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Consumer Reports takes consumers by hand on fresh produce and pesticides

August 27, 2020 - 6:53am

Everybody knows the story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears and that porridge that was too cold and  too hot but was finally “just right.”  Consumer Reports is looking at coming out “just right” in a new study about fresh produce and pesticides.

And its a study involving the same set of facts that are subject to differing interpretation and even presentation, so it can be confusing, And like that porridge, opinions abound about fresh produce because they are now available year-round because of the growth of imports.

Anybody can have an opinion because everybody works off the same set of facts—USDA’s annual test results from putting fruits and vegetables through the lab to see if any of about 450 pesticides can be detected. And there’s also the reality that fruits and vegetables contribute to good health.

Over the years, enough scare tactics have likely caused some people to swear off eating fruits and vegetables because of the role pesticides play, but in doing so have caused themselves more harm. Consumer Reports is out today with a report entitled “Stop Eating Pesticides” to show their readers how to get the health benefits from eating fruits and vegetables while avoiding the toxic chemicals.

Consumer Reports, published since 1936, accepts no advertising and pays for all the products it tests along with all its other research including the pesticide study reported in the magazine today. CR makes it clear that eating less produce is a big mistake.

“More than 80 percent of Americans already fall short of the recommended amounts of at least 2 and 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits per day for most adults,” CR reports. “Instead you can minimize the risk by choosing fruits and vegetables grown with fewer and safer pesticides.”

The CR report includes a “Guide to the Produce Aisle” that uses color bars to suggest when non-organics are unlikely to be harmful or when organic might be the safer choice. CR also explores the six “most concerning pesticides on produce.”

Included on that list with CR’s comment are:

  1. Acephate. This pesticide can break down into a chemical called methamidophos, a compound banned as a pesticide in the U.S. since 2009 because it’s a neurotoxin, meaning it damages the brain and nervous system.
  2.  Chlorpropham. Used to keep potatoes from sprouting, this pesticide is banned in the EU because it may interfere with hormones in the body. It was found in concerning amounts on nearly every sample of nonorganic U.S.-grown potatoes and 96 percent of imported ones. It also was found in all domestic organic potatoes, although at much lower levels.
  3. Chlorpyrifos. This neurotoxin was on the brink of being banned in 2016, but the EPA reversed course after intense lobbying from the pesticide industry. It contributes significantly to the risk in nonorganic peaches.
  4. Cyhalothrin. Thought to interfere with the body’s neuromuscular system, it’s the major contributor to the risk in cherries and was found in more than half of nonorganic U.S.-grown samples, fresh and frozen.
  5.  Famoxadone. Some research suggests that this pesticide is a hormone disruptor. CR believes it should not be used on food until more is known about its safety. It’s the main reason both non-organic and U.S.-grown organic spinach fare poorly in our ratings.
  6.  Fludioxonil. This is one of several risky fungicides that’s used after harvest, and it’s thought to have hormone-disrupting effects. It’s primarily responsible for the high risk of nonorganic fresh peaches and nectarines.

On a special note, CR said “headline-making pesticides” Glyphosate and Dicamba should be probated but are not used on fruits and vegetables.

The ratings issued by CR in the report are based on USDA pesticide data from 2014 to 2018, a total of about 24,000 samples. The ratings take into account servings of fruits and vegetables that a person might consume over a lifetime, including serving sizes.

CR also says the federal policies concerning pesticides need work. “Many federal policies should be altered to protect consumers from harms of pesticides, said Brian Ronholm, CR’s director of food policy. He says it is particularly important is a system to quickly identify banned pesticides on imported produce to keep the product out of the country

Previously, Ronholm served as USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety.

“The USDA must also take steps to maintain the integrity of the organic program and help farmers transition to organic, which will make the organic option more widely available,” Ronholm to the magazine. CR says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should ban the use of the riskiest pesticides and use the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) safety factor or safety margin.

CR finds organic choices are usually good, it did find organic U.S-grown spinach with 33 different pesticides in 76 percent of the samples, making it indistinguishable from the non-organic product.

And CR found almost half of the non-organic fruits and vegetables posed little risk. The worst score for non-organics went to fresh green beans, potatoes, and peaches. Where the non-organics don’t score well is when CR suggests hitting the organic aisle.

Organics do have a pricey reputation, but CR finds that it varies by season and region and often is not as much in reality.

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U.S. among countries sent Brazil nuts contaminated with Salmonella

August 27, 2020 - 12:05am

The United States is one of more than 30 countries listed as having received Brazil nuts from Bolivia contaminated with Salmonella. The United Kingdom raised the Salmonella Anatum alert in mid-August, according to a notification on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

The first notice in the UK was Lidl GB recalling Deluxe Dark Chocolate Muesli Bar with Brazils and cranberries because they might contain Salmonella. The bars have best before dates through December 2020 and January, February, March and April 2021.

Next, Hand2Mouth Ltd. recalled various products with Brazil nuts due to potential Salmonella. This included some Eat Natural bars containing Brazil nuts, sultanas, peanuts and almonds and Hema Natural fruit and nut bars.

Possible illnesses
Eat Natural officials said they decided to withdraw and recall the product due to possible presence of Salmonella, originating from a third-party supplier of ingredients. Bars were distributed across the UK at outlets such as supermarket Tesco, high street stores including WHSmith and various wholesalers for the independent, cash and carry and vending sectors.

The recall comes after a “small number” of people became ill with salmonellosis, some of whom had eaten an Eat Natural bar containing Brazil nuts, as well as other foods.

Praveen Vijh, co-founder of Eat Natural, said: “Our bars are heat treated and this diminishes the likelihood of contamination, but we are taking this matter extremely seriously and taking all steps possible, even though at this stage the notification is very much a precautionary measure. This is an isolated incident related to some batches of Brazil nuts and does not affect any of our other bars or cereal products in any way.”

Recalled product from Hema

Then Paleo Foods Co. recalled certain best before dates of Cocoa and Hazelnut Grain-Free Granola containing Brazil nuts and Rude Health Food Ltd recalled The Ultimate Muesli containing Brazil nuts. The 500-gram packs have best before dates June 12 and 24, 2021, and July 20 and 21, 2021.

The Food Standards Agency told consumers who had bought any of the products not to eat them and return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

More than 30 affected nations
Bolivia is the largest producer of Brazil nuts, representing about 75 percent of world total production, followed by Peru and Brazil, according to the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council.

Retailers are requested to remove the implicated batches from sale and to display a point-of-sale recall notice in stores where they were sold, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Wholesalers and distributors should contact affected customers and recall these batches and provide a point-of-sale recall notice to their retailer customers while caterers should not use the implicated batches.

All countries concerned are Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Qatar, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.

