guide practical and sustained approaches to Listeria regulatory policy that improve public health,” said AFFI President and CEO Alison Bodor.

Handling Listeria in low-risk foods
Benefits of not recalling low-risk foods that don’t support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and contain low levels of the pathogen include not wasting industry and regulator resources or losing consumer confidence, decreased food waste, avoiding negative effects on the environment, and avoiding unnecessary costly recalls, according to the study.

Researchers stressed the need for an alternative approach to deal with low-risk foods containing Listeria monocytogenes. Food is low risk if the pH of it is less than 4.4, water activity is less than or equal to 0.92, or it is frozen. Foods satisfying these conditions do not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.

This could include using alternatives to the current 2-class presence-absence sampling plans for low-risk foods where Listeria cannot grow; using big data to better inform microbial risk assessments; performing a risk-benefit assessment, and developing consumer food handling and risk communication strategies.

Researchers said regulatory efforts should be directed at RTE foods that support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes with a multi-pronged approach to control the pathogen needed.

Actions such as a product recall should not be made upon finding low levels (less than 100 CFU/g) in food not supporting growth or an NRTE food unless the plant has a history of violations or recalls, there is evidence of illness linked to the product; there are repeat findings of Listeria monocytogenes in the product or it is targeted to at-risk individuals.

Meanwhile, experts have started a three-week meeting to provide Codex with updated scientific advice on Listeria monocytogenes in RTE foods.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) will examine new research and data for Listeria in different foods and geographical regions to validate the current risk assessment models and inform risk management approaches to control the bacteria.

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IAFP attendees urged to ‘think big’ to tackle challenges

October 26, 2020 - 12:34pm

Caroline Smith DeWaal today told IAFP delegates to think big when tackling challenges of the 21st century as she opened the virtual event.

The deputy director of EatSafe (Evidence and Action Towards Safe, Nutritious Food) at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), gave the Ivan Parkin Lecture called “Audacious Innovation: Critical Tools for the 21st Century” at the International Association for Food Protection’s (IAFP) annual conference and meeting.

“If there was ever a time for lifesaving audacious innovation it is now but it must be built on good science. The world around us is changing faster than the publication schedule for scientific journals. What is audacious innovation? It means pushing the envelope, working outside your comfort zone, moving science at the speed of change,” she said.

In the past 20 years, great strides have been made in the food safety area, but with each repeated foodborne outbreak, the evidence is mounting that the change is not fast enough. The first example of change was innovation in outbreak surveillance.

Metrics to standardize reporting
“As we’ve seen during the current pandemic, public health information is vital for public health action. With food-related outbreaks the information assists consumers, retailers, and the industry as well as government officials at the local, state, and national levels,” said DeWaal.

“Let’s imagine in your pocket on your phone there is an app that lets you record illnesses in real-time and lets further imagine the app links to this group of food safety officials, medical doctors in New York, livestock veterinarians in Colorado, and wildlife experts in Tanzania. These apps are being developed to report in real-time on illness occurrences on a one health framework. So that outbreaks and epidemics can be stopped before they become pandemics.

“Key to this vision is having a set of metrics that standardize reporting. These outbreak timeline metrics were developed by an expert group brought together by Ending Pandemics. To more rapidly identify outbreaks they used key events to record and help public health officials measure the time intervals between select outbreak milestones such as from the date of outbreak start to the date of the outbreak detection. The speed of outbreak surveillance systems can be correlated with the number of cases, the severity of outcomes, the lives lost, and cost to the public health systems. The timeline metrics are already being used by the World Health Organization.”

Lack of food safety data
The talk also covered innovation in information sharing and the Food Systems Dashboard launched this past spring as the joint project of Johns Hopkins University and GAIN with other collaborators. It links together data from global supply chains, food environments, consumer behavior, and diets.

“Looking at one country you can get data on all these factors like production systems, input supply, food availability, climate change, income growth and the proportion of the household budget spent on food and beverages and you can compare it to other countries in that region as well as global averages. You can also use the dashboard to see how different regions food systems operate in tandem or where they diverge,” said DeWaal.

“While the database represents an advance in information sharing, it is lacking in one essential area and that is food safety data. This is in part because food safety data has proven hard to collect globally and it is not standardized across countries in the way economic data is. This is an opportunity for IAFP and food safety experts to help identify food safety data sources for the Food Systems dashboard.”

What drove food safety passion
DeWaal told delegates about a workshop she attended this past year where attendees were asked to share an experience that shaped their professional lives.

“In January 1993, I was a new mother home on maternity leave. I was already working as a consumer advocate on food safety but it was quite early in my career. One morning I got up and looked at the front page of the Washington Post, there were two stories,” she said.

“One was the upcoming inauguration of Bill Clinton, then president-elect, and the other was about this mysterious outbreak in Washington State where hospitals were becoming overwhelmed by children with a mysterious disease. This was the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. Lauren Rudolph (1986-1992) was the first case in that outbreak. She died several weeks earlier, two states away. I met her mother, Roni Rudolph, later that year.

