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Campylobacter outbreak from chicken continues in Denmark

January 16, 2020 - 12:02am

Almost 90 people are part of an outbreak in Denmark from Campylobacter after eating chicken meat from one slaughterhouse.

Statens Serum Institut (SSI), the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and DTU Food – National Food Institute investigated the Campylobacter jejuni outbreak.

As part of a project this past year involving the Clinical Microbiology Department (KMA) in Aalborg, Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and SSI; Campylobacter isolates from patients diagnosed in Aalborg beginning in March 2019 were collected, sent to SSI and whole genome sequenced.

Drop in infections toward end of year
Campylobacter isolates are not routinely submitted and sequenced so the outbreak has likely been detected because of the project, according to officials. Campylobacter jejuni sequence type 122 was identified in patients by whole genome sequencing.

This type was also found in chicken meat from one slaughterhouse belonging to HKScan in Vinderup, a town in Northwestern Jutland. Products from this site are sold at all the major Danish retail chains. It was previously revealed that the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration sent officials to help the company track and eliminate the source of infection.

Between February 2019 and Jan. 9, 2020, 88 patients with the same type of Campylobacter have been identified. Among the sick were 35 women and 53 men aged 2 to 91 years old. The outbreak appears to be declining with fewer infections toward the end of 2019.

Steen Ethelberg, from SSI, said the project ran in 2019 but will be continued in moderated form in 2020. Human isolates from the Aalborg clinical lab will be sequenced in real time this year.

“We will keep following it but it is primarily now in the hands of the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. It has worked with the industry to contain and stop the outbreak. It is not quite clear if it is over but the number of new cases went down,” he told Food Safety News.

Greater understanding of outbreak
Ethelberg said a lot has been learned from sequencing Campylobacter isolates but project partners haven’t yet had a chance to meet, discuss and digest all the data. A scientific publication is planned on the results.

“We’ve have reconfirmation of the fact that many hitherto unknown clusters and outbreaks are uncovered with sequencing and that chicken products on the market can be associated with a part of these. Also we’ve uncovered a single huge outbreak. This we would likely not have understood as well as we do, without the sequencing.”

Campylobacter is the main cause of bacterial intestinal infections in Denmark. In 2019, 5,300 cases were recorded which is up from the 4,500 infections registered in 2018.

“Campylobacter is a big concern. The numbers tend to go up or down with a few hundred cases from year to year, which is probably natural variation. In 2019, we believe a part of the explanation for the increase is the large outbreak,” said Ethelberg.

“The cases we count is based on the number of isolates sequenced, so in reality there could be several fold more cases if we assume that the outbreak affected the entire country. And again, this we would not have understood without the sequencing.”

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Seattle area officials say outbreak linked to romaine appears to be over

January 16, 2020 - 12:01am

The outbreak is thought to be over, but public health officials in the Seattle area continue to investigate the source of E. coli O157:H7 that infected at least 15 people and is linked to romaine lettuce.

Seattle – King County Public Health has been investigating the outbreak and seven associated Evergreens restaurants in King County, WA. The most recent illness in this outbreak started on Nov. 17, 2019, according to the public health department. Of the patients, 13 are from King County and two from Snohomish County.

The Washington outbreak has been classified as separate from two multistate outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday declared the two multistate outbreaks over.

Genetic testing on isolates from 11 of the 15 patients in the Washington state outbreak indicates that the strains are closely related, suggesting a common source. The other four people who got sick were not specifically tested for E. coli, but their symptoms are suggestive of infection from E. coli O157:H7.

Illness onset dates for the patients in the Seattle area occurred from Nov. 8–17, 2019. Meal dates at the implicated restaurants were from Nov. 5–11, 2019. Three people were hospitalized. Everyone who reported illness has recovered.

The Seattle area investigation
From Nov. 21 to Dec. 12, 2019, Environmental Health investigators visited six Evergreens restaurant locations where the ill people reported eating. During their field inspections, investigators did not observe environmental or behavioral risk factors associated with the spread of E. coli, such as poor handwashing practices, improper time and temperature control of foods, or other types of risk factors that can be associated with E. coli infections. Out of an abundance of caution, Environmental Health investigators are visiting all 15 Evergreen restaurants in King County.

Public health officials say this local outbreak could be the result of a contaminated product delivered to and served at Evergreens. In addition, many of the people who became ill after eating at Evergreens also reported eating raw vegetables, including leafy greens, from sources other than Evergreens in the days prior to their illness, meaning they could share a separate source for their illness unrelated to Evergreens.

Investigators reviewed with staff at six locations, proper sanitizing practices to help prevent the spread of E. coli. In accordance with CDC’s recommendations, Evergreens restaurants discarded all romaine lettuce products from their stores, including romaine on the line and in coolers. Finally, management reviewed their sick policy with all employees.

As per protocol, public health investigators revisited six Evergreens restaurant locations where patients reported eating to confirm that these actions were taken.

The public health department has identified two employees who experienced symptoms consistent with an E. coli infection after eating at Evergreens but were not tested. However, there is no evidence indicating these people were the source of the outbreak. During their visits, investigators reviewed the requirement that restaurant employees are not allowed to work while having vomiting or diarrhea.

Officials collected samples of various produce from two Evergreens locations where ill people ate. E. coli testing of these food products at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory was negative.

Public Health is continuing to work with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration on tracing back the distributors and sources for ingredients the people who became ill consumed in their meals.

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Romaine outbreaks are over (again)

January 15, 2020 - 7:09pm

Another round of romaine-connected E. coli outbreaks is over, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before the end came, infections of E. coli O157: H7 in 227 people saw every other person admitted to the hospital. Unlike other romaine-linked E. coli outbreaks since late 2017, there were no deaths during this round.

The largest outbreak this time involved E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce grown in California’s Salinas Valley. It ended up sickening 167 people with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 in 27 states. The most recent illness onset date was Dec. 21, 2019.

The next three outbreaks might be one. CDC includes the outbreak linked to Fresh Express Sunflower Crist Chopped Salad Kits as a multistate outbreak. The Fresh Express salad kits, containing romaine, had a best-before date of Dec. 7, 2019. Ten people in five states were infected.

Fresh Express was further implicated in these events when the outbreak strain from the Salinas growing region showed up in an unopened bag of its Leafty Green Romaine. Wisconsin health officials made the discovery.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also reports 24 cases across six Canadian provinces that are the third romaine/E. coli event. And the fourth involves 11 cases associated with romaine consumption at a Seattle area restaurant chain.

FDA and CDC continue to treat the four events as separate outbreaks. If more traceback evidence existed, it might suggest otherwise.

The federal food detectives were at a disadvantage because the outbreaks occurred after the Salinas growing season. “When investigators arrived on the ranches, there was no romaine lettuce in the ground, and the fields had been plowed, as the growing season had already ended,” FDA reports.

“Investigators collected water, soil, and compost samples to be analyzed,” it said. “So far, sample results have come back negative for the three outbreak strains of E. coli. FDA did find a strain of E. coli that is unrelated to any illnesses in a soil sample.”

“This strain of E. coli was determined to be of low risk to people,” FDA continued. “Although this grower was determined to be a common supplier for all three outbreaks based on available supply chain information, the romaine lettuce from this grower does not explain all the illnesses seen in the three outbreaks.

FDA promises to keep investigating “throughout this year’s romaine lettuce planting, growing and harvesting seasons.” Those seasons essentially occur year-round, depending on the growing region.

