Food Safety News

Subscribe to Food Safety News feed Food Safety News
Breaking news for everyone's consumption
Updated: 47 min 11 sec ago

Positive Listeria test results spur international recall of peanut spread

February 7, 2020 - 6:57pm

Nuts ‘N More of East Providence, RI, has initiated an international recall for some of its plain “Peanut Spread” because tests showed a sample of the finished product was contaminated with Listeria. 

The company reports distributing the product to eight U.S. states as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration website. The eight states are Virginia, Arizona, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, Alabama, Indiana and Florida. A total of 4,143 jars are implicated.

No illnesses had been reported in relation to the product as of the posting of the recall notice today.

Consumers can determine whether they have the recalled peanut spread by looking for the following label information on 16-ounce plastic jars of the product:

  • Nuts ‘N More – Plain Peanut Spread
  • LOT PB91 (Lot and Exp. Located on the lid)
  • EXP 03/04/2021

“The recall was a result of potential Listeria species in a finished product found through routine testing. The company has ceased the production and distribution of this product as (the) state of Rhode Island and the company continue their investigation.

Testing of the product was performed by a third-party laboratory,” according to the company’s recall notice.

Consumers who have purchased Nuts ‘N More Plain Peanut Spread Lot PB91 are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at questionsl@nuts-n-more.com

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

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

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

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

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

250 new cases in Salmonella egg outbreak affecting 18 countries

February 7, 2020 - 12:05am

Almost 250 new infections have been recorded in a multi-country outbreak of Salmonella linked to eggs from Poland.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that as of January this year, 18 countries have reported 656 confirmed and 202 probable cases since February 2017.

There are 385 historically confirmed and 413 historical probable cases going as far back as 2012 making it the largest European Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak ever recorded. However, ECDC officials said the true extent of the outbreak was likely underestimated.

Since the last update in November 2018, 248 new cases have been reported, of which 124 were confirmed, 36 probable, 42 historical-confirmed and 46 historical-probable infections.

More than 1,600 sick since 2012
Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom have recorded 1,656 infections since 2012. The U.K. has the most with 688 confirmed and probable cases, Netherlands has 280, Belgium has 202 and Czech Republic has 111.

Information on hospitalization is available for 427 patients in 12 countries and 136 needed hospital treatment among the confirmed and historical-confirmed cases. Two historical confirmed deaths, a child and an elderly patient, were also reported.

In each year from 2016 to 2018, outbreak cases peaked in September, with large waves reported between late spring and early autumn. Such a large seasonal increase was not seen in 2019.

Epidemiological, microbiological and food tracing investigations have linked cases before 2018 to eggs from laying hen farms of a Polish consortium.

Despite control measures in 2016 and 2017, farms of the Polish consortium were positive in 2018 and 2019 with outbreak strains, suggesting persistent contamination, according to officials. Investigations on the laying hen production and feed supply chains did not find the possible origin of contamination.

One of the outbreak strains was found from 2017 to 2019 in primary production in Germany. This outbreak strain represents two-thirds of confirmed cases.

Investigations in U.K.
In September 2018, a cluster of nine confirmed cases was associated with the consumption of a RTE raw liquid egg-white drink distributed by Dr. Zak’s. Salmonella positive samples of RTE liquid eggs white from two batches matched those from this outbreak cluster.

Both batches were produced by a French company. One was produced with raw materials such as pasteurized white egg from a Spanish company. The other used raw materials from 13 German laying hen farms and 11 Dutch laying hen farms. An investigation of this outbreak showed positive batches were produced with eggs from Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, who all supplied Salmonella-free eggs to the French company.

On the same day as production of one of the contaminated batches, a different batch of liquid eggs was produced at the French company with eggs supplied by a Polish packing center from a Polish laying farm belonging to the Polish consortium. However, the possibility of cross-contamination was ruled out due to the different production line used with different equipment: tanks, filling machine, and because of heat treatment on packaged products.

Investigations in the U.K. identified 14 cases potentially part of the outbreak travelling to Cyprus and staying in the same place between end of May and end of June 2018. This site received eggs from a Polish laying farm through the Polish packing center and a Dutch wholesaler.

Polish action
Measures taken in 2016 and 2017, including depopulation of positive flocks, were not enough to eliminate contamination in the Polish consortium. So, the laying hen farms of this group were still positive for outbreak strains in 2018 and 2019.

Between August 2018 and December 2019, seven of 13 sampled Polish laying hen farms belonging to the Polish consortium tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis. From November 2019 to January 2020, all flocks belonging to the Polish group were tested in accordance with Regulation 2160/2003 but Salmonella was not detected.

Polish authorities reported that all Salmonella Enteritidis positive flocks belonging to the Polish consortium were depopulated, including flocks found positive in May 2019. From 2015 to 2019, 16 laying hen farms, 13 of which belonged to the Polish consortium, were positive for at least one of the four SNP addresses causing human infections. Four rearing farms belonging to the Polish company were positive for Salmonella Enteritidis between January 2017 and July 2019.

ECDC officials said the outbreak was still ongoing and more infections were expected.

“Since no evidence has been provided that the source of contamination has been eliminated, it is expected that further infections will occur and that new cases will be reported in the coming months. Additional investigations are necessary to identify the source of contamination.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

New bovine virus associated with human head colds and sinus infections gets into USA

February 7, 2020 - 12:04am

Bovine Kobuvirus, a cattle virus first discovered in Japan in 2003, has arrived in the United States.

The arrival is reported in the medical journal, “Emerging Infectious Diseases.” Bovine Kobuvirus or BKV is from the family of viruses that cause head colds and sinus infections in humans.

BKV looks to be the latest in zoonotic diseases, meaning those caused by infections that may spread between animals and people. 

University of Illinois research into the deaths of two calves led to the discovery of BKV in the U.S. Calve intestines were subject to microbial DNA sampling and sequencing that linked them to the virus in Japan.

Since first reported in Japan by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 17 years ago, BKV reports have come in from Thailand, Hungary, the Netherlands, Korea, Italy, Brazil, China and Egypt.

The CDC says the prevalence of BKV in the United States “remains unknown,” and the University of Illinois finding means there is a need for “continued surveillance.” The need now is to determine the rate and distribution of BKV in North American.

It is not known if BKV is strictly a zoonotic disease or if it might spread to humans. The kobuvirus form in humans is called the “Aichi virus,” and it causes “acute gastroenteritis.” Kobuviruses may be transmitted via the fecal-oral route or from eating contaminated food.

UI’s Leyi Wang, professor of veterinary clinical medicine, led the research finding the Bovine Kobuvirus on U.S. soil.

Zoonotic diseases concern both CDC and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The USDA unit has mostly been on the lookout for the highly contagious and deadly viral disease called African Swine Fever.

Since it emerged from Africa in the 1920s, ASF has become common in parts of Asia and Europe, but North America is ASF-free.

And the spread out of China of the new coronavirus has zoonotic origins. “Current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses,” says CDC.

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERSSARS, and now with 2019-nCoV.”

