Food Safety News

Subscribe to Food Safety News feed Food Safety News
Breaking news for everyone's consumption
Updated: 2 hours 52 min ago

Inspection refusals, filth and pathogens spur alert updates

January 12, 2020 - 12:03am

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

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

Import Alert

Desc Text

URL

IA-16-05

Detention Without Physical Examination of Mahimahi Because of Histamine and Decomposition

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_14.html

IA-16-105

Detention Without Physical Examination of Seafood and Seafood Products from Specific Manufacturers/Shippers Due to Decomposition and/or Histamines

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_19.html

IA-16-124

Detention Without Physical Examination Of Aquaculture Seafood Products Due To Unapproved Drugs

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_27.html

IA-16-127

Detention Without Physical Examination of Crustaceans Due to Chloramphenicol

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_29.html

IA-16-18

Detention Without Physical Examination of Shrimp

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_35.html

IA-16-81

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

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_49.html

IA-21-07

Detention Without Physical Examination of Tamarind Products (Fresh and/or Processed) from All Shippers from All Countries Due to Filth

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_63.html

IA-33-10

Detention Without Physical Examination of Candy Due to Lead

http://cms.fda.gov
/vts/imports_publish/private/importalert_102.html

IA-45-02

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

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_118.html

IA-54-16

DETENTION WITHOUT PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OF PRODUCTS THAT ARE MARKETED AS FOODS, INCLUDING PRODUCTS MARKETED AS DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS, THAT CONTAIN AN ACTIVE PHARMACEUTICAL INGREDIENT

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_1141.html

IA-66-41

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

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_190.html

IA-66-66

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

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_202.html

IA-99-05

Detention Without Physical Examination of Raw Agricultural Products for Pesticides

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_258.html

IA-99-08

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

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_259.html

IA-99-19

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

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_263.html

IA-99-23

Detention Without Physical Examination of ***Produce Due to Contamination With Human Pathogens***

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_266.html

IA-99-32

DETENTION WITHOUT PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OF PRODUCTS FROM FIRMS REFUSING FDA FOREIGN ESTABLISHMENT INSPECTION

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov
/cms_ia/importalert_521.html

 

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

Egg burritos recalled for misbranding as cilantro line chicken burritos

January 11, 2020 - 2:01am

Vernon, CA-bsed Culinary International, LLC  has recalled approximately 626 pounds of egg burrito products labeled as chicken burrito products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The products contain eggs, a known allergen, which was not declared on the product label.

The frozen, not ready-to-eat (NRTE) chicken burrito items were produced on Sept. 10, 2019. The product that is subject to recall:

  • 6-oz. packages containing “ CILANTRO LIME CHICKEN BURRITO” with lot code B9253 J1 P6009 and “BEST BY 03 MAR 2021CB” represented on the label, and Item #00300, Lot CB03031C11 and “BB: 03MAR2021-CB” on the case.

The recalled product bears establishment number “P-6009” inside the USDA mark of inspection on the case, and on the back of the immediate packaging with the lot code. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

The mistake was discovered after FSIS and the firm received consumer complaints reporting that the cilantro lime chicken burritos were actually egg burritos.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms are notifying their customers of the recall and that actions are being taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list will be posted on the FSIS website.

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

Lithuania sees decline in Salmonella infections

January 11, 2020 - 12:05am

The number of Salmonella infections declined in the first 11 months of 2019 in Lithuania, according to a new report from the Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS (ULAC).

There were 717 cases of Salmonella in Lithuania up to Dec. 1, which is 7 percent less than the same period the previous year. The incidence of salmonellosis in the country has halved in the past 10 years from 61 cases per 100,000 population in 2009 to 28 cases per 100,000 population in 2018.

The decline comes despite the number of people sick from Salmonella increasing in the first seven months of this past year. At 434 cases, the incidence of salmonellosis had gone up by 18 percent compared to the same period in 2018.

According to ULAC data, 794 patients with salmonellosis were registered in Lithuania in 2018.

Galinos Zagrebnevienės, from ULAC, said outbreaks of Salmonella in the country are mostly registered in preschools and at family level. Incidence could be reduced by raising consumer awareness and improving hygiene in handling and preparing food.

Patient surveys show chicken eggs, broiler meat and meat products are risk factors for Salmonella.

International meeting on foodborne diseases
Meanwhile, the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT) of Lithuania held an international conference on food safety late last year in Vilnius that was organized with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Some messages from event participants were a call for closer cooperation in development of preventive action plans and sharing of emerging crises data; coordination of laboratory and inter-institutional research activities and greater use of early warning systems in the European Union for reporting communicable disease outbreaks or food crises.

“The insights and discussions provided by the experts only confirm that effective prevention of foodborne diseases and efficient management of emerging food crises require the participation of all responsible parties – food industry representatives, farmers, competent food and veterinary control bodies, consumer institutions, public health policy makers – involvement at national and international levels, focused efforts to find new and innovative solutions,” said Darius Remeika, director of VMVT.

Insights on risk assessment for food crises were shared by Dr. Valentina Rizzi, senior scientific officer of the Biological Hazards and Contaminants (BIOCONTAM) unit at EFSA. Martial Plantady, from DG Sante, presented the general plan for food and feed safety crisis management. Research on pathogen diagnostics was talked about by Dr. Rene S. Hendriksen from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Attendees heard about Latvia’s experience in investigating outbreaks of foodborne disease from Dr. Aivars Bērziņš. The most common causative agents, main causes of outbreaks and methods of lab testing for food safety used by the National Food and Veterinary Risk Assessment Institute (NFVRAI) in Lithuania were also discussed.

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

Federal agencies join efforts for electronic home for biotech regs

January 10, 2020 - 12:05am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday launched a unified website for biotechnology regulation. The agencies timed the rollout to coincide with January 2020’s observance of National Biotechnology Month.

New forms of biotechnology allow for the modification of living organisms, such as plants or animals, in order to produce a new product, such as a novel pharmaceutical, new food variety or disease-resistant crop, according to then FDA’s Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan announced in 2018.

The new joint website announced yesterday streamlines information from the three regulatory agencies charged with overseeing agricultural biotechnology products and is part of President Trump’s “Executive Order on Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products.