Fresh Express tells consumers that Traceability is No. 5 on its seven rules for food safety.

“Another important component of an effective food safety program is the ability to trace leafy greens products back to where they are grown and forward to where they are distributed. We use coordinated bar-code tracking technology that’s second to none,” Fresh Express says, “Our extensive, fully integrated traceability system has been in place for many years.”

The FDA finding a common grower is “a notable development” in that the best industry and government could do previously was to identify a suspected growing region.

Also notable was 75,233-pound recall of salad products by Missa Bay LLC in Swedesboro, NJ. Those products contained lettuce from the same lot used in packaged salads containing E. coli O157: H7. Maryland health officials made that discovery and connected the dots.

Except for that specific recall, the public was warned not to eat romaine lettuce that was either of unknown origin or from the Salinas growing region. The outbreak’s end brings an end to those warnings as the government believes none of the suspect romaine remains on the market.

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USDA’s food safety triumvirate had a lot of visitors this past year

January 15, 2020 - 12:04am

Each member of the triumvirate responsible for food safety at USDA brings something unique to the department’s leadership. Deputy Under Secretary Mindy Brashears is a top food scientist. FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg is an experienced government lawyer. And Deputy FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker has, during the past 30 years, held almost every job in the agency since joining it as a food inspector.

On the year’s agenda

People outside USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last August came to the agency to discuss a variety of issues. These included: sodium reduction targets, quail issues, consumer food safety education, Tyson, pre-harvest food safety inspection, exports, human rights, and the Humane Society.

Each time, one or more members of the triumvirate were both a fit and available to meet with the outside parties. FSIS periodically reports after the fact on meetings of agency leaders with persons outside the federal government.

Food Safety Safety News is picking up on meetings that have occurred since we ended up July 31 and covering the balance of 2019. We’ll also focus on only the most exciting sessions, leaving the others for reference here.

Plantation Quail is the brand name for quail produced in Georgia and it was “quail issues” that was the topic of an Aug. 1 meeting of Georgia officials with Brashears and Rottenberg. There are no issues about the gourmet flavor and tenderness of that Georgia specialty.

Brett Bachman and Samantha Stokes, journalists with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, interviewed Rottenberg on Aug. 23. From the timing, it was likely about a story they published, making the case that FSIS job vacancies are a crisis endangering food safety. Rottenberg did not agree with the story’s overall assertion.

September saw the USDA officials out to answer questions from reporters about the New Swine Inspection Program (NSIP) that took effect Dec.2 this past year.

During the month the deputy undersecretary and/or te FSIS administrator gave interviews to Stephanie Ho of USDA Radio; Lisa Keefe, Meatingplace; Spencer Chase, Agri-Pulse Communications; Candice Choi, AP; Julie Harker, Brownfield AG News; Margarita Raycheva, IEG Policy; Ali Zaslav, CNN: Chrissy Jones and Sarah Koch, CBS News 60 Minutes; and Dan Flynn, Food Safety News.

Where bison is the sole meat ingredient of a product, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates it. That’s why a Sept. 18 meeting that Rottenberg and Kiecker had with National Bison Association leaders is interesting. The topic was bison inspection. There currently is a voluntary program for USDA/FDA bison inspection.

Dave Carter, Executive Director of the National Bison Association, had a follow-up telephone conference with Rottenberg on Oct. 17 with “inspection” as the reported topic.

Rottenberg and key staff members also finished up the swine inspection interviews by holding a session on Oct. 21, 2019, with Morgan Radford and Aaron Franco, both with NBC News.

On Nov.13, Sang Phan, Matthew Fast, Allen Johnson, Juan Pio Hernandez, all from the U.S. Seaford Distributors Associaton, met with Rottenberg and her staff. Siluriformes imports were the topic.

Two days later, Brashears met with Robin Schoen and Greg Symmes with the National Academy of Research Sciences about research issues.

Joe Harris, president, and Edward Ruff, vice-chair of the influential Southwest Meat Association, met with Rottenberg, Kiecker and other FSIS personnel on Dec. 4 about regulatory reform for small and very small establishments.

Also, during December, Rottenberg met with Gary Crawford with USDA Radio, and Kiecker met with top officials from the National Association of Federal Veterinarians. Both sessions were about FSIS’s recruitment challenges.

Finally, during each month except December, Brashears for USDA’s Office of Food Safety, and Rottenberg for FSIS conduct separate meetings for consumer and industry representatives.

Below is who, as of last meetings, were signed up as eligible to attend these monthly meetings. It is not an actual attendance list but includes those who might have participated either in person or via telephone.

Consumer Representatives (OFS)

  • In-person Attendance:
    • Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
    • Rachel Lyons, United Food and Commercial Workers
    • James Rogers, Consumers Union
    • Sarah Borron, Government Accountability Project
    • Sarah Sorscher, Center for Science in the Public Interest
    • Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety
  • Teleconference Attendance
    • Zach Corrigan, Food and Water Watch
    • Michael Hansen, Consumers Union
    • Pat Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Mitzi Baum, STOP Foodborne Illness
    • Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Kara Morgan, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Consumer Representatives (FSIS)
  • In-person Attendance:
    • Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
    • Rachel Lyons, United Food and Commercial Workers
    • James Rogers, Consumers Union
    • Sarah Borron, Government Accountability Project
    • Sarah Sorscher, Center for Science in the Public Interest
    • Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety
  • Teleconference Attendance
    • Zach Corrigan, Food and Water Watch
    • Michael Hansen, Consumers Union
    • Pat Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Mitzi Baum, STOP Foodborne Illness
    • Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Kara Morgan, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
    • Industry Representatives (OFS)
  • In-person Attendance:
    • Brian Eyink, Hogan Lovells
    • John Dillard, Olsson Frank Weeda Law
    • Mark Dopp, Meat Institute
    • Brett Schwemer, Olsson Frank Weeda Law
    • Chase Adams, American Sheep Industry Association
    • Joshua Valdez, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Ashley Peterson, National Chicken Council
    • Tiffany Lee, North American Meat Institute
  • Teleconference Attendance:
    • Denise Heard, U.S. Poultry
    • Casey Gallimore, North American Meat Institute
    • Hilary Thesmar, Food Marketing Institute

Industry Representatives (FSIS)