 

Scientists say raw milk testing in England ineffective

February 7, 2020 - 12:02am

The current testing regime in England for unpasteurized milk is not fit for purpose, according to researchers describing a 2016 Campylobacter outbreak that sickened 69 people.

They say there was a need for regular microbiological monitoring to detect contamination with pathogens and recommended reviewing the legal testing criteria to include pathogen assessment, to ensure future outbreaks are prevented.

In December 2016, Public Health England investigated an outbreak of campylobacteriosis in North West England, with 69 infections during an 11-week period, according to the study published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection.

Epidemiological, microbiological and environmental investigations associated illness with drinking unpasteurized cows’ milk from Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal, where it was mainly sold from a vending machine. About 70 liters of milk per day were sold via the machine.

Campylobacter was detected in milk samples which were identical to that isolated from cases. Investigations revealed the raw milk contamination had likely begun in late October 2016 with the first few cases developing symptoms in early November 2016.

Rules for pathogen testing
Sellers of raw drinking milk for direct human consumption must ensure the unpasteurized milk is routinely tested for coliforms and aerobic colony counts (ACCs). The requirements are a coliform count of less than 100 colony-forming units per milliliter (cfu/ml) and an ACC at 30 degrees C of less than 20,000 cfu/ml.

There are no legislative requirements for pathogen testing but it is encouraged by the FSA. Despite this recommendation, it is unlikely to be done routinely. If shelf life is five days or longer, there is a requirement to test for Listeria monocytogenes under European Commission Regulation No 2073/2005.

During the investigation, a bulk tank raw drinking milk sample complied with legislative standards, having ACC and coliform levels of 1,060 and 15 cfu/ml respectively, despite also containing Campylobacter jejuni. Researchers said current testing regimes appear to be inadequate to find pathogens and are not a failsafe.

Following the outbreak, a survey was done in Lancashire by PHE over four months in 2017. Despite only 59 samples, Salmonella Dublin and Campylobacter jejuni, and STEC O133:H4, which has an unknown pathogenicity, were detected. Coliform and ACC results were satisfactory, providing further evidence that legally compliant samples are poor indicators of the presence of pathogens, according to researchers.

Data from Public Health England show that in England and Wales, between 1992 and 2002, there were 17 outbreaks of gastroenteritis reported that were linked to raw drinking milk. Six outbreaks were reported between 2014 and 2017; implicated pathogens included Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157, Salmonella Dublin and Campylobacter spp.

Regulations restrict raw drinking milk sales in England, only permitting them from a producer directly to the final consumer, with an equivalent law in Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislation in Scotland prohibits the sale of unpasteurized drinking milk.

Ill people aged one to 74 years old
Researchers also said a required warning label should emphasize the risk to vulnerable groups. The FSA ran a comment period on proposed enhanced controls for production of raw milk in 2019. Responses have just been published.

In England, raw milk containers must display: “This milk has not been heat treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health”. In Wales, as well as that sentence labels must also say: “The Food Standards Agency strongly advises that it should not be consumed by children, pregnant women, older people or those who are unwell or have chronic illness.”

The farm started selling raw drinking milk in March 2016. It had a café and farm shop in which raw milk was served and it was also sold via an outdoor self-service vending machine.

Duration of illness was from 1 to 32 days. The age of cases ranged from 1 to 74 years old. Onset dates of symptoms were from Nov. 3 to Dec. 25, 2016, but no one was hospitalized.

There were 16 laboratory-confirmed cases of Campylobacter jejuni. Two raw milk samples from the farm were positive for Campylobacter jejuni: one bottled sample from the self-service vending machine and one from the raw milk bulk tank.

The farmers own testing results had been unsatisfactory but this was not reported to FSA, according to Public Health England.

During a visit in December 2016, control methods were reviewed and the farm was told to suspend raw milk sales on a voluntary basis.

Environmental swabs from the milking parlor on Dec. 22 and the water sample from the bore hole tested negative for pathogens. Nine clearance raw milk samples from the bulk tank one week later were negative for Campylobacter spp. but positive for STEC O157 and Listeria monocytogenes.

A follow-up inspection in March 2017 noted improvements and dairy hygiene conditions were deemed satisfactory. Also, by this time three sets of raw milk clearance samples had been obtained and all of them were negative for pathogens.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Few things are as sure a bet as handwashing; restaurants should act now

February 7, 2020 - 12:01am
Opinion

Lost in the clutter of Millennial trend tracking and menu minutia is the reality of restaurant risk related to poor handwashing. This is a no-fault failure as there are no operational standards, no rewards or discipline, no behavior changing help from the Model Food Code, and no supporting research.

There is very little relevant data other than the headcount at hospital emergency rooms and precipitous drops in market value for the relatively few major outbreaks.

Meaningful foodservice handwashing research is rare. The conclusions create a list of top ten truisms;

Handwashing… 

  1. compliance is low
  2. is about process, not products
  3. shortfalls are the industry standard
  4. shortfalls are not disciplined — poor service is
  5. is trumped by almost all employee training topics 
  6. training has no measurable goal
  7. competes and loses to measured productivity factors
  8. deficiencies are the No. 1 cited contributing factor in outbreak investigations
  9. accountability has no ownership in foodservice
  10. more research is needed

Healthcare research filled this void in 2019 with studies that clinically prove that handwashing performance monitoring not only increases frequency but more importantly reduces customer illness — patient infections — more commonly measured and reported as HAIs, Hospital Acquired Infections. RAIs, Restaurant Acquired Infections, are not published.

These studies are awakening some industry leaders that there is now a financial reason to protect their brand values with sustainable and affordable handwashing data. This is a game changer for the restaurant industry. It makes added customer safety an option, a very attractive option for those looking for more transparency.

Operators are slowly taking notice. Crushed Red, a salad concept based in St. Louis, now incorporates voice recognition in every store they open. Their goal is customer safety, achieved by rewarding staff for handwashing compliance. This is a key component in their customer loyalty program.

Larger chains are now testing a variety of technologies. The beginning of this new decade will see a mayor shift to handwashing monitoring in health care and a level of foodservice testing and introductions that will further define industry leadership.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Letter to the Editor: Entrepreneurs should have access to rent-a-kitchens

February 7, 2020 - 12:00am

Dear Editor,

In relation to your recent story, ‘Microenterprise home kitchens’ look for food safety exemptions in Washington, I live in Missouri. In the St Louis area we have rentable fully equipped commercial kitchens so the entrepreneurs can work in an environment where they learn the right way to do things, are available to health inspections, and conform to all the food safety requirements. This is a far better option to keep public safety than allowing home kitchens.

Rates are affordable. Generally a minimum of four hours at $20 to $25 an hour.

An example is The Creative Cookery. They were the last one I used before retiring and selling my business to one of the chef’s who was also a user of the shared kitchen.

One thing a small emerging business needs is contact with others who are trying to do similar things. You can help each other and learn from each. Before I retired I was a presenter who often did presentations to other small business owners for the local SBA.

Anyway, I thought this option was missing from your article on home kitchens.