“Agricultural biotechnology has been and will continue to be an essential tool in helping America’s farmers and ranchers feed, fuel, and clothe the world,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the announcement.

“From producers to consumers, all Americans deserve a government that delivers science-based, common-sense regulations that foster innovation, conserve resources, and protect public health — especially when it comes to the food supply. The launch of this unified biotechnology regulation website is proof of President Trump’s commitment to providing the American people with sensible regulations in a clear and transparent manner.”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the website would provide clarity for consumers.

“EPA is pleased to be working with our partners at USDA, FDA, and across the federal government to implement President Trump’s Executive Order and launch this new, coordinated website,” Wheeler said in the announcement. “This new website will help provide regulatory certainty and clarity to our nation’s farmers and producers by bringing together information on the full suite of actions the Trump Administration is taking to safely reduce unnecessary regulations and breakdown barriers for these biotechnology products in the marketplace.”

The FDA commissioner touted the agency’s commitment to science-based standards.

“This is a time of unprecedented scientific innovation. Agricultural biotechnology promises to bring dynamic new products to the marketplace,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. “At the FDA, we are committed to fostering flexible, risk-based approaches in this field while upholding our mission of protecting and promoting both human and animal health and animal well-being, for example by reducing their susceptibility to diseases like novel influenzas and resistance to zoonotic or foreign animal diseases. Our approach balances our internationally respected, science-based review standards with our ongoing risk-based regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of our food supply.”

Background
The unified website for biotechnology regulation describes the federal review process for certain biotechnology products and allows users to submit questions to the three agencies. The goals of the website, as stated in the announcement, are to provide enhanced customer service to innovators and developers while ensuring Americans continue to enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the world and can learn more about the safe use of biotechnology innovations.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) first published the U.S. Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology in 1986, describing the comprehensive federal regulatory policy for ensuring the safety of biotechnology products. The framework sought to protect health and the environment without impeding innovation.

In 1992, OSTP issued an update to the framework that set forth a risk-based, scientifically sound basis for the oversight of biotechnology products introduced into the environment or used for human or animal food. The update affirmed that federal oversight should focus on the characteristics of the product and the environment into which it is being introduced, not the process by which the product is created. The most recent update was released in 2017

Each of the three federal regulatory agencies — USDA, FDA and EPA — implements its authority under existing laws, resulting in the federal regulatory system assessing and managing the health and environmental risks of biotechnology products.

Regulation under the coordinated framework
Under the framework, the three agencies aim to cover the full range of plants, animals, and microorganisms derived from biotechnology in an integrated and coordinated manner. Each agency has regulatory programs to achieve the health and environmental protection goals derived from its own statutory authorities.

The framework is based on laws governing the regulation of products and their uses. In providing oversight, the agencies employ a rational, scientific evaluation of products. Each agency has developed its own agency-specific regulations or policy documents to establish its regulatory approach to biotechnology products.

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

What’s behind the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System?

January 10, 2020 - 12:03am
Q&A Analysis

The Hill, a Washington-based news publication, recently published a story about the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), an outgrowth of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) HACCP-Based Inspection Model Project (HIMP) with these warnings: “A new rule . . . would reduce the number of government food safety inspectors in pork plants by 40 percent and remove most of the remaining inspectors. In their place, a smaller number of company employees — who are not required to receive any training — would conduct the ‘sorting’ tasks. The rule would allow companies to design their microbiological testing programs to measure food safety rather than requiring companies to meet the same standard.”

The story continued “. . . the new rule would remove all line speed limits in the plants, allowing companies to speed up their lines with abandon. With fewer government inspectors on the slaughter lines, there would be fewer trained workers watching out for consumer safety.”

The limitations were obvious. Poke-and-sniff could find quality control problems, such as carcass bruising and broken bones. But E. coli O157:H7 contamination or any of the other pathogenic bacteria that might be present takes a swab and a petri dish.

The USDA believed checking for bruising and other visual imperfections can be done quickly and efficiently online by people with reasonably good eyesight. Better to sample and test for contamination in the lab than try to watch for it at even 10 carcasses per minute. Their research was designed to bring food safety practices from its mid-20th century roots to the 21st century, a nearly 60-year leap forward. 

Still, the FSIS plan met with considerable controversy. To learn the facts as FSIS saw them, I called on Mindy Brashears. She was a professor of food science at Texas Tech University until she was nominated by President Trump to lead the FSIS. 

Coming on to the scene after almost all the work on HIMP was complete, she had no real skin in the game. She took a fresh look at it, more than ready to veto the program if it didn’t meet some very rigorous scientific standards. I asked her some questions about the program and her reactions to it.

Q. The new swine slaughter inspection system (NSIS) has been piloted at five pork processing plants and was developed over many years of research and evaluation. Would you walk me through that process? 

A. Because NSIS was on the horizon when I began with FSIS, I took a special interest in reviewing the proposed rule with an intense focus on the history and data collected to inform the rule. I took a very scientific approach to analyzing the system as I have done with other major tasks in my career. I asked for all of the data collected (not just summary data) and also conducted a thorough review of methodologies, study design, peer reviews and statistical analysis (among other things).

My commitment at FSIS is to make data-driven, science-based decisions and I had to be confident that this new system was the right thing to do. After weeks of reviewing data, visiting plants and having in-depth conversations with our staff, inspectors and even employees at establishments that operated under the new system, I was confident that the move to NSIS was the right thing to do to protect public health and improve food safety.

What is also very important to note is the fact that I also listened to opposing arguments against moving ahead with NSIS.  Regardless of the individual or group making a claim or request, I have a high standard for data and science.  We can’t make decisions based on emotion, hearsay or anecdotes because lives are at stake. Not one single opposing group was able to provide any genuine data to indicate we should not move forward with NSIS on any point of contention related to public health. It is important that the facts are the facts so we can make our food supply safe and move forward to protect the American citizen from foodborne illness.

I’m happy to walk you through our scientific approach to modernizing swine inspection on a high level because there is a large amount of information and data that went into making this deliberative and thoughtful decision. The research did not begin overnight and actually stretches back to the late 1990s after the transition to Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP)-based systems in meat and poultry processing plants. As you already know, FSIS adjusted the overall processes and sanitation in federal establishments to focus on pathogen prevention by implementing HACCP/Pathogen Reduction (PR) regulations and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP).