  • In-person Attendance:
    • Anthony Pavel, Cargill
    • Barbara Masters, Tyson Foods
    • Brett Schwemer, Olsson Frank Weeda Law
    • Brian Eyink, Hogan Lovells
    • Casey Gallimore, North American Meat Institute
    • Charles Penry, Tyson Foods
    • Chase Adams, American Sheep Industry Assn
    • Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
    • John Dillard, Olsson Frank Weeda Law
    • Joshua Valdez, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Juan Pio Hernandez, U.S. Seafood Distributors Association
    • Kathy Simmons, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • KatieRose McCullough, North American Meat Institute
    • Lawrence Bryant, MICA
    • Lia Biondo, American Dairy Coalition and United States Cattlemen’s Association
    • Lindy Froebel, National Turkey Federation
    • Lisa Picard, National Turkey Federation
    • Mark Dopp, North American Meat Institute
    • Pamela Abney, Mountaire Farms
    • Randy Green, United Egg Association
    • Reed Diskey, Olsson Frank Weeda Law
    • Tiffanie Lee, North American Meat Institute
    • Trachelle Carr, National Pork Producers Council
  • Teleconference Attendance:
    • Ashley Eisenbeisr, Food Marketing Institute
    • Ashley Peterson, National Chicken Council
    • Barbara Negron, North American Natural Casing Association
    • Barry Carpenter, Food Safety Net Services
    • Brian Sylvester, Foley & Lardner LLP
    • Bryan Miller, Wayne Farms LLC
    • Buffy Montgomery, Conagra Brands
    • Charles Leftwich, Sysco
    • Charlotte Waller, VPGC
    • Christine Forgues, Hogan Lovells
    • Dan Etzler, Cargill
    • Dane Bernard, Bold Bear Food Safety
    • Denise Heard, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association
    • Hilary Thesmar, Food Marketing Institute
    • Hiroko Bray, Smithfield
    • Jennifer McEntire, United Fresh Produce Assn
    • John P. Weeks, Jr, Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc.
    • John Weeks, Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc.
    • Juanfra DeVillena, Wayne Farms LLC
    • Kara Schoonover, Foley & Lardner
    • Katie Hanigan, Smithfield
    • Keith Day, Twin Rivers Foods
    • Kimberly Rice, Rose Acre Farms
    • Kristen Spotz, Grocery Manufacturers Association
    • Kristin Lindahl, Cargill
    • Laura Bachmeier, National Pork Board
    • Leonard Lang, Agro
    • Lisa Weddig, National Fisheries Institute
    • Mandy Carr, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
    • Norm Robertson, North American Meat Institute
    • Oscar Garrison, United Egg Producers
    • Peter Matz, Food Marketing Institute
    • Rafael Rivera, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association
    • Riëtte van Laack, Hyman, Phelps & McNamara PC
    • Roya Galindo, North American Meat Institute
    • Stephanie Harris, Food Marketing Institute
    • Suzanne Finstad, Tyson Foods, Inc.
    • Tina Rendon, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.
    • Travis Arp, U.S. Meat Export Federation
    • Zach Cameron, Tyson

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Backer told to recall beer linked to poisoning in Brazil

January 15, 2020 - 12:03am

Seventeen people are suspected to have been poisoned and one person has died in Brazil after drinking beer.

Sixteen males and one female aged 23 to 76 years old are thought to have suffered diethylene glycol poisoning. Four cases have been confirmed and the remaining 13 are under investigation as they have showed similar symptoms, according to the Minas Gerais State Department of Health.

The first person was admitted to a hospital on Dec. 30, 2019, suffering from acute renal failure and neurological issues such as facial paralysis, blurred vision and sensory alteration. For suspected cases, the earliest onset of symptoms is Dec. 19, 2019. The average number of days between onset of symptoms and hospitalization was two and a half.

Mapa calls for mass recall
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Mapa) has told Cervejaria Backer to recall all products manufactured from October 2019 to the current date. The company has challenged this as it believes only Belorizontina branded beers could be affected.

Analyzes on samples of Belorizontina and Capixaba products made by the brewery have confirmed presence of the contaminants monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol. The latter substance has also been found in the blood of some of those sick. Both substances are used as antifreeze in the brewing industry.

Mapa has stopped Cervejaria Backer’s Três Lobos unit in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, for precautionary reasons. A total of 139,000 liters of bottled beer and 8,480 liters of draft beer has been seized and tanks and other production equipment were also sealed.

Source of contamination under investigation
Only monoethylene glycol is used in the production process, according to the company.

However, tests on a cooling tank used in the production of Belorizontina beer batch L2 1354 came back positive for diethylene glycol. The substance had been detected in samples of two beers from batches L1 1348 and L2 1348 provided by family members of patients. Capixaba beer from batch L2 1348 was positive for monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.

Bottles from the families of victims and the company were found to be intact and showed no signs of tampering.

Officials believe the beer was contaminated sometime between the second half of November and start of December 2019. Several lines of enquiry are being followed including accidental contamination and possible adulteration by a former employee.

A statement from the company said it was focused on patients and their families.

Brewery officials said the firm was collaborating with official enquiries and internally investigating to find out how the lots identified by police were contaminated. Results of independent tests are pending.

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2020 Food Safety Summit aims to address emerging issues

January 15, 2020 - 12:02am

Food safety isn’t just about rules and regs and corporate bottom lines. It’s about public trust and safety and that’s going to be a primary focus at the 22nd annual Food Safety Summit.

“Every day millions of people trust food safety professionals with their health and well being at dinner tables across the country,” said Scott Wolters, chief events officer at BNP Media, which produces the summit. “The Food Safety Summit has continued to address emerging issues, provide effective solutions and serve as a forum for the food safety community to exchange ideas, network and make powerful connections.”

This year’s Food Safety Summit educational program Is scheduled for May 4-7 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL. The event will feature sessions led by industry thought leaders, a keynote presentation on consumer-focused food safety, five certificate/certification courses, an opening session featuring an interactive journey through cross-contamination scenarios, the eighth Annual Town Hall featuring FDA, AFDO, CDC and USDA and opportunities for community discussions.

Highlights for this year’s Food Safety Summit include:

Kick off, five certification and certificate courses: Monday, May 4, the five courses are FSPCA’s Intentional Adulteration: Conducting Vulnerability Assessment; NEHA’s Professional Food Safety Auditor Training and Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety (CCFS) courses; Converting HACCP in Preventive Controls/HARPC and Introduction to FDA-iRISK®. For details, visit https://www.foodsafetystrategies.com/agenda .

Interactive journey through cross-contamination: Tuesday, May 5, a team from Commercial Food Sanitation will lead a four-hour interactive journey through cross-contamination scenarios and hands-on simulations of food safety opportunities. The journey will include incidents, accidents, oversights, hits and misses. Allergens, foreign material contamination, pathogens and spoilage will be the focal point, in a session titled Play to Win – Food Safety 5K Competition.

Environmental sampling workshop: Tuesday, May 5, there will be a full day Environmental Sampling for Retail Establishment Outbreaks Workshop, where leaders from AFDO and the CDC will explain how environmental sampling supports activities such as environmental assessment and foodborne outbreak investigations.

Consumer-Focused food safety presentation: Wednesday, May 6, Will Daniels, President of the Produce Division at IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, will discuss Back to Basics: Consumer-Focused Food Safety during the keynote presentation.

The 2020 program will cover a wide range of topics through 26 education sessions on important issues such as food fraud, co-packers, allergens, cannabis, labeling, Hepatitis A, traceability, FSMA and much more.

Town hall: Thursday, May 7, the top regulators and agency leaders from FDA, USDA, AFDO, and CDC will share the stage in an interactive session with the audience and each other. The format will be a true town hall – and attendees are invited to participate in the 75 minute Q&A session.

Exhibit hall: Wednesday and Thursday, May 6 and 7, there will be dedicated exhibit hall time for attendees to learn about new solutions and how to implement them; engage in small group discussions in the Community Hub; attend presentations by food safety experts in the Community Learning Lounge, on the Solutions Stages and in the Tech Tent; enjoy lunch and time to network with peers. The exhibit hall at the Food Safety Summit is an essential resource for all attendees, bringing the opportunity to meet with leading companies introducing the latest products and technologies in food safety.

Click here to view the 2020 exhibitor list. Space is filling up fast and there are limited spaces available for exhibitors. Interested companies can contact Kim Hansen at hansenk@bnpmedia.com with any questions.