“The parents I worked with for the next two decades had the greatest impact on my career. Alex Donley died (1987-1993) from E. coli O157:H7 later in 1993 though he was not part of the same outbreak. His mother organized a protest at the American Meat Institute meeting in Chicago with the parents of children who had been her son’s classmates and those classmates to draw attention to the fact that despite the Jack in the Box outbreak that sickened more than 700 people and four children died nothing had changed to protect her son from E. coli. These families, these children are what drove my passion for food safety.”

DeWaal also talked about a Listeria outbreak in 1999.

“How could another serious outbreak occur? This was the question I posed to government officials over and over again. Barbara Kowalcyk and her mother Pat came to Washington so frequently after Kevin’s (1998-2001) death from E. coli to help advocate for stronger food safety laws,” she said.

“Maybe I was tough on regulators and the industry but I felt it was warranted by each outbreak and each child’s voice that was silenced. Later while working on the Food Safety Modernization Act, I was honored to testify in Congress side by side with families of others who died following major outbreaks.”

EatSafe aims to improve the safety of nutritious foods in informal market settings in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with an initial focus on five sub-Saharan African countries. The five-year program, launched this year, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the consortium includes the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Three webinars were presented in August and September on food safety and nutrition, food safety in traditional, or informal, markets in Africa and Asia, and measuring performance for food safety.

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David Tharp tells how IAFP’s 2020 Annual Meeting virtually came about

October 26, 2020 - 12:17am

For the first time in 75 years, the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) isn’t filling the hotel and conference rooms of a lucky city with close to  5,000 of its members attending its annual meetings.

Because the coronavirus pandemic continues, IAFP’s 2020 Annual Meeting is underway virtually, beginning today and running through Wednesday.    

Only twice since it began in 1911 has IAFP skipped its annual meetings, both times during the dark days of World War II.  Since then, IAFP’s annual gatherings came to be recognized as the leading food safety conference worldwide.

 Were it not for the pandemic, IAFP’s 2020 Annual Meeting would have occurred during July in Cleveland.   

 For the Des Moines, IA-based IAFP staff of about a dozen professionals and its international Board of Directors, the pandemic upended their year. The IAFP Annual Meeting is, well, complicated with numerous moving parts.   

Shutting down Cleveland and still fulfilling the needs of food safety professionals around the world with a virtual multi-day event sure wasn’t accomplished overnight,

IAFP’s Executive Director since 1997 is David Tharp. He joined the staff 28 years ago as Director of Finance and Administration and was also the interim executive in 1995.    He was not from the food safety world, but a CPA who thought he would take a summer putting IAFP’s financial house in order before going back to doing taxes.

He stayed and produced 27 annual meetings in North American cities until this year’s move to the World Wide Web.   IAFP’s membership growth is about five times what it was when he took over, to more than 4,500 today.

Today it is also a true international organization with a European conference added in 2005 along with events in  China, Dubai, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region with active members spanning the globe.

Tharp also virtually sat down with Food Safety News  (FSN) to tell us how the decisions were made to make IAFP’s first virtual annual meeting reality with all the action that begins today.

(FSN) — Would you trace the steps that brought you to the decision where you committed to producing this first-ever annual virtual IAFP annual meeting? 

(Tharp) — Yes, it all started back in February when the Program Committee and IAFP Executive Board met in Cleveland. There were news stories about a virus that was spreading quickly around the world. 

By mid-March, it was clear the IAFP Board would not meet in person for their April Board meeting, and all signs were pointing to a long period of travel bans and social distancing. 

We began discussions immediately about alternative plans for IAFP 2020 and set May 1 as the date to decide. After weighing the choices, we decided to postpone the Annual Meeting to October, hoping that the infection rates of COVID-19 would be declining, and we could hold a modified Annual Meeting. 

As time progressed, infection rates did not decline, travel became more restrictive, and it became evident that it would not be possible to hold an in-person Annual Meeting in October. 

In August, we announced our plan to hold IAFP 2020, A Virtual Annual Meeting. 

 (FSN) How much different was planning for a virtual event than just getting people together in person? 

(Tharp) — It sounds so much easier to conduct a virtual meeting, but it turns out to be a much more complicated project. Planning for a virtual meeting is altogether different than preparing for the standard, in-person Annual Meeting. 

In our case, we had to start at the very beginning to establish a virtual platform to use. Because we already had more than 100 sessions accepted, we had to contact each session organizer to confirm whether they would convert their session to a virtual session or if they wanted to withdraw the session. There were close to 1,000 poster presentations where the same confirmation needed to take place. Keeping track of who was in, who was out, who would pre-record, and who would present live became quite the task. 

