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Brashears begins her second year as deputy undersecretary with new plan for FSIS

18 hours 46 min ago

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service rolled out a new annual plan at a meeting in Austin with small meat and poultry operators. Mindy Brashears, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety, described a sort of stream of consciousness in producing the new plan.

“I sat down in December, and I just started writing, and at the end of the day, I had 18 pages and an appendix,” Brashears told the FSIS listening redoubtable for small plants. “I had help boiling it down into a vision for where I wanted to go and how it all works together.”

An industry publication called Meatingplace first reported Brashears’s remarks to the Austin audience.

The USDA deputy undersecretary is currently the highest-ranking food safety official in the United States. Brashears, who has held the post for the past year, is also the president’s choice for USDA’s undersecretary for food safety. In this Congress, and the one before it, the Senate Committee on Agriculture recommended Brashears’ confirmation, but the Senate still has not found the time for the vote.

As deputy, Brashears heads up the Office of Food Safety at USDA, overseeing the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has regulatory oversight for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.

Brashears also serves as chair of the U.S. CODEX Policy Committee and offers expert scientific guidance to the CODEX Program, an international food standards-setting body of 188 member countries, that protects consumer health and sets international food standards.

She told the small plant operators that she had spent a year talking and listening to the agency’s stakeholders, from FSIS employees to consumers to industry groups to inspectors to district office staff and laboratory scientists, “to name a few.”

“I realized that from a regulatory science standpoint, the question I have to ask is, do the resources, time, and efforts we’re investing impact the public health?” she said.

“The three parts of FSIS 2020 Vision will help us answer that question,” Brashears said. “By ensuring that we have data-driven science and technology, that all stakeholders work collaboratively and in partnership toward common goals, and that we better educate industry and consumers about food safety behaviors, FSIS will make a positive impact on public health and safety of the nation’s food supply.”

The Vision 2020 plan has three parts: lead with science, build relationships, and influence change in behavior. Brashears, a former Texas Tech Univesity food safety professor, makes it clear that FSIS will operate as a “science-based agency” that implements “data-driven policies.”

She says FSIS should “proactively” build relationships, including Congress and other federal health partners, to consumers and industry. On changing behavior, Btashears wants to identify risky consumer behaviors and strive to influence behavior change.

Somethings won’t change. FSIS will continue to focus surveillance on the processes and facilities that pose the highest risk to public health, says FSIS Administrator Carmen M. Rottenberg. Her message introduces the new plan.

During her first year as deputy undersecretary, Brashears finalized rulemaking for the modernization of swine inspection, implemented pathogen reduction performance standards, and worked on behavior changes to reduce foodborne illnesses.

Brashears is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors who has received numerous awards including the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Laboratorian Award, the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Distinguished Research Award, the AMSA Distinguished Industry Service Award, AMSA Achievement Award, and was named to the National Provisioner’s Top 25 Future Icons in the Meat Industry.

She has an extensive publication record in peer-reviewed journals and also holds more than 25 patents for her innovative approaches to improving food safety in the food supply.

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FSA surveys show level of antimicrobial resistant bacteria on UK chicken

18 hours 48 min ago

There has been a decline of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli but not Campylobacter in chicken based on surveys by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Two annual surveys tested fresh chicken sold in the United Kingdom, with one looking at certain antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) E. coli, and the other at AMR Campylobacter. Results are from 2017 to 2018. A previous study looked at beef and pork.

Use of antibiotics is important in treating infections and preventing disease in animals and humans. However, the overuse or misuse of antimicrobials in animal husbandry and healthcare settings has been linked to emergence and spread of microorganisms which are resistant to them, making treatment ineffective and posing a risk to public health.

Paul Cook, the FSA’s science lead in microbiological risk assessment, said: “While there is evidence that AMR bacteria are present on chicken sold in the U.K., it is encouraging to see the levels holding steady and even reducing. The risk of getting AMR-related infections through eating or preparing contaminated meat remains very low as long as you follow good hygiene and cooking practices.”

AMR E. coli results
In total, 309 samples of chicken were collected and tested for E. coli between January and December 2018 from 10 supermarket chains. They included whole chicken, chicken breast and other cuts like quarters, legs, thighs and drumsticks. Two samples originated from Poland but all others came from the U.K.

The proportion of samples positive for Extended Spectrum Beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli fell from 65.4 percent in 2013/14 to 29.7 percent in 2016 and 8.4 percent in 2018.

No E. coli samples were resistant to carbapenem. A total of 13 samples grew on agar with the antibiotic colistin but none were positive for plasmid-mediated colistin resistance genes mcr-1, mcr-2 or mcr-3.

Samples positive for AmpC-producing E. coli fell from 16.3 percent in 2016 to 5.2 percent in 2018. The proportion of samples that grew on agar containing cefotaxime also decreased in 2018 to 13.6 percent compared to 45.1 percent in 2016.

The proportions of chicken samples with E. coli with AmpC+ESBL and ESBL-phenotype were higher for skin off rather than skin on samples.

Forty-two E. coli samples were resistant to cefotaxime, a third generation cephalosporin. Of these, 23 expressed ESBL-phenotype resistance, 16 were found to express AmpC-phenotype resistance and 3 expressed both ESBL- and AmpC-phenotype resistance.

Isolates with a combined ESBL+AmpC-resistance phenotype were on average resistant to more antimicrobials. No isolates were resistant to the antimicrobials azithromycin, meropenem, temocillin or tigecycline.

“This reduction in the level of antimicrobial resistant E. coli on chicken meat since 2013/14 may be linked to the banning by the British Poultry Council of the use of third and fourth generation cephalosporins in flocks used for poultry meat production in the U.K. in 2012 as part of antimicrobial stewardship,” according to the report.

AMR Campylobacter findings
The other survey tested 1,769 samples of whole, U.K.-produced, fresh chicken during August 2017 to July 2018 for Campylobacter.

A total of 393 of the Campylobacter isolates collected from 392 retail chicken samples were tested for AMR out of 1,114 positive samples. A total of 263 isolates came from major retailers and 130 from smaller shops. This included 328 Campylobacter jejuni and 65 Campylobacter coli isolates.

The level of antimicrobial-resistant isolates were similar to what was reported in the previous survey from August 2016 to July 2017. The finding of AMR Campylobacter isolates on chickens means it is important to handle birds hygienically and cook them thoroughly to reduce public health risk, according to researchers.

Ciprofloxacin resistance was identified in 52 percent of the Campylobacter jejuni isolates and just under half of the Campylobacter coli isolates. Two Campylobacter jejuni and two Campylobacter coli isolates were resistant to erythromycin and 52 percent of Campylobacter jejuni and 60 percent of Campylobacter coli isolates to tetracycline.

None of them were resistant to gentamicin whereas 2 percent of Campylobacter jejuni and 9 percent of Campylobacter coli were resistant to streptomycin.

Multi-drug resistance (MDR), so resistance to three or more unrelated antimicrobial classes, was found in six Campylobacter coli and five Campylobacter jejuni isolates. A higher proportion of Campylobacter coli isolates showed MDR but the reason for this is not well understood.

The percentages of fluoroquinolone-resistant isolates were similar to previous survey years but higher compared to data from earlier studies. The proportion of tetracycline-resistant Campylobacter jejuni was significantly lower in this study compared to past data.

Differences in levels of ciprofloxacin- and tetracycline-resistance in isolates from standard, free range and organic birds were examined with no significant findings.

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German researchers developing rapid Salmonella detection test

18 hours 50 min ago

Fraunhofer researchers are helping to develop a test to detect Salmonella in less than eight hours.

A team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Branch Bioanalytics and Bioprocesses are working with the German microbiology and food analysis laboratory Selektis GmbH as part of a ProFIT project running from 2018 to 2020.

Core technology of the detection system is DNA-based amplification. Project partners have reduced the enrichment process from 18 hours to between four and six hours.

The user knows if a sample is positive for Salmonella as there is a yes or no answer without quantification on a digital display with a limit of detection in accordance with ISO 6579. It’s compatible for all food samples and could be adapted to environmental samples.

Timely enrichment
Traditional microbiological techniques can take up to four days, which is a problem for some food manufacturers who don’t want to wait that long for results before shipping goods. If a problem is then found the company may have to make a costly product recall.