About the Food Safety Summit:

The Food Safety Summit is designed to meet the educational and informational needs of the entire food industry and will be held Monday, May 4 through Thursday, May 7 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. The Food Safety Summit is produced by BNP Media (www.bnpmedia.com), one of the country’s leading business-to-business media companies serving industry professionals across 60+ industries through magazines, custom media, e-newsletters, webinars, events and market research

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ANSES finds system to monitor chemicals in food largely effective

January 15, 2020 - 12:01am

The system for monitoring chemical contamination of food in France works well most of the time but has some gaps, according to ANSES.

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) assessed the surveillance and control scheme in place between 2010 and 2014 for inorganic and organic contaminants excluding toxins, mycotoxins, marine biotoxins and plant toxins.

Checks for monitoring chemical contamination of food such as trace metal elements in milk were regarded as suitable and able to address health and regulatory issues in nearly three-quarters of cases.

However, in 16.8 percent of cases, mainly heavy metals in certain fish and seafood, mycotoxins in pulses and nuts, and acrylamide in snacks, desserts, cereals and cereal products, improvement is needed, according to ANSES. On less than 10 percent of occasions the relevance of maintaining regulations should be examined.

Best use of resources
For non-regulated substances, ANSES suggested scaling down monitoring in 66 percent of cases to concentrate efforts on 26.1 percent of the substance/foodstuff pairs that are not regulated but cause concern, such as PCBs and PCDD/Fs – dioxins, furans and chlorinated products – in eggs and egg products, or nitrate in fruit and such products.

The agency also recommended regulating chemical-food pairs such as PCBs and PCDD/Fs in meat products, plant toxins in pulses and nuts, and certain perfluorinated compounds in meat and meat products, fish and seafood, eggs and egg products, and milk and milk products.

Foodstuffs are monitored through surveillance and control plans which are governed by European regulations but a revision of the Official Controls Regulation means member states have more choice in the organization of risk-based controls.

ANSES was asked for input on developing the plans to maintain and reinforce the level of safety for consumers and optimize surveillance resources and costs. The agency acknowledged findings relate to the control system as it was five years ago so some findings may no longer be relevant.

Almost 600 recommendations
The quality of data available was an issue in some cases, according to ANSES. The data set used in the study included almost 14,800 samples from 2010, nearly 17,000 from 2011, 22,500 from 2012,  almost 23,000 in 2013 and just over 29,300 in 2014. Almost 40,000 of these were inorganic contaminants, more than 43,000 were organic contaminants, almost 11,900 were mycotoxins, 10,500 marine biotoxins and 2017 plant toxins. Samples came from border inspection and veterinary activities, farming, fishery activities, manufacturing, slaughtering and retail sale.

A working group made 576 recommendations in four categories of actions: “Maintain” which means the monitoring system is effective; “reinforce” signifies weaknesses were identified in monitoring, “create” is for substances and products where there could be legislation and “reduce” which highlights areas were regulation and surveillance could be scaled back.

It was recommended to assess the relevance of implementing rules for 32 non-regulated substance and matrix pairs such as opioid alkaloids (codeine, morphine and teabaine) in legumes, nuts and oil seeds and nitrate in vegetable products.

Other areas identified were the relevance of maintaining the regulations for 10 couples of substances and matrices including mycotoxins Fumonisin and Zearalenone in snacks, desserts and other foods and inorganic tin in fish and seafood.

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Letter to the Editor: Line speeds, worker safety are real concerns

January 15, 2020 - 12:00am
Opinion

Editor Dan Flynn’s Jan. 12 letter supporting the USDA’s new swine slaughter rule perpetuates so many falsehoods, it merits a lengthy response. Among other things, the new rule removes all line speed limits in pig slaughter plants. Despite Flynn’s claims, which were based on his visit to a veal plant in the Netherlands that operates under an entirely different regulatory regime, the evidence in the United States shows that the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) will significantly increase the risk of injury to the people who work the lines.

Meatpacking is already one of the most dangerous industries for workers in America. Every day, tens of thousands of hog slaughter workers make the same repetitive motions, thousands upon thousands of times a day, using saws, hooks, and knives to slaughter and break down hogs into the pork steaks that we all buy and eat.

The plants are loud, wet, and slippery from fat and grease. They are hot on the slaughter side and very cold on the fabrication side. The production pressure on all workers is unrelenting — keep the lines running at all costs. The result: overall injury and illness rates twice the national average; and illness rates, which include repetitive motion injuries, among the highest of all industries in the United States.

The scientific evidence in the record for the NSIS is clear: the faster hog slaughter workers must do their tasks, the higher the risk of injury. The record contains more than three decades of studies directly tying line speeds to the industry’s staggeringly high rate of work-related injuries and illnesses. In fact, 30 years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published guidelines to help meatpackers reduce the high rates of repetitive motion disorders in their plants, stating that one way to decrease these disorders is by “reducing the total number of repetitions per employee by such means as decreasing production rates.” OSHA, however, does not directly regulate line speeds. And despite its 30-year-old recommendation, line speeds have not decreased and injury rates remain shockingly high.

Worker safety is not a red herring. There are real negative consequences for workers, consumers, and animal welfare. Even USDA stated in its NSIS proposed rule that “evaluation of the effects of line speed on food safety should include the effects of line speed on establishment employee safety.” High rates of worker injury lead to high turnover rates, which studies have shown leads to decreases in food safety. In fact, the USDA did not allow chicken plants to increase their line speeds in the 2014 New Poultry Inspection System because of concerns about the impact on worker and consumer safety. But the current USDA completely failed to address this concern in finalizing the NSIS.

The USDA received thousands of comments requesting that it consider the impact of the proposed rule on worker safety — just like USDA would consider any other unintended consequences of its regulatory action, as agencies are required to do as a basic principle of governance. These commenters submitted detailed, credible evidence, but were given the brush-off.

When the USDA first proposed its rule removing line speed limits, it relied on a flawed data analysis—which it tried to hide from the public—that downplayed the dangers posed to workers. After being lambasted by statistical experts for its head-scratching findings, the USDA has since tried to wash its hands of any worker safety analysis, claiming it lacks the necessary expertise to even examine the evidence on the impact on worker safety. Readers should be aware that the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into the agency’s reliance on a disingenuous analysis in the proposed rule, the lack of transparency, and other irregularities.

Editor Flynn’s statement that the challenge to the NSIS was brought by “the U.S. union representing our friends the meat inspectors” is simply wrong. None of the three court cases challenging the NSIS were brought by any union representing meat inspectors. Rather, the pending Minnesota case was brought by unions representing the hog slaughter plant employees — the tens of thousands of workers who slaughter and break and box up the pork in processing plants nationwide, and whose physical health and safety are at stake.

It’s clear from the final rule that the USDA is fully aware that workers in pork slaughter houses will now work harder and faster because of this rule. When the agency conducted its cost-benefit analysis, the main benefits came from hog slaughter plants being allowed to crank up the chain speed and make all workers do their jobs faster. Assuming a line speed increase of 12.49 percent, USDA found that each plant that adopts the NSIS will see a profit increase of $2.04 million. That’s what this rule change is really about.

 — Debbie Berkowitz
program director of worker safety and health at the National Employment Law Project and previously chief of staff and senior adviser at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

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

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Salmonella test results prompt company to recall tahini

January 14, 2020 - 8:21pm

Phoenicia Group Inc. is recalling Alkanater brand Tahina because of possible Salmonella contamination discovered during government testing.

Officials in Canada did not report how much tahini is covered by the recall, and distribution details were incomplete. 