Then there was the meeting element of exhibitors and sponsors. Again, each had to be contacted to determine their willingness to support the virtual meeting. Lastly, a good number of people had already registered and paid for the in-person Annual Meeting, so they all had to be contacted to determine if they wanted to convert their registration to the virtual meeting. 

Once the conversions were made, the details of how presentations were going to take place had to be determined along with communicating those instructions. The same had to be done for exhibitors. A schedule for each day was devised and our typical meeting content was fit into the three-day schedule. Committee and Professional Development Group (PDG) meetings had to be scheduled in advance of the Virtual Annual Meeting. Award presentations and General Session content were pre-recorded to avoid Internet and power outage issues. And all posters and technical presentations, along with symposia, had to be recorded and uploaded. Communication, communication, communication – that was key in working to keep everyone updated and informed. 

(FSN) — From the looks of the program, this is another large action-packed IAFP production. Did you decide that going virtual was not going to mean holding anything back or did it just work out that way? 

(Tharp) —The decision was made that we would accommodate any presentation that was accepted for the in-person Annual Meeting within the virtual Annual Meeting. As it turned out, we have about 85 percent of our normal Annual Meeting content being delivered virtually this year. People have been so very accommodating in working together to bring this year’s Annual Meeting to life. Exhibitors and sponsors stepped up, our Members and presenters stepped up, the Board was very supportive and our IAFP staff members all worked together to make this a successful Annual Meeting.

Nothing can replace the “in-person” experience of seeing and conversing with friends and colleagues, but when it is not possible to meet in person, we have to settle for this virtual option. We hope to be able to welcome everyone to Phoenix next July for IAFP 2021…until then, take care and be safe! 

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Part three: Preparing for your remote audit 

October 26, 2020 - 12:08am

In part three of this four-part series with SafetyChain Software, Food Safety News outlines critical steps companies should take to prepare for a remote audit. 

As new technologies and work methods make their way into the food industry, companies have the option to step away from traditional in-person auditing processes and switch to a remote audit. 

According to Shamonique Schrick, FSQA Solutions Architect for SafetyChain Software, companies need to treat remote audits just as seriously as they would an in-person audit, investing the same amount of time and preparation into the process. “Remote auditing,” she said, “offers companies long- and short-term solutions to ensure food safety and quality standards are met without exposing the facility to the potential risk that might come with a visit by an outside auditor.” 

“Aside from documents shared digitally and audits conducted over the phone or video platforms, the process is essentially the same,” said Brian Neal, Technical Manager for Eurofins Food Assurance. “A remote audit is not a compromise,” he emphasized. “From the auditor’s perspective, they are still putting their stamp of approval on something, so it must go through the right process.” 

Click for additional information. Courtesy of SafetyChain

Below, Schrick and Neal outline five critical steps companies should take when preparing for a remote audit: 

  1. Identify key personnel 

The same people that supported onsite audits need to take the lead and remain available for a remote audit. 

“It doesn’t matter if they are still going into the office or if they are working remotely – these people need to be available and involved in the remote auditing process just as they would an onsite visit,” said Schrick. “This may mean bringing them in via a video conference or having them available by phone, but they need to know if they are expected to join in on the audit and how they should participate.”

  1. Gather documentation needed from the auditor 

The same documentation required by auditors for an onsite visit should also be completed and sent to them before conducting a remote audit. It should include any non-disclosure agreements and even the visitor’s policy.

“Make sure you’re still giving auditors everything they need in advance so that they know you’re still following your usual procedures – we want to keep it as normal as possible,” explained Schrick. 

  1. Check internet connections 

Anyone working from home or communicating regularly with remote workers knows just how finicky and unreliable home Wi-Fi can be at times. Before conducting an audit, Schrick said employees taking part should work with the company’s IT department to ensure their internet connections can support the audit for the entire agreed upon time. 

“Give yourself enough time to troubleshoot any issues that you find before the scheduled audit,” she said, “and communicate with the auditors about a contingency plan if something fails so the audit can still go as smoothly as possible.” 

  1. Work with the audit team to identify needs

Two things are critical. The first being the method for conferencing. Is it going to be over the phone or video? If video, what platform are you planning to use?  The second is to work with the audit team to understand how the process is going to work. 

“Auditors need to understand what is needed so they can work with the company to get everything set up before the audit, so when that time comes, everything runs as smoothly as possible,” said Neal. “Communicate with your audit team and everyone else involved so they all know how the process is going to work and to sort out any issues beforehand.” 

  1. Gather documents ahead of time 

One of the most significant differences between a remote and onsite audit is that files are shared to a digital platform rather than making physical copies available at the facility. For companies that are already working with digital records, upload files to a shared portal that only their team and the designated auditor can access. For companies working with paper records, documents must be scanned or photographed and uploaded to the digital platform. 

“The more digital documentation you can organize ahead, the faster and easier the audit will be,” explained Neal. “Know what documents you need and start working as soon as you can to digitize them. Companies also need to share any changes to their programs and monitoring since their last audit. Getting it all compiled is a big advantage in making things work a little faster for everyone.”