In 1997, FSIS initiated the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) pilot in 30 volunteer slaughter establishments (20 young chicken, five turkey, and five market hog) to determine whether new slaughter inspection procedures, along with new plant responsibilities could improve food safety—while simultaneously increasing consumer protection. These facilities have been successfully operating under this system for more than 20 years and data collected in these facilities has informed decisions for New Swine Inspection Systems (NSIS) and New Poultry Inspection Systems (Implemented a few years ago).

The five comparable market hog slaughter establishments listed below volunteered for the HIMP pilot:

  • Clemens Food Group, LLC in Hatfield, Pa.
  • Quality Pork Processors in Austin, Minn.
  • Smithfield Packaged Meats in Vernon, Calif.
  • Swift Pork Company in Beardstown, Ill.
  • WholeStone Farms Cooperative, Inc. in Fremont, Neb.

More than 20 years later and with significant experience and data in hand, FSIS issued the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection proposed rule in 2018. This rule was formed by pathogen data collected in the facilities as well as data collected on inspection tasks.  Summaries of the data are in the presentation. Most people do not know that the Agency prioritizes inspection tasks that are directly related to pathogen presence and public health. As you would expect, inspection tasks related to HACCP and Sanitation rank high when it comes to food safety.

In the HIMP systems, the inspection tasks directly related to food safety and public health were increased. The agency also initiated a full risk assessment, including a response to peer review comments, that can be reviewed on the FSIS website. The bottom line of the risk assessment was that more than 2500 Salmonella illnesses each year would be prevented when moving to the modernized system.

The final rule was published in September 2019 and has two parts:

  • All official swine slaughter establishments are required to develop, implement and maintain in their HACCP systems written procedures to prevent the contamination of carcasses and parts by enteric pathogens, fecal material, ingesta and milk throughout the entire slaughter and dressing operation. These procedures will include sampling and analysis for microbial organisms to monitor process control for enteric pathogens, as well as written procedures to prevent visible fecal material, ingesta and milk contamination.

An important aspect of this that never gets mentioned in the media is the fact that now the establishments must test for indicator bacteria in two locations for process control to determine if the process is preventing contamination. These requirements are for all swine facilities.

  • The New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) which establishments can choose to operate under or they can remain under the traditional slaughter inspection system. NSIS does NOT delegate any inspection authority to the plant. FSIS inspectors perform all inspection tasks and there is still 100% ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection.

There is a reduction in the total number of inspectors. Those under NSIS will not have food inspectors present in the plant. They will have Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSI) and our DVM inspectors.  The CSIs have more experience and training in food safety, HACCP and Sanitation tasks and will be performing the online and off-line inspection tasks.

Establishments choosing to operate under the new system are required to sort and remove unfit animals before FSIS ante-mortem inspection and to trim and identify defects on carcasses and parts before FSIS post-mortem inspection. In a traditional inspection system, the inspector would see a defect (bruise, fecal contamination, etc.) and then direct the plant employee to remove it.

Now the plant employees are allowed to do that before it reaches the inspector, so the carcasses are cleaner when inspection occurs. If a defect is found by an inspector, then the plant must still go back and take corrective actions. As already stated, FSIS is still conducting 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection as required by law but now the plants are responsible for only presenting product that will pass inspection. This allows FSIS inspectors to focus more on food safety issues and less on quality defects.

Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, USDA inspectors will continue to conduct inspection of all animals at ante-mortem and all carcasses and parts on post-mortem as mandated by Congress.

Q. What input did you get from industry resources like the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council? How about the general public?

A. The proposed rule received over 83,000 public comments, which were reviewed and addressed in the final rule. The agency received overwhelming positive support from industry groups like the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council due to FSIS’ desire to bring innovation to the inspection process, while still producing safe and wholesome pork products for consumers.

It is important to remember that five companies were already operating under this system for more than 20 years so the industry was very familiar with the successes and benefits of this program. In some regards this is also about leveling the playing field so that all of industry can operate in this inspection system and innovate like their five counterparts above.

Other comments received from the general public may be read, along with the agency’s response, in the final rule.  Each and every comment was considered and a response was given categorically.

Q. NSIS is an outgrowth of the HIMP program, of course, which dates back to 1997. Will its adoption lead to similar programs – sooner or later? And will it take 20+ years to test and begin to implement?

A. The agency has a mission to ensure that everyone’s meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe. Government inspection must keep pace with the scientific world. It is our obligation to the consumer to allow for the implementation of innovative solutions and new technologies as well as systems that protect public health. It is a challenge because generally people do not like change and are opposed to innovation. Think about all of the safety and scientific advances over the last 30 years such as airbags, smartphones and here we are doing inspection the same way we were 50-60 years ago.

Unfortunately, many groups want us to stay stuck in the past. We will not. We are committed to improving food safety. This means that the modernization of inspection and policies is necessary in order to protect public health. As a scientist, I’ve seen pathogens constantly adapt to their environment, so we must continually modernize our approach to stay ahead of their impact on our food supply.

For poultry, FSIS published a final rule for the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) on Aug. 24, 2014, which serves as an optional inspection system for young chicken and all turkey slaughter establishments. NPIS also reduces the risk of foodborne illness by focusing FSIS inspection activities on those tasks that reduce contamination on chicken and turkey products. As of Dec. 17, 2019, there are 126 USDA poultry slaughter establishments operating under NPIS and it has been a successful transition. It is important to note a trend towards improved food safety because, after a year of collecting data, 89% of the plants under NSIS are meeting performance standards for Salmonella. We will continue to monitor this.

Under NPIS, one federal inspector is assigned to each evisceration line to conduct postmortem inspection of each carcass and one off-line inspector for each evisceration line to conduct food safety and other verification inspection tasks. 

FSIS recently conducted an analysis to determine whether specific off-line inspection tasks were performed more frequently after an establishment’s conversion to NPIS. The analysis includes 72 formerly non-HIMP establishments that converted to NPIS, using Public Health Information System (PHIS) inspection task data from May 2015 to April 2019.