“The following product has been sold in Quebec and Ontario and may have been distributed in other provinces and territories,” according to a recall notice posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). “Consumers should not consume the recalled product.”

Test results from the CFIA triggered the recall. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. The agency is verifying that industry is removing the recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

To determine whether they have the recalled tahini, consumers should look for the following label information:

  • Brand — Alkanater
  • Size — 454 grams
  • UPC number — 6 92551 00002 0
  • Product codes — PRO: 08/20/2018 EXP: 08/20/2020 LOT: TT4N-180820

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

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

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

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

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

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CFIA announces frozen ground veal recall after a positive E. coli test

January 14, 2020 - 1:39pm
A Calgary-based company has recalled Scarpone’s Italian Store brand frozen ground veal.   The recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results for suspected E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

No illnesses are yet confirmed related to the recalled product.

The CFIA is verifying the removal of the recalled veal from the marketplace and the agency is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings. The Italian Store distributes products in the Canadian province of Alberta.

The Italian Store in Calgary is recalling the Scarpone’s Italian Store brand frozen Ground Veal from the marketplace due to the possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Additional Information Scarpone’s Italian Store Ground Veal (frozen) Variable Starting with:
0 200904 All units sold between December 23, 2019, and January 13, 2020, inclusive. Sold at The Italian Store, 5140 Skyline Way NE, Calgary, AB. CFIA says anyone who becomes sick from consuming a recalled product should call a doctor. Check to see if the recalled product might be in a home freezer. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased. About E. coli infections Food contaminated with pathogens including E. coli may not look, smell or taste bad. Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated product and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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More Premo and Fresh Grab sandwiches added to recall out of Listeria fears

January 14, 2020 - 12:16pm

Lipari Foods has added to the recall of previously announced  Premo and Fresh Grab sandwiches because of potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. A supplier notified the company of the potential contamination.

For additional product photos, please click image. Courtesy of Lipari

There is concern that consumers may have the recalled sandwiches because of their long shelf life.

The products were distributed exclusively by Lipari Foods of Warren, MI, to foodservice and retail stores throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The recall originated with JLM, which expanded their recent recall to include additional sandwiches because of potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported in relation to this Lipari recall.

Lipari Foods began shipping these products on Jan, 3, 2020.

Consumers who have purchased these recalled products should not consume them. Consumers should discard the products or return them to the point of purchase.

The affected product can be identified by the following label information:

Brand Product Lipari # Size Best By Date Lot # UPC Fresh Grab Breakfast Muffin Sandwich 252153 6 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251000
3039 Fresh Grab Chicken & Swiss Sandwich 252204 5 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251000
3213 Fresh Grab Turkey & Swiss Sandwich 251694 6 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251000
1042 Premo Meat Lover’s Sub 970844 7 oz. 1/21/2020 03202001 61251009
3832 Premo Pub Burger 207970 5 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251000
3015 Premo Turkey & Cheese on Pretzel Sub 996428 7 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251009
4037 Premo Turkey & Swiss Sandwich 915537 6 oz. 1/23/2020 03202001 61251000
1042 Premo Turkey & Garlic Mayo Sandwich 207455 5 oz. 1/21/2020 03202001 61251008
8494

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 products 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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Aramark investigated in apparent norovirus outbreak at Yosemite

January 14, 2020 - 12:05am

A spate of gastrointestinal illnesses at Yosemite National Park has spurred a federal investigation. The company that runs the foodservice, Aramark, is taking a wait and see position.

Aramark, with its headquarters in Philadelphia, has had numerous food safety issues in recent years at sports stadiums, including the stadium complex where the Kansas City Chiefs play, and other venues. Local television news stations near Yosemite reported that Aramark has received numerous complaints from visitors about poor food quality, shuttle service and other services since it began managing the park’s concessions four years ago.

A spokesman for the company down played the current situation at Yosemite.

“To clarify, the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses has not been determined. HD officials are investigating the origin of the illnesses. Any reporting or classification of the illnesses as foodborne is speculation,” Aramark corporate communications officer David Freireich said in a statement to Food Safety News.

Federal officials said it is too early to specify a cause, but they are taking a harder line than the foodservice provider. 

A park spokesman said federal officials are “working with the operator of Yosemite’s many restaurants, snack shops and hotels, Philadelphia-based Aramark, to carry out an ‘extensive clean-up and disinfection’ of food service areas in the valley. No dining facilities have been closed,” according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle 

Park officials issued a statement urging employees and tourists to practice good handwashing procedures and stay home if they are sick. Symptoms reported by most patients match those of norovirus, which is easily spread from person to person via direct contact, contaminated food, or contaminated surfaces and utensils, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.

The Chronicle reported at least a dozen people confirmed sick in the outbreak. The sick people include employees and park visitors.

Anyone who has had any food or beverages while at the park and later developed symptoms of norovirus should seek medical attention. The associated diarrhea and vomiting often dehydrates children and older adults.

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More than 1,000 sick in France from contaminated raw shellfish

January 14, 2020 - 12:03am

The number of people in France who have become ill after eating contaminated raw shellfish has jumped to more than 1,000. The outbreak has spurred international recalls.

A total of 1,033 people have been sickened and 21 needed hospital treatment, according to Santé publique France. A previous update listed the number of illnesses at 668.

Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands have all also reported outbreaks linked to live oysters from France. Products have been recalled due to a risk of norovirus contamination in Luxembourg, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Mats Lindblad, a communicable disease coordinator at Livsmedelsverket (National Food Agency of Sweden), said 31 people are sick in the country.

“The link was made by patient interviews. Symptoms and incubation time indicate norovirus. Livsmedelsverket has not issued any advice against eating oysters. We will, however, inform consumers about the unusually high number of food poisonings related to oysters in Sweden and other countries this winter,” he told Food Safety News.

The outbreak appears to be limited in the Netherlands to the Amsterdam area of the country.

More ill than past years
Since early December 2019, Santé publique France has received 179 reports of collective food poisoning suspected to be linked to consumption of raw shellfish but mainly oysters.

Most reports, 138 of the 179 alerts, occurred beginning Dec. 23, 2019, and onward with a peak of illnesses from December 25 to 27. Of the 595 patients with age information only 19 were children under 15 years old.

Symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting and incubation times, are consistent with norovirus or other enteric virus infections. Stool tests have confirmed presence of these viruses. Symptoms of norovirus appear one to two days after being infected and typically last for two or three days. Norovirus is transmitted by having contaminated food or water or from person to person through contact with the skin, objects or inhaling airborne particles. The virus can live for long periods of time on surfaces such as counters and door knobs.

The number of notifications linked to consumption of raw shellfish in 2019 is higher than previous years. Annually between 25 and 120 alerts related to eating shellfish are reported to Santé publique France, of which between four and 30 occur between December and January.

French authorities are tracing back contaminated items to production areas and testing the sites concerned. To date, several areas have been closed because of contamination by norovirus.

Authorities in Ille-et-Vilaine in France stopped fishing, collection, shipping and marketing of shellfish from two production areas. These are “Baie du Mont Saint-Michel rivage” and “Zone conchylicole d’Hirel but the latter has been lifted.

A number of supermarket chains in France have informed consumers of recalls because of possible norovirus in products from companies including Cultimer France, La Vivière, Thaëron, Mytilimer Production, Les Viviers de Saint Colomban et Keroma, Huitres Henry and Fine de Cancale.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food said recent heavy rain, the normal winter spike of norovirus and a period of high shellfish consumption contributed to the increase in illnesses. They said preventing contamination by strengthening the monitoring of wastewater treatment is crucial and is the responsibility of local authorities.