Enrichment involves cultivating and propagating microbes, which are available only in limited quantities, in a liquid culture medium overnight, so there is a sufficiently high bacterial count for detection. This process lasts about 18 hours, with three days needed for the selective enrichment and incubation of the salmonellae in additional liquid media, for streaking of a bacterial culture on agar plates, and for the serological test.

It is important to get a high concentration of Salmonella DNA in a short timeframe for sensitive detection. The researchers use fluorescent dyes to label the replicated DNA and detect it using capture molecules. Although molecular biological detection techniques are already in laboratories, they are rarely used in fully automated processes and not in food diagnostics.

Dr. Harald Peter said they have created a rapid culture with growth conditions optimized for Salmonella.

“By means of an innovative, optimized enrichment method, we are able to increase the concentration of the bacteria to such an extent that we can detect them using molecular biological methods after only a few hours,” he said.

“To do this, the DNA of the salmonellae is amplified and automatically detected, something we achieve by extracting the DNA of the salmonellae and amplifying them by molecular biological means to such an extent that they can be detected after a further 30 minutes. For the rapid test, we design the molecules that specifically detect the DNA of the salmonellae.”

Role of automation
Peter and his team plan to develop a system that automatically performs procedures that are done manually, such as cultivation, enrichment, molecular biological replication and detection.

Currently five samples can be tested at once but this could be adapted to 100. The test is based on viable cells only.

All components will be integrated in a compact device. Using special molecular biological techniques, researchers at Fraunhofer IZI-BB can skip certain DNA purification steps to simplify and speed up the process.

The focus is on strains relevant for food monitoring but the assay can be modified to other strains and species if capture molecules are adapted to other organisms using a computer and gene databases.

“The German Food Hygiene Act stipulates that a sample of 25 grams of meat must not contain a single Salmonella bacterium. Consequently, the new rapid test has to be capable of detecting a single bacterium within six to eight hours – that is, within an average working day. A further task is to distinguish the salmonellae from other microorganisms,” said Peter.

Business promotion banks for the federal states of Brandenburg and Berlin are sponsoring the project with funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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Blackberry warning remains in place as outbreak declared over

February 19, 2020 - 5:32pm

Federal officials still can’t say for sure where the blackberries came from, but today they repeated their public warning about fresh berries that were sold in the fall of 2019 and linked to a multi-state hepatitis A outbreak.

As of today, public health labs have confirmed 20 patients in the seven-state outbreak, according to an investigation update from the Food and Drug Administration. More than half have been so sick they required hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is declaring the outbreak is over.

Even though the blackberries were sold in September, there has been an ongoing concern because so many people freeze fresh berries for later use in smoothies, salads, and desserts. Also, it can take up to 50 days after exposure to the liver virus for symptoms to develop, according to the CDC. The most recent person to be confirmed in the outbreak became ill on Nov. 15, 2019.

“People who purchased the fresh blackberries and then froze those berries for later consumption should not eat these berries. They should be thrown away,” the FDA warned today.

“If consumers purchased conventional blackberries from Fresh Thyme Farmers Market stores in the 11 (implicated) states . . . or from Woodman’s Market located in Wisconsin and Illinois between Sept. 9-30, ate those berries in the last two weeks, and have not been vaccinated for the hepatitis A virus, they should consult with their healthcare professional to determine whether post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is indicated. PEP is recommended for unvaccinated people who have been exposed to HAV in the last two weeks.”

The 11 states where the fresh blackberries were sold are Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Outbreak patients specifically reported eating fresh, conventional blackberries bought in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

“FDA completed its traceback investigation, however a single, common source of fresh, conventional blackberries could not be identified,” according to today’s investigation update.

About hepatitis A infections
Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver disease. It easily survives in foods and beverages at freezing temperatures.

Infections can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. In rare cases, particularly for people with a pre-existing health condition or people with weakened immune systems, hepatitis A infections can progress to liver failure and death, according to the CDC.

Some hepatitis A infections are caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Contamination of food can occur at any point during harvesting, processing, and distribution.

Symptoms usually develop within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool. In some instances, particularly in children under the age of 6, hepatitis A infections may be asymptomatic.

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Wife pays tribute to husband who died after Salmonella infection

February 19, 2020 - 12:05am

The wife of a man who was infected with Salmonella linked to duck eggs and later died has said his death has left a massive hole in their lives.

Cheryl Tavakoli paid tribute to her husband ahead of a pre-inquest review hearing.

Niptoon Tavakoli, of Lindholme, Doncaster in England, died in a hospital two months after falling ill complaining of sickness and diarrhoea.

The 65-year-old had eaten duck eggs bought from a stall at the Messingham Show in North Lincolnshire five days before becoming ill.

‘Massive hole in our lives’
Cheryl, 60, said seeing Niptoon so poorly in the last few weeks of his life and being powerless to help was truly horrific.

“Niptoon was the most wonderful, loving and caring husband and stepdad we could have wished for. He was never happier when spending time with his family or visiting antique centres and fairs,” she said.

“Niptoon has left a massive hole in all our lives and we miss him so much. We had so many plans for the future still, but now he is no longer with us, these will only ever remain as plans. It is difficult not to think that he was taken too soon.”

Niptoon, who had worked in the catering industry and retail management, bought six ducks eggs at Messingham Show in June 2019 and cooked and ate four of them.

Five days later an ambulance was called to his home but Niptoon did not go to hospital. On June 10 he was taken to Doncaster Royal Infirmary after paramedics were called again. Doctors found evidence of Salmonella. Niptoon was admitted to intensive care. However, his condition deteriorated and he died of organ failure on Aug. 12.

Provide the family with answers
Public Health England investigated and confirmed a second case of Salmonella in the West Midlands with the same strain but was unable to trace the source of the pathogen.

Cheryl said knowing another person contracted Salmonella after eating duck eggs adds to the concerns about Niptoon’s death.

“We know that nothing can ever make up for what has happened but we need to know if more could have been done to prevent his death. We know that the inquest process is going to be an emotional time but it is something we have to do to honour Niptoon’s memory,” she said.

Cheryl has instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and support the family through the inquest process.

Tim Annett, from Irwin Mitchell, said Salmonella can cause serious health problems and in the worst cases, can lead to death.

“Understandably Niptoon’s family has a number of concerns about the events that unfolded in the lead up to his death. We are determined to provide the family with the vital answers it deserves and the start of the inquest process is a major milestone in being able to do this,” he said.

“We will continue to support the family throughout the process. If during the course of our investigations any issues are identified it is vital that lessons are learned.”

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Advertising raw milk in Kansas is okay, but producing it might be banned

February 19, 2020 - 12:03am

A Kansas review of raw milk policies includes everything from banning sales to requiring a 37-word warning label about the health risks of consuming unpasteurized milk.

Kansas does not permit sales of raw milk in retail settings, and for years the state did not allow raw milk advertising. Last year, however, the advertising ban was struck down by a state judge.

To address the court decision, the Kansas Department of Agriculture is supporting Senate Bill 308, requiring a warning label on the product and consumer advisories on advertisements. The department is opposing SB 300, which calls for a complete and total ban on unpasteurized or “raw” milk.

Healthcare and mainstream dairy industries support SB 300. Whenever one of about four dozen Kanasa raw milk dairies sicken someone in the state, they say there is a loss of pasteurized sales and consumer trust.

Raw milk advocates, including the operators of  four dozen raw milk dairies, claim there are health benefits from raw milk and consumers should have the right to choose,

The Kansas Livestock Association offered three amendments, one defining raw milk, one creating sanitary standards for raw milk dairies, and one to create a registry of producers who sell raw milk. The amendments were offered in place of a ban on raw milk sales.

Kansas raw milk dairies see SB 308 requiring warning labels and advisory information as pushback for their industry winning the lawsuit banning advertising. Attorney Ronald Smith says the Kansas Department of Agriculture is guilty of “governmental vindictiveness.”

He said there’d been no labeling requirement for the last 20 or 30 years. “Why the change? Smith asked. “Senate Bill 308 is here because the Department of Agriculture lost a lawsuit,” he said.

Kenneth Titus, the department’s lawyer, said SB 308 is needed to help consumers make informed decisions.

The proposed 37-word warning: “This product contains ungraded raw milk that is not pasteurized and, as a result, may contain organisms that cause food-borne illness, especially in infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.”

SB 308’s warning requires too many words at type sizes that are too large. Samuel MacRoberts, an attorney with the Kanas Justice Center, said Kansans “are savvy enough” to understand raw milk isn’t pasteurized. He says that’s the point.