People with Salmonella typically develop symptoms 12 and 36 hours after infection, but this can range between six and 72 hours. The most common is diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody. Other symptoms may include fever, headache and abdominal cramps. Illness usually lasts four to seven days. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

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Three key factors for serving lunch when schools open amid COVID-19

August 27, 2020 - 12:03am

As parents around the country eagerly await to safely send their children back to school, grade school administrators are reimagining how their school’s campus will look like in the future now that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned school operations upside down.

Administrators will have to implement all new guidelines to reduce the spread of coronavirus on campus such as lowering classroom attendance, require all faculty and students to wear face masks on campus, and upgrade the school’s custodial services. However, many schools still do not have a plan for serving lunch to students in a safe and efficient manner.

When students return to class, eating lunch will probably look drastically different. Most students will no longer wait in long lines to grab food items in packed cafeterias or pay in cash. Instead, they will likely be eating lunch six feet apart, either in their classrooms or on the yard. Since grade schools will have to adhere to many different safety measures including banning outside food, many schools will have to rely on school lunch vendors to provide daily lunch to their students.

School lunch companies across the country are now working quickly to bring new lunch alternatives that work to meet the needs and expectations of school administrators, parents, students, and teachers alike. Here are three key factors school administrators should consider when choosing a school lunch vendor.

1.    Safety

The number one priority for when children go back to school is safety of both students and staff. School lunch companies must be able to provide a hygienic, limited-contact operations model that will assure parents, students and school staff are strictly following CDC protocols to provide safe delivery and flexible distribution without sacrificing the convenience and quality of the food. In fact, California schools are already opting in for a safer lunch model that limits physical interaction.

2.    Nutritious Food

Choosing a school lunch vendor that provides nutritious foods beyond USDA’s dietary guidelines can be an academic benefit for students. A U.C. Berkeley study has shown students at schools that contract with vendors serving nutritious food end up performing better on tests. Schools should be sure to choose vendors that use clean ingredients, avoid highly processed foods, and offer a variety of highly nutritious meals parents can choose from.

3.    Seamless experience

An innovative school lunch program should be able to give parents quick, easy access and full control of their child’s school lunch menu that meets their dietary preferences and food allergies straight from their mobile device. Without any need to spend a lot of time figuring out lunch, parents should have the flexibility to order lunches days or weeks in advance and skip lunches when they are unnecessary.

As school administrators across the country continue to piece together how the future of school lunches will operate, they can find great comfort in knowing there are school lunch companies strategically and mindfully working to support them.

About the author: Keith Cosbey is COO of the school lunch company Choicelunch,

E. coli infections continue to rise in Switzerland

August 27, 2020 - 12:01am

E. coli infections continued to climb in Switzerland in 2019, according to the country’s surveillance report on zoonoses and outbreaks of food poisoning.

The most common zoonoses were again campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis. There were about 7,000 cases of campylobacteriosis and 1,500 of salmonellosis, but the actual number is likely to be higher, according to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

Food and waterborne outbreaks almost doubled from 12 in 2018 to 23 in 2019, the highest level in the past decade. In total, more than 331 people fell ill and at least six were hospitalized.

Continued E. coli rise
The year was marked by a further increase in Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) to 993 confirmed cases from 822 in 2018. The rate is the highest recorded since introducing reporting obligations in 1999.

click to enlarge

The main cause of this rise is probably due to new analytical methods as labs are performing more tests for STEC, which allows more cases to be detected. The number of HUS cases remaining practically constant throughout the years backs up this hypothesis, according to FSVO, which is also known in Italian as USAV, French as OSAV and German as BLV.

As in 2018, most cases were recorded in the third quarter. With the exception of children under 5, women were slightly more affected than men regardless of age. A possible country of exposure was noted in 662 cases, Switzerland was mentioned in 399 cases.

With 20 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2019, there was a slight decrease compared to 23 the previous year. Eight children younger than 5 and six people 65 and older were mostly affected.

Campylobacter, Salmonella and Listeria
In 2019, campylobacteriosis remained the most frequently recorded infection. A total of 7,223 cases confirmed by laboratory diagnosis were reported which was a slight decrease compared to 7,675 in the previous year.

A first increase was noted in summer. The peak was reached in July and August, with 1,817 cases. As in previous years, a second short-lived rise was recorded during the holiday season linked to the Swiss version of Chinese fondue.

As part of self-monitoring by the poultry sector, 1,482 analyzes were carried out on chicken and turkey meat in 2019. Of these, 323 tested positive for Campylobacter spp. Campylobacter was between 1,000 and 10,000 colony forming units per gram for 38 of 390 chicken carcass samples analyzed and it was higher than 10,000 in 17 samples. If rates frequently exceed 1,000 CFU/g the slaughterhouse must take measures to achieve a reduction such as improving hygiene and monitoring of process controls.

The second most frequent zoonosis in Switzerland was salmonellosis. In 2019, 1,547 cases confirmed by lab diagnosis were reported which was a slight increase compared to 1,467 in 2018. The most frequently reported serovars are Salmonella Enteritidis, followed by Typhimurium and its monophasic variant 1,4,[5],12:i:-.

As part of self controls by the poultry sector, 3,216 analyzes were done on chicken and turkey meat in 2019. In total, 16 were positive: five cases each of Salmonella Albany and Enteritidis, four of Salmonella Infantis, and one each of Salmonella Typhimurium and Heidelberg.

In 2019, 36 cases of listeriosis confirmed by lab diagnosis were reported compared to 42 in 2018. As in previous years, the highest reporting rate was in the older than 65 age group. Serotypes 4b and 1/2a were the most frequently detected.

More than 1,000 cheese and 202 environmental samples were tested for Listeria and while Listeria monocytogenes was not detected other types of Listeria were found in 11 samples. Swiss meat products were tested as part of a project commissioned by FSVO. Two hundred samples were analyzed and Listeria monocytogenes was found three times but did not exceed the limit of 100 CFU/g.

More outbreaks but total still low
Foodborne infections have been rare in Switzerland for several years with 23 incidents reported for 2019. This figure, although double the previous year, remains low compared to other countries.

For five people with hepatitis E, interviews with patients suggested pork as the cause of disease. No source was suspected in five Salmonella outbreaks. Salmonella Napoli affected 50 people, Salmonella Munchen left 38 ill, Salmonella Derby sickened 23, seven were ill from Salmonella Hvittingfoss and eight because of Salmonella Bovismorbificans.

The infectious agent causing outbreaks could only be determined in two of 23 incidents. One involved Campylobacter and the other norovirus along with E. coli and enterococci.

Two days after having a meal at a restaurant, a family of three fell ill. Campylobacter was detected in stools of patients. Mozzarella-stuffed chicken breast was suspected, but analysis could not be performed as no sample was still available. An investigation at the restaurant showed meat was likely undercooked.

During a summer camp, 45 children and eight adults in two cabins fell ill. Norovirus type I was detected in the stool of a patient. As water was suspected, analyzes found type I and type II norovirus as well as E. coli and enterococci.