“Having that information readily available to the auditor is critical to making sure the audit goes seamlessly,” said Neal. “Prepping as much as possible is going to be your best friend.”

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Austria hit by two large outbreaks in 2019

October 26, 2020 - 12:07am

Fewer than 50 foodborne outbreaks were reported across Austria this past year but two of them involved more than 300 people.

In connection with the 48 outbreaks, 793 people became ill. This is a sharp increase compared to 222 patients in 52 outbreaks in 2018.

Two large outbreaks were recorded in 2019, one caused by norovirus, which sickened 350 people, and a salmonellosis outbreak with 321 patients.

A total of 159 people had to be hospitalized and one death was reported in connection with all foodborne disease outbreaks.

Campylobacter caused most outbreaks
Campylobacter was linked to 22 outbreaks and Salmonella caused 17. Five others were attributable to norovirus, two to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), and one each to Listeria and Brucella. Salmonella outbreaks have decreased from 452 in 2006 to 17 in 2019.

The long-term average from 2006 to 2018 of people affected per outbreak was 4.4 but in 2019 there were almost four times as many (16.5) people affected per outbreak.

The Austrian Zoonoses Act obliges the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) to collect outbreak data annually and forward it to European authorities.

In 2019, 1,865 laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonellosis were registered. Salmonella was the second most common reported cause of bacterial food poisoning in Austria after Campylobacter with 6,500 infections.

The increase this past year compared to 2018 can be attributed to an Austria-wide outbreak by Salmonella Enteritidis. Infections occurred mainly in Asian restaurants through the use of eggs containing Salmonella.

Salmonella Infantis, the monophasic variant of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Coeln are becoming increasingly important alongside Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium.

More than 5,700 food samples were tested for Salmonella as part of sampling. It was found 69 times, with Salmonella Infantis being identified most frequently on 54 occasions. Salmonella was detected in 62 of 443 poultry meat samples. These samples accounted for 7.8 percent of the total sample types tested, but 90 percent of all Salmonella-positive samples were from this category.

Prevalence of other pathogens
Campylobacter was detected in 110 of 235 samples including 81 of 131 samples of raw chicken meat and preparations, 11 of 56 samples of raw turkey meat and preparations, and 18 of 48 samples of raw poultry meat.

Six laboratory-confirmed infections of Brucella were reported. Brucella melitensis was confirmed in five cases. Three are considered imported, two were not imported and for one the place of infection is unknown.

A total of 286 laboratory-confirmed STEC cases were reported and the severe complication hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) occurred in 16 patients.

In 2019, 38 lab-confirmed cases of invasive listeriosis were reported and six people died within 28-days of diagnosis.

In total, 112 laboratory-confirmed cases of yersiniosis were reported with all but one of 95 isolates being Yersinia enterocolitica.

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PathogenDx and Prevenio team up to identify and eradicate harmful pathogens

October 26, 2020 - 12:06am

PathogenDx, a Scottsdale, AZ tech company that has developed a DNA-based pathogen testing platform, is partnering with Prevenio, a provider of automated food processing and pathogen protection systems, to provide the first-ever closed-loop system to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.

The two companies are coming together to find solutions that will enable food producers to identify and eradicate harmful pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria. The companies hope that their partnership will lead to a more rapid and effective food safety system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in every 5 foodborne illnesses come from eating contaminated fresh produce. This makes it vital that contaminated products are kept out of the food supply chain.

The partnership will merge PathogenDx’s technological ability to deliver same-day food contact surface evaluations with Prevenio’s automated food processing and pathogen protection systems.

John Meccia, President, and CEO of Prevenio had this to say about their partnership with PathogenDx, “When combined, our unique technologies represent a leading-edge model of food safety that encompasses rapid detection and pinpoint intervention.  Instead of working backward from the point of harm, producers and regulators can now adopt more forward-looking, preventative food safety processes.”

This collaboration comes after PathogenDx’s announced its partnership with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to study the effectiveness of its microarray testing technology in identifying foodborne pathogens throughout the food supply chain

PathogenDx says that its mission “is to become the new standard in DNA-based testing through widespread adoption of its advanced microarray testing platform for the human diagnostics, food and agricultural industries.”

Prevenio is a food safety company located in Bridgewater, NJ. They are a leader in providing automated food processing solutions with pathogen protection that significantly enhance food safety for its clients and their customers in the protein and produce markets.

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Companies put of notice for salmonella on pig ear dog treats and foriegn import violations.

October 26, 2020 - 12:05am

As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent. Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

The Lennox, International, Inc.

Edison, NJ

A pet food company in New Jersey is on notice from the FDA after inspectors found Salmonella on their pig ear dog treats. This warning letter serves as a reminder that raw pet food products can contain dangerous pathogens and should be handled as carefully as other products. Consumers should also beware of cross-contamination from pet food on surfaces and hands.