Without pasteurization, milk is more likely  to contain salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria. Illnesses linked to raw milk are on the rise. The average number of outbreaks from 2007 to 2012 was four times higher than the average number from 1993 to 2006, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

The CDC also reports 976 illnesses, with 73 hospitalizations due to raw milk from 2007 to 2012.

The Kansas ban on advertising raw milk was challenged by Mark and Coraline Bunner, who operate Shepherd’s Gate Dairy near Pfeifer.   They sued the state on Oct. 28, 2019.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt shortly agreed the advertising ban was unconstitutional and entered into a settlement agreement promising not to enforce the law.

Both SB 300 (banning raw milk) and SB 308 (warning label) and other requirements, remain in the Senate Agriculture Committee after multiple hearings.  The Senate appears open to greater regulation of raw milk, but probably not a ban.

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Survey reveals food safety perceptions in five countries

February 19, 2020 - 12:01am

Insights into consumer attitudes about food safety in five countries have been published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Findings come from data collected in November 2019 in Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

The EFSA commissioned the Eurobarometer study in all EU countries on interest in food safety, awareness and risk perceptions as well as trust in sources of information. Results were published on the first ever World Food Safety Day in 2019.

The survey was carried out in 28 EU member states in April 2019. Some 27,655 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face at home in their mother tongue.

The same work was done in five of seven pre-accession countries with help from the Directorate General for Communication of the European Commission. Pre-accession countries are candidates for future membership of the European Union.

Barbara Gallani, head of EFSA’s Communication, Engagement and Cooperation Department, said: “Our cooperation with pre-accession countries has been growing over the years and the completion of this survey marks another important milestone. It is of great value to have insights on food safety perceptions from five additional countries.”

Albania and Montenegro findings
In Albania, from 1,046 interviews, less than one in five were personally interested in the topic of food safety compared to two in five in the Eurobarometer study.

Food safety was second after nutrient content when Albanians were asked about the most important things when buying food. Only one in five agreed that food safety information was often highly technical and complex.

Almost half permanently changed their consumption behavior after hearing or reading about a food risk compared to a third in the Eurobarometer survey. Nearly half in Albania said food safety was the main concern when choosing food compared to only 22 percent in the Eurobarometer survey.

Only 13 percent agreed that there are regulations in place to make sure food is safe. A total of 43 percent agreed with this statement in the Eurobarometer survey.

Albanians had poor knowledge of pesticide residues in food, food poisoning from bacteria, food hygiene and allergic reactions to food and drinks compared to the EU average. They were also not overly concerned about any of these topics.

EU institutions were more trusted by those in Albania than the EU average for information on food risks, as were non-governmental organizations (NGOs), journalists, supermarkets, food industries and celebrities, bloggers and influencers. EU institutions were the main trusted source, followed by scientists and consumer groups.

In Montenegro, from 529 interviews, almost a quarter were interested in food safety compared to two in five in the Eurobarometer study.

Food safety was top when those in Montenegro were asked about the most important things when buying food. Only 16 percent agreed that food safety information was often highly technical and complex compared to the EU average of 36 percent.

A third permanently changed their consumption behavior after hearing about a food risk but more than 40 percent took action only for a certain period. Less than one in four agreed that there are regulations to make sure food is safe.

Those in Montenegro had little knowledge of pesticide residues in food, food poisoning from bacteria, food hygiene and allergic reactions to food and drinks compared to the EU average, but like Albania, they were also not overly concerned about these topics.

Results from North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey
From 1,026 interviews in North Macedonia, the number of people interested in food safety was only slightly below the two in five for the Eurobarometer study.

Food safety was top when people were asked about the most important things when buying food with almost two thirds saying this compared to half in the EU survey.

A third permanently changed consumption behavior after hearing about a food risk and another third took action only for a certain period. Fewer than one in five agreed that food safety information was often highly technical and complex compared to 36 percent in the EU study.

More than 80 percent said safety was the main or among their concerns when buying food compared to two thirds in the Eurobarometer work. One in four agreed that there are regulations to make sure food is safe and almost half said food products are full of harmful substances.

People in North Macedonia were mainly concerned about food poisoning from bacteria, diseases found in animals, pesticide residues in food and food hygiene.

In 1,017 interviews in Serbia less than 30 percent were interested in food safety.

Food safety was joint second with taste and behind cost when people were asked about the most important things when buying food. A third changed consumption behavior for a while after hearing about a food risk and just less than a third were worried but did not change such behavior.

Responses were split between safety being the main or among their concerns when buying food and safety not being an issue as they take it for granted food sold is safe. Those in Serbia were mostly concerned about genetically modified ingredients in food and drinks.

Out of 1,011 interviews in Turkey, only a quarter were interested in food safety.

Food safety was second behind ethics and beliefs when people were asked about the most important things when buying food. Almost half changed consumption behavior for a while after hearing about a food risk.

A total of 60 percent said safety was the main or among their concerns when buying food but a quarter said safety was not an issue as they take it for granted food sold is safe. One in four agreed that there are regulations to make sure food is safe with 40 percent saying food products are full of harmful substances.

Turkish people were mostly concerned about traces of materials that come into contact with food such as plastic packaging, additives like colors, preservatives or flavorings and genetically modified ingredients in food and drinks.

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FDA, CDC say outbreak over; investigation finds problems but no specific cause

February 18, 2020 - 5:46pm

Federal agencies are reporting a Salmonella outbreak traced to fresh-cut fruit is over after sickening more than 150 people in 14 states. The outbreak strain was particularly virulent with a high hospitalization rate.

One factor likely contributing to the 66 percent hospitalization rate involves the kinds of facilities that received the fruit. They served vulnerable populations with undeveloped or compromised immune systems.

“Most ill people reported eating cut fruit served in long-term care facilities, hospitals, hotels, or schools,” according to today’s outbreak update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Several ill people reported purchasing cut fruit from multiple locations of a grocery store chain.”

“State health officials collected records from the locations where ill people ate or purchased the cut fruit and determined that these locations served or sold cut fruit from Tailor Cut Produce.”

The illness onset dates for the 165 confirmed outbreak patients range from Nov. 7 through Jan. 11. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 92 years, according to the CDC. Of 111 ill people with information available, 73 were hospitalized. Public health officers with the Pennsylvania Department of Health first identified the outbreak.

Tailor Cut Produce officials initiated a recall on Dec. 7, one day after the FDA announced an investigation involving the New Jersey company. 

Ultimately epidemiologic and traceback evidence showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Javiana was linked to Tailor’s fruit mix with cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and grapes. A specific source of the pathogen remains a mystery.

“The FDA’s investigational activities, including an inspection, are complete,” according to the Food and Drug Administration update today. 

“The FDA worked with CDC and state partners to trace back the cut fruit and learn more about the potential routes of contamination. Tailor Cut Produce was identified as the common processor, but the source of the contamination was not identified. 

“When FDA did an inspection at Tailor Cut Produce, the inspectors observed these general deficiencies: the firm’s hazard analysis did not identify a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard that required a preventive control; the firm did not identify a preventive control for a hazard when one was needed, and the firm did not maintain the plant in a clean and sanitary condition and keep the plant in repair. The firm is working with the FDA to address the deficiencies.”

The 165 outbreak patients were confirmed by the use of whole-genome sequencing, which provides a DNA fingerprint of specific strains of bacteria. 

The tests identified patients in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

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APHIS still wants USA to adopt RFID based traceability

February 18, 2020 - 12:10am

Animal disease, not human food safety, is the purpose of traceability in the United States. It means that if there is an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, tracing it to impacted herds might be possible.

But if you think traceability should make it possible to trace the hamburger from a 2-lb package of ground beef to the farm or ranch, forget about it. If you want traceability for food safety, you might want to buy European meat products.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been clear since 2013 that its traceability program is not about food safety, but for tracking animals that might be subject to diseases.

The APHIS rule that’s been in effect since 2013 is about “traceability for livestock moved interstate.” Old fashioned branding, tattoos, and other identification methods recognized by breed associations are part of the existing program.

Last April, APHIS posted a factsheet on its website, showing goals and guidelines for its Animal Disease Traceability program. “Since the Factsheet was posted, APHIS has listened to the livestock industry’s feedback,” the agency’s statement on the issue says. “In light of these comments and current Executive Branch policy, APHIS believes that we should revisit those guidelines.”

It says APHIS removed the April 2019 factsheet from its website, and “it is no longer representative of current policy.” APHIS pulled back because of the livestock industry’s reaction and because of two recent Executive Orders.