In other investigations, two people fell ill possibly from histamine poisoning in tuna that was stored incorrectly. Six people became sick one day after eating a ham sandwich from a bakery where norovirus was found in the stool of an employee. Finally, the chef of a restaurant, suffering from nausea and diarrhea, still came to work. Following a meal served the same evening to 25 guests, 15 people presented similar symptoms and a cook in the restaurant also became ill.

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Salmonella outbreak prompts recall of peach salsa, gift baskets

August 26, 2020 - 7:02pm

In response to an ongoing Salmonella outbreak linked to fresh peaches, a wholesaler is recalling peach salsa and gift baskets that contain peaches supplied by Wawona Packing.

Wawona has recalled peaches in the United States and Canada in relation to the outbreak, which has sickened 68 people across nine states and 33 people in Canadian provinces. Major retailers including Walmart and Kroger, among several other grocery chains, have recalled fresh peaches in bags and bulk bins.

Russ Davis Wholesale (RDW) is recalling Peach Salsa under the Crazy Fresh and Quick & Easy brands.

“This recall is in response to Wawona Packaging initiating a recall of peaches early in the day Aug. 22, 2020 as an ingredient provider to Russ Davis Wholesale,” according to the company recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s website. “To date, Russ Davis Wholesale has not received any reported illnesses related to this organism.”

The implicated products were delivered to retail stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Some containers of peach salsa may have been purchased from the deli counter at grocery stores located in Ortonville, MN, Cross Lake, MN and Tipton, IA.

Five Bountiful Fresh gift baskets, also containing the recalled peaches were sold through one location in Hastings, MN.

Retailers have been instructed to remove affected products from store shelves and destroy.

Consumers are urged to immediately throw any product they may have away and not consume. Consumers with questions may contact the company at: customerservice@russdaviswholesale.com or 877-433-2173 

Russ Davis Wholesale is a processor, wholesaler and distributor of fresh produce, according to the company, supplying fresh conventional and organic fruits and vegetables to retail, wholesale and food service customers throughout the Midwest. Salsa products under recall are:

UPC Product Name Brand Name on Label Packaging SELL BY Date 795631 820270 Crazy Fresh Perfectly Peach Salsa Crazy Fresh Perfectly Peach Salsa 8 oz. 6/25/2020 to 8/26/2020 795631 820270 Quick & Easy Perfectly Peach Salsa Quick & Easy Perfectly Peach Salsa 8 oz. 7/29/2020 to 8/26/2020 795631 820270 Clear Label Perfectly Peach Salsa Clear Label Perfectly Peach Salsa 8 oz. 7/30/2020 to 8/23/2020

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 recalled products 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.

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Danish officials trying to find sources of three outbreaks

August 26, 2020 - 12:05am

Public health officials in Denmark are looking into three outbreaks that have sickened almost 50 people with one caused by Hepatitis A and two due to rare strains of Salmonella.

Since June, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Fødevarestyrelsen (Danish Veterinary and Food Administration) and DTU Food Institute have been investigating three suspected foodborne outbreaks that have left 29 people needing hospital treatment with cases spread throughout the country. The sources are still unknown.

The Hepatitis A outbreak involves 14 people and 11 of them were admitted to hospital. An outbreak of Salmonella Strathcona includes 23 people and another of Salmonella Kasenyi has 11 patients.

Suspicion falls on imported food
Luise Müller, an epidemiologist at SSI, said those sick have not traveled abroad or participated in joint events.

“It therefore suggests that the outbreaks are due to foods sold throughout the country. And since neither the Hepatitis A virus nor the two types of Salmonella in question are something we normally see in Denmark, we are probably looking for an imported food in all three cases,” she said.

Müller added the best advice the agency can currently give is to follow the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration’s advice on good kitchen hygiene; to rinse fruits and vegetables, to boil frozen berries and keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat food.

The Hepatitis A outbreak involves eight women and six men aged 17 to 63 years old. They became ill from April to July 2020. Patients live all over the country and 11 have been hospitalized. Viruses from those affected have been typed to genotype 1B.

Statens Serum Institut interviews patients to find out how they become ill. Initial interviews have shown that they have not been out traveling, do not know each other and have not participated in joint events.

Hepatitis A infection is not a disease that usually causes outbreaks in Denmark. One outbreak, with a different genotype, in 2017 and 2018 had 27 patients and was linked to dates imported from Iran. A 2012 and 2013 outbreak that affected 71 Danes was traced to frozen strawberries produced in North Africa.

A hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months. Illness usually occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool.

First ever outbreak of Salmonella Kasenyi
From late May to Aug. 23 people have been registered with Salmonella Strathcona in Denmark.

The sick live all over the country, and there are 19 women and four men aged 3 to 95 years old. A total of 15 patients have been hospitalized.

Whole genome sequencing found the strains were closely related to each other and the sequence type was 2559. Strathcona is a very rare serotype and it has only caused one outbreak in Denmark in the past in 2011, which was traced to small tomatoes from Italy.

From June 10 to July 16, 2020, 11 people have been recorded with Salmonella Kasenyi in the country.

The patients are nine women and two men aged 27 to 78 years old. Three of them needed hospital treatment. Seven of those sick live in Hovedstaden, two in Midtjylland and one each in Sjælland and Syddanmark.

Whole genome sequencing found the strains were closely related and of the sequence type 4546. This is a rare serotype and in Denmark an outbreak has never been seen before.

Most people infected by Salmonella develop signs 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting that lasts for several days.

Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. 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.

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Virtual meetings help keep FDA’s Frank Yiannas in touch with all interested in food safety

August 26, 2020 - 12:03am

Like the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps “public calendars” to document when its top officials meet with people outside the federal government.

The FDA’s top official for food is Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. FDA calendars are not as complete as FSIS’s in that they frequently do not list the actual names of those outside the federal government who are in the meetings, but rather who they represent.

What follows is a summary of meetings Yiannas has had from the time the pandemic was declared to just after the 4th of July.