The analysis illustrates that:

  • Inspectors consistently completed a higher number of selected food safety-related offline inspection tasks, including the new NPIS inspection tasks after NPIS implementation.
  • The new NPIS Zero Tolerance Food Safety Verification task is being performed at or near four times more often after NPIS conversion as compared to the pre-NPIS Poultry Zero Tolerance Verification task.
  • The rate of noncompliance records (NRs) documented for these zero tolerance verification tasks more than tripled in conjunction with the increase in tasks performed.

This indicates that NPIS is working as intended and continues to ensure food safety. Please click here to read the final rule, risk assessments, status on the number of poultry plants that have converted to the NPIS, and the recent analysis.

FSIS leadership and I have been very public about our intentions to modernize all components of inspection. The agency mentioned beef modernization at numerous food safety and stakeholder conferences and even held two roundtables in May of 2018 to gather feedback and ideas on how the agency could modernize its approach to inspecting beef. It is FSIS’s statutory duty to protect public health by ensuring we modernize our inspection systems, policies and use scientific approaches and we will be committed to overseeing beef modernization. Initially, this will be done on a case-by-case basis using a waiver system. Those operating under the waiver will be assessed and data collected will be used to inform the future of beef modernization.

In 2020 we also plan to announce modernization of egg products inspection. For egg products, we will move to a HACCP-based system as we have already done in meat and poultry operations.

Q. The plan was endorsed by the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, a strong note of approval from a very well-respected organization. Several other groups strongly object, citing the end of online inspection, faster line speeds, and the ability of a plant to ‘set its own rules’ as dangerous and detrimental to food safety. How do you respond to their fears?  

A. Let me be clear: FSIS has not delegated any of its authority. There is much misinformation out there. Online inspection has not ended at all.

There are key differences between NSIS and traditional inspection:

  • Under traditional inspection, market hog establishments voluntarily segregate animals before FSIS inspection. Under NSIS, this sorting process will be mandatory.
  • Under NSIS, if establishment employees do not properly sort animals for food safety conditions before FSIS inspection, the establishment will receive a non-compliance record (NR). They do not receive NRs under traditional inspection.  This is a motivation factor for plants to do things correctly.

As already stated, under the final rule, FSIS inspectors will continue to conduct 100 percent carcass-by-carcass inspection; the plant employees will prepare and present the carcasses and parts to FSIS inspectors for inspection. Also, FSIS inspectors will continue to slow and stop the line to ensure food safety and inspection are achieved. The inspector always has the right to do this even when the plant is operating at increased line speeds.

In the HIMP studies, there was little difference in line speeds.  It is not as if the lines will be running out of control (see the presentation for details).  A couple of practical things I want to point out:

1. The plant will still be bound by cooler space and the number of carcasses that can be put in a cooler.

2. Line speeds are ONLY in slaughter areas because they are set for inspection.

If needed, our inspectors can slow the line. There has never been a line speed limit in fabrication or other downstream processing areas. The most important thing to note about line speeds is the fact that you can stop the line and observe an entire carcass, and you will never see Salmonella, Campylobacter or any other pathogen. We must focus on HACCP, sanitation and implementation of food safety technologies to keep the product safe. Our modernized inspection systems are the next phase of HACCP implementation as we focus inspection resources on off-line tasks related directly to food safety.

The final rule also allows FSIS inspectors to complete more offline food safety and humane handling verification tasks to monitor compliance. These offline inspection tasks have a more direct impact on food safety and animal welfare.

I hear all of the fears cited by these special interest groups, but as a scientist, I can’t rely on anecdotes. I tell all of these critics and groups “bring me the data” and yet none of them can. At the end of the day, I can only assume this is a basic fear of change or some ulterior motive that is causing them to spread misinformation and fear.

Q. Pork plants have the option of working the new program into their in-plant processes or standing pat with their current program. Won’t trying the blend the old with the new create industry and public confusion?

A. No, the process is very straightforward. The final rule gives market hog establishments the choice to operate under NSIS or to continue to operate under the traditional slaughter inspection system. All market establishments will initially have six months from the date of publication in the Federal Register to notify their district office of their intent to operate under NSIS. Establishments that do not notify their district office of their intent to transition during this time will be deemed to have chosen to continue to operate under traditional inspection. Market hog establishments that decide that they would like to convert to NSIS after the initial notification date may notify their district office of their intent at any time after that date.

FSIS will then implement NSIS in the additional establishments that intend to convert on a schedule consistent with the availability of agency resources and establishment readiness.

As previously noted, some aspects are required for all establishments.

Q. The rollout has just begun. How is it going? Who’s onboard? What are some of the objections and “attaboys” you’ve heard?

A. Some establishments have contacted their FSIS district office expressing interest in converting to NSIS. However, to date, the agency has not received a written commitment with a proposed conversion date from any swine slaughter establishment. The final rule published in the Federal Register on Oct. 1, 2019 and establishments have until April 1, 2020, to notify their FSIS district office of their intent to operate under NSIS. As we begin to roll out the system, I will be happy to follow up with additional information.

Editor’s note: This is an edited and shortened version of Chuck Jolley’s interview with Mindy Brashears that was originally posted by Feedstuffs. It is published here with permission.

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

Researchers warn about risk of eating wild mushrooms

January 10, 2020 - 12:01am

There is growing interest in collecting wild fungi in Ireland but this is not supported by an appreciation of the associated dangers, according to researchers.

The issue constitutes a growing national health threat, wrote Dr. Douglas Hamilton and Dr. Gerard Meagher, from the department of public health, HSE Midlands in the first edition of Epi Insight Volume 21, Issue 1 for 2020.

They said there is currently no established coordination system for surveillance, public information and advice about wild mushrooms. Investment in effective prevention would lead to significant human and economic cost savings, the researchers reported.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is Ireland’s agency for surveillance of communicable diseases and part of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Poisoning stats and case study
Based on data from the National Poisons Information Centre, from the start of 2019 to end of September 2019, there were 18 confirmed mushroom poisonings, with two patients having had severe or life threatening symptoms. From the end of September to Nov. 19, 2019, a six more cases were recorded. From 2014 to 2018, there were 85 mushroom poisonings reported, with two being severe or life threatening.

The centre receives calls on ingestion of poisonous mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms in the wild may be misidentified and used to cook meals, or unsupervised children may eat them from yards, parks or gardens. Incorrect mushroom identification by health professionals via the Internet has been reported.