The Factsheet was just the sort of non-binding “guidance” that President Trump opposes. He also outlined the transparency expected in administrative rule-making. Both were topics of Executive Orders in late 2019.

“APHIS has decided not to implement the requirements outlined in the April 2019 Factsheet regarding the type of the device that USDA-APHIS will regard official ear tags and the dates by which they must be applied to cattle,” the statement adds.

APHIS says it will “reconsider the path forward,” and there is a need to advance “a robust joint Federal-State-Industry Animal Disease Traceability (ADI) capability.

But APHIS also makes it clear that branding irons are not going to cut it. “As we undertake this reconsideration of whether or when to put new requirements in place, we will encourage the use of Radio Frequency Identification devices through financial incentives that are also consistent with suggestions we have received from cow/calf producers and other,” according to APHIS.

The APHIS statement says it continues to believe RFID devices provide the “best protection” against the rapid spread of animal disease “as well as meet the growing expectations of foreign and domestic buyers.”

The APHIS statement about the removal of the April 2019 Factsheet from its website came on Oct. 25, 2019. That was three weeks after the Billing, MT-Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, Stockgrowers of America, also known as R-CALF USA, sued APHIS in federal court in Wyoming.

R-CALF, which represents cattle producers, opposes RFID traceability mostly over cost. When the Factsheet was removed from the APHIS website, the R-CALF lawsuit became a dead letter. It was dismissed on Feb. 13.

Traceability undoubtedly comes with a cost, but it also creates value.   “A robust, whole chain traceability system could effectively minimize food safety issues by providing real-time transparent and reliable information from beef production through processing and distribution and on the consumer,” reports the National Whole Chain Traceability Institute.

A joint venture of Oklahoma State University (OSU), The Sam Roberts Noble Foundation, University of Arkansas, and Top 10 Produce, the Institute says “a well-functioning whole-chain traceability system could cut down recall times to “minutes instead of days.”

Experts also predict US.producers will find export markets closed to our exports because of inferior traceability.

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Study compares raw milk Campylobacter cases to those from other sources

February 18, 2020 - 12:03am

Researchers in New Zealand have compared cases of raw milk-associated campylobacteriosis with those who did not report drinking this product before illness.

Campylobacteriosis is the most common notifiable disease in New Zealand. While risk is strongly associated with eating undercooked poultry, other risk factors include rainwater-sourced drinking water, contact with animals and consumption of raw dairy products such as unpasteurized milk.

A rising demand for untreated or raw milk have also raised concerns that this exposure may become a more important source of disease in the future, according to researchers.

Previously collected data from notified infections of raw milk-associated campylobacteriosis were compared with cases who did not report raw milk consumption in a study published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection

Raw milk vs non-raw milk infections
Raw milk cases differed from non-raw milk cases in age and occupation demographics, with raw milk ones more likely to be younger and categorized as children or students for occupation. Raw milk cases were more likely to be associated with outbreaks than non-raw milk cases.

Study-suggested motivations for raw milk consumption such as health reasons, natural product, produced on farm, inexpensive or to support locals were not strongly supported by cases.

In New Zealand, raw milk can be legally purchased directly from registered farms and is consumed by farm residents and employees. There has been a recent consultation around legislation in the country.

Data was collected by MidCentral District Health Board and Massey University’s Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory during 2012 to 2017. The study area was the North Island of New Zealand.

The number of notified campylobacteriosis cases was 1,408. Ninety-three people reported raw milk consumption and completed the raw milk questionnaire. An additional 12 cases said they had raw milk but did not fill in the questionnaire and were identified using data from EpiSurv, New Zealand’s national notifiable disease surveillance database.

The median age was 26 (range zero to 75) for raw milk cases and 39 (zero to 97) for non-raw milk cases. A peak amongst children aged 5 years old or less was seen for both groups. A second peak was apparent for raw milk cases in their early to mid-20s.

Drivers of consumption
Twelve raw milk and 33 non-raw milk cases were associated with an outbreak. The percentage of outbreak cases was significantly greater for raw milk compared to non-raw milk cases. Around 13 percent of all cases were hospitalized, with no difference between exposures.

Results from 93 raw milk questionnaires were available. “Health reasons” was the category with most support as 31 percent agreed. “Support for local producers” was not a driver of consumption with only 2 percent of cases agreeing. Other themes motivating consumption identified from interviews included taste, convenience, product received as a gift and desire to try raw milk. Of these, taste and convenience were most frequently reported.

Results indicated that rural children appeared to be at an increased risk of raw milk-associated campylobacteriosis compared to non-raw milk-associated disease. It is unknown whether this was due to more exposure to raw milk, increased susceptibility among this group or a combination of these factors.

A seasonal pattern was apparent in raw milk-associated campylobacteriosis, with a peak in the spring. This may be due to increased access to raw milk and seasonal increases in the shedding of Campylobacter in dairy cattle, according to researchers.

How to produce safe raw milk
Meanwhile, another paper in the same journal describes safety practices for safe raw milk production.

The German Vorzugsmilch (VZM) is a federally regulated program for raw milk production established in the 1930s. The Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) is a non-profit organization in California founded in 2011 that has developed a voluntary program in North America.

For the German system, results from monthly pathogen tests are compared to those from other milk sources. Overall results indicate that raw milk can be produced hygienically and safely in various systems. In 2018, around 1,100 tons of raw milk was sold by 13 VZM farms in Germany and most farmers combine the labeling of raw milk with organic labeling.

There are 18 listed RAWMI farms, of which 14 are active, with an average annual production of 6,900 tons of milk.

Consumers are seeking out raw milk due to health reasons, for taste, freshness, closeness to the producer and to support local agriculture. Good farm biosecurity, animal management, hygienic milking techniques, distribution systems, quick cooling and a good cold chain involving consumer handling can assure safety, according to the study. Bacteria in raw milk can come from udder, teat canal, skin, manure, environment, milking equipment, pipelines, tanks and bottles.

In Canada, the sale of raw milk for direct consumption is prohibited. Herd shares are also banned but still exist. They are arrangement between farmers and shareholders in the herd, where the shareholder can get raw milk and other products from the farmer proportionate to the shareholder’s interest in the herd. Ten producers have been part of a program by the British Columbia Herdshare Association. They are hoping their record of microbial safety can help lift the ban on herd shares.

The Raw Milk Producers Association (RMPA) was created in the United Kingdom in 2019. The group has held workshops with the authors of the paper and FSA inspectors.

Most outbreaks linked to raw milk are associated with dairy farms that have not received training in hazard reduction and hygienic milking procedures, said researchers.

“In addition, raw milk-associated outbreaks are subject to a detection bias, because it is easier to trace an outbreak back to a niche commodity actively sought by few consumers such as raw dairy products than to commodities consumed by a large portion of the population such as pasteurized dairy products. This also leads to a reporting bias, since an investigation that leads to the detection of the source of the risk is much more likely to be reported and published.”

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Pesticides, seafood species fraud, Salmonella result in holds at border

February 18, 2020 - 12:01am

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

Recent modifications to FDA’s import alerts, as posted by the agency, are listed below. Click on the links to view the full alerts.

Import Alert

Desc Text



DWPE Misbranded Seafood – Species Substitution -Rev 3/24/95


Detention Without Physical Examination of Fish/Fishery Products from Foreign Processors (Mfrs.) Not in Compliance with Seafood HACCP


Detention Without Physical Examination of Seafood Products Due to the Presence of Salmonella


Detention Without Physical Examination and Guidance of Foods Containing Illegal and/or Undeclared Colors


Detention Without Physical Examination of Ceramicware Due to Excessive Lead and/or Cadmium


Detention Without Physical Examination of Drugs From Firms Which Have Not Met Drug GMPs


Detention Without Physical Examination of Unapproved New Drugs Promoted In The U.S.



APIs That Appear To Be Misbranded Under 502(f)(1) Because They Do Not Meet The Requirements For The Labeling Exemptions In 21 CFR 201.122




Detention Without Physical Examination of Devices Without Approved PMAs or IDEs and Other Devices Not Substantially Equivalent or Without a 510(k)


Detention Without Physical Examination of Raw Agricultural Products for Pesticides


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Processed Human and Animal Foods for Pesticides


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Food Products Due To The Presence Of Salmonella


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Foods Containing Undeclared Major Food Allergens Or Foods That Fail To Properly Label Major Food Allergens


Detention Without Physical Examination of All Milk Products, Milk Derived Ingredients and Finished Food Products Containing Milk from China Due to the Presence of Melamine and/or Melamine Analogs





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FDA sends warning letters to companies in the Netherlands and Thailand

February 17, 2020 - 12:06am

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.