In a Sept. 29 warning letter, the FDA described a Feb. 20,21,24, and 26 and  March 2, 5, 16, and 20, 2020, and 30 inspections at The Lennox, International, Inc. manufacturing facility. The FDA found that the firm had significant violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation 

In response, the FDA issued the firm a  Form FDA 483.

The significant violations:

  1. The firm did not have a written food safety plan. Their food safety plan must include a hazard analysis to identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards for each type of animal food manufactured, processed, packed, or held at their facility, to assess the severity of the illness or injury to humans or animals if the hazard were to occur and the probability that the hazard will occur in the absence of preventive controls.

Their April 5, 2020 response indicates that they have hired a food safety consultant and also included a list of items to be covered by your Food Safety Plan. However, because they have not provided their Food Safety Plan, the FDA is unable to assess their corrective action. The FDA will verify the adequacy of its corrective action during a future inspection.

Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) Requirements

The firm’s animal food facility is subject to the CGMP requirements. During the inspection of their facility, FDA Investigators noted evidence of a violation of these requirements, as follows:

  1. The firm did not take reasonable measures and precautions to ensure that all persons working in direct contact with animal food, animal food-contact surfaces, and animal food-packaging materials conform to hygienic practices to the extent necessary to protect against the contamination of animal food. Methods for conforming to hygienic practices and maintaining cleanliness include washing hands thoroughly in an adequate hand-washing facility as necessary and appropriate to protect against contamination. Specifically,
  • Investigators observed employees handling pig ear pet treats with ungloved hands during the sorting of unwrapped irradiated pig ear treats, the unwrapping of individually-wrapped irradiated pig ear pet treats, and the repackaging of these treats into 25-count finished product bags or bulk boxes.
  • Investigators observed an employee rubbing his nose with his arm and hand while handling rawhide pet treats and other employees pressing rawhide knotted bones to their noses prior to packaging.
  • Employees were observed returning from breaks without using hand soap to wash their hands prior to returning to (redacted) and repackaging bulk unwrapped rawhide treats and pig ears.

The firm’s April 5, 2020 response includes a document titled “Hygiene Rules”, issued on March 30, 2020. This document includes its policies on handwashing and wearing gloves. It also indicates that employees will be trained (redacted) on cleanliness, personal hygiene, and ways to prevent contamination of goods in the warehouse. They have also stated they will install handwashing signs and make hand sanitizer and gloves available to employees. The FDA will verify the implementation of these corrective actions during a future inspection. Please see the comment below regarding training.

  1. The firm did not clean animal food contact surfaces of equipment as necessary to protect against the contamination of animal food or animal food-packaging materials. Specifically,
  • The firm stated at the start of the inspection that they only cleaned the processing tables if they appeared dirty.

During the inspection, they stated that they had instructed employees to clean and sanitize work stations between products, and at the end of the day. Also, their April 5, 2020 response includes their plan for cleaning and sanitation of work stations, dated March 30, 2020. They indicated that this plan will be documented in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). However, because they have not provided their SOP, the FDA is unable to assess their corrective action. The FDA will verify the adequacy of its corrective action and its implementation during a future inspection.

  1. The firm did not handle work-in-process and rework in such a way that it is protected against contamination and the growth of undesirable microorganisms. Specifically,
  • Investigators observed employees handling individually shrink-wrapped, irradiated pig ear pet treats during the examination and labeling process. Pig ears that were found to have broken packaging were placed into a separate box by the employees. Management explained that employees remove the broken packaging and the ears are either distributed as loose bulk pig ears or reshrink-wrapped without being irradiated again.

The firm’s April 5, 2020 response includes a document titled “Rework Procedure”, issued on March 30, 2020. This document includes its policies on how you will authorize and handle the rework of products with damaged packaging. Additionally, they indicated that effective (redacted). However, because there is conflicting information between the response and the document titled “Rework Procedure”, the FDA is unable to assess their corrective action. The FDA will verify the adequacy of its corrective action and its implementation during a future inspection.

  1. They did not use cleaning and sanitizing agents that are safe and adequate under the conditions of use. Specifically,
  • Investigators observed your employees using (redacted) to perform sanitation operations of food-contact surfaces used during the packing of irradiated pig ear pet treats.

As noted above, your April 5, 2020 response includes their plan for cleaning and sanitation of work stations, dated March 30, 2020. This plan describes cleaning with (redacted), followed by cleaning with (redacted). They have not provided sufficient detail for us to assess your corrective action. The FDA will verify the adequacy of its corrective action and its implementation during a future inspection.

The practices described above are ways in which the pet treats you manufacture could become contaminated by undesirable microorganisms. Undesirable microorganisms include microorganisms that are pathogens, that subject animal food to decomposition, that indicate that animal food is contaminated with filth, or that otherwise may cause animal food to be adulterated.