A total of 23 shellfish growing zones in seven regions of France have been closed with more than 400 companies affected, according to the agency. One contaminated area is closed for 28 days.

EU and Asia recalls
In Belgium, Match and Cora recalled mussels branded “Moules de Bouchot de la Baie du Mont Saint Michel” from some stores.

In Luxembourg, Auchan sold oysters and mussels from the companies Mytilimer, SAS Kermaree and Cultimer that have been recalled. Cora also recalled two products for the same reason.

Certain Aligro, Coop, the Manor Supermarket in Lausanne, and the Migros store in Geneva issued recalls for mussels, cockles and oysters in Switzerland.

The Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong found a local firm had imported affected not ready-to-eat mussels which were on sale in its supermarkets. The agency has suspended the import and sale within Hong Kong of all shellfish harvested in the two French areas concerned.

In Singapore, “Bouchot live mussels” from France (Baie Du Mont-Saint-Michel) were recalled due to norovirus. The Singapore Food Agency told the importer, Classic Fine Food(s) Pte Ltd, to recall the products which are no longer available on the market.

Potentially contaminated products have also been distributed to Austria, Denmark, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, Malta, Poland, Spain and Ukraine, according to alerts on the RASFF portal.

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Lawsuit challenges USDA’s New Swine Inspection System; cites public safety

January 14, 2020 - 12:02am
Opinion

Today (Jan. 13, 2019,)  Center for Food Safety (CFS), Food & Water Watch (FWW), and two supporting members filed an actionagainst the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) rules that undermine pork-safety inspection in slaughter plants.

The NSIS rules are a draconian reversal to the swine slaughter inspection system that has existed in the United States since 1906. Prior federal law required that meat inspectors critically examine each and every animal for conditions (as dangerous as septicemia and salmonella) before and after slaughter.

The new rules prevent such inspection and hand over these responsibilities to the slaughter companies themselves. They also surrender federal control over removing contamination from carcasses to slaughter companies without any minimum training requirements for slaughter-plant employees.

At the same time, the NSIS rules lifted prior limits on slaughter-line speeds that were in place to prevent foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Even with these line-speed limits, contaminated pork may cause as many as 1.5 million cases of foodborne illnesses, 7,000 hospitalizations, and 200 deaths in the United States each year.

The lawsuit claims NSIS rules cannot stand and must be permanently stopped. USDA is acting beyond its authority in essentially leaving inspection up to slaughter companies. These new rules are contrary to the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

“Reducing the number of trained federal inspectors and increasing line speeds is a recipe for disaster,” said Ryan Talbott, Staff Attorney for CFS. “USDA has an obligation to protect the health and welfare of consumers. USDA cannot do that when it takes a back seat and lets the slaughter plants largely regulate themselves.”

“There is no gray area here. The new rules curtail the ability of federal inspectors to detect serious food-safety problems and expose those who consume such pork products to serious health threats like salmonella,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Staff Attorney, Food & Water Watch. “It’s easy to read between the lines with these new rules: the USDA is letting the wolf guard the hog-house. Food safety is one of the most important protections in our country and gifting the slaughter industry self-regulation powers will mean pork eaters in this country will be facing higher threats of disease.”

This is the fourth action challenging the NSIS rules. FWW has filed a separate lawsuit for the agency’s violation of the Freedom of Information Act and concealing of information related to the rules. The newest complaint is the first to challenge the rules because of the harm posed to consumers. The 69-page complaint details in more than 358 paragraphs how the agency has delegated critical inspection activities to the slaughter companies themselves and how this will harm public health. Two other groups have challenged the rules because of the harm posed to plant employees and to the animals because they will result in inhumane treatment.

View the complaint here.

About the authors, according to the organizations’ websites: The Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture www.centerforfoodsafety.orgFood & Water Watch works to protect our health, communities and democracy from destructive economic interests. www.foodandwaterwatch.org  

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Dozens of Trichinella illnesses linked to wild boar meat

January 14, 2020 - 12:01am

A number of patients with symptoms of Trichinellosis have been detected near the Italian city of Turin.

A statement from early January by health authorities put the number of people affected at 20 but this past week local media reported up to 50 people are sick. All the wild boar salami still in the possession of implicated hunters was seized and examined for Trichinella with some of it positive for the parasite.

Suspicions were raised by doctors at Susa Hospital and confirmed by investigations at the Amedeo di Savoia hospital in Turin (Torino).

Those sick are hunters or their relatives and friends who live in the Susa Valley (Val di Susa), and consumed fresh wild boar meat a few days before becoming ill.

Ill people went to hospitals reporting gastrointestinal disorders, and in some cases muscle pain and fever. After blood tests, doctors found results typical in cases of parasitic diseases which gave rise to the suspicion of Trichinellosis.

Anyone who has handled or eaten raw boar meet from the implicated areas should monitor themselves for 45 days because it can take that long for symptoms of infection to develop.

Preventing infection
Trichinella had been absent from the area for years, but in October 2017 it was found in a wild boar hunted in Villar Focchiardo. That incident was followed by an information campaign by veterinary services for hunters to make them aware of preventive measures.

Mitigation actions include cooking so the temperature inside the meat reaches 70 degrees C (158 degrees F) for three minutes, freeze the meat for at least a month at minus 15 degrees C (5 degrees F) and if slaughtering at home, use disposable gloves and clean and disinfect the tools used. Salting, drying, smoking and cooking meat in microwaves does not ensure the parasite is killed.

European rules require tests for Trichinella in all slaughtered pigs, wild boars, horses and other farmed or wild animal species susceptible from sites not officially recognized as applying controlled housing conditions. Animals slaughtered for home consumption are not included in the regulation and national rules differ.

Trichinellosis is a disease that people can get by eating raw or undercooked meat from animals infected with the parasite Trichinella, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Initial symptoms are gastrointestinal, usually occurring one to two days after a person consumes raw or undercooked meat from a Trichinella-infected animal. Classic symptoms such as muscle pain, fever, headache and chills often occur two weeks after eating contaminated meat, and can last up to eight weeks. The incubation period can vary from five to 45 days depending on the number of parasites ingested.

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FDA sends warning letter to Kohyo America Inc. for its frozen egg facility

January 14, 2020 - 12:00am

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.

Kohyo America, Inc. — Torrence, CA
The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Dec. 23, 2019, to Mr. Hirotaka Isida, President of Kohyo America, Inc.

During a Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Kohyo America, Inc on Sept. 16, 2019, investigators found that they were not in compliance with the requirements of 21 CFR part 1 subpart L for the frozen baked eggs/atsuyaki tamago manufactured by Ahjikan Co., LTD, Shizuoka Factory, Japan.

In response to this deviation, the FDA issued an FDA-483a Inspectional Observations form that lists deviations observed at the facility.

The violations noted by the FDA:

  1. “We acknowledge receipt of your response dated September 24, 2019, which was received by the Division of West Coast Imports on October 2, 2019. You advised that within five months, you will hire a consultant and take FSVP training courses in order to develop an FSVP. Your response cannot be evaluated because you did not provide supporting documentation. We also note that you are continuing to import frozen baked eggs/atsuyaki tamago.”
  2. “Our finding during the September 16 to 20, 2019 inspection was consistent with our finding during the previous inspection of your firm. During an August 22, 2017 inspection, we also found that your firm was not in compliance with section 805 of the FD&C Act because your firm did not develop an FSVP for frozen baked egg/atsuyaki tamago manufactured by Ahjikan Co., LTD, in Japan or other food products that you import.”