Neptunus Seafood B. V. — Enschede Netherlands

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Jan. 22, 2020, to the Director of Neptunus Seafood B. V., Martin Haasnoot.

During an inspection at Neptunus Seafood B. V. ‘s seafood processing facility on Oct. 22-23, 2019, FDA investigators found serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Point (HACCP).

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483, Inspectional Observations that lists deviations observed at the facility.

FDA received a response by mail on Nov. 5 and 11, 2019. The FDA’s warning letter explains how the response was not adequate.

The violations noted by the FDA:

  1. A HACCP plan that, at a minimum, lists the critical limits that must be met to comply with 21 CFR. A critical limit is defined in as “the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological, or chemical parameter must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of the identified food safety hazard.” However, Neptunus Seafood B. V. firm’s HACCP plan, dated November 11, 2019, for refrigerated pickled herring products, list critical limits that are not adequate to control the identified food safety hazards.
  2. The critical limits of “(redacted),” “(redacted)” critical control point to control scombrotoxin (histamine) formation and pathogen growth and toxin formation are not adequate. FDA recommends:
  3. To control scombrotoxin (histamine) formation during processing (e.g., thawing, brining, curing, packaging, and labeling) of scombrotoxin-forming fish or fishery products that have been previously frozen such as the frozen herring fillets Neptunus Seafood B. V.  processes into various pickled herring products:
  • The fish are not exposed to ambient temperatures above 40°F (4.4°C) for more than 12 hours, cumulatively, if any portion of that time is at temperatures above 70°F (21.1°C);


  • The fish are not exposed to ambient temperatures above 40°F (4.4°() for more than 24 hours, cumulatively, as long as no portion of that time is at temperatures above 70°F (21.1°C).
  1. To control pathogen growth and toxin formation during unrefrigerated processing of raw, ready-to-eat products:
  • “If at any time the product is held at internal temperatures above 70°F (21.1°C), exposure time (i.e., time at internal temperatures above 50°F (10°C) but below 135°F (57.2°C)) should be limited to 2 hours (3 hours if S. aureus is the only pathogen of concern);”
  • “Alternatively, exposure time (i.e., time at internal temperatures above 50°F (10°C) but below 135°F (57.2°C)) should be limited to 4 hours, as long as no more than 2 of those hours are between 70°F (21.l°C) and 135°F (57.2°C);”
  • “If at any time the product is held at internal temperatures above 50°F (10°() but never above 70°F (21.1 °C), exposure time at internal temperatures above 50°F (10°C) should be limited to 5 hours (12 hours if S. aureus is the only pathogen of concern);”
  • “The product is held at internal temperatures below 50°F (10°C) throughout processing;”


  • “Alternatively, the product is held at ambient air temperatures below 50°F (10°C) throughout processing.”
  1. Neptunus Seafood B. V. critical limit of “(redacted)” is not adequate to control Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) toxin formation. FDA does not recommend that processors rely on monthly finished product testing to control C. botulinum toxin formation. FDA recommends processing controls such as the following:
  2. To control C. botulinum toxin formation during thawing of vacuum packaged fish, the product be thawed at a cooler temperature of 38°F (3 .3°C) or below, immediately before use.
  3. To control C. botulinum toxin formation in refrigerated reduced oxygen packaged finished product, the minimum or maximum values for the critical factors of the brining, pickling, or formulation process should be established by a scientific study. The critical factors are those that are necessary to ensure that the finished product has:
  • “A water phase salt level of at least 5%.”
  • “A pH of 5.0 or below.”
  • “A water activity of below 0.97.”
  • “A combination of water phase salt, pH, and/or water activity that, when combined, have been demonstrated to prevent the growth of C. botulinum type E and non-proteolytic types B and F.”
  1. Neptunus Seafood B. V. must have a HACCP plan that, at a minimum, lists monitoring procedures and their frequencies for each critical control point to comply with 21 CFR 123.6(c)(4). However, the firm’s HACCP plan, dated November 11, 2019, for refrigerated pickled herring products, lists a monitoring procedure at the “(redacted)” critical control points that is not adequate to control C. botulinum toxin formation and scombrotoxin (histamine) formation. Specifically, the monitoring procedures of “(redacted)” and “(redacted)” is inadequate. FDA recommends that firms monitor the temperature of the cooler using a continuous temperature-recording device (e.g., a recording thermometer) and a visual check of the recorded data at least once per day.
  2. Because Neptunus Seafood B. V.  chose to include a corrective action plan in their HACCP plan, the described corrective action must be appropriate, to comply with 21 CFR. However, the corrective action plans for the refrigerated pickled herring products at the “(redacted)” critical control points to Neptunus Seafood B. V. corrective action plans, when a deviation from the critical limit occurs, they will “(redacted).” However, it is not clear from this description if the firm will ensure that violative product will not enter into commerce. In addition, the corrective action must ensure the cause of the deviation is corrected.

A complete list of the violations can be found in the FDA’s warning letter.

Food Canning Ltd., Part., — Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Jan. 22, 2020, to the Owner of TP. Food Canning Ltd., Part., Paisit Jittasirinuwat.

During an inspection at TP. Food Canning Ltd., Part.‘s low-acid canned food (LACF) product facility FDA investigators found serious violations of the Emergency Permit Control regulation. 

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483, Inspectional Observations that lists deviations observed at the facility.

The violations noted by the FDA:

“You must file the scheduled processes with the FDA for each low-acid food in each container size as required by 21 CFR 108.35(c)(2). This filing must occur not later than 60 days after registration and prior to the packing of a new product and include the processing method, type of retort or other thermal processing equipment employed, minimum initial temperatures, times and temperatures of processing, sterilizing value, or other equivalent scientific evidence of process adequacy, critical control factors affecting heat penetration, and source and date of the establishment of the process, for each product in each container size. Specifically, as noted during the inspection, your firm failed to file a scheduled process with FDA for your bamboo shoots in water packaged in cans and processed in (redacted). However, to date our office has not received your process filings for the bamboo shoots you manufacture and ship to the United States.”

“Your firm did not provide evidence that the scheduled processes for the low-acid and acidified food products that you manufacture were established by a qualified person who has expert knowledge acquired through appropriate training and experience in thermal processing requirements for low-acid foods in hermetically sealed containers as required by 21 CFR 113.83. We noted during the inspection that your firm has not established the critical parameters such as minimum time and temperature for processing bamboo shoot tips in water packaged in (redacted) oz. cans in (redacted). It appears the parameters used for processing the product in (redacted). You promised to consult your process authority to validate the process in (redacted) at the conclusion of the inspection. However, evidence of validation records such as temperature distribution or heat penetration data supporting the processing of bamboo shoots in (redacted) has not been provided. We recommend that your firm work with a competent authority to develop and file the necessary scheduled processes for your low acid food operation.”

A complete list of the violations can be found in the FDA’s warning letter.


Enforcement report shows uptick during USDA’s first-quarter

February 17, 2020 - 12:03am

2020 has started busy for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The quarterly enforcement report for the first period shows FSIS inspection program personnel had plenty to do.

Inspection program personnel performed 1,754,094 inspection procedures at USDA-inspected establishments between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019. Federal departments began the fiscal year 2020 on Oct. 1.

The enforcement report for the federal government’s first-quarter reports FSIS inspection personnel found 25,037 instances of noncompliance. Overall, it means the verification procedures found 98.6 percent compliance with regulatory requirements.

Livestock and poultry slaughterhouses were operating at peak levels during the quarter. Livestock carcasses inspected during the quarter reached 43,871,819, with 69,433 carcasses condemned. Poultry carcasses totaled 2.429 billion, with 3,942,303 carcasses condemned.

Those were the largest livestock and poultry quarterly slaughter totals since 2017.

Administrative actions against large establishments, however, were down from historical levels. FSIS took administrative actions against only 15 companies.

CS Beef, Kuna, ID; Eddy Packing Co., Yoakum, TX; JbS Swift Beef, Grand Island, NE; JBS Tolleson, Tolleson, AZ; Jennie O Turkey Store, Faribault, MN; Pitman Farms Inc., Moroni, UT; Sanderson Farms Inc., Kingston, NC; and Washington Beef, Toppenish, WA were written up for the three most common violations.