— Laura Bozzay

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.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Mississippi offers second free hepatitis A clinic this week due to infected restaurant workers

February 6, 2020 - 12:05am

 The Mississippi State Department of Health is this week investigating a second case of hepatitis A involving a restaurant worker.

The latest incident involves a Jones County restaurant employee who may have exposed customers at the Huddle House, 1304 Chantilly Street in Laurel. The Huddle House employee has been diagnosed with a hepatitis A infection. While infectious with the liver virus the employee worked at the restaurant on Jan. 26 through Jan. 29. Customers who ate at the Huddle House during that time may have been exposed to hepatitis A and should get a hepatitis A vaccination if not previously vaccinated.

Those who fear they were exposed to the virus by the Huddle House employee can receive a hepatitis A vaccination free of charge from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6, and Friday, Feb. 7, at the Jones County Health Department, 5168 Old Highway 11 in Ellisville.

“It is unlikely that hepatitis A was transmitted to any customers from this particular case, but as a precaution, we do recommend the hep A vaccine for anyone who ate at the Huddle House from Jan. 26 through Jan. 29 if they have not already been vaccinated,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.

Huddle House management and staff are fully cooperating with the investigation to prevent illnesses from exposure, according to Byers.

On Monday and Tuesday, the state health department  offered free hep A vaccines in Warren County for customers of the Gumbo Pot, 3401 Halls Ferry Raod #5 in Vicksburg. Officials feared exposure from an infected employee for Gumbo Pot customers who ate at the restaurant on Jan. 17, 18, and 22.

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that causes fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), abdominal pain, and dark-colored urine. 

Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person.

 Anyone who thinks they have symptoms of hepatitis A should see a doctor. Everyone can prevent the spread of hepatitis A by carefully washing hands with soap and water, including under the fingernails, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

As a reminder, there is an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and surrounding states, mostly affecting those who use drugs, those who are in jail or were recently in jail, those with unstable housing or who are homeless, and men who have sex with men. The MSDH continues to recommend hepatitis A vaccination for those specific groups as well.

Mississippi is one of 32 states experiencing clusters of hepatitis A. Since first identified in 2016, these clusters have resulted in 30,586 Hepatitis A cases, including 18,724 or 61 percent resulting in hospitalization. And as of Feb. 1, there have been 307 deaths.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Not everyone with hepatitis A has symptoms. Adults are more likely to have symptoms than children.
  • People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. In some people, though, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
  • In rare cases, hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death. This is more common in older people and in people with other serious health issues, such as chronic liver disease.

The most recent multistate hepatitis A outbreak spread not by human-to-human contact but by food occurred last year.  Eighteen people in six states were infected by blackberries purchased in from  Fresh Thyme Farmers Markets located in 11 midwest states or Woodman’s Markets, located in Wisconsin and Illinois from  Sept. 9 to 30, 2019.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)

 

K-State, Purdue scientists push the pathogen testing envelope

February 6, 2020 - 12:04am

Researchers at two universities have made advancements in E. coli testing technology, with one of them having received a patent.

At Kansas State University a new digital approach to a tried and true testing method has become a reality. At Perdue University scientists are using bioluminescence to speed confirmation testing.

KSU improves on the gold standard
Faculty members from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine have developed a faster, more efficient method of detecting Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC, in ground beef. The bacteria often cause recalls of ground beef and vegetables.

“The traditional gold standard STEC detection, which requires bacterial isolation and characterization, is not amenable to high-throughput settings and often requires a week to obtain a definitive result,” according to a statement from Jianfa Bai, section head of molecular research and development in the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The new method requires only one day to obtain confirmation results using the technology patented by Kansas State University. It uses the partition-based multichannel digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system.

K-State’s scientists developed the new digital PCR test for research and food safety inspections that require shorter turnaround and high throughput, without sacrificing detection accuracy, according to the university’s statement.

“We believe the new digital polymerase chain reaction detection method developed in this study will be widely used in food safety and inspection services for the rapid detection and confirmation of STEC and other foodborne pathogens,” said Jamie Henningson, director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Purdue’s illuminating efforts
Researchers at Purdue University have developed a bioluminescence-based assay coupled with a portable device that works with smartphones and laptops to do on-site testing for harmful E. coli in food samples.

The scientists also created an electrical circuit with an amplifier and micro controller to send the data to laptops and smartphones via Bluetooth technology. Their research is published in the January edition of Applied Optics.

“Our goal is to create technology and a process that allows for the cost-effective detection of the causes of foodborne illness using an easy, expedient and efficient process,” said Euiwon Bae, a senior research scientist of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. 

Bae developed the technology along with Bruce Applegate, a professor of food science in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. 

The men say the testing time frame made possible by their method allows for better integrated detection and quicker action to stop more people from getting sick.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Slovakia sees large rise in Campylobacter and Salmonella infections

February 6, 2020 - 12:03am

Campylobacter and Salmonella infections increased by almost 20 percent in 2018 in Slovakia, according to the country’s annual report on foodborne diseases.

Data was compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic.

In 2018, 29,080 human diseases caused by pathogens were reported, of which almost a third were campylobacteriosis and nearly a quarter were salmonellosis. More than half of all 1,041 outbreaks were due to Salmonella and almost one-fifth because of Campylobacter.

Slovakia reported 804 foodborne outbreaks in 2018 which was higher than the figure for 2017, according to a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Slovakia’s Salmonella situation
More than 7,200 Salmonella cases were reported, which represents a 19 percent increase compared to 2017 and a 43 percent rise versus the past five-year average.

There were 560 outbreaks of salmonellosis. Salmonella Enteritidis was dominant as in previous years. The most frequent factor of transmission was mixed food, eggs eaten at home and eggs in retail. Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks increased as Slovakia had 231 more than in 2017.

A total of 15,464 foods were examined in 2018. The percentage of positive samples in comparison with 2017 jumped from 0.34 percent to 1.24 percent. As in previous years, a higher percentage of positives were found in meat from broilers with 7.5 percent positive compared to 6.3 percent the year before.

The most frequent types in food were Salmonella Infantis at 43.7 percent and Salmonella Enteritidis at 40.6 percent. Of 196 examined samples of eggs and egg products, 5.6 percent were positive.

Slovakia Campylobacter data. Click to enlarge

A total of 8,429 cases of Campylobacter were recorded, which represents a 19.4 percent increase from 2017. Campylobacter jejuni was the most frequent cause of disease.

Of 202 outbreaks with 448 people sick, five involved three or more people. Chicken meat was twice the source, once it was contaminated hands, once contact with a sick person and it was unknown for the other two.

More than 1,150 foods from caterers, food enterprises and retail were tested and only 0.2 percent were positive. Positive findings were confirmed only in two samples of fresh broiler meat.

E. coli, Yersinia and Listeria
There were 443 E. coli infections and one case of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O26. Two small epidemics were reported.

Presence of E. coli was found in 4.3 percent of 8,244 food samples tested, and STEC was confirmed in eight of 54 samples from raw meat.

Yersiniosis-related morbidity from 2009 is higher than the average in other EU countries. A total of 269 cases were reported in 2018, which is 22.8 percent higher than in 2017.