The numbers compare to France where more than 10,600 people were poisoned by mushrooms and 22 deaths were reported from 2010 to 2017.

In Ireland in September 2019 an individual developed liver failure after foraging for mushrooms in a local wood. They went to the hospital emergency department complaining of vomiting and abdominal pain, having eaten wild mushrooms the previous evening.

Click image to enlarge.

Admission was followed by rapid deterioration of liver function tests, transfer to the intensive care unit, and then to St Vincent’s University Hospital liver unit, where an emergency liver transplant was done – all within three days.

The individual progressed well in the 24 hours post-transplant but deteriorated to multi-organ failure. This was followed by slow recovery, with weeks in ICU, remaining in hospital for almost three months. There was no underlying illness, history of viral hepatitis or use of medications so the incident was attributed to consumption of Amanita virosa. An expert mycologist consulted by the National Poisons Information Centre identified the mushroom as Amanita virosa known as the Destroying Angel. 

There are hundreds of different species of mushrooms growing in the Ireland. The Amanita genus is one of the most toxic worldwide and flourishes in Ireland. It is recognized by a bulbous cup around the base of the stem. It does not have a repugnant taste and can be mistaken for button mushrooms especially Amanita virosa. They tend to grow around broad leaved trees.

Raising public awareness
Most patients with mushroom poisoning experience minor symptoms, like nausea or one or two episodes of vomiting and only need normal fluid intake. Some toxic species can cause sweating, salivation, hallucinations, flushed skin, dilated pupils, delirium, and drowsiness.

Amanita cause severe vomiting and diarrhea followed by liver damage, sometimes leading to liver failure, even after consuming only one 30-gram mushroom. Amatoxins are thermo-stable so toxic effects are not reduced by cooking. Symptoms of vomiting are often delayed for more than six hours after ingestion.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has raised public awareness on poisonous mushrooms in the past, but as foraged berries and mushrooms are for personal consumption and not commercial foods it does not fall within its remit.

A campaign of social media, alerts, radio interviews and signs was held to raise awareness and may have prevented poisonings in the latter part of the season.

Hamilton and Meagher said awareness campaigns need to be repeated pre-season every year and a notification system for mushroom poisoning should be established.

They also said a coordination system for health protection should be determined with public health as the lead agency but including the National Poisons Information Centre and Safefood.

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

Recalled hard boiled eggs prompt recall of some trail mix, protein snacks

January 9, 2020 - 1:32pm

The Tennessee company Fresh Location is recalling Protein Snack Trays and Protein Trail Mixes because of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The affected product may have been delivered in the following states through convenience stores, micro-markets, hospitals, hotels and vending machines: Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana and Mississippi.

Click on image to view all product photos provided to the FDA.

The company recall says the snacks contain hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods. Almark has recalled its eggs because of listeria contamination  at its Gainesville, GA, facility. The recalled eggs are associated with a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak that includes several confirmed illnesses and one death.

The Almark egg facility has been confirmed to be contaminated with the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes that public health officials have found in patients involved in the multi-state outbreak.

Consumers can determine whether they have the recalled snacks by looking for the following label details:

  • Protein Snack Tray 6.44 oz total weight packaged in a 4-compartment plastic tray with UPC: 8-5511000804-6 and with Fresh by lot dates of: 12/21/19, 12/22/19, 12/24/19, 12/27/19, 12/28/19, 12/29/19, 12/31/19, 01/03/20, 01/04/20
  • Protein Trail Mix 3.52 oz total weight packaged in a 10.5 ounce plastic cup with UPC: 8-5511000813-8 and with Fresh by lot dates of: 12/23/19, 12/24/19, 12/26/19, 12/29/19, 12/30/19, 12/31/19, 01/02/20, 01/05/20, 01/06/20

Fresh Location has not received any reports of illness associated with its recalled snacks, according to the recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration website.

Consumers who purchased the recalled products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For any questions, consumers may contact Fresh Location at 865-717-6800.

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 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.

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

Union challenge to new swine inspections for market hogs might be dismissed

January 9, 2020 - 12:07am

A federal judge in St. Paul is scheduled, on Jan. 27, to consider the government’s motion to dismiss a last-ditch attempt to stop the modernization of swine inspection procedures.

Unions led by the United Food and Commercial Workers sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture Oct. 7, 2019, over the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Final Rule for Modernization of Swine Inspection. The UFCW and its local unions first sued over the issue about 25 years ago when FSIS began pilot programs for poultry and swine inspection reforms.

U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen has scheduled Jan. 27 to hear the motion filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys representing USDA. Ericksen is a former Minnesota Supreme Court judge who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush.

Ericksen is on “senior status,” meaning she remains active, but with a reduced caseload,

The DOJ has presented the judge with a 43-page motion for dismissal of UFCW v. USDA. The government attorneys argue that the union plaintiffs lack standing to sue and fail to state a claim for which there can be any relief.

“In the mid-1990s, the agency began implementing a pilot program designed to realign its inspection resources to steer its food safety mission to focus more on combatting foodborne pathogens not visible on carcasses, and to place additional onus on swine (as well as poultry) slaughter establishments to ensure that federal meat inspectors are presented with healthier animals for antemortem inspection and carcasses with fewer visible defects for inspection on evisceration lines,” the dismissal document says.

Attorneys for the unions are not going to be unprepared for the dismissal hearings.    They’ve filed a 53-page response opposing dismissal around their two main issues: line speeds and inspector numbers

The New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) became optional for market hog establishments in October 2019, and a pilot program, known as HIMP, spanned more than two decades.

It was 24 years ago that “FSIS launched an initiative designed to target its resources to address the public health risks associated with foodborne pathogens not detectable through traditional organoleptic inspection.”

“The agency first published (in 1996) a final rule requiring establishments to develop a system of preventive controls designed to ensure their products are safe, known as a hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) system,” the dismissal motion states.

It says the HACCP initiative marked a paradigm shift in FSIS’s approach to fulfilling its statutory responsibilities, placing greater onus on establishments to ensure product safety while allowing them the flexibility to determine the optimal way to comply with FSIS’s food safety program.