  • Event Date: 03/18/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several Senior FDA Officials and Staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the food industry, government, and academia

 

  • Event Date: 03/19/2020 Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak
  • FDA Participant/Group: LEEANNE JACKSON; NINA ZIMDAHL; CAITLIN BOON;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/07/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several HHS and FDA officials and staff members
  • Non FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/08/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Salmonella Testing in Foods
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from industry, academia, trade associations, and government

 

  • Event Date: 04/09/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from consumer groups

 

  • Event Date: 04/10/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from federal, state, and local governments

 

  • Event Date: 04/10/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff members
  • Non FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/14/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: NINA ZIMDAHL; CAITLIN BOON;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/15/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members from the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

 

  • Event Date: 04/15/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: MARK MOORMAN;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the National Restaurant Association

 

  • Event Date: 04/17/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: KATHERINE SERRANO; MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ; DONALD PRATER;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Amada Velez Mendez, Javier Trujillo Arriaga, Jose Luis Lara (National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety and Quality, Government of Mexico)

 

  • Event Date: 04/20/2020 Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: CAITLIN BOON; NINA ZIMDAHL; ANDREW KENNEDY;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Claudia Davidson, Conner Jager, Julie Bush, Liz Stone (Palantir Technologies)

 

  • Event Date: 04/20/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several officials from FDA, CDC, and HHS
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/24/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several officials from FDA, CDC, and HHS
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several representatives from the produce industry

 

  • Event Date: 04/24/2020 Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: DAVID GOLDMAN; ROSEMARY EARLEY; DANIEL HATTIS; LEEANNE JACKSON;
  • Non FDA Participant/Group: Christian Lovell (Rep. Rosa DeLauro [D-CT])

 

  • Event Date: 04/28/2020 Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several staff members from the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

 

  • Event Date: 04/29/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several staff members from the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce

 

  • Event Date: 05/05/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Data Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: CAITLIN BOON; CHARLES PASTEL; ANDREW KENNEDY; SARA MARRIE; KASEY HEINTZ; SUZANNE ROOSEN; NINA ZIMDAHL;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Don Lowery, Jay Dennis, Jeff Ritchie, Kristie Stegen (The Nielsen Company)

 

  • Event Date: 05/08/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Budget Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several Senate Agriculture Appropriations Sub-Committee staff members

 

  • Event Date: 05/14/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Safe Food Coalition Meeting 
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA leaders and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Representatives from consumer, trade union, and foodborne illness victim organizations

 

  • Event Date: 05/14/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 05/20/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues in Response to COVID-19
  • FDA Participant/Group: KARI BARRETT; SUSAN MAYNE; MARK MOORMAN;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from the food industry

 

  • Event Date: 05/20/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Leafy Greens Investigation Report
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non FDA Participant/Group: Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)

 

  • Event Date: 05/21/2020   Location: Virtual
  • Subject: United States-Canada Joint Committee on Food Safety
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff members
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives and staff from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency

 

  • Event Date: 05/29/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Produce Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from the produce industry and trade associations

 

  • Event Date: 06/04/2020   Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Leafy Green Investigation Report
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several staff members of the House Agriculture Committee

 

  • Event Date: 06/04/2020   Location: Virtual
  • Subject: COVID-19 Update and Impacts to Dietary Supplement Industry
  • FDA Participant/Group: MICHAEL ROGERS; STEVEN TAVE;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members of the Council for Responsible Nutrition Board of Directors

 

  • Event Date: 06/05/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Association of Food and Drug Officials World Food Safety Day Webinar
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Members from across the food and beverage industry, trade associations, consumer groups, and academia

 

  • Event Date: 06/08/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety and Supply Chain Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: NINA ZIMDAHL;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from the food and beverage industry
  • Event Date: 06/09/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Produce Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members from the produce industry, academia, and government

 

  • Event Date: 06/11/2020 Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Safe Food Coalition Meeting
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Representatives from consumer, trade union, and foodborne illness victim organizations

 

  • Event Date: 06/11/2020   Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members and executives from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

 

  • Event Date: 06/17/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: United Fresh Live Webinar on Food Safety
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Members from across the produce industry

 

  • Event Date: 06/17/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Supply Chain Continuity and Food Worker/Migrant Worker Safety
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members from Indiana State Departments of Health and Agriculture

 

  • Event Date: 06/18/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Supply Chain Continuity and Food Worker/Migrant Worker Safety
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members from Wisconsin’s State Departments of Health and Agriculture

 

  • Event Date: 06/18/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Supply Chain Continuity and Food Worker/Migrant Worker Safety
  • FDA Participant/Group: Several FDA officials and staff
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several members from Minnesota’s State Departments of Health and Agriculture

 

  • Event Date: 06/19/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Hilary Thesmar, Leslie Sarasin (Food Marketing Institute)

 

  • Event Date: 06/19/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Alison Bodor ( American Frozen Food Institute ); Robb MacKie (American Bakers Association )

 

  • Event Date: 06/29/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: N/A
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Several executives from across the food and beverage industry

 

  • Event Date: 07/01/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: JEFFREY FARRAR;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: Mark Killian (Arizona Department of Agriculture)

 

  • Event Date: 07/02/2020  Location: Virtual
  • Subject: Food Safety Issues of Mutual Interest
  • FDA Participant/Group: REBECCA BUCKNER; KARI IRVIN; NINA ZIMDAHL; ANDREW KENNEDY; CAITLIN BOON;
  • Non-FDA Participant/Group: George Atkinson, Nicole Bice (Institute on Science for Global Policy).

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Mystery mailings of seeds continue worldwide

August 26, 2020 - 12:01am

People across the world are continuing to receive unsolicited packages of seeds that appear to be coming mainly from China.

The United States, Canada, India, Israel, Poland, Japan, Ireland, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and France are some of the countries affected.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, FBI, and state departments of agriculture are investigating. The main concern is the potential for the seeds to introduce damaging pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture.

Identified seeds so far
“We are not aware of any human health risks at this time. In an abundance of caution, people should wear gloves and limit touching the material. People who believe they are experiencing a health issue as a result of touching these seeds should contact their medical provider,” said USDA officials.

Authorities have also recommended that people who handled the seeds should thoroughly wash their hands and disinfect any object that came into contact with them.

Picture courtesy of Surrey Police in England

Based on preliminary analysis of samples collected, the seed packets appear to be a mix of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb, and weed species.

While the exact number of seed packages that have entered the country is unknown, reports have been received from all 50 states.

Officials believe it is an internet “brushing scam,” where sellers send unsolicited items to unsuspecting consumers and then post false reviews to boost sales. Recipients seem to be people who recently purchased something online or who have bought seeds in the past.

The source of seed packages has not been identified and while they appear to be coming from China there have been reports of packs from countries including Taiwan and Singapore.

Declared as toys or jewelry
As of early August, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had received reports from more than 750 individuals across all provinces who had received unrequested packages of unknown seeds.

Packages are postmarked as being from several different countries and many are declared as toys or jewelry. Based on visual inspections carried out to date, the seeds appear to be low risk.

Seeds are from plant species, including tomato, strawberry, rose and citrus, as well as some weed seeds common in Canada such as shepherd’s purse and flixweed.

The UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) told people who received seeds by post that they should not plant or compost them as it is possible they could be carrying plant pests or diseases that are a risk to crops or the environment.

APHA is testing seed samples and investigating if it is a brushing scam. However, the problem is that items enter the country labeled as something else and are not declared as seeds so do not go through the relevant plant health and customs checks that apply to imported plant material.

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Canadian officials investigating Salmonella outbreak linked to U.S. peaches

August 25, 2020 - 12:05am

Canadian officials are reporting there are dozens of patients in a Salmonella outbreak related to fresh peaches. In the U.S. 68 people in nine states have been sickened. Recalls are underway in both countries.