The presence of undesirable microorganisms in their pet treats is evidence of the significance of their PCAF regulation violations. On July 11, 2019, FDA collected from a retailer two samples of your individually shrink-wrapped Premium Natural Pig Ears, which subsequently tested positive for Salmonella, an undesirable microorganism. They received these pig ear pet treats from their supplier as loose, bulk pig ears, and they packaged and distributed them into interstate commerce on May 1 and 15, 2019. They recalled these pig ear treats on July 26, 2019, and expanded the recall on July 30, 2019, due to the potential for additional products to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The FDA provided the following comments:

The firm stated during the inspection that they have instituted a sampling and testing program for Salmonella for their finished pig ear pet treats. 

The firm told FDA investigators that you add flavorings to some lots of previously irradiated pig ears with (redacted) prior to sealing the final product packaging. The post-irradiation manipulation of the pig ears (for example, flavoring, sorting, packaging, or repackaging) in an environment where pathogens may be present could cause the recontamination of products prior to packaging. As they prepare their Food Safety Plan, which states that a hazard evaluation must include an evaluation of environmental pathogens whenever an animal food is exposed to the environment prior to packaging and the packaged animal food does not receive a treatment or otherwise include a control measure that would significantly minimize the pathogen.

Their April 5, 2020 response states that their employees will be trained (redacted) on hygiene. As they implement this training, they should be aware of, which state that individuals manufacturing/processing, packing, or holding animal food must receive training in the principles of animal food hygiene and animal food safety, including the importance of employee health and personal hygiene, as appropriate to the animal food, the facility, and the individual’s assigned duties. Records documenting this training must be established and maintained and are subject to FDA review.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

V-Nine Inc.

Hyattsville, MD

An import company in Maryland is on notice from the FDA for not having FSVPs for a number of imported food products.

In a Sept. 24, 2020, warning letter, the FDA described a June 10 and 29, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at V-Nine Inc.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in the issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

The firm did not develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP. Specifically, they did not develop an FSVP for each of the following foods:

  • Pad thai sauce imported from (redacted)

The firm did not meet the requirements to conduct a hazard analysis for the following products:

  •  Jasmine rice imported from (redacted)

The firm did not meet the requirements to evaluate your foreign supplier’s performance. They must approve their foreign suppliers on the basis of an evaluation of the foreign supplier’s performance and the risk posed by the food and document their approval. They did not document your approval of their foreign supplier of jasmine rice imported from (redacted).

The firm did not meet the requirements to perform foreign supplier verification activities for the foods they import. Specifically, they did not document their determination or performance of appropriate supplier verification activities for the jasmine rice imported from their foreign supplier, (redacted). For their jasmine rice imported from (redacted), while they obtained audit certificates, they did not establish written procedures for ensuring that appropriate supplier verification activities are conducted and they did not document their determination of the appropriate supplier verification activity.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

Aspen Sales Group

Bedminster, NJ

An import company in New Jersey is on notice from the FDA for not having FSVPs for a number of imported food products.

In an Oct. 7 warning letter, the FDA described a May 29 and June 10, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Aspen Sales Group.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in the issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

The firm did not develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP. Specifically, they did not develop an FSVP for each of the following foods:

  • Fries imported from their foreign supplier, (redacted), located in (redacted).
  • Refined Sugar imported from your foreign supplier, (redacted), located in (redacted).

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

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IAFP 2020 recognizes award winners with short video presentations

October 25, 2020 - 12:05am

The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) is recognizing its award winners a bit differently this time. With this year’s meeting being online, the IAFP is recognizing its winners with personalized award videos.

Below is a list of the 2020 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Award recipients. You can learn more about this year’s recipients and the history behind each award by watching their videos. The IAFP says it is proud to honor its 2020 awardees and recognizes their accomplishments with these short video presentations.

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

Recipient:
Ajinomoto Foods North America, Inc, Ontario, California

Fellows Award
Presented to Member(s) who have contributed to IAFP and its Affiliates with distinction over an extended period of time.

Recipients:
Robert Buchanan, Mickey Parish

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.

Recipient:
Dallas G. Hoover

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 dedicated service to the Association.

Recipients:
Patrice Arbault (posthumously), Jeffrey M. Farber, Judy Harrison, Allen R. Sayler, Peter J. Slade, Mary Lou Tortorello

Harry Haverland Citation Award
Includes $2,500 honorarium and is presented to an individual for years of devotion to the ideals and objectives of IAFP.
Sponsored by: Eurofins

Recipient:
Gary R. Acuff

Food Safety Innovation Award
Includes $2,500 honorarium and is 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.
Sponsored by: Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center

Recipient:
Clear Labs

International Leadership Award
Includes $2,000 honorarium and reimbursement to attend IAFP 2020 and is 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.