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

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Victim profile: Hunter Browning, a Marine recruit fighting impact of E. coli

January 13, 2020 - 12:05am

Hunter Browning was in Marine Bootcamp, being verbally, mentally and physically beaten down when E. coli O157:H7 delivered a blow that made it impossible for him to build back up.

“In the Marine Corps, I’m seen as the other. Being a recruit is derogatory until you finish training, you’re worthless. They break you down to build you up but it’s not fair if you don’t get built back up,” Browning said recently.

This photo was taken by Browning’s friend from boot camp at a restaurant in the fall of 2018 in San Diego. Courtesy of Hunter Browning

In Oct.  2017 an outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 swept through the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and Camp Pendleton. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 62 confirmed cases, 62 probable and120 suspected cases. Thirty people were hospitalized and 15 were diagnosed with HUS, a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. Patients’ ages ranged from 17 to 28 years with a median of 18 years. Consumption of undercooked beef was linked to the outbreak and was traced back to a single ground beef supplier at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

One of the victims of this outbreak was Hunter Browning, an 18-year-old Marine recruit.

“What 20-year-old do you know with a full hip replacement?” Browning asked. Browning is dealing with the lifelong impact of food poisoning. “I don’t know how to deal with it. It’s not normal. When I tell people, they have a shocked look on their face and they pity me.”

In high school in Aberdeen, SD, Browning participated in drama clubs and skied in the winter. He graduated from high school in the spring of 2016. A call from a Marine recruiter convinced him that he was an ideal Marine recruit: fit, disciplined and bright. Browning was eager to challenge himself and gain the type of experience only the Marines could provide.

Boot camp
Browning took his first trip out west in the fall of 2017 to begin boot camp at the recruit depot in San Diego.

“I settled in pretty quick. I just went with the flow and tried not to screw up.” Browning said he made friends quickly, the group struggle bonding the recruits.

Marine boot camp is 13 weeks long. Browning thrived during the first phase of his training. It was not until his eighth week that he started to feel ill. 

“The first symptom I showed was a fever. And then later, I was getting stomach aches,” he said.

Browning described his symptoms as increasing severe.

“They make us do this exercise at night, where they had staff that was trying to invade our barracks building. Toward the end of the exercise, I started to get this pretty heavy fever. Throughout the night, there had to be a group of four people up, making sure that nothing goes bad, or that none of the trainees leave. I was at the front post and you can’t leave when you’re doing that, and I really needed to go to the bathroom. I could feel diarrhea coming on or something. And I really needed one of the other guys to take the front post. They weren’t willing to do it because they thought I wouldn’t come back. So, it wasn’t until after I got off fire watch that I was able to go to the bathroom, and it was definitely diarrhea. Before we left the barracks I had diarrhea again, this time it had blood.”

Browning said he had never experienced pain like that. He was afraid to tell the instructor, but he was in too much pain to not. The drill inspector sent Browning to the medical center but despite running tests, they could not figure out the cause of his illness.

He explained to medical personnel that he couldn’t eat, was throwing up and had bloody diarrhea. They took his temperature and thought he had the flu. They gave him an anti-diarrheal medicine — Pepto-Bismol — a solution that Browning now realizes was counterproductive if not harmful as his body tried to expel the E. coli.

Browning stayed in bed five days before returning to physical training. Despite the pain and fever, he pushed through his physical training. But when taking off his training clothes at the end of the day, Browing noticed his legs had swollen. He recalls the other trainees’ mouths dropping when they saw how large his legs had become, from his thighs to his feet. Browing was sent to the emergency room by ambulance.

In the emergency room, blood tests were run and Browing was told that he was suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) connected to Shiga toxin-producing E.coli. Browning had heard of E. coli but had no idea what kind of damage it could do to his body. In just a couple of weeks, Browing says he lost more than 15 pounds, going from 165 to 149 pounds.

Contaminated food
Browning recalls in vivid detail the mess hall where he ate the burger contaminated with  E.coli. 

“You get your tray and your silverware, and then there’s a salad bar with a bunch of different salads or toppings for salads, and then after that, they have like a main course line, so between they’ll have like fruit sometimes, and in the morning they’ll have cereal, then the main course line where they’ll have the hot food,” Browning recalled. “And then you go past and you take a left and go past the drink machines to sit down. Then you get back up to get a drink. It’s crowded and there’s always lots of yelling. It’s very stressful.” 

These details are etched in Browning’s memory because of the strong emotions surrounding that day. Browning’s life was altered because of this mess hall, the food and how it was prepared.

“There are bouts of anger, of very extreme feelings toward my situation. Because it could have been different in so many ways. If the food was cooked properly. I would be out doing my job in the Marine Corps,” he said.

The military officials held tight to the investigation process and information about it, so it was not until much later that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the link to the mess hall and its ground beef. Browning still remembers the hamburger and the day he ate it.

“On Saturdays, they have burger day, and that was when I got sick. I didn’t have symptoms until the Thursday after.”

Medical Rehab Platoon

This photo was taken in fall 2018 when Browning met up with a friend from the medical rehab unit for the platoon’s Marine graduation in San Diego. Courtesy of Hunter Browning

After his trip to the emergency room, Browning was sent to the medical rehab platoon, where he would spend the next eight months.

Browning was in constant pain, especially in his hip joint. X-rays and MRIs revealed a divot in his femur head. He was diagnosed with septic arthritis and osteonecrosis in his hip joint caused by the Shiga toxin-producing E.coli. At first, it was the cartilage that hurt, but as the cartilage wore away, it was the femur head grinding directly against his hip that caused the pain. Standing, sitting, and any movement in between was agonizing. Browning walked with crutches or with a cane.

In late December that year, two months into his stay at the medical platoon, a hip specialist informed him that it was unlikely he’d be able to stay in the military. Browning had a hard time accepting his new reality. He recalls thinking, “I’ll get better and I’ll go back to training.”

Having not finished his training and still a Marine recruit, Browing was given little access to the world outside of the medical rehab platoon.

“You don’t have your phone. You can’t watch TV,” Browning said.

He spent his time reading and doing crafts as he waited in six-week blocks to see the doctor again. Each time the doctor told him that they would check in another six weeks.

“That was awful. You don’t know how long you’re going to be there.”

Surgery

This photo was taken Aug. 2018 at the Wounded Warrior Battalion Naval Medical Center in San Diego when Browning first woke up after his hip surgery. Courtesy of Hunter Browning

In March 2018 – five months into his stay at the medical platoon — Browning had his first surgery. A left hip decompression was done. Calcium phosphate bone cement was injected into the femoral head cavity to provide structural support. A checkup two-weeks after the surgery showed that Browning’s hip was deteriorating quicker than initially thought. His doctor at the medical rehab platoon recommended a hip replacement. Administrative details and funding questions made Browning wait.

“There was a bit of a feud happening between the doctor and the marine corp, just because nobody in my position had ever got a hip replacement before and that’s a big-ticket item,” Browning said 

Finally, in July 2018, Browning was moved from the medical rehab platoon to the Wounded Warrior Battalion where they would perform a total left hip replacement. In August, Browning had his hip replacement. His father flew out to stay with him during the surgery and help him navigate during his recovery. “It’s not like being completely fixed and mobile. That’s the struggle, knowing that it’s going to be different forever.”