Prima Wawona in California distributed the implicated peaches in bags and bulk bins, according to public health officials in both countries. The outbreak is ongoing according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Several brands as well as unmarked peaches in open bins are involved in the recalls related to the outbreak.

As of Aug. 24, PHAC was reporting 33 confirmed infected people in two provinces. The agency is continuing to receive reports of illnesses, according to the outbreak announcement.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a consumer advisory for peaches recalled by Prima Wawona, sold from June 1 to Aug. 22 in Canada.

“Do not eat, use, sell or serve any recalled peaches from Prima Wawona from the United States, or any products made with these peaches,” PHAC warns. “This advice applies to all individuals across Canada, as well as retailers, distributors, manufacturers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes.

“Peaches grown in Canada are not affected by this advice.”

PHAC reports there have been 33 confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illnesses linked to this outbreak in two provinces: Ontario with 22 and Quebec with 11. Individuals became sick between June and August this year. Three individuals were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 91 years of age.

Investigators in Canada and the U.S. continue to collaborate to exchange information and identify commonalities in the outbreak information that may identify additional sources of illness or help to identify the cause of contamination in the peaches.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between two and four weeks.

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Hygiene issues found in a third of ice cream samples in Czech Rep

August 25, 2020 - 12:03am

Almost a third of ice cream samples tested by authorities in the Czech Republic have been found to be noncompliant.

Inspectors at the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (SZPI) looked at safety and quality of scooped and soft whipped ice creams and ice used for beverages, including equipment for their preparation. These checks were mainly in confectioneries and on public catering premises.

Results showed a number of operators failed to follow prescribed production procedures and a significant amount of samples did not comply with legislative requirements, especially on ​​limits for the presence of bacteria. In the period up to July 31, 2020, 30 percent of ice creams and almost 43 percent of ice samples for beverages failed.

Ice cream findings
In 2020, SZPI inspectors have evaluated 64 samples of soft whipped and scooped ice cream and 19 did not meet hygiene limits. Laboratory analyses confirmed numbers of Enterobacteriaceae bacteria above the limit. The number of samples evaluated is slightly lower compared to previous years due to the later start of the season.

During inspections in 2019, 37 percent of samples failed to comply with legislation compared to 30 percent in 2018, and 26 percent in 2017.

The main cause of unsatisfactory results is insufficient sanitation of ice cream production equipment as well as contaminated raw materials, the assessment of which often consists of only visual inspection by food businesses. Insufficient staff training can also play a role, said SZPI.

One of the common causes of the problem with soft whipped ice cream is the practice of operators putting remaining ice cream into the machine the next day and not disposing of it at the end of the previous day. This procedure may cause transmission of bacterial contamination from the machine into the ice cream mixture and vice-versa.

Checks on ice
Inspectors evaluated 21 ice samples used for beverages and nine did not meet health or hygiene limits. The monitored parameters included occurrence of E. coli, Clostridium perfringens, enterococci, coliform bacteria and bacterial colonies.

During inspections in 2019, 40 percent of samples failed legal limits while 47 percent failed in 2018, and 45 percent in 2017. The main cause of these findings is underestimation of hygiene practices during the production of ice.

Results from 2020 and previous inspections show that many operators still significantly underestimate the risks related to neglecting hygiene procedures during production, storage and sale of these products.

However, the share of non-compliant samples cannot be generalized for the entire market, because SZPI selects them according to a risk analysis and problematic establishments are checked more frequently.

In sites where SZPI inspectors took unsatisfactory samples, a ban on using equipment was imposed on the spot and the operator was ordered to perform sanitation and subsequent microbiological analysis by an accredited laboratory. Inspectors will only allow equipment to be used again after a satisfactory result from this analysis.

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Suspected Clenbuterol poisonings in Mexico under investigation

August 25, 2020 - 12:01am

Officials in a Mexican state have issued a warning after suspicions that more than 50 people fell sick from eating meat contaminated with Clenbuterol.

Health services in Morelos called on people to remain vigilant for the physical symptoms that can result from consuming meat with Clenbuterol. A total of 54 people from six municipalities are affected and one person is in a stable condition in hospital.

Legal situation
Clenbuterol has been used as a food additive in some livestock feed to promote muscle mass and meat yield in cattle, lamb, poultry and swine. Such use is illegal in the U.S. and Europe.

Use of the anabolic agent for cattle fattening is a criminal offence under the Federal Animal Health Law, according to the Mexican National Service for Agro-Alimentary Public Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA).

The agency operates programs to stop use of Clenbuterol in the feeding of bovine cattle for human consumption, which certify the work of meat producers, fatteners, storers and processors. From almost 3,800 samplings at production sites in 2019 only five positives were confirmed.

Clenbuterol symptoms can include headaches, increased sweating, insomnia, nausea, possible muscle spasms, and increased blood pressure. They usually occur shortly after consuming contaminated food, and disappear two to six days later.

Eduardo Sesma Medrano, from the Morelos public health agency, said that if after consuming meat products, issues such as tachycardia, anxiety and trembling of hands or fingers begin, it is a priority to go immediately to the nearest health center.

Sesma Medrano said the symptoms are warning signs to seek medical attention, especially for people suffering from heart disease, as it can be dangerous and possibly fatal.

Testing of products
In the municipalities of Jantetelco, Jonacatepec, Cuautla, Ayala, Atlatlahucan and Tepalcingo, 54 suspected cases of Clenbuterol poisoning were detected. In total, 39 were treated on an outpatient basis, 15 required hospitalization in different medical units but 14 of these patients have already been discharged.

Asunción Virginia Muñoz Rangel, head of the Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks of the State of Morelos (Coprisem), said an investigation was started to find the origin of contaminated meat.

Two points of sale in the area have been visited to carry out sanitary surveillance and obtain samples to analyze and determine if there is the presence of Clenbuterol in products.

As part of a thesis in 2019, Aaron Valencia Garcia of the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, analyzed samples of bovine meat products (muscle and liver), from different areas in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos, and determined presence of Clenbuterol residues.

In total, 88 samples of beef muscle (leg) and 18 samples of beef liver were collected and analyzed from municipal markets, butchers and self-service stores. Of all 106 samples analyzed, 52 had clenbuterol residues. The amounts found also exceeded the maximum recommended limits by the Codex Alimentarius of 0.2 micrograms per kilogram for beef muscle and 0.6 micrograms per kilogram for beef liver.

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Brandt brand sausage recalled due to possible Listeria

August 24, 2020 - 6:17pm

G. Brandt Meat Packers Ltd. is recalling Brandt brand mini spicy cheese sausage because of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is currently conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to more recalls

The product was distributed in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. The CFIA is verifying that the recalled product is removed from the marketplace.

Consumers are being told not to consume the recalled product.

The recalled product:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Brandt Mini spicy cheese sausage 0.375 kg 773321 206306

Best Before

20AU20 The recalled product’s, Brandt brand mini spicy cheese sausage, back label.