A total of 25 of 39 samples of fresh chicken meat were contaminated by Yersinia spp. Based on the PCR confirmation method, ten of these isolates were classed as Yersinia enterocolitica.

Slovakia yersinia data. Click to enlarge

There were 19 cases of Listeriosis and four deaths in 2018. Most of them occurred among individuals between 55 and 64 years old.

More than 7,500 samples of 30 types of food were tested in 2018. The percentage of positives in comparison to 2017 dropped from 1.03 percent to 0.81 percent. A higher percentage of positive testing was found in raw sheep milk at 18.81 percent and raw meat at 8.33 percent.

Other agents on the radar
One outbreak caused 24 infections by Staphylococcus aureus in 2018.

Almost 12,200 food items were tested for coagulase positive staphylococci and 1.66 percent were positive. Most of the positives were in the milk and dairy products group. Staphylococci enterotoxin was detected in five food samples. The production of enterotoxin was proven in 21.25 percent of isolates, most of them in delicatessen products.

Eighty five cases of Toxoplasma gondii were reported in 2018, which represents a 23 percent decrease compared with 2017 and a 47 percent decline versus the 5-year average.

A total of 260 samples of juices from various types of meat of Slovak origin were examined from October 2016 to March 2018 for Toxoplasma gondii antibodies, of which 23.08 percent were positive. There were no positive findings in beef; the most positives occurred with sheep, goat and wild boar meat, 71 percent, 50 percent and 39 percent respectively.

A total of 12.9 percent of pork samples tested positive and there was a difference between pork from large commercial farms, where positivity was 8.1 percent and from small farms, where it was as high as 41.2 percent.

A total of 232 cases were reported in 2018 involving Enterococcus spp., the most frequently isolated was Enterococcus faecalis at 71.98 percent. Nearly half of 44 food samples tested positive, the highest percentage of positives at 87.5 percent were non-pasteurized smoothies and cheeses from non-pasteurized sheep milk.

Ciguatera, caused by eating saltwater fish contaminated by ciguatoxin, was identified as a new issue. Fish with the highest risk are barracuda, grouper, conger eel, jack mackerel, European bass and sturgeon.

“The increased number of poisonings in Europe in the past years is attributed to more intensive tourism, increased import of saltwater fish, as well as climate change and due to the adverse effects of human activity on coral reef ecosystems,” according to the report.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Letter to the Editor: Egg farmers weigh in on Coronavirus

February 6, 2020 - 12:01am
Opinion

Dear Editor,

I enjoy reading Food Safety News daily and have responded in the past to adjust a view point on egg farmers.  Here’s another occasion for an adjustment.  The Jan. 30 edition of the morning news from Food Safety News reported the The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is offering face masks because of the Coronavirus outbreak. PETA stated “Filthy factory farms, slaughterhouses, and meat markets threaten the health of every human being on the planet by providing a breeding ground for deadly diseases like coronavirus, SARS, bird flu, and more,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.

The National Association of Egg Farmers was anticipating some group attempting a connection to this current Coronavirus when it was reported originating from a poultry and seafood market in China.  No link has been established.

SARS is not the result of intensive poultry farm production facilities. The CDC published more than a decade ago of a report from Dr. David Swayne from the USDA/ARS Southeast Regional Poultry Lab (SEPRL) stating that coronaviruses have been widely studied in chickens (infectious bronchitis virus), and turkeys (turkey enteric coronaviruses or Blue comb).  This report was research on the coronavirus for SARS; severe acute respiratory syndrome. The SEPRL study was to determine if SARS coild grow in avian embryos.  The allantoic sac was inoculated and were tested by virus isolation and real-time RT-PCR for SARS.

The conclusion was that poultry were unlikely to have been infected during the SARS outbreak and were unlikely to have played any role as amplifiers in the animal markets of southern China.

Since Food Safety News is widely read and respected, could a comment be offered that, at present, no connection to poultry can be linked to coronavirus?

Thank you.

— Ken Klippen, President

National Association of Egg Farmers

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Experts focus on food safety risks associated with consumer trends

February 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Belgian experts have highlighted the importance of assessing food safety when looking at the changing dietary habits of consumers.

The Scientific Committee provides advice on risk assessment and management in the food chain for the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) in Belgium.

Experts said there are shifts toward more plant-based and novel food sources and more consumers with specific dietary habits. Availability of new foods from the global market can also bring potential food safety risks.

Different challenges and possible solutions to guarantee food safety in a more sustainable food chain was the theme of the Scientific Committee’s conference in December 2019.

The committee has addressed the issue through several opinions such as the replacement of meat by alternative protein sources like edible insects, consumption of minimally processed items such as dairy products based on raw milk or production of healthier products through adapting the recipe with reduced salt content.

Scientific evidence often lacking
The symposium looked at the suitability of current risk assessment models and methods. Various types of risks including chemical, microbiological and allergens were discussed by scientists and representatives from industry and retail.

“In regard to food a general shift toward more plant-based (novel) food sources can be identified and, in parallel, we should also consider multiple subgroups of consumers with specific food habits either because of societal or health related reasons. This rapidly evolving diversity presents a real challenge for food safety risk assessors who are responsible to give advice in such matters which often lack scientific evidence,” said Dr. Etienne Thiry, chair of the Scientific Committee.

The first session focused on changing and diverse consumption patterns including the issues with collecting data on this topic, eating out of home and cultural influences affecting food habits.

The second part looked at evolution of the market. Safety risks related to newly developed products and dietary trends include insects, algae (microalgae, seaweed and duckweed), use of genetically modified microorganisms, superfoods, edible flowers and frozen vegetables consumed as ready-to-eat.

In the third session hazards related to changing consumption patterns and novel foods were addressed. The trend toward increased consumption of raw food and preserving leftovers under unfavorable conditions increases the risk of foodborne diseases especially in vulnerable consumers. Special attention was put on the risk of raw food, leftovers and cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Replacing animal proteins with alternative proteins in the diet could increase the risk of developing food allergies and exposure to chemical contaminants such as nickel, toxic plant proteins, mycotoxins and acrylamide.

The Scientific Committee issued a number of opinions in 2019 including thoughts on the analysis program for forbidden substances in the food chain and an evaluation of the risks in extending the conservation period of two months for pre-packaged foods frozen on the expiry date.

It also published advice on a draft royal decree concerning the control of Salmonella in poultry, one on sampling and analysis, and another on control of the quality of raw milk.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Differences in circuit court opinions are the stuff that makes Supreme Court cases

February 5, 2020 - 12:05am

One way for legal issues to make their way to the Supreme Court is when the federal circuit courts don’t agree with one another. It’s too early to tell, but the legal tangle that’s been going on for most of the past decade over state laws to protect animal agriculture from outsiders might have to be settled by the Supremes.

Two years ago, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Animal Legal Defense Fund  (ALDF) v. Lawrence G. Wasden. It was a case that put Idaho’s so-called ag-gag law under the microscope. A three-judge panel largely sided with ALDF, striking most of the statute as incompatible with the U.S. Constitution.