Browning walked with assistance the day after his surgery. He used a walker for the first couple of weeks, progressed to a cane, and then eventually, was able to walk without assistance.

“The thing that really helped me improve was that it wasn’t painful all the time. It wasn’t bone on bone grinding anymore,” he said.

In December  2018 — after months of rehab — Browning’s doctor at the Wounded Warrior Battalion concluded that the recruit was no longer fit for service because of his hip replacement. Seventeen months after leaving home for boot camp, Browning left the Marine Corps and returned home to South Dakota where he was able to spend the holidays with his family. 

Life Now

In this photo, taken in August 2018 outside of the Wounded Warrior Battalion Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Browning was one week past his hip surgery. Courtesy of Hunter Browning

Long term, Browning will need at least one more hip replacement, and possibly two more in his lifetime. As the plastic liner inside the hip joint wears down he will endure more frequent and severe pain. Back in South Dakota, Browning can no longer enjoy the winter sports. Skiing is too dangerous for his hip. Even walking outside the house in the cold weather and potentially slipping on ice has become a terrifying possibility.

“I could have the anchor bust out of my femur, and it would be really painful. That’s something I have to watch for all the time,” he said.

Browning still has pain when standing for too long or sitting on a hard surface. The limited leg motion has made simple tasks more difficult, and even repositioning his leg while sleeping has been a challenge.

“I would hope that no one would have to go through what I’ve been through. There were a lot of things that could have gone better, and I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

But harder than the physical situation with his hip and the impact E. coli has had on his body is what it prevented him from being able to accomplish.

“I didn’t even get to finish boot camp, so they don’t even consider me a marine,” he said. “It’s very difficult not to have negative feelings. Given a chance, I would have worked for everything.”

Browning said he is thankful for his doctors and all they did to prevent the situation from becoming any worse, and for his family’s continued support. He will turn 22 in March and plans on attending college in the fall to study business. He also hopes to get a pilot license and dreams of teaching flying.

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More than 50 sick in Argentinian city due to Salmonella

January 13, 2020 - 12:03am

An emergency committee to control the sale of food has been created in a city in northwest Argentina after a spike in Salmonella cases in early 2020.

There have been 51 confirmed cases of Salmonella in Salta so far this year. At least five people have been hospitalized but recovered after treatment.

The committee will be responsible for controlling food sold on public roads at street stalls and at commercial premises. It includes experts from the National University of Salta (UNSA) and Catholic University of Salta (Ucasal).

Officials hope by increasing controls they can bring the rise in infections under control and minimize the risk to the public.

The group, created by the Mayor of Salta Bettina Romero and Undersecretary of Health and Human Environment Mónica Torfe, held a meeting with Juan José Esteban, manager of the Hospital Señor del Milagro, and teams from the department of epidemiology of the province on preventive measures to tackle the Salmonella rise this past week.

Norma Spontón, head of the microbiology sector; Teresita Cruz, of the epidemiological surveillance program of the province; Paula Herrera, from the Ministry of Health, and José Herrera, from the hospital also participated.

Experts from the two universities are involved in training the inspectors who will be in charge of carrying out the control tasks.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled.

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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Letter to the Editor: Why is R-CALF so upset? Just do it — count the cows

January 13, 2020 - 12:01am
Opinion

I like your recent post Letter From the Editor on Counting Cows.

Don’t forget Canada who is the USA’s largest trading partner in beef (reciprocal trading too) is also very capable of tracing back to original farms and the animals – we have the best technology in RFID tracability – albiet not easily accepted by Canadian cattlemen in the early days.

However, with disease managment and food safety outbreaks it is much easier to trace back to origins in the food chain.

Do we need to export – yes there is a demand from U.S. packers – so why is R-CALF so upset ? Canada imports U.S. animals when there is a shortage too of various age animals – packers here need to meet supply demands.

Thanks for the great insight – keep objectivity – it helps with all of us in the Food Safety Profession

— Toni (ASQ CHA), Cedar Creek Ranch, Black Diamond, Alberta Canada

Letter From The Editor: Line Speeds

January 12, 2020 - 12:08am
Opinion

Everything I know about “line speeds,” I learned last year in the Netherlands by spending an afternoon inside the VanDrie Group’s vast veal slaughter and processing facilities.

With a group of international journalists, I visited every nook and cranny in the plant while it was under full operation. As we moved one after another, almost always above was the line moving the veal from slaughter to the various processing units.

Sometimes as we moved along, we had to step through the line, quickly judging its movement so we passed through without incident. Sometimes, the line speed increased, usually because the product was going between various areas.

And sometimes, VanDrie employees could slow and almost step product on the line, before sending it down an alternative location. VanDrie turns out veal, not market hogs,

But it left me thinking that the popular depiction of “line speeds” without limits is probably a bit of a red herring.  Easier I know to visit a plant constantly moving product by chain than to work in one, but we also observed VanDrie workers up close. They took items on and off the line with great skill.   Never was the out-of-control, or slipping by someone too fast.

When I hear someone speak of a line speed without limits, I no longer think of one of those carnival swings with someone trapped on board and stuck on the highest speed.

Anyway, there is something of a last stand going on with the unions representing our friends of the meat inspectors.   They want to stop the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS).    That train left the station on Dec.2, and its poultry cousin has been in effect since 2014.   After 25 years,  swine and poultry companies have options to traditional inspection programs.

Unions sued over the pilot program 25 years ago and that mixed things up pretty thoroughly,  They sue again when the Obama administration enacted the new poultry rule and the case was dismissed.  There’s now six years of history for the new poultry system.  Now the Trump administration has adopted the swine end of the bookend and the unions have again gone to court.

They hope to wrap two issues around the axle of the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS): line speed and an alleged 40 cut in line inspectors.

The second of those arguments are not likely to last long in federal court.   NSIS at its hearts shifts some inspection time from being “online” to “offline,” meaning inspectors will responsibilities involving such activities as HACCP and Sanitation.  FSIS personnel continues to conduct ante and post mortem inspections.

Facts over the years have not been able to knock down the “unlimited line speed” argument. NSIS does not come with set line speed. But during years when it operated as a pilot program, line speeds remained kind of a yawner.

Pilot line speeds varied from 885 to 1,295 head per hour, with an average of 1,099 head per hour, which is less than the maximum under the traditional inspection system, which is 1,106 head per hour. Not much of an issue in reality, but it can sound really scary.

That because unlimited line speeds are associated with jobs that may cause repetitive muscle damage. They paint the picture of out of control machines running at such speeds they injure workers.

OSHA is all over meat and poultry operations, and there are a couple of problems with the line speed fear. One is that the attention that been given to these repetitive muscle injuries has them trending down. And second, there is no data to support the notion that working under the new inspection would be more harmful than the old.

Numerous factors go into the line speed–equipment, animal size, herd conditions, and the number of employees on the job. Even that day’s pork production mays a role.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says it does not have either the authority or expertise to regulate the worker safety concerns that may be raised by line speeds. It does cooperate with OSHA, which does have those responsibilities.   Line speeds do have a limit, it just one that management needs to figure out on a given day by taking multiple factors into account.    The fact that years of data without speed limits produced such a narrow range should say something.

One thing I do know is these lines are preferable to having people carry all that product from slaughter to processing to shipping. You’d be really worn out if you did that.

A federal judge in St. Paul will hear arguments on Jan. 27 over a motion to dismiss the Union’s lawsuit.

 

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