So far, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of the recalled product

Questions can be directed to the CFIA at 800-442-2342 (Canada and U.S.), or 613-773-2342 (local or international).

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 of the recalled products 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.

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Part Two: OEE data analysis — What’s your biggest pain point?

August 24, 2020 - 12:05am

Editor’s note: This is part two of a four-part series on understanding and implementing overall equipment effectiveness strategy. This series is sponsored by SafetyChain Software.

When it comes to food manufacturers improving plant efficiency using overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), simply looking at output figures is not enough, says Clara Gavriliuc, Vice President of Data Analytics for SafetyChain Software.

“Without analyzing the data of each of the  three OEE components during the production day, it is hard to address the root cause of inefficiencies that will contribute to significant long-term costs,” explains Gavriliuc. 

For optimum data collection and analysis, the opportunity lies with real-time plant performance software that is capable of tracking anything from downtime to how long it takes ovens to get to the right temperatures, to packaging

“There are certain time inefficiencies that are easy to see and easy to calculate what impact they’ve caused,” says Gavriliuc. “However, there are many inefficiencies that may be hidden and only revealed when looking at data that isn’t typically captured by paper-based documentation.” 

Identifying the biggest pain points
Often, these hidden data can be used to avoid or minimise production loss from the easier to see inefficiencies. Hands down, one of the biggest and easiest to see pain points for reduced output in food plants is unplanned downtime from breakdowns. 

“From an availability standpoint, breakdowns are simple: The inefficiency cost is calculated by the amount of time you’re down and what that would have been worth if product was produced. However, what often happens is that food companies will look at this figure at the end of the day and not progress it further to identify the true root cause,” explains Gavriliuc. 

When analyzing real-time data, employees can monitor different components of the production line that may signal a potential breakdown risk. For example, if the data is showing time per unit is slowing down in one specific area of the line, that area can be assessed immediately for what is causing the performance issues. 

“What they may find is that a product isn’t feeding well into a machine and is at risk for jamming or a piece of equipment needs to be recalibrated,” says Gavriliuc. “So, what may seem like a small pain point that is slowing down production may actually be the culprit of something much larger. We don’t want to wait until something breaks – we want to be proactive. Addressing the root of the issue immediately can have huge savings in downtime production loss later.” 

While real-time data can be used to help head off any major downtime issues, they can also be used to justify upgrades into equipment or signal the need for investments into personnel training. For example, say there are two lines that are producing the same exact product. Line one is keeping up with throughput targets and moving along seamlessly. Line two is starting to bottleneck. 

Having real-time data will help to operators and supervisors to quickly identify which area of the line is slowing things down. 

“Perhaps a machine just needs to be calibrated and it is back to operating. Or, if the machine just isn’t capable of operating at the capacity required, OEE can help determine if it is cost justifiable to make an upgrade,” says Gavriliuc. “If the cause of slow throughput happens to be a personnel issue, then new training can be put in place to help get workers operating at the level they need to be. Whatever the root cause is, real-time data gives managers actionable data that will allow them to make immediate decisions to help improve overall efficiency of a food processing facility.” 

Analyzing the data
When it comes to analyzing data to determine what actions can be taken to mitigate the biggest pain points, they must maintain a balance of the three areas of OEE: Availability, Performance and Quality.

“You can focus on increasing availability and performance, but if it jeopardizes quality and you’re wasting product, then you’re not efficient. Or you can focus on quality, but if your machine availability and performance isn’t keeping up with demand, then you’re not efficient,” concludes Gavriliuc.

“Remember, OEE is a good indicator of how you are performing in all areas of production.” 

Audit finds issues with Norway’s import control system not resolved

August 24, 2020 - 12:03am

Norway must improve its import control system for products of animal origin, according to a report from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The recommendations by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) follow an updated country profile in July 2020, assessing Norway’s performance in food and veterinary areas. This profile is based on a general review audit by ESA in the country in February 2020.

In this audit, ESA assessed how Norway has followed up on 38 open recommendations out of 54 made in visits between October 2016 and December 2018.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Country profiles have information on how control systems for food and feed safety, animal health and welfare are organized. To verify actions taken to address recommendations issued in sector-specific audits, ESA conducts a general review audit.

Veterinary checks on animal products
Although Norway has made good progress to address most points, it has not yet taken appropriate measures to address recommendations made on the import control system following a visit in October 2017 on the use of TRACES in import and trade, according to ESA.

TRACES NT is the European Commission’s online platform for sanitary and phytosanitary certification needed to import animals, animal products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plants into the EU. More than 40,000 users from 85 countries employ it.

ESA required improvements to ensure that all animal products from third countries undergo veterinary checks at the Norwegian border. A case has now been opened to investigate further.

One of the recommendations that ESA judged appropriate measures were not taken in a timely manner concerned authorities ensuring that no consignments in transit from a non-EEA country are introduced into the area without undergoing the necessary veterinary checks.

The other was about Norway ensuring customs authorities allow the intended customs-approved treatment or use of the consignments only in accordance with regulation.

Norway response
During the general review audit Mattilsynet (Norwegian Food Safety Authority) informed the ESA that outstanding issues will be completed by development of IT solutions within the customs digitalization program, in which the TREFF-project is a central part. Deadline for full implementation is 2024.

The ESA may send a letter of formal notice to a country, indicating it considers them to be in breach of their obligations. If the issues are not resolved, the ESA may deliver a reasoned opinion, requiring them to comply with the EEA rules in question. If the country still does not comply, the ESA can refer the matter to the EFTA Court.

In November 2019 the ESA carried out a check on hygiene in milk and meat, and their products. The final report was published in May 2020. An audit on ready to eat food is planned for fall this year and one on veterinary medicinal products and residues has been postponed until 2021.

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Warning letters sent because of dangerous mislabeling

August 24, 2020 - 12:01am

Editor’s note: 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.

Two food firms have received warning letters for misbranding. Misbranding is a food safety concern because undeclared allergens and other labeling problems are a serious threat to public health.

Winter Gardens Quality Foods Inc.
New Oxford, PA

A company in Pennsylvania is on notice from the FDA for not declaring milk, a major food allergen, on Whole Foods brand Vodka Sauce’s finished product label. This was the result of a mistaken switching of product labels. 

In a Aug. 5 warning letter the FDA explains its inspectors determined that Winter Gardens Quality Foods Inc. did not follow the requirements of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation (CGMP & PC rule).

On March 20, after the firm was notified by a customer of a mislabeled product, the firm recalled the Whole Foods brand Vodka Sauce. The Vodka Sauce, which contains milk, was mislabeled with Puttanesca Sauce back panel ingredient labels that do not declare milk. 