Recipient:
Norma Heredia

Food Safety Award
Includes $2,000 honorarium. This award alternates between individuals and groups or organizations. In 2020, the award will be presented to an individual for highly significant food safety development or in recognition of a long history of outstanding contributions to food safety.
Sponsored by: GMA

Recipient:
Joseph Stout

Frozen Food Foundation Freezing Research Award
Includes $2,000 honorarium and is 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

Recipient:
Claire Zoellner

Institut Merieux Young Investigator Award in Antimicrobial Resistance
Includes payment of €10,000 to support further research work by the laureate and is 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

Recipient:
Shivaramu Keelara

Maurice Weber Laboratorian Award
Includes $2,000 honorarium and is 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: Weber Scientific

Recipient:
Donald W. Schaffner

Larry Beuchat Young Researcher Award
Includes $2,000 honorarium and is presented to a young researcher who has shown outstanding ability and professional promise in the early years of their career.
Sponsored by: bioMérieux, Inc.

Recipient:
Si Hong Park

Ewen C.D. Todd Control of Foodborne Illness Award
Includes $1,500 honorarium and is presented to an individual for dedicated and exceptional contributions to the reduction of risks to foodborne illness.
Sponsored by: Marler Clark Attorneys at Law

Recipient:
Jeffrey M. Farber

Sanitarian Award
Includes $1,500 Honorarium and is presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP, and the profession of the Sanitarian.
Sponsored by: Sponsored by Ecolab Inc.

Recipient:
Rick J. Heiman

Elmer Marth Educator Award
Includes $1,500 honorarium and is 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.

Recipient:
Lynn M. McMullen

Harold Barnum Industry Award
Includes $1,500 Honorarium and is presented to an individual for outstanding service to the public, IAFP, and the food industry.
Sponsored by: MERCK Animal Health

Recipient:
Andrew James Clarke

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.
Dr. Silliker established Silliker Laboratories in 1967 and grew the network of laboratories to more than 70 locations in 18 countries.  Dr. Silliker was committed to making meaningful contributions to food safety outside the confines of his laboratory. He was an early proponent of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system; developed the revolutionary concept of using sponges to collect environmental samples in food plants; and testified at congressional hearings that resulted in the passage of landmark food safety legislation.
The John H. Silliker Lecturer is selected by a committee including a representative from Merieux NutriSciences, the Program Committee Chairperson, and the IAFP President.

Recipient:
Peter K. Ben Embarek

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

Recipients:
Kolawole Banwo, A.L.Chathudina Janitha Liyanage, Muhammad Bilal Sadiq

Travel Award for State or Provincial Health or Agricultural Department Employees
Presented to 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

Recipients:
Dietrich Blum, Veronica Bryant, Leslie Cobb, Taryn Hurley, Temesgen Jemaneh, Kendra Kilawee

Student Travel Scholarship
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

Recipients:
Cameron Bardsley, Brianna Britton, Alessia Delbrück, Erika Estrada, Savana Everhart, Emily Forauer, Ahmed Gomaa, Marti Hua, Xingyi Jiang, Xinyu Liao, Claire Marik, Francis Muchaamba, Kizito Nishimwe, Duke Gekonge Omayio, Katie Overbey, Angélica Godínez Oviedo, Dacil Rivera, Thiago Sugizaki dos Santos, Mathilde Trudel-Ferland, Ingrid Zamora

Peanut Proud Student Scholarship Award
The 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

Recipient:
Hyeon Woo Park

CB. Shogren Memorial Award
Includes $500 Honorarium and is 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”).

Recipient:
Florida Association for Food Protection

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 due to a general lack of innovation in food protection programs during that period.
Sponsored by: 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, Foodservice Packaging Institute, International Association for Food Protection, National Association of County & City Health Officials, National Environmental Health Association, NSF International, and Underwriters Laboratories

Recipient:
Southern Nevada Health District

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Deli meats suspected for causing 3-state Listeria outbreak: 1 Death

October 24, 2020 - 10:18am

Public health officials in the United States have confirmed that ten people, all requiring hospitalization, are infected with an outbreak strain of Listeria according to reports from three states–Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.  One death in Florida is associated with the outbreak.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and state health officials are investigating the multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to deli meats.

It is the second multistate outbreak of Listeria to be reported during 2020.  According to the CDC:

  • Epidemiologic evidence shows that deli meat is a likely source of this outbreak.
    • In interviews with 9 ill people, all reported eating Italian-style meats, such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto.
    • They reported purchasing prepackaged deli meats and meats sliced at deli counters at various locations.
  • A specific type of deli meat and common supplier has not yet been identified.

Anyone who is pregnant, aged 65 years or older, or has a weakened immune system.  is at higher risk for getting sick with Listeria. If you are not in these groups, you are unlikely to get sick from Listeria.

Deli meats, also called lunch meat or cold cuts, can have Listeria bacteria. Avoid eating deli meats, unless heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.