“The HIMP pilot was created to, among other things, correct the ‘major problem’ that “slaughter establishments have come to rely upon FSIS personnel to sort acceptable from unacceptable product” and “have no mandate or incentive to remove carcasses and parts before presentation for inspection,” it continues. “The HIMP pilot was created to, among other things, correct the “major problem” that “slaughter establishments have come to rely upon FSIS personnel to sort acceptable from unacceptable product” and “have no mandate or incentive to remove carcasses and parts prior to presentation for inspection.”

DOJ also points out that:

  • FSIS observed that the traditional inspection system thus resulted in “FSIS’ [s] resources [being used] inappropriately and inefficiently [to] . . . take on the industry’s responsibility for finding defects, identifying corrective actions, and solving production control problems.”
  • Moreover, as a result of this inefficient allocation of resources, the traditional inspection system did “not permit FSIS to allocate resources according to public health risk.”
  • The traditional system was designed when animal diseases detectable by the organoleptic inspection were more prevalent. Significant advances in disease control and the slaughtering of livestock at younger ages have since changed that.
  • Accordingly, the HIMP pilot systems were tested with the goal of improving food safety and inspection effectiveness, reducing the risk of foodborne illness, promoting industry innovation, and more efficiently utilizing FSIS resources.

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

USDA’s Salmonella standards for raw ground beef may change in 2020

January 9, 2020 - 12:05am

A performance standard is a metric that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service uses to evaluate the potential presence of pathogens on FSIS-regulated products, including meat and poultry. The Salmonella performance standards apply to an establishment’s overall process control, not to individual products.

Source: Federal Register

For poultry products, including broiler and turkey carcasses, chicken parts, and not ready-to-eat comminuted products, the FSIS uses a “moving window” approach. The results are used to determine whether or not an establishment meets the performance standard on a continuous basis. First, the FSIS evaluates samples taken within an initial 52-week period, which is not necessarily a calendar year. Then, every week, the 52-week period “moves up” one week, adding a new week’s testing result and removing the oldest week’s results.

Source: Federal Register

A test is considered positive when any Salmonella organisms are found. Federal law allows establishments to have a maximum of 9.8 percent of Salmonella-positive broiler carcass samples, 7.1 percent of turkey carcass samples, 25.0 percent of comminuted chicken samples, 13.5 percent of comminuted turkey samples, and 15.4 percent of chicken parts before they fail to meet the performance standards.

For raw ground beef products, the FSIS uses a vastly different approach. Under the existing sampling program, FSIS determines whether establishments meet the Salmonella standard by testing randomly selected product samples using a risk-based, three-category establishment classification system. The maximum number of Salmonella-positive samples allowed for ground beef is 5 of 53,  or 7.5 percent.

However, some beef performance standards may change soon.

On Oct. 28, 2019, the FSIS published a notice in the Federal Register detailing proposed changes to the Salmonella performance standards for raw ground beef and beef manufacturing trimmings, the primary component of raw ground beef. Specifically, the FSIS seeks to:

  • implement a 52-week “moving window” approach; and
  • collect and analyze at least 48 samples per year for each establishment producing greater than 50,000 pounds of ground beef or beef manufacturing trimmings per day.

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

Hundreds ill in France after eating contaminated raw shellfish

January 9, 2020 - 12:03am

More than 650 people have fallen ill in France this past month after eating contaminated raw shellfish.

Since the start of December 2019, Santé publique France has received 123 reports of collective food poisoning suspected to be linked to consumption of raw shellfish, mainly oysters.

The majority, 87 of the 123 alerts, occurred from Dec. 23, 2019, and forward. A peak of illnesses hit from December 25 to 27.

A total of 668 people were sick and 17 needed hospital treatment. Most are more than 15 years old. Of the 415 patients with age information available, 15 were younger than 15.

Much higher than recent years
Symptoms, mainly diarrhea and vomiting, as well as incubation times, are consistent with norovirus or other enteric virus infections. Stool tests have confirmed the presence of these viruses. Symptoms of norovirus appear one to two days after being infected and typically last for two or three days.

The number of notifications linked to consumption of raw shellfish in 2019 is significantly higher than previous years. Each year between 25 and 120 alerts caused by eating shellfish are reported to Santé publique France, of which between three and 22 occurring in December.

French authorities are investigating to traceback contaminated items to production areas and tests are carried out on 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 until further notice because of norovirus. Those areas are “Baie du Mont Saint-Michel rivage” and “Zone conchylicole d’Hirel.”

Auchan and Casino, supermarket chains in France, have informed consumers of recalls this past week because of possible norovirus in products from companies including Cultimer France, La Vivière, Thaëron, Mytilimer Production and Les Viviers de Saint Colomban et Keroma. Another supermarket, Carrefour, has also issued related recalls involving firms such as Huitres Henry and Fine de Cancale.

Other countries affected

Mussels recalled from Migros

A variety of shellfish from France have also been recalled in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland due to norovirus.

In Switzerland, Coop has recalled fresh oysters called “Bretagne Creuses speciale” that were sold beginning Dec. 30. Affected products have been removed from sale and consumers are advised to take them back to the store for a refund.

Migros recalled mussels called “Moules de Bouchot de la Baie du Mont Saint Michel” as they came from the Baie du Mont Saint-Michel in France where norovirus has been detected. Only the Migros store in Geneva was involved.

All dates of the product, which comes in 1.4-kilogram packs with article number 2514.227.300.00 and 700-gram packs with article number 2514.227.200.00, are affected.

In Luxembourg, Auchan sold oysters and mussels from an affected French region from the company’s Mytilimer and Cultimer. Cora also sold mussels and oysters from one of the affected harvesting areas. Follow this link for affected product names, dates and codes.

In Belgium, Match has recalled “Moules de Bouchot de la Baie du Mont Saint Michel” branded Mytilea and sold in 1.4-kilogram packs from stores in Braine L’Alleud, Fleurus and Grez Doiceau. This product has also been recalled by Cora as it was distributed to stores in La Louvière.

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

Survey finds rise in food safety concern from public in United Kingdom

January 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Consumers in the United Kingdom are increasingly concerned about food safety, according to a survey recently published.

The report, from Lloyd’s Register, was compiled from online research of 1,000 U.K. consumers in August 2019.