Those three include Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP), Hazard Analysis & and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and Sanitation performance standards (SPS).

The JBS owned Swift Beef Company in Greeley; CO had two of those three administration violations, SSOP and SPS. Swift Pork in Ottumwa, IA had violations for SSOP, HACCP, plus inhumane treatment during slaughter.

Tyson Food in Lexington, NE, faced a suspension, which was held in abeyance, for inhumane treatment during slaughter. At Pine Bluff, AR, however, Tyson was suspended for five days for violating a regulatory control action and HACCPand SPS violations.

Fremont, NE-based Wholestone Farms, was suspended for a week for inhumane treatment during slaughter. Preferred Freezer of Elizabeth, NJ and Philadelphia, PA also faced short term suspension for violating regulatory controls.

FSIS also reported more serious criminal and civil, administrative actions.

Memet Beqiri, president, and Debbie Smith, manager at New England Meat Packing, LLC, both plead guilty in federal court in Connecticut.  Both guilty pleas were to one count of making and using false documents. A judge will sentence the pair in March.

Christopher J. Leach, owner of The Beautiful Pig in Longview, WA, was convicted in U.S. District Court for Western Washington on two misdemeanor counts. The charges were for transporting uninspected meat and unauthorized use of the USDA mark of inspection.

Under a plea agreement, Leach was placed on probation for one year and required to submit to a Consent Decision and Order, requiring compliance with FSIS law and regulations if he should seek to resume operations.u

FSIS’s Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA) sent warning notices to 164 companies during the quarter. The Northeast Region accounted for 90 of those warnings.

During the quarter, FSIS reached Consent Decrees over federal inspection services. Captain Hook’s Cajun Seafood, LLC, and FSIS an amended Consent Decree, addressing the hiring of individuals with criminal convictions.

A.A. Meat Products Inc, and its owner and manager in Commerce, CA, agreed to a Consent Decree after several misdemeanors and a felony conviction for selling misbranded meat. FSIS previously filed a complaint to withdraw federal inspection services from A.A.

And Vernon, CA-based King Meat Service Inc and its owner and manager also entered into a Consent Decree with FSIS after the agency filed a complaint to withdraw federal inspection services from King Meat.

Finally, J&K Farms, LLC in Horton, AL, paid a civil penalty of $2,275 for violations of the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA).

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E. coli prompts milk recall in Australian states

February 17, 2020 - 12:02am

Milk has been recalled across two Australian states due to potential E. coli contamination.

The issue was identified as a result of company testing. It is not clear what strain of E. coli is involved but there have been no reports of illness.

7-Eleven Pty Ltd recalled its own brand 2-liter full cream milk with a use-by of Feb. 24 that was sold at multiple stores in New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Aldi recalled Farmdale full cream milk 3 liters with a use-by of Feb. 25 that was available for sale in the ACT and certain NSW Aldi stores.

Lion Dairy & Drinks recalled it’s Dairy Farmers 1 liter full cream white milk products with a use-by date of Feb. 25 and it’s Dairy Farmers 3 liter full cream white milk products with a use-by date of Feb. 24.

These products were manufactured at the firm’s Penrith dairy site and have been distributed across New South Wales through Coles, Woolworths, and IGA sites and some independent outlets such as milk bars, cafes and convenience stores.

The company also recalled Dairy Choice full cream 2 liters and Community Co. The Good Drop full cream 2 liters with a use-by date of Feb. 25 and sold in NSW.

Items were distributed in NSW for sale at IGA stores and various independents including milk bars, cafes and convenience stores. Lion Dairy & Drinks contract packs the 2 liter Community Co Good Drop product for Metcash and their IGA stores.

Investigation and mitigation measures
A statement from the company said there have been no consumer complaints to date about the products.

“Lion Dairy & Drinks is committed to the highest standards of quality and safety and consumers and customers can be assured that we are undertaking a thorough investigation and will put in place steps to mitigate it happening again.

“This is a food safety issue. As this may cause illness if the product is consumed, Lion Dairy & Drinks immediately moved to recall the products from the market. We encourage anyone who has consumed the products being recalled and who feels unwell to seek medical advice as required.

“This recall does not impact other Dairy Farmers dairy products made in New South Wales or in other states. The recall of these specific Dairy Choice and Community Co The Good Drop products do not impact any other of the same products also manufactured by Lion Dairy & Drinks in states outside New South Wales.”

Lion Dairy & Drinks forms part of the broader Lion Group. The Dairy & Drinks business employs around 2,300 people across Australia with some based in Singapore, Malaysia, and China. The portfolio includes Dairy Farmers, Pura, Dare, Farmers Union, Yoplait, Daily Juice, The Juice Brothers and Berri.

Dairy & Drinks’ activities in Australia are the manufacture, marketing, sales and distribution of white milk, flavored milk, fresh dairy foods, and fruit juices. The Australian manufacturing footprint includes 11 sites including milk, yogurt, and juice facilities.

Symptoms of E. coli infection include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can become bloody. Fever and vomiting may also occur. The incubation period can range from three to eight days and most patients recover within 10 days.

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Campylobacter infections at record high in Denmark

February 16, 2020 - 12:03am

Denmark recorded its highest number of Campylobacter infections ever in 2019, according to a report by the Statens Serum Institut.

Campylobacter remains the bacterium that most frequently causes gastrointestinal infection in the Danish population.

The Statens Serum Institut (SSI) report shows the number of patients is increasing. This past year, 5,389 patients were diagnosed in Denmark and in 2018, 4,547 cases were recorded.

There was a high incidence among young adults in their 20s in 2018 and 2019 and the rate among elderly people older than  85 and particularly in men was higher than previously observed. Among young children of 0 to 4 years, the incidence was lower than previously seen.

Infections abroad
Of all cases in 2018, 1,514 (33 percent) had been acquired abroad. This figure was 1,928 (36 percent) in 2019. The share of people infected abroad exceeded previous numbers as it was 47 percent in 2018 and 56 percent in 2019 based on figures from the national microbiology database. Data from previous years, which were based on interviews and a sample of patients, indicated a third of all patients become infected abroad.

In 2019, Turkey accounted for the most registered infections with 192, followed by Spain at 191, Thailand with 90, Indonesia at 85, India with 60, France at 50 and Morocco with 49.

For the first time Campylobacter isolates were collected from a sample of Danish patients and routinely analyzed by whole genome sequencing (WGS) in 2019. This revealed that various small and one large outbreak occurred. These outbreaks were mainly due to chicken meat produced in Denmark.

SSI started monitoring Campylobacter infections based on WGS of Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli isolates. With three departments of clinical microbiology (DCMs), all isolates from culture-positive patients in 2019 were submitted from DCM Aalborg along with a monthly sample from DCM Odense and DCM Slagelse. SSI received a small number of isolates from other DCMs.

Insight into outbreaks
“Previously, it was assumed that Campylobacter only very rarely causes disease outbreaks. But our results demonstrate that many Campylobacter outbreaks occur in the Danish population — and that these outbreaks are predominantly caused by foods,” said Eva Møller Nielsen, who leads SSI’s work on genome sequencing of Campylobacter.

Introduction of PCR diagnostics on feces material affects the number of positive cases recorded, according to SSI but this cannot explain all the increase.

More than 90 percent of the 668 submitted isolates were Campylobacter jejuni and the rest were Campylobacter coli. Results from WGS analysis showed half of them formed part of a cluster. Isolates formed a large number of small clusters with two to four patients and 14 larger clusters of more than five patients.

A total of 88 people had a Campylobacter jejuni infection with the same clone belonging to sequence type ST122. Patients with this type were recorded throughout the year with more in February to August. The ST122 clone made up 13 percent of all WGS-typed Campylobacter isolates in 2019. This type was also found in chicken meat from a slaughterhouse belonging to HKScan in Vinderup.

At the same time, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Foedevarestyrelsen) performed WGS on Campylobacter isolates from chicken meat.

With this agency and Denmark’s Technical University, SSI compared Campylobacter genome sequences from patients and chicken meat. Approximately one third of patients had a Campylobacter isolate that was identical to bacteria detected in chicken.

The outbreak with the ST122-clone matched isolates from chicken meat produced at a single abattoir and was traced to one producer but more firms may have been affected.

Monitoring based on WGS is continued in 2020 with a similar sample of Campylobacter from patients diagnosed at four of the country’s DCMs and continuous analyses of samples from chicken meat and other relevant food sources.