The part of Idaho’s Interference with state’s ag-gag law — the Agricultural Production Act — that “survived constitutional scrutiny” was the lying part. Idaho’s law makes it a crime to tell falsehoods, such as on employment applications, to obtain access to agricultural properties.

“We are sensitive to journalists’ constitutional right to investigate and publish exposés on the agricultural industry. the Ninth Circuit ruling says. “Matters related to food safety and animal cruelty are of significant public importance. However, the First Amendment right to gather news within legal bounds does not exempt journalists from laws of general applicability. For this reason, we uphold the provisions that fall within constitutional parameters but strike down those limitations that impinge on protected speech.”

The Ninth Circuit’s appeals panel found Idaho’s criminalization of obtaining employment by misrepresentation with the intent to cause economic or other injuries as Constitutional. in that part of their decision, the panel overturned District Judge Lynn Winmill’s ruling that mainly found lying had First Amendment protection.

But where Idaho wanted to criminalize taking pictures or making audio or visual records without a property owner’s permission, the panel found those provisions violated the Constitution’s First Amendment.

While it was a divided ruling, the Ninth Circuit decision was a win for the ALDF and its allies. The Idaho Legislature drafted the statute after an undercover investigation of an Idaho dairy farm emerged with a video of workers abusing animals. The panel knocked down most of the ag-gag defenses.

Skip ahead, and Iowa’s ag-gag law is also found mostly unconstitutional. In three weeks, the Iowa Legislature passes a substitute law, and state Attorney General Tom Miller appeals the District Court decision to the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.

That amounted to a kind of squeeze play by Iowa. The ALDF plaintiffs described it this way: “While plaintiffs believe that the newly enacted statute suffers from the same constitutional flaws as the enjoined ag-gag law, and will likely require more costly litigation between the parties, plaintiffs concede that the law is enforceable during the pendency of the appeal in this case, unless and until plaintiffs obtain temporary or preliminary injunctive relief enjoining the new law. “

During the past year, the parties to the appeal have all been busy trying to stay up with the briefing schedule handed down by the court. All the issues the Ninth Circuit had to deal with two years ago are back on the table. And the only difference is the long line of amici curiae briefs being filed by “friends of the court” who want to weigh in on the fight.

In Iowa AG Miller’s recent brief “ag-gag” is out, and “the ag-fraud statute is in.

“Plaintiffs urge this court to adopt a new rule under the First Amendment to protect ‘high-value lies’ because the lies promote discourse and transparency on matters of public concern,” Miller’s office writes. “Plaintiffs fail to identify any support for this argument in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on the application of the First Amendment to false speech, and more importantly, the Ninth Circuit has rejected the promise that the First Amendment protections depend upon judicial assessments of a lie’s social utility.”

Iowa’s recent brief also takes exception to the plaintiff’s argument that the ag-gag law “imposes a content and viewpoint-based restriction on speech” in violation of the First Amendment because an improper purpose allegedly motivated the statute.

“However, the face and purpose of Iowa’s ag-fraud statute are content and viewpoint-neutral, and courts are discouraged from looking past the text of an otherwise viewpoint-neutral statute to infer some invidious legislative intention,” Miller’s brief adds.

Interest in the Eighth Circuit case remains high. Those filing friends of the court briefs include the Iowa Federation of Labor, Iowa Freedom of Information, Brooke Kroeger, Ted Conover, Erwin Chemerinsky, the United Farm Workers of America, 23 media organizations and associations, and Scholars of First Amendment and Information Law.  All are on behalf of the ALDF appellee(s).

After all the briefs are filed, oral arguments are expected, but there is no indication they’ve yet been scheduled.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)

Researchers test method to remove Salmonella from eggshells

February 5, 2020 - 12:02am

Researchers at a university in Australia have found a way to prevent salmonellosis affecting eggs through surface contamination.

Flinders University scientists developed a shell egg decontamination method that removed Salmonella Typhimurium from the outside of an egg without impacting its usability.

The method adapted a temperature-controlled water bath common in kitchens and associated with the sous-vide technique. Raw eggs are used in some recipes for certain food products such as mayonnaise, mousse, eggnog, and artisanal ice cream.

All clear in less than 10 minutes
The outside of whole eggs were artificially inoculated with two Salmonella Typhimurium strains. Eggs were decontaminated by placing them in a sous-vide cooker with the water heated to 57 degrees C (134.6 degrees F). Complete decontamination was achieved in nine minutes, according to the study published in the journal Pathogens.

In Australia, Salmonella Typhimurium is most commonly linked with the egg-related outbreaks, while globally Salmonella Enteritidis is the main cause. The former is found on the outside of the eggshell with internal contamination uncommon while the latter primarily contaminates internal contents of the eggs.

Eggs were heat treated for 30 seconds, 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 8, and 9 minutes. The experiment was conducted with three eggs at each time point and repeated three times for each time point and Salmonella strain. Artificially inoculated eggs that did not undergo heat treatment were used as the control.

The concentration of Salmonella cells inoculated on to the egg varied from 28 to 150 colony-forming units per milliliter (CFU/mL) with an average of 74 CFU/mL.

There was no growth of the standard strain after 3.5  minutes at 57 degrees C (134.6 degrees F) in the sous-vide water bath but enrichment confirmed survival of Salmonella. No growth was observed after six  minutes at 57 degrees C (134.6 degrees F) after enrichment.

The clinical isolate was not recovered from the eggs after eight  minutes but enrichment confirmed survival of Salmonella. Nine minutes at 57 degrees C (134.6 degrees F) confirmed complete loss of viability of this strain.

Minimal impact on egg quality
A blind control study was also conducted to assess the acceptability and usability of treated eggs by chefs and food handlers.

Decontaminated eggs were found by chefs, using measurements and acceptability scores, to have no significant difference in their quality or performance as an ingredient when compared with non-treated eggs.

Parameters tested indicated the decontamination method did not impact egg quality. There were no significant differences between treated and control egg measurements for albumen pH, yolk index, and Haugh unit.

Researchers said the method can be used to decontaminate eggs before preparation of raw egg products.

“Using this method immediately before the preparation of raw egg products could help reduce the burden of salmonellosis in Australia and protect public health. This method could also reduce the possibility of cross-contamination while processing raw egg products.”

Future work is needed to evaluate effectiveness of the method against other Salmonella strains in Australia and to explore effectiveness against heat resistance-induced strains of Salmonella, according to the report.

A second study by the Flinders research team examined effectiveness of Australian guidelines that recommend raw egg mayonnaise should be prepared and stored under 5 degrees C (41 degrees F) and adjusted to a pH less than 4.6 or 4.2.

Researchers found survival of Salmonella Typhimurium in mayonnaise is significantly improved at 4 degrees C (39 degrees F) and that lower temperatures protect the pathogen from the bactericidal effect of low pH.

“We found that the preparation of mayonnaise at pH 4.2 or less and incubating it at room temperature for at least 24 hours could reduce the incidence of salmonellosis,” said Thilini Keerthirathne, a researcher.