Almost a third of shoppers — 31 percent — said they are more concerned about the safety of their food compared to a year ago. Below 10 percent said they were less concerned. However, almost 60 percent said their level of concern is the same compared to one year ago.

A survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2019 found public concern about food safety in the U.K. had declined. Other research from YouGov commissioned by the Red Tractor Food Assurance Scheme revealed eight out of 10 adults take food safety for granted.

Food contamination biggest concern
The survey by Lloyd’s Register revealed that the food companies could do more to reassure consumers that their safety is a high priority. Lloyd’s also questioned the role of the media and their handling of food safety news.

Consumers are worried about bacteria in the supply chain, with 57.1 percent saying their biggest concern is food contamination, such as Listeria or Salmonella, followed by sugar, dairy or fat content  at 22.3 percent, and foreign objects such as metal or plastic in foods at 11.4 percent.

Food safety scares and concerns are playing a role in changing the modern shopper’s behaviour but most people do not modify shopping or consumption habits, according to results from the survey.

Nearly one in five U.K. consumers admitted to having changed their food shopping or consumption habits in the past 12 months for food safety reasons meaning 80 percent did not.

Hygiene and standards
Food hygiene was only the most important priority when purchasing food for 13.6 percent of people surveyed, behind nutrition and price but ahead of food waste.

More than one in three consumers believe food standards will deteriorate in post-Brexit Britain, while 43.9 percent think there will be no change and 20 percent said they will improve once the U.K. leaves the European Union.

One in five U.K. consumers said they were “not confident at all” or “very suspicious” about claims that vegan products do not contain meat.

More than one quarter of respondents said they are “not confident at all” that food products labelled as organic are grown or reared using organic farming methods.

A total of 71 percent expect retailers or restaurant operators to know the ingredients of every product sold or served to customers.

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

Lipari recalls two brands of sandwiches in 11 states because of Listeria findings

January 8, 2020 - 12:09pm

Positive test results for Listeria in a supplier’s production plant have spurred Lipari Foods to recall certain sandwiches distributed to foodservice operators and retail stores.

“This was brought to our attention by JLM Manufacturing after environmental sampling returned a positive test result for Listeria monocytogenes. Lipari Foods began shipping this product on Dec. 31, 2019,” according to the company’s recall notice posted by the Food and Drug Administration.

There is concern that consumers may have unused sandwiches in their homes because the best-by dates on the packages run through Jan. 23. No illnesses had been confirmed in relation to the implicated sandwiches as of the posting of the recall notice.

Lipari, based in Warren, MI, reports exclusively distributing the “wedge sandwiches” throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Consumers who have purchased these recalled products should not consume them. Consumers should discard the products or return them to the point of purchase,” according to the company’s recall notice.

Anyone with questions should call Lipari at 800- 729-3354.

Consumers can determine whether they have the recalled sandwiches by looking for the following label information. To view photos of the full product labels, please click here.

Brand Product Lipari # Size Best By Lot # UPC Premo Wedge Ham
& Cheese On Wheat 915509 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2001 Premo Wedge Egg Salad
On Wheat 915523 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2025 Premo Wedge Chicken Salad
On Wheat 915530 5 oz. 1/20/2020 31201912 61251000
2032 Premo Wedge Tuna Salad
On Wheat 915579 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2049 Fresh Grab Wedge Ham/American
On Wheat 252646 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2001 Fresh Grab Wedge Egg Salad
On Wheat 252901 5 oz. 1/20/2020, 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2025 Fresh Grab Wedge Chicken Salad
On Wheat 253377 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2032 Fresh Grab Wedge Tuna Salad
On Wheat 282022 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2049 Fresh Grab Wedge Turkey
No Cheese On Wheat 253445 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251000
2100 Fresh Grab Wedge Ham/American
On White 253479 5 oz. 1/23/2020 31201912 61251009
3962

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.

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

Letter From The Editor: Counting Cows

January 8, 2020 - 12:05am
Opinion

Tax season isn’t so far off, so it’s only a little early to get out my yellowed Canon 10-key calculator with tape. I usually only roll it out for taxes, but Bill Bullard sent my head spinning about beef imports.

Bullard, whom I truly want to meet in person someday, managed recently to make beef imports look large by comparing them to production from U.S. states.  That’s sort of like looking at them in your rearview mirror — objects appear larger than reality.

But he is right, of course. Only Texas with more than 12. 6 million head of cattle tops the 6.8 million head controlled by importers. And he rightly tallies up the value of imported beef at $4.1 billion, second only in the agricultural sector to imported malt beverages at $3.7 billion.

But lone states are not national markets. Texas plus the 49 other states plus imports add up to something like 102,368 million head, and imports amount to only 6.7 percent. How much of that is Kobe beef or in-demand sustainable products or “tasty European veal” is represented in that number?  Does Bullard not think that we, loyal consumers of U.S. beef, might not want on a special occasion some Dutch veal and French wine or Kobe beef and sake? It’s not like Americans are not buying records of amounts of beef.

And this counting cows in pens is not as meaningful as the fact that the export value of beef and beef variety meat exports two years reached a record of $7.27 billion.  In other words, we are running a sizeable surplus in this sector and not giving up much of our massive domestic market.

Bullard ‘s Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, exclusively represents U.S cattle producers, but do the R-CALF cattle people truly expect 100 percent of their market should be protected?

Bullard pointed to the state production figures in USDA’s recent reapportionment of positions on the Beef Checkoff Program’s Cattlemen’s Board.  That exercise was based on herd sizes in 2018.

“The proposed rule reveals that importers control more cattle inventories than any state in the United States expect Texas,” Bullard wrote. So? If that’s important, tell us why. He says cattle-beef imports are large, but why wouldn’t they be.

Americans are buying foreign beef in single-digit percentages, including some sought-after specialty products. The reason U.S. consumers purchase domestic beef 93 percent of the time is likely because of the confidence they have in the product.

If American beef implemented a program where it could prove its origin with 100 percent certainty no matter what the government did with the country of origin labeling, consumers would likely become even more confident. European veal has accomplished that task. Why not American beef?

We don’t doubt R-CALF is trying to improve a lot of farmers and ranchers, but we sometimes wonder if the organization and its leadership think branding provides 21st-century traceability and food safety.