The firm stated “the associate that was changing over the label machine did not properly check the new roll of labels.” On June 10 the company provided an updated “Procedure for Proper Packaging and Labeling,” and records of employee training as evidence of corrective actions taken by your firm. The FDA will verify implementation of any corrective actions during the next inspection of their facility.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

Pero Family Farms Food Company LLC
Delray Beach, FL

A company in Florida is on notice from the FDA for not declaring egg and milk, major food allergens, on Zucchini Spiral Pesto Side Dish Kits finished product labels. This was the result of a mistaken switching of product labels.

In Aug. 5 warning letter the FDA explains that they have determined that Pero Family Farms Food Company, LLC did not follow the requirements of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation (CGMP & PC rule).

On March 10, after the firm was notified by a customer of a mislabeled product, the it recalled Zucchini Spiral Pesto Side Dish Kits. The Zucchini Spiral Pesto Side Dish Kits were mislabeled with a sweet teriyaki veggie rice back panel label that does not declare egg and milk ingredients. The firm provided corrective and preventive actions to the Office of Human and Animal Food Operations East Division 4 Recall Coordinator (DRC) by email on April 9 stating, “(redacted).” The FDA will verify implementation of any corrective actions during the FDA’s next inspection of your facility.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

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Peach recall spreads to Canada as Salmonella outbreak continues

August 23, 2020 - 4:12pm

Wawona, the company that has recalled peaches across the U.S. because of a link to a Salmonella outbreak, is expanding the recall to include peaches distributed in Canada.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is investigating an outbreak in that country, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), but the health department had not posted a public notice as of this afternoon.

In the United States the outbreak has sickened 68 people across nine states. At least 14 people had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been confirmed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eleven different weights and brands of fresh peaches are  subject to the recall in Canada.

“The CFIA is warning the public not to consume and retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals, and nursing homes not to serve, use, or sell the products described below,” according to the recall notice.

“Prima Wawona, located in Fresno, California, has recalled fresh peaches with various brand names due to possible Salmonella contamination. Various importers in Canada are conducting a recall of the affected products. Peaches with the same PLU numbers and that are ‘Product of Canada’ are not affected.”

Peaches recalled in Canada are:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Additional information Harvest Sweet
Sweet 2 Eat
Prima
Sweet Value
Wawona Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 4037 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Harvest Sweet
Sweet 2 Eat
Prima
Sweet Value
Wawona Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 4038 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Harvest Sweet
Sweet 2 Eat
Prima
Sweet Value
Wawona Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 4044 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Harvest Sweet
Sweet 2 Eat
Prima
Sweet Value
Wawona White Peaches Variable PLU 4401 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Sweet 2 Eat
Sweet O Organic Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 94037 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Sweet 2 Eat
Sweet O Organic Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 94038 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Sweet 2 Eat
Sweet O Organic Yellow Peaches Variable PLU 94044 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Sweet 2 Eat Organic White Peaches Variable PLU 94401 All peaches sold from June 1, 2020 up to and including August 22, 2020. These peaches may have been sold loose or in bulk, with or without a brand name. These peaches may have been repackaged into a variety of formats. Wawona Peaches 907 g /
2 lbs 0 33383 32200 1 All packages sold from June 1, 2020 to August 22, 2020, inclusively. None Wegmans Peaches 907 g /
2 lbs 0 77890 49048 8 All packages sold from June 1, 2020 to August 22, 2020, inclusively. None Extrafresh Peaches 907 g /
2 lbs 0 33383 02071 6 CPO3148, CPO3164, CPO3163, CPO3186, CPO3207, CPO3213, CPO3228, CPO3265, CPO3281, CPO3302, CPO3328, CPO3354, MPO0500, MPO0503, MPO0524, MPO0671, MPO0678, MPO0689, MPO0693, MPO0703, MPO0716, MPO0725, MPO0730, MPO0767, MPO0795. None

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 peaches 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.

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Simple steps can prevent serious back-to-school food poisoning

August 23, 2020 - 12:05am
Contributed

A new school year is approaching and with it, changes to your usual routine.

“Parents are juggling many decisions as students may be returning to school for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and others may still be distance learning,” said Mindy Brashears, Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“You don’t want to add foodborne illness – commonly called food poisoning – to your list of concerns, so take time to plan and prepare your children’s lunch meals safely.”

The USDA encourages families to be prepared by adding a few essential items to back-to-school shopping lists. They can be used to avoid mistakes in the kitchen that can lead to illness.

“Having the whole family follow some simple food safety behaviors can help them avoid all kinds of illnesses this time of year, including foodborne illness,” said Paul Kiecker, Administrator for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

“This list of items can help you and your family make sure lunches and snacks are safely prepared, following the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.”

  1. Hand wipes, hand sanitizers, soap and towels — Now more than ever, it’s important to keep these items visible as a reminder to clean hands and surfaces. People tend to rush through the steps of washing when they are on-the-go. Recent USDA research conducted in test kitchens revealed participants were not washing their hands properly up to 99 percent of the time before and during meal preparation. Wash hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and soap for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a clean cloth or towel. Hand wipes and 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used to clean hands and surfaces if water and soap are not available. Remember to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with soap and hot water after preparing each food item and before proceeding to the next item. A bleach-based solution can be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.
  2. Different colored cutting boards — If you’re preparing perishable foods that require cutting (for example, bacon and chicken for salad) make sure you separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods (such as fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc.) to avoid cross-contamination. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, countertops and other ready-to-eat foods you’re preparing. Different colored cutting boards are a good reminder of this step. Use a green cutting board for fresh produce and another color for meat and poultry.
  3. Food thermometers — A food thermometer is the only way to know that foods are safely cooked to a temperature high enough to kill any harmful bacteria that might be present. Have a food thermometer easily accessible. It will be easier to remember the cook step if the thermometer is always reachable.
  4. Insulated soft-sided lunch boxes,
    gel packs, and appliance thermometers
  5. — If children have lunch outside of the home, make sure they have an insulated, soft-sided lunch box or bag to keep perishable items in their lunch cold. A frozen gel pack, combined with a frozen juice box or bottle of water, should keep lunches chilled and safe until lunchtime. Place them on top and bottom of perishable food items to keep them cold and avoid the “Danger Zone” (temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause illness).
  6. Insulated containers — When children take a hot lunch outside of the home, insulated containers are important to keep food that should be served hot safe. Use an insulated container to keep soup, chili, and stew hot at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the contents hot.

Stop by the food preparation aisle at your grocery store to find many of these items on your back-to-school food safety list. By using them, you can keep your children — and the rest of your family — safe from foodborne illness.

Consumers can view some age-appropriate food safety lessons and learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish, or email to mphotline@usda.gov. Consumers can also chat live at https://ask.usda.gov/.

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Public Health England investigating rise in E. coli O157 infections

August 23, 2020 - 12:03am

Public Health England is investigating a spike in reports of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections this month.

Potential sources of the increase in E. coli O157 cases are not yet clear but recent warm weather may have played a role.