“But there is a risk of storing mayonnaise at 37 degrees C (98 degrees F). If the pH is not correctly measured, the warmer temperatures will promote the growth of Salmonella. As such it is crucial to ensure the pH of the mayonnaise is at pH 4.2 or less.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Listeria increase in Europe is worrying, says ECDC

February 5, 2020 - 12:01am

More than 2,500 confirmed cases of Listeria and 220 deaths were reported in Europe in 2017, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The latest annual epidemiological report found 2,520 cases were reported and 2,502 were confirmed with 227 deaths compared to 2,527 infections in 2016.

There were 2,549 cases reported in 2018, according to the annual report of zoonoses published by ECDC and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

A worrying increase
ECDC said the trend in cases is worrying and demands more attention be paid to the prevention and control of the disease and outbreaks.

Raising awareness of listeriosis and risky food in vulnerable groups is important, especially among the elderly where the majority of cases currently occur, added the agency.

Thirty EU/EEA Member States reported listeriosis figures in 2017. Belgian data had 80 percent national coverage and Spanish data did not have national coverage.

Germany and France had the most confirmed cases with 670 and 375 respectively, making up 44 percent of all infections reported in the EU/EEA. These two countries also recorded the most fatalities.

The highest reporting rates were in Iceland and Finland, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and Belgium. The lowest were in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania.

Confirmed listeriosis cases from 2013 to 2017 show a statistically significant increasing trend, according to officials. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain have reported rising trends. No countries have observed significant decreases.

The rise is likely partly due to the increased size of the elderly susceptible population, according to ECDC.

Among cases with information on hospitalisation status, almost all were hospitalized. Of confirmed listeriosis cases with known gender, 55.2 percent were males and 44.8 percent females. The most affected age group were those over 64 years old.

Yersinia in third place
For yersiniosis in 2017, 28 countries reported 6,890 confirmed cases compared to 6,946 in 2016.

It was the third most commonly reported zoonosis in the EU and Yersinia enterocolitica was the main causative species. The main reservoir for Yersinia enterocolitica in Europe are pigs and cattle.

Pigs are the top source of Yersinia enterocolitica infections and many cases are related to consumption of undercooked contaminated pork or cross-contamination of other food during the handling and preparation of raw pork.

As in previous years, Germany had the highest number with 2,579 or 37.4 percent of all cases but Finland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic had the highest rates. Data from France, Italy and Spain did not have national coverage.

For the period of 2008 to 2017, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and United Kingdom reported significantly increasing trends while Finland, Germany and Sweden had decreasing trends.

Among the 6,874 confirmed cases for which gender was known, 54.1 percent were male. Notification rates were highest in 0 to 4-year-old children and decreased with age.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Letter to the Editor: Horse slaughter legislation needs to do more

February 5, 2020 - 12:00am
Opinion

Interesting read on the decision of permanently banning horse slaughter in the US – and exports? Why are Canada and Mexico still receiving horses for slaughter?

The bill should also address the inhumane transport of horses in cattle liners – they are transferred near the border to larger trailers to give the appearance of humane transport before clearing the borders. These are “reject” horses from the race tracks and from people doing uncontrolled breeding of horses to get a cute foal; then they become a burden to care and train so they are starved or dumped and considered feral.

Have a proper strategy for the unwanted horses. Create a fee for racetracks that requires proper adoption of the losers from the track. Create a license for breeders – a fee high enough they have to have a plan for the foals.

Humane societies don’t go far enough in this issue.

Just plain banning for ethical reasons does not prevent unwanted horses. There are legal means of raising horses for meat and very successful – just like the other meat industries there are withdrawal periods for medications – so apply them the same to horses.

— Toni Allardyce-Harris

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

‘Microenterprise home kitchens’ look for food safety exemptions in Washington

February 4, 2020 - 12:05am

Writing in Forbes recently, Nick Sibilia, with the public interest law firm Institute forJustice, was positively giddy about the Food Freedom movement.

“Almost four years after the nation’s first ‘food freedom law was enacted, hundreds of new local businesses have sprouted across three states, and without a single outbreak of foodborne illness,” Sibilia wrote. “Completely exempt from any licensing, permitting, or inspection requirements, residents operating under their state’s food freedom act can create and sell almost any homemade dish imaginable, except those that contain meat.”

Wyoming was first to adopt a “food freedom” law in 2017, and North Dakota and Utah followed suit in short order. These three states have created new opportunities for both aspiring entrepreneurs as well as existing farmers and ranchers, Sibilia wrote.

Food Freedom as a route to economic prosperity that does not endanger food safety is a notion that has captured attention in state legislatures across the country. But it isn’t very easy.

Take commercial kitchens. They can cost more than a new house. In Washington State, some lawmakers are proposing a new concept — microenterprise home kitchens. The Washington House of Representatives Local Government Committee today is holding a public hearing that will take testimony on House Bill (HB) 2777, authorizing and permitting microenterprise home kitchens.

The bill does not do the “full Wyoming.” The 12-page bill requires registration, inspections, and licensing for microenterprise home kitchens. And it directs the state Board of Health to promulgate rules.

But the legislation also exempts microenterprise home kitchens from the Evergreen State’s food service code. And food preparation in home kitchens cannot involve processes that require a hazard analysis critical control plan or involve “the production, service or sale of raw milk or the service or sale of raw oysters.”

The microenterprise home kitchens won’t be able to make more than 30 meals per day and no more than 150 individual meals per week. Only direct sales, not indirect, to customers, are permitted. Deliveries outside Washington State are prohibited, and no third-party deliveries are allowed.

Inspections, addressing sanitation of the facility, equipment, and utensils, are part of the permitting process. Clean water sources and wastewater disposal are also part of the statutory requirements along with the handwashing facilities.

And while it might be a home kitchen, “persons unnecessary” to operations are not allowed in areas of food preparation, food storage, or warehousing areas. Consumer access is also limited.

Home kitchens must obtain permits from a local health board, which may require renewals on an annual basis. The home kitchen must disclose the food types and products it handles. Plans with days and times the home kitchen will be operating must be on file with the local health board.

Infants, small children, and pets are not permitted in the microenterprise home kitchen during the preparation, packaging, or handling of any food products.

HB 2777  is likely being watched beyond Washington state because of its promise to open commercial opportunities at a lower entry cost. Sibilia points to one study by the Institute for Justice, which surveyed 775 cottage food producers in 22 states, finding that half were funded with just $500 or less in startup capital.

A small commercial kitchen can easily cost $100,000 and larger units go up rapidly from there.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)

When it comes to testing heavy metals in food, the result is only as good as the lab

February 4, 2020 - 12:04am
Opinion

Heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead are present in most foods, whether conventional or organic, usually as the result of environmental contamination. Because heavy metals pose significant threats even at low levels, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made reducing cumulative exposure a priority. The Baby Food Council – consisting of Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Happy Family Organics, Earth’s Best, and Gerber Products Company and supported by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), Cornell University and EDF – shares this goal and seeks to reduce heavy metals in the companies’ products to as low as reasonably achievable using best-in-class management practices.