Take additional steps to prevent getting sick:

  • Clean
    • Wash your hands after handling deli meats.
    • Clean refrigerator shelves, kitchen countertops, utensils, and other surfaces that may have come into contact with deli meats. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.
  • Separate
    • Don’t let juice from deli meats get on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces.
  • Chill
    • Keep factory-sealed, unopened packages of deli meats in the refrigerator for no longer than 2 weeks.
    • Keep open packages and meat sliced at a local deli in the refrigerator for no longer than 5 days.

Call your healthcare provider if you ate deli meats and are experiencing symptoms of Listeria infection.

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Hundreds of IAFP posters detail the latest in food safety technology

October 24, 2020 - 12:05am

This year’s IAFP 2020 event, “A Virtual Annual Meeting”, Oct. 26-28 will feature hundreds of poster presentations detailing current information on a variety of topics relating to food safety.

The posters provide quantity and quality of information on the latest methods and technologies available. The posters are available for advanced viewing for registered attendees here

This year’s posters sessions are divided into three groupings:

Session 1, Monday, Oct. 26 – 

  • Beverages and Acid/Acidified Foods
  • Food Chemical Hazards and Food Allergens
  • Food Toxicology
  • Laboratory and Detection Methods
  • Meat, Poultry, and Eggs
  • Packaging 
  • Retail and Food Service Safety
  • Seafood
  • Water

Session 2, Tuesday, Oct. 27 – 

  • Communication Outreach and Education
  • Epidemiology
  •  Food Defense
  • Food Law and Regulation
  • Food Processing Technologies
  • Food Safety Systems
  • General Microbiology
  • Low-water Activity Foods
  • Modeling and Risk Assessment
  • Molecular Analytics
  • Genomics and Microbiome Communication Outreach and Education

Session 3, Wednesday, Oct. 28 – 

  • Antimicrobials
  • Dairy
  • Microbial Food Spoilage
  • Pre-harvest Food Safety
  • Produce
  • Sanitation and Hygiene
  • Viruses and Parasites

Not registered? Registration is still open and can be found here.

Attendees will join thousands of food safety professionals from around the world for three days of remote sharing, learning, and networking.

In a usual year, the IAFP Annual Meeting is attended by more than 3,800 of the top industry, academic, and governmental food safety professionals from six continents. The event is known for the quantity, quality, and diversity of each year’s program; the quality and relevance of exhibits sharing the latest in available technologies; leading experts speaking on a variety of timely topics; and special recognition of outstanding professionals and students for their contributions in the food safety field.

The IAFP says it is committed to producing a high-quality program in the virtual setting, including presentations, general sessions, exhibits, and award recognitions. After-hours options offer conversation and networking opportunities.

For more information on the IAFP 2020 event, “A Virtual Annual Meeting,” visit their website.

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Salmonella dominates events involving INFOSAN

October 24, 2020 - 12:04am

Salmonella dominated hazards dealt with by a global food safety network in the third quarter of 2020.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was involved in 37 events from July to September compared to 29 incidents in 2Q 2020.

Ten of 18 biological hazard incidents involved Salmonella while the next highest was E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes with two each. Norovirus, Pseudomonas spp., Clostridium botulinum, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter spp. and Enterococcus faecalis were linked to one event each.

Six events involved an undeclared allergen such as peanut, milk, egg, soy, walnuts, and hazelnuts. Five were due to a physical hazard like plastic, glass, and foreign matter.

Five involved a chemical hazard including histamine, clenbuterol, and phytohemagglutinin and three were caused by unidentified hazards.

The most commonly involved food categories were nuts and oilseeds; snacks, desserts, and other foods; fish and other seafood; meat products; vegetable products and milk and dairy products.

Herbs, spices, and condiments; legumes and pulses; composite food; fruit products; fruit and vegetable juice; food for infants and small children; egg products; and cereal-based products were also linked to food safety issues.

Salmonella peach outbreak
In the quarter, there was a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis in the United States and Canada linked to the consumption of fresh peaches produced in the U.S.

More than 100 people infected with the outbreak strain were reported from 17 states in the U.S. while 57 people were affected in two Canadian provinces.

Implicated products were distributed from the U.S. to Australia, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Taiwan. They were also sent to New Zealand and were re-exported to Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Samoa, and Tonga.

Whole Genome Sequencing details were shared to help identify possible matching cases in these countries but no more illnesses were reported.

The second and third meetings of the INFOSAN working groups were held online in August and September. For the second session, participants discussed food recalls in an international context. During the third event, the group discussed allergens in food and their experiences when dealing with such issues.

INFOSAN is managed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

The network was involved in almost double the number of incidents in 2018 and 2019 compared to 2016 and 2017, according to its activity report. Biological hazards were behind the majority of events, the most common of which was Salmonella.

Results from a study of INFOSAN were also published in the Journal of Food Protection to describe experiences of network members. The third and final phase of the research is ongoing.

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