The objective is to detect larger nationwide outbreaks, enhance understanding of the contribution of different food sources to the number of infections and to help efforts to reduce foodborne Campylobacter infections.

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Meat inspection petition with 216,000 signatures given to FSA

February 15, 2020 - 12:03am

A union in the United Kingdom has submitted a petition on meat inspections, signed by more than 216,000 people, to the Food Standards Agency.

Steve Nash, a consumer advisor on E. coli O157, Unison national officer Paul Bell, and Sean Humber, a lawyer at Leigh Day, delivered the petition calling on the FSA to keep meat inspections independent to the agency’s chief executive Emily Miles in London this past week.

Nash lost his daughter, Joanna, more than 20 years ago after she ate meat at a fast food restaurant which contained E. coli and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

“Our 6-year-old daughter Joanna was a beautiful, healthy, fun loving child without a care in the world. A bright future lay ahead of her until suddenly it came to a halt. Joanna ate meat at a fast food restaurant which contained the deadly bacterium E. coli O157 and what came next was unimaginable. She suffered excruciating stomach pains with sickness and diarrhea, her kidneys failed and even with the help of dialysis she deteriorated rapidly. Joanna suffered multi organ failure and within nine days she was dead.”

Moving to a risk-based system
Those behind the petition called on the FSA to scrap plans that would permit slaughterhouses to carry out their own safety inspections. However, no detailed plans about changes to meat regulation have been proposed, according to the FSA.

Unison members in the FSA and local government environmental health officers would be affected by any changes. There used to be 1,500 meat inspectors. Now there are 400 plus contractors, according to Unison.

Bell, who represents the independent meat hygiene inspectors that work directly for the FSA, said the agency is trying to move to a risk-based approach to inspection with slaughterhouses.

He said this means instead of independent meat hygiene inspectors being on the ground every day, the agency wants to have businesses inspected less frequently.

“Then, depending on what comes out of that, they may not be inspected again for the next three years. It’s a cost-cutting move but could have a devastating impact on public health. Meat inspectors spend years doing qualifications and training. In the post-Brexit world, we need to collectively think as a society – not just in government departmental silos – about joined up regulation efforts.”

The petition on was started by Nash, who is involved with a charity called Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome Help (HUSH).

FSA response and FSS bring controls in-house
“The way the FSA currently regulates the meat, dairy and wine industries already provides protection for consumers and inspectors have an important role in delivering this,” said a spokesperson for the FSA.

“As a modern and accountable regulator we need to respond to challenges such as new developments in technology and changes in consumer demand. However, food safety and consumer trust will always be our top priority and no detailed plans about changes to meat regulation have been proposed.”

The contract for official controls delivery in meat and dairy plants in England and Wales will be delivered by Eville and Jones Ltd, on behalf of the FSA, from the end of March 2020.

The three-year contract award is valued at £84 million ($109 million). The company also previously supplied these controls.

Eville and Jones has been awarded six separate contracts across all areas of England and Wales, to provide official veterinarians and meat hygiene inspectors to work alongside FSA staff.

Colin Sullivan, FSA chief operating officer, said: “The delivery of these official controls are vital in maintaining the public’s confidence in meat and dairy food products and are also an essential requirement for the U.K. food industry where these sectors are worth over £8.5 billion ($11.1 billion) per year.”

In June 2019, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) ended a contract with Hallmark Meat Hygiene Ltd. Hallmark supplied official veterinarians and meat hygiene inspectors to do controls to support the country’s meat, game and poultry industries.

FSS brought this function back in house from mid-September 2019. Hallmark Veterinary and Compliance Services won the contract in December 2017 and started work in April 2018.

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FDA alert warns pet owners of Salmonella contamination in raw food

February 14, 2020 - 3:22pm

The FDA is cautioning pet owners not to feed their pet’s certain Aunt Jeni’s Home Made frozen raw pet food “as it poses a serious threat to consumer and animal health” because of Salmonella Infantis contamination.

The Salmonella was discovered in January when the FDA collected one retail sample of Aunt Jeni’s Home Made Turkey Dinner Dog Food.  The Salmonella was also found to be resistant to multiple antibiotic drugs.

Salmonella in pet food is a threat to human and animal health because pets can get sick from this pathogen and can also be carriers of the bacteria and pass it on to their owners without appearing to be ill. People can also get sick from handling the contaminated pet food, or touching surfaces that have had contact with the contaminated food. 

The Product:

  • Aunt Jeni’s Home Made All-Natural Raw Turkey Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb. (2.3 kg), lot 175331 NOV2020.

Consumers who purchased the product are urged to not feed it to their pet, throw it away, and sanitize surfaces that may have come in contact with the product. If consumers have the product and cannot determine the lot code,  the FDA recommends that the product be thrown away.

Retailers, distributors and other operators who have sold the product should wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where the product was stored.

The FDA also suggests that, “Consumers who have had this product in their homes should clean refrigerators/freezers where the product was stored and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with.

“Because animals can shed the bacteria in the feces when they have bowel movements, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed, in addition to cleaning items in the home. Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the affected product or cleaning up potentially contaminated items and surfaces.”

Consumers who think their pet has salmonellosis after consuming the pet food product should contact their veterinarian.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled tahini and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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Listeria outbreak took toll on family, says victim’s daughter

February 14, 2020 - 12:05am

The daughter of a woman affected by the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa has told how the illness has taken a toll on the family and her mother.

Elizabeth Matthee, 73, fell ill in January 2018 and was in and out of hospital until early August of that year. Doctors initially thought the source of illness was her knee, but in March 2018, she was asked to return to hospital because tests confirmed she had listeriosis.

Elizabeth lives in an old age care home. Prior to her illness she enjoyed reading and watching TV and used to sit outside chatting and laughing with others at the home. The pensioner was able to move around with assistance. Her immune system has been severely hampered by listeriosis and she now depends on full-time care.

The listeriosis outbreak began at the start of 2017 and ended in September 2018 with 1,065 confirmed cases and 218 deaths. It was traced in March 2018 to a ready-to-eat processed meat product called polony made at a plant in Polokwane run by Enterprise Foods, which is owned by Tiger Brands.

Emotional impact
One of Elizabeth’s daughters, Christina Tiana Verhave, said she was a very bubbly, cheery type of person.

“We had absolute hell with touch and go situations continuously. This took a toll on my mother’s will to live, her spontaneity and her outlook on life in general. You could hear her laugh when you walk down the hall and everybody that knows her knows she will always have a joke, doesn’t matter if she is in pain or not. This took away her spirit because she was feeling so ill for so long, and she is still not well. At one stage she told me she doesn’t want to live anymore,” she told Food Safety News.

Having some polony was part of the regular routine for Elizabeth.

“Every single night she wanted Enterprise French or garlic polony, viennas from Spar or Woolworths with bread and coffee, that was her treat and she loved to have it for supper. Needless to say she is not touching polony since she found out what happened. I can’t even dare to ask her if she wants something like that. We eat ham but I don’t like polony so what we buy for my mum is different than what we eat. I thought they cleared everything to say it is safe now but I will never ever buy it again,” said Christina.

In and out of hospital
Elizabeth was first admitted to hospital in February 2018 due to an infection in her knee. The same month she was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection and more knee problems.

Elizabeth Matthee

In early March, blood tests showed she was positive for Listeria monocytogenes and after three weeks of treatment she was discharged. At the end of the month she was admitted again complaining of constant severe headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Her blood culture was negative for Listeria but a stool culture showed Clostridium difficile toxin. She was discharged one week into April.

Elizabeth had to go to hospital several times in April and May complaining of leg pain. She was readmitted in mid-June with complaints of nausea as well as stomach and leg pain but insisted on being discharged.

She was admitted again one week into July for symptoms of pneumonia and herpetic pharyngitis. She had developed sores in her mouth and had not been eating properly. Elizabeth remained in hospital until early August.

Christina said she was in and out of hospital with her mum and it was a never ending story.

“It was a long, long trial for us to get her to be healthy again. Now the knee is acting up again, it is smelling so bad, and I have another appointment at the hospital for a check-up,” she said.

“At first she fell ill with fever, we didn’t know what was going on so we took her to hospital, they couldn’t find what was at fault but they gave her some antibiotics and sent her home. We went again and eventually the second or third time as they were loading her into the ambulance, her knee where she had a previous knee replacement, the scar popped open and started draining. When they took her in hospital they did a swab and tested it. They sent her home again and it took a couple of weeks before they realized that she had listeriosis. The doctor phoned me and said I must bring her back immediately.”