Through the Council, EDF is coordinating a proficiency testing program to enable retailers, food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and others to identify laboratories that are capable of measuring arsenic, cadmium, and lead at levels in the low parts per billion (ppb). The Council has arranged for FAPAS, a leading proficiency testing provider for the food and water testing industries, to manage the testing program.

Why is proficiency testing important?
A lab result that says heavy metals in a food ingredient are non-detectable is ideal. However, if the lab did not use a sensitive enough analytical method, or if their procedures lack adequate precision, the non-detectable result may unintentionally mask a potential problem. It can create difficult situations when buyers, FDA, or the public runs tests using another lab and finds the substances in a company’s product.

For example, EDF encountered this situation in 2018 when we reached out to 79 companies whose children’s foods FDA had tested for these heavy metals using an extremely sensitive method that the agency developed. We communicated with 40 of the companies and learned that some did not use the most sensitive method and could not measure the heavy metals below 100 ppb. We published a blog in June 2018 providing the results of our investigation. Later, Consumer Reports and HBBF also published results of their own baby food testing investigations, reinforcing that heavy metal contamination continues to exist in some products.

To avoid surprises and disruption to their markets, companies should ensure testing is conducted with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) equipment that has a sensitivity similar to that in FDA’s Elemental Analytical Method 4.7 (EAM 4.7). Third-party proficiency testing such as the program offered by FAPAS and the Baby Food Council, is an excellent means to evaluate the lab’s capability to help a company understand in which foods heavy metals may be present at levels of concern.

How does this proficiency testing program work?
FAPAS will prepare samples of a vegetable puree with known concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, and lead and send samples to invited labs. The concentrations will range from around one-half to ten times the limit of quantification (LOQ) established by FDA for its EAM 4.7. The labs will have four to six weeks to provide FAPAS with the results of the analysis for each of the three metals. Speciation of arsenic into its organic and inorganic forms is not required.

FAPAS will evaluate the information, score the results, and provide the Council with a report summarizing the results. While the report will not identify the participating labs, FAPAS will send each lab its own report, and those that perform well are encouraged to share their results with the Council and be considered for listing on the Council’s website.

How can a lab get invited?
Companies, including labs, interested in participating should contact EDF’s Boma Brown-West at bbrown@edf.org by Feb. 15.

Is heavy metals testing required?
FDA requires that the food facility, as part of its Food Safety Plan, assess the known and reasonably foreseeable hazards that may be present in food at the facility and, if necessary, establish preventive controls to protect the food that leaves the facility. The agency’s draft guidance identifies heavy metals as a chemical hazard[i] that should be evaluated as part of a facility’s Food Safety Plan because they are in or on raw agricultural commodities or may leach from equipment, containers, or utensils.

The type of required control depends on how the heavy metal could get into your food product. The agency’s draft guidance states that

“Heavy metals are principally a concern in raw agricultural commodities grown in soils that are contaminated either naturally or through industrial activity. If you determine through your hazard analysis that a heavy metal hazard requires a preventive control, and that control is applied by your supplier, you would have a supply-chain program in which you would verify that suppliers source raw agricultural commodities from regions that do not have high levels of heavy metal contamination in soil, and specifications that heavy metals in raw materials and other ingredients will be within permitted levels.” [Section 4.6.3 Heavy Metals]

Testing is usually an important aspect of any verification program, especially when labs are offering testing at less than $100 per sample. FDA guidance provides an example saying “sampling and testing (by supplier or receiving facility) to verify supplier control for chemical hazards such as pesticides, drug residues, heavy metals, and mycotoxins, when a supply-chain-applied control has been applied for such hazards” [Table 5-3 on Supply Chain Preventive Controls]

In addition, the Codex Alimentarius’ Code of Practice for Lead, says that “where possible, farmers should test lead levels in soils that are near lead sources or that are suspected of having elevated lead levels to determine if lead levels exceed recommendations for planting by local authorities” and “food processors should occasionally test incoming raw materials and finished products for lead to verify that their control measures are functioning effectively.” In its Code of Practice for Arsenic in Rice, Codex recommends monitoring the concentrations of the metal as well.

EDF also has specific testing recommendations for arsenic, cadmium, and lead in food, food ingredients, and food packaging. Beyond labs that test food, we are also evaluating methods that can provide quick, reliable results in the field for metals in food handling equipment.

Summary
It is essential that anyone evaluating foods for arsenic, cadmium, and lead use a laboratory that is capable of measuring precisely at the level of concern – the low ppb range. With this effort by the Baby Food Council, any lab can demonstrate that capability through the FAPAS proficiency testing program and potentially be listed on the Council’s website.

[i] See Draft Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food: Guidance for Industry – January 2018. Section 3.4.1.3: “When your hazard analysis identifies a heavy metal that requires a preventive control, the type of control would depend on how the heavy metal could get into your food product. In some cases, high levels of heavy metals may result from the environment (e.g., high lead levels in carrots that were grown in lead-contaminated soil). If your food product contains a food crop that is known to have been contaminated with a heavy metal through contaminated soil, a preventive control such as a supply-chain control with a verification program to ensure that the grower conducts an assessment of the growing region prior to its use for agriculture may be appropriate. In other cases, an unsafe level of a heavy metal such as lead could be introduced into a food product as a result of a food-contact surface constructed with lead solder. CGMP controls, such as the controls on equipment and utensils in 21 CFR 117.40, generally can control chemical hazards such as heavy metals that can leach from food-contact surfaces.”

About the author: Tom Neltner, J.D., is the Chemicals Policy Director and Boma Brown-West Senior Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund. The EDF was founded in 1967 in relation to concerns about the impact of the use of DDT. The organization worked with legislators to get a nationwide ban on the chemical. In the 1990s, the organization pioneered corporate partnerships and some of the first interactive uses of online communications. In the process, EDF has grown into a leading national nonprofit organization representing more than 2.5 million members.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

ECDC data reveals Salmonella decrease has ‘levelled off’

February 4, 2020 - 12:03am

More than 90,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella and 150 deaths were reported in Europe in 2017, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The latest annual epidemiological report found 92,649 cases were reported, of which 156 were fatal. The United Kingdom recorded 57 of these deaths.

ECDC reported that Salmonellosis remains the second most common zoonosis in Europe and the significant decrease from 2004 to 2013 appears to have levelled off. There were 91,857 cases reported in 2018, according to the annual report of zoonoses published by ECDC and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Country trends
Thirty EU/EEA countries submitted data on salmonellosis for 2017. In five nations, reporting is voluntary — Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Netherlands or based on another system U.K. Surveillance systems have national coverage except in France, Netherlands and Spain. Population coverage was estimated to be 48 percent in France and 64 percent in the Netherlands.

For 2017, countries reported 94,570 cases, of which 92,649 were confirmed. The number of infections in 2016 was 95,329.

The highest notification rates were in Czech Republic and Slovakia, followed by Hungary and Lithuania. The lowest was Portugal. The largest increase in rates from 2016 to 2017 was in Iceland, Ireland and Portugal.