The latest available data shows in the week ending Aug. 16, there were 27 E. coli O157 notifications. The past four weeks had seen 11, 13, 6 and 7 respectively.

Based on 2019 statistics for the week ending Aug. 18, there were 13 E. coli O157 notifications. The previous four weeks had three weeks with 12 and one with 14.

Source as yet unknown
“Since the beginning of August, Public Health England has noted a general increase in reports of E. coli O157 infections, in particular in the West and East Midlands,” said a PHE statement sent to Food Safety News.

“An increase in E. coli activity at this time of year is not unusual, especially given recent climatic conditions. Public Health England is actively investigating this situation. A possible source of these outbreaks remains unclear at this point in time.”

Some services at the gastrointestinal bacteria reference unit (GBRU), which is part of PHE, have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, detection of STEC from stool specimens and isolates using PCR and confirmation of identity and typing of Salmonella, Shigella, STEC and Listeria using whole genome sequencing are continuing.

Precautions for public
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.

HUS is a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure, permanent health problems, and even death. It is most often triggered by STEC infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early symptoms include decreased urine output, diarrhea, and feeling slow and tired. HUS usually develops one to two weeks after initial symptoms of E. coli infection.

E. coli is transmitted to humans primarily through consumption of contaminated food, such as raw or undercooked ground meat, raw milk, and raw vegetables and sprouts.

“E. coli can cause a serious infection in those with weakened immune systems or vulnerable groups, including babies, the elderly or pregnant women,” according to PHE.

“Some infections can be severe and people who are infected may go on to develop complications which may be life-threatening. As with all instances of diarrhea and vomiting, it is important that people keep hydrated and stay away from work or school for as long as symptoms persist. If you do notice blood in your stool, contact your GP immediately.”

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Researchers predict Campylobacter increase due to climate change

August 23, 2020 - 12:01am

Nordic countries may experience a doubling of Campylobacter cases by the late 2080s, according to researchers.

Scientists used national surveillance data to analyze the relationship between climate and campylobacteriosis in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden and estimate impact of climate changes on future disease patterns.

They found nearly 6,000 excess Campylobacter cases per year in these four countries could be linked only to climate changes, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Domestic cases of campylobacteriosis are commonly linked to contaminated food or drink such as poultry or unpasteurized milk. However, recently environmental and behavioral factors such as recreational water contact, occupational exposure at poultry farms and abattoirs and contact with household pets have emerged as important transmission routes.

Climate impact
A total of 64,034 reported cases of Campylobacter were included in the final database. However, it featured only domestic patients for Norway and Sweden but both domestic and cases of unknown origin from Denmark and Finland.

During the baseline period from 2000 to 2015, the average annual number of cases per 100,000 people in the four countries was 42, ranging from 25 in Norway to 60 in Denmark. This was predicted to rise to 117 in 2080 to 2089. The database also included per municipality per week and year from 2000 to 2015 precipitation and temperature, the number of heat waves and days with heavy precipitation.

Researchers calculated the excess number of cases caused only by climate change. Results showed climate changes can result in an average 145 more annual cases of Campylobacter by 2040 to 2049 and almost 1,500 by the late 2080s in each country per year. The effect was less pronounced in Sweden.

Models for Campylobacter and climate showed the amount of cases in any week during the summer rose significantly with increasing temperature and heavy rainfall in the previous week, suggesting a non-food transmission route. A rise in heat waves in any week during summer as well as increases in precipitation during winter decreased the amount of Campylobacter cases reported one week later.

Researchers estimated the effects of arbitrary climate changes in models by changing the different variables. For instance, a 1 millimeter increase in precipitation with all other variables unchanged in any municipality in any week during the summer will result in a 38 percent increase in Campylobacter cases in that municipality the following week.

Changing seasonal occurrence
Predictions indicate that Campylobacter cases in the four Nordic countries combined can increase by 25 percent by the end of the 2040s and 196 percent by the end of the 2080s compared to the predicted baseline of 2000 to 2015. The impacts vary with country and time period with the highest increases predicted in Denmark and Norway during the late part of the period.

Models also predict a change in future seasonal distribution of cases. At present, Campylobacter increases during spring and summer and almost half of the annual total is reported between July and September.

During 2040 to 2059, this pattern will remain similar although the high season extends until November. For later scenarios, the seasonal variation has become less pronounced with cases increasing from April and remaining higher until November. This means only a third of cases will be reported in July to September.

Campylobacter disease transmission reflects chicken flock infection rates and human behavior such as barbecues and outdoor activities, both of which are dependent on weather and likely to alter in a changing climate.

Researchers said results likely over-estimate the future number of cases as public health systems will adapt to higher incidences by taking stronger measures to reduce incidence.

“Establishing how extreme weather events and climate changes affect campylobacteriosis can form the basis of well-guided early warning systems in vulnerable areas and better targeting of prevention and control measures, potentially reducing the public health and economic impact of Campylobacter in these areas.”

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More peaches implicated in Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak

August 22, 2020 - 6:04pm

Federal, state and local authorities continue to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to peaches as new retailers are added to the related recall list.

All of the implicated peaches were packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Co., both of California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that epidemiologic evidence indicates peaches are the likely source of this outbreak. As of Aug. 19, the CDC reported a total of 68 confirmed patients across nine states. The Food and Drug Administration’s investigation to identify a source of contamination is ongoing.

Today, Prima Wawona expanded the recall to include bagged and bulk, or loose, peaches that they supplied to retailers nationwide.

The firm’s news release states it is recalling “bulk/loose peaches distributed and sold from June 1 through Aug. 3 and its bagged Wawona and Wawona Organic peaches distributed and sold from June 1 through Aug. 19 because the products could possibly be contaminated with Salmonella.”

“Consumers who cannot remember when they purchased peaches supplied by Prima Wawona should throw them away. Consumers who purchased loose peaches prior to Aug. 3, 2020, and don’t know if they are from Prima Wawona should throw them away,” according to the FDA outbreak update posted today.

The bagged peaches were distributed and sold in supermarkets with the following product codes:

  • Wawona Peaches – 033383322001
  • Wawona Organic Peaches – 849315000400
  • Prima® Peaches – 766342325903
  • Organic Marketside Peaches at Walmart – 849315000400
  • Kroger Peaches – 011110181749
  • Wegmans Peaches – 077890490488

For bagged peaches, the product codes may be found at the bottom of each package. All affected peaches may be found in stores nationwide.

Retailers that received recall product from Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company include, but are not limited to:

The bulk and loose peaches supplied by Prima Wawona are sold in grocery stores in a variety of formats, typically bins where consumers may select their own fruit and may have the following stickers with PLU numbers on them: 4037, 4038, 4044, 4401, 94037, 94038, 94044, 94401. Not all peaches with these PLU codes are supplied by Prima Wawona. Consumers who are unsure of the brand or variety of your loose peaches, you can contact your retailer or supplier, or throw them out, according to the FDA.

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