Elizabeth’s treatment was further complicated by the fact she is allergic to penicillin, one of the antibiotics used to treat listeriosis.

“In hospital she was lethargic, she did know who I was but she had stories in her head that weren’t true and she got aggressive at a stage. They said it was the listeriosis treatment she was on,” said Christina.

“There was a fluid build-up in her ear drums because of the infection. So she couldn’t hear when we were talking to her and that made her more anxious and upset. We had to put our mouth by her ear and talk really loud for her to hear a kind of noise. She didn’t know what was going on around her.

“I’m with my mum every day at hospital, I sometimes drive there twice a day because the health care here is not good. I go and check up on her and see she is eating and drinking and I feed her if I need to and brush her teeth. I just look after her, I can’t not do that, I will never sleep if I were to leave her and not see her every day and know she is alright. I can see my mum is going downhill. I can feel when I touch her arms that her bones are brittle.”

A lasting memory
Christina said there is one occasion that she particularly remembers.

Enterprise Foods polony in supermarkets. February 2019. Picture: Joe Whitworth

“One night I remember, it was a Thursday, the old age home phoned me and said you must come to your mum, so when I got there she was out of it completely and it looked like a dead person lying in the bed. I saw her a week before, I used to fetch her to us at least every second weekend as we are a very close family and she was always game if you say lets do this or that,” she said.

“We phoned the ambulance service and they didn’t come. I was actually praying the Lord would take my mum because it was difficult for me to look at her and see she can’t really breathe.

“The next morning we were sitting by her bed waiting for the ambulance to come. It came Friday evening and then I sat next to her bed at hospital and in the ER until 11 that Saturday morning and a doctor still hadn’t come to see my mum. I had to go home and when I came back nobody knew where my mum was. They put her in a room that was almost like a storage room and left her there. When they read on her chart she had listeriosis they secluded her from everybody else and forgot she was there. She didn’t have her medication that she should have every four to five hours. It was horrifying to find my mother in that condition. We had so many bad experiences in hospital.”

Christina said she had heard of Listeria on the news but didn’t give it much attention.

“It was only when the doctor said your mum has listeriosis I said will you refresh my mind and then it all dawned on me. Since then people have been treating her differently because they are scared to be close to people with Listeria, they think she is contagious. It was an experience, we had to explain to staff working with her and people sharing the room that they are safe and she can’t infect them.”

Christina is a single mother, working long hours in a bookkeeping and accounting job and she sometimes relies on her sister to help with her 11-year-old son.

“You have to be strong and carry on for your family’s sake. It gets to a point where I work in the evening and at weekends and rush from the hospital to work and back to hospital and then I come home and see everything is sorted with my son. Tomorrow morning you get up at 5am and start your day, I go to the hospital before work to see she is fine and then to work, sometimes I will go during lunch if I know I can’t make it after work. I don’t know what the future holds, I am just trying to survive from one day to the other.”

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FDA promises laboratory accreditation program by 2022

February 14, 2020 - 12:03am

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Food and Drug Administration have settled their lawsuit over testing of food by accredited laboratories. The CFS sued FDA under the Food Safety Modernizaion Act about the FSMA’s requirment that FDA establish a laboratory accreditation program by January 2013.

After years of delay, CFS sued FDA in August 2019 looking for a court order for FDA to comply with the FSMA requirement. However, the parties have reached a settlement in which FDA has agreed to establish the laboratory accreditaton program by February 2022.  The accreditation program will help FDA more rapidly detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.

“This is a big win for consumers and public health,” said Ryan Talbott, CFS staff attorney. “Establishing this program will increase the number of labs that are accredited to conduct food safety testing and will better equip FDA to reduce the threat of foodborne illness. This settlement ensures FDA will finally establish this critical program by a hard deadline.”

Congress enacted FSMA in a bipartisan effort because foodborne illness is a serious epidemic in the United States. President Obama signed into law in January 2011.

An estimated one in six Americans, or 48 million people, become ill from foodborne diseases each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die every year based on exposure to pathogens present in the food supply. The annual cost to the U.S. economy in medical bills and productivity losses alone is more than $93 billion.

FSMA requires a range of measures to address the foodborne illness epidemic, including the establishment of a new laboratory accreditation program. This program is critical for FDA to ensure that food testing laboratories meet high-quality standards and that food producers and processors are complying with other FSMA provisions. Congress required the FDA to establish the laboratory accreditation program by January 2013. Yet more than six years after this deadline, and countless numbers of food safety illness episodes later—including a 2018 E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce that resulted in five deaths and 210 sickened people in 36 states — the FDA has failed to designate any high-risk foods.

“After years of delay, FDA must now follow through and establish this much needed laboratory accreditation program,” said Jaydee Hanson, CFS policy director. “Increasing and integrating the number of labs conducting food testing will better ensure compliance with FSMA’s preventive controls and help FDA to rapidly detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks when they do occur.”


This is the third successful case that CFS has brought against FDA to enforce FSMA’s requirements. In 2012-2014, CFS successfully litigated the first-ever FSMA lawsuit. It was about FDA’s failure to comply with FSMA’s requirements that FDA promulgate and issue seven different major food safety rules, the basic rules that oversee all areas of the food system covered by FSMA, including food production, transport, and imports. That case resulted in FDA’s enactment of those core regulations based on new Court-set deadlines.

In 2018-2019, CFS successfully litigated its second FSMA lawsuit. It was about FDA’s failure to designate and establish reporting requirements for foods that are at “high-risk” of foodborne illness outbreaks. That case resulted in FDA agreeing to designate “high-risk” foods by September 2020 and establish reporting requirements for those foods by November 2022.

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Letter to the Editor: Food industry responds to grocery store recall report

February 14, 2020 - 12:03am

Dear Editor:

Will your supermarket warn you about hazardous food? Absolutely.

Fortunately for the nation’s grocery shoppers, the food industry has honed its expertise over the years – their reputation and economic viability demand they get this right. What U.S. PIRG describes in its recent survey as a communication challenge regarding food recalls, is only the final step of a food safety management program to effectively and efficiently remove potentially harmful products from commerce.

And believe me, a lot of people have opinions about how this information should be delivered to consumers since supermarkets touch the lives of 100 million households, and 91% of adults are regular food shoppers.

In our recent comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), we addressed how food retailers respond to recalls with their supply chain partners. Ultimately, the food supply chain works within the regulatory framework and acts quickly to remove recalled product from shelves and notify shoppers. This is the most fundamental service grocers provide to maintain the trust of their customers. How they communicate this information is largely based on feedback from shoppers. According to FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2019, while television remains a top source during a crisis, digital communications methods in the form of email and text messages lead the way in how consumers prefer to hear about food recalls.

Still, we recognize that communication preferences vary generationally and regionally. Therefore, retailers utilize multiple methods of communication depending on the circumstances to communicate recalls to their customers.

While every recall is a response to risk mitigation, they are not always associated with a health danger. Undeclared allergens are actually the leading cause of U.S. food recalls. The FDA has stated that Reportable Food Registry reports of undeclared food allergens increased from 30 percent to 47 percent  during the five year period from 2009-2013. For example, a wheat-based food may erroneously be marked as gluten free. As a proactive measure to better understand root-cause labeling errors, FMI and its Foundation awarded the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Food Science and Technology Department a $20,000 grant in September 2017 to identify issues and to recommend best-practice procedures for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers in order to reduce undeclared allergen recalls. FMI Foundation is proud to support research which aims to improve public health efforts nationwide.

We will continue to participate in the comments process with government agencies, and our industry remains committed to communicating relevant recall information to customers wherever – and however – they shop.

— Hilary Thesmar, Ph D, RD, CFS, chief food and product safety officer and senior vice president for food safety at FMI.

About FMI: According to the organization’s website, the Food Marketing Institute was formed in 1977 through the merger of the National Association of Food Chains and Super Market Institute, two organizations that had served the industry since the 1930s. Robert Aders, former U.S. undersecretary of labor, became its first president and CEO and served from 1977 – 1993. Other presidents and CEOs of the organization have been Timothy M. Hammonds from 1993 – 2008, and Leslie G. Sarasin from 2008 – present.

Editor’s note:We want to hear from our readers. Letters to the Editor can be submitted via the Contact Us link on our website.

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