From 2013 to 2017 increasing trends were observed in Greece, Estonia, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the U.K. while decreasing trends were seen in Finland, Italy and Germany.

The highest proportions of travel-related cases, ranging from 64 to 76 percent, were reported by Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Among 8,596 travel-associated cases with information on probable country of infection, Thailand, Spain, Turkey and India were the most frequent destinations.

Mostly children affected
The top reporting rate of salmonellosis was among young children 0 to 4 years old. This rate was almost three times higher than in older children and eight times as high as adults 25 to 64 years old. In Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Poland and Portugal, the rate among young children was about 25 to 50 times higher than that among adults 25 to 44 years of age.

“The fact that the salmonellosis rate in young children is eight times higher compared with adults may be explained by a higher proportion of symptomatic infections among young children, an increased likelihood for parents to take children to see a doctor and for doctors to take samples,” said ECDC.

In Cyprus, Greece and Portugal, the proportions of hospitalized cases was very high at 72 to 85 percent, while salmonellosis notification rates were low. This indicates surveillance systems in these countries mainly capture the most severe infections, according to ECDC.

Egg products continue to be the highest risk foods in Salmonella outbreaks. ECDC said proper control measures at the primary production level and sufficient lab capacity is a prerequisite to reduce Salmonella prevalence in food-producing animals.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

STEC increase for England and Wales in 2018

February 4, 2020 - 12:01am

More than 1,500 confirmed Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections were reported in England and Wales in 2018 and five people died, according to Public Health England data.

A total of 1,553 confirmed cases included 607 laboratory-confirmed cases of STEC serogroup O157 and 612 infections where a non-O157 serogroup was isolated. In 2017, 948 confirmed cases of STEC were reported.

For 334 cases, samples tested positive by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for Shiga toxin (stx) genes, but STEC was not cultured with more than 300 of these in England.

Four STEC outbreaks caused by O157 affecting 55 people were investigated in 2018. It was not possible to find the vehicle and/or source of infection for the two largest and national outbreaks were a foodborne source was suspected. In one of these, 26 people were ill with 10 needing hospital treatment. In the other, 17 people were sick and four were hospitalized. The other two smaller outbreaks involved a petting farm and an outdoor event.

Data for STEC O157
The number of STEC O157 cases in England increased in 2018, but remained below pre-2015 levels. A reason for the decline in recent years is unclear, according to PHE.

Click to enlarge

The STEC O157 figure of 607 has gone up from the 563 infections in 2017 but is below the 715 in 2016. As in previous years, STEC O157 had a peak of infection in the summer months.

Highest incidence was in children under 5 years of age. Nearly one-third of confirmed STEC O157 cases were hospitalized and 2 percent developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening condition predominantly affecting the kidneys. One death was reported.

Of 584 confirmed STEC O157 cases in England, 340 were female. Children aged 1 to 4 years had the highest incidence of infection. Overall, females had a higher incidence across all age groups, except for those 80 and older.

Based on data from 574 questionnaires, symptoms were reported for 549 cases; 93 percent had diarrhea, including 54 percent with bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms included abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and fever. Hospitalization was required in 28 percent of cases with duration ranging from 1 to 16 days.

HUS happened in 14 confirmed STEC O157 cases and most were under 5 years of age. HUS occurred in all three probable cases. Two were female aged from 8 to 14 years old.

A total of 146 cases were travel-associated and 33 spent the entire incubation period abroad. Top travel destinations included Turkey, Egypt, and Spain.

As with past years, phage type (PT) 8 and 21/28 were the main STEC O157 phage types, with a combined proportion of 51 percent. These were followed by PT 54, PT 32 and PT 14.

Rise in non-O157
Data comes from the National Enhanced Surveillance System for STEC infection in England (NESSS). Lab data for cases in Wales are from the PHE Gastro Data Warehouse (GDW).

Detection of non-O157 STEC infections continued to rise in 2018 to 612 and reflects the more widespread use of PCR in frontline labs to detect a broader range of serogroups, according to PHE.

The non-O157 figure of 612 in 2018 is much higher than the 385 reported in 2017.

In England, the most commonly reported non-O157 STEC serogroup was O26 with 17 percent of cases followed by O91, O146, O128ab and O117.

Seventy-five people were hospitalized and 24 developed HUS. Four deaths were reported among cases of non-O157 STEC.

Of the 567 non-O157 STEC cases in England, 73 different serotypes were confirmed. In Wales, for 45 cases 20 serotypes were recorded.

Questionnaires were received for 257 non-O157 STEC cases, and 46 STEC cases confirmed only by PCR. Of those symptomatic, 90 percent reported diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea. This was accompanied by abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and vomiting.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Vicksburg restaurant worker exposes customers to hepatitis A

February 3, 2020 - 12:05am

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is investigating a case of hepatitis A in a Warren County restaurant employee that may have led to exposure for customers.  MSDH has set up free hepatitis A vaccinations today and tomorrow  for those who might have been exposed to the virus

An employee of the Gumbo Pot, 3401 Halls Ferry Road #5 in Vicksburg, has been diagnosed with a hepatitis A infection. While infectious, the employee worked at the restaurant on Jan. 17, 18 and 22. Customers who ate at the restaurant on those days may have been exposed to hepatitis A.

Vaccination can prevent hepatitis A only if given within 14 days of exposure. Because those who ate at the restaurant on Jan. 17 and 18 would have been exposed more than 14 days ago, they should watch for any possible symptoms of hepatitis A and see their doctor if they become ill. Those who ate at the restaurant on January 22 should get the hepatitis A vaccination if they have not been previously vaccinated.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to this case can receive a hepatitis A vaccination free of charge from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3 and Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Warren County Health Department, 807 Monroe Street in Vicksburg.

“The risk of transmission of hepatitis A in this situation is likely very low. However, as a precaution, we recommend that anyone who ate food from this restaurant on Jan. 22 should consider getting a hepatitis A vaccination if they have not done so already. And again, those who may have been exposed on Jan. 17 and 18 should watch for any possible symptoms of hepatitis A and see their doctor if become ill,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.

“The management and staff of the Gumbo Pot are fully cooperating with MSDH to prevent illnesses as a result of this exposure.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that causes fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), abdominal pain and dark-colored urine. Hepatitis A usually spreads when a person ingests the virus from objects, food or drinks contaminated by small, undetectable amounts of stool (feces) from an infected person. If you think you have symptoms of hepatitis A, you should contact your healthcare provider. It can take up to 50 days for symptoms to develop.

People can prevent the spread of hepatitis A by carefully washing hands with soap and water, including under the fingernails, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.

As a reminder, there is an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in Mississippi and close to 30 other states affecting those who use drugs, those who are in jail or were recently in jail, those with unstable housing or who are homeless, and men who have sex with men. The MSDH continues to recommend hepatitis A vaccination for those specific groups as well.

These outbreaks since 2016 have taken 306 lives among 30,525 confirmed cases of hepatitis A. Those cases have sent 18,604  or 61 percent of the confirmed cases to hospitals.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)

Pages