The U.S. meat and produce industries damn well better start getting as serious as the Europeans are about traceability.  Too many food safety investigations in the U.S. are ending short of finding a source.  And recalls in the U.S. are frequently too large or too vague to be useful to consumers.

We have to admit,  we were impressed by how the European veal system can recall a specific box of product that it knows came from a specific animal and sent to a specific store in a specific country.   Bullard’s beef producers should equally focus on a  food safety agenda, including traceability built on some technology.

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

Australian Salmonella outbreak grows; bush fires threaten food safety

January 8, 2020 - 12:03am

Nearly 90 people are part of a Salmonella outbreak across Australia after eating a particular brand of frozen microwave meals.

A total of 84 people in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) reported eating Core Powerfoods products before becoming sick.

The number of people ill in the Salmonella Weltevreden outbreak previously stood at 46.

Core Ingredients issued a recall in October. Products were available for sale at IGAs and Coles stores nationally, independent retailers in NSW, ACT, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and some Woolworths metro stores in Victoria.

Ongoing investigation
Affected varieties of Core Powerfoods frozen meals are the 310- or 350-gram pack sizes with best-before dates from March 5, 2020, to Oct. 4, 2020. Products include Going Nuts, Deep South Chili, Muay Thai Meatballs, Holy Meatballs, Naked Chicken, Seismic Chicken, Old School and Smokey Mountain Meatballs.

Going Nuts includes crunchy satay chicken with rice and green beans, Deep South Chili has American-style beef and chili with rice and green beans, Muay Thai Meatballs is chicken meatballs with Thai curry sauce, rice and green beans while Holy Meatballs is lean beef meatballs with tomato sauce and wholemeal penne.

Naked Chicken has chicken tenderloin with green beans and broccoli, Seismic Chicken includes honey sesame chicken with broccoli and green beans, Old School is Portuguese-style chicken with sweet potato and green beans and Smokey Mountain Meatballs is hickory smoked meatballs with rice and green beans.

The cause of contamination is unknown and an investigation is ongoing, according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The agency urged consumers who have purchased these meals to check their freezers and throw products away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

Salmonella will not grow in frozen meals, however it can survive the freezing temperature. If food is thawed incorrectly such as at room temperature, it will have an opportunity to grow, and if it is not heated thoroughly at above 75 degrees C (167 degrees F), the bacteria will not be killed.

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.

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

Illustration

Food safety advice during bush fires
Meanwhile, the Food Safety Information Council has issued advice for consumers about bush fires and power outages. Australia has been hit by an early and extreme bush fire season because of high temperatures and drought with at least 25 people and millions of animals thought to have died.

Lydia Buchtmann, FSIC communication director, said the council has been coping with consumer enquiries about what to do with food during the emergency.

“One of the dangers of a fire can be toxic fumes from burning materials. Chemicals used to fight the fire can also contain toxic materials. The heat from a fire can cause bacteria in food to multiply,” she said.

“If your power has gone out your food will remain safe in your refrigerator for two hours. If it has been more than four hours, throw the food out. The best option is to keep the refrigerated foods as cold as possible by not opening the door unless necessary to remove food to eat or check the temperature after two hours or place items in the freezer.

“Also remember to throw out food that was being cooked when the power failed if cooking cannot be completed properly within two hours. If food is already properly cooked, eat it within two hours or throw it out.”

For key food safety points after a fire and other advice from FSIC follow this link and from FSANZ click here

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

Six Seattle area food establishments remain closed from 2019

January 8, 2020 - 12:01am

Six food oerations shut down in 2019 in the Seattle area by Public Health remain closed in 2020. The six include two grocery stores, a restaurant, a mobile food truck, an unapproved food stand, and an unlicensed vendor operating out of a personal car.

Seattle-King County Public health has already closed one restaurant in 2020. The Rider, at 619 Pine St. in Seattle, was ordered to shut its doors at 7:05 p.m., Jan. 3. The inspector found the Rider lacked proper handwashing, and workers were making bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.

Also, raw meat storage, cooling, and cold-holding of foods were al improper. The Rider re-opened three days later at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 6.

Public health inspectors in King County order immediate food establishments closures if they observe any of the following:

  • A high score on the routine inspection
  • Sewage backing up in the kitchen or bathroom
  • No hot water/running water
  • Electricity goes out
  • Other imminent health hazards such as broken refrigeration, damage caused by accidents or natural disasters, or when an establishment is linked to a foodborne illness outbreak
  • Other: No permit to be operating (The license assures that they have met all of the structural and equipment requirements for the menu items they are going to serve); or the owner/manager interferes with the inspector’s ability to do her/his duties

Public Health uses inspections and education to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

The food establishments that remain closed from 2019 include:

  • Clock Restaurant at 8319 Wabash Ave. S in Seattle. It was closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 24 for failure to renew an operating permit and for operating a food establishment without a valid license.
  • Unapproved food stand found operating in Enumclaw, WA, was closed at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 4 for operating with a permit, serving food from an unapproved source, and operating without handwashing facilities.
  • Champion Grocery, 1175 NW Gilman Blvd., Suite 2, in Issaquah, WA. It was shut down at noon, Nov. 14, for operating without approved plans and permits.
  • An unlicensed vendor was selling food out of a personal car with a valid permit at a construction site at 17211 15th Ave. N.E., in Shoreline, WA. The vendor was shut down at noon, Nov. 13.
  • Boise Creek Grocery, 46918 244th Ave S.E., Enumclaw, WA, was closed on Nov. 13 at 10:10 a.m. for operating without a valid permit.
  • A mobile food truck doing business as Tacos El Guero was closed down at 11:50 a.m. on May 31 for operating a mobile food unit without a valid permit. The truck put out of business is for the vehicle with license plate C39468D.

Tacos El Guero has another mobile food unit that is legally operating in King County.

Seattle-King County’s Public Health is one of the largest metropolitan health departments in the United States.  With 1,400 employees, 40 sites, and a biennial budget of $686 million, Public Health serves a resident population of 2.2 million people.  Over 100 languages are spoken in the area, which also welcomes 40 million visitors annually.

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

Colorado county reports first foodborne botulism death in more than decade

January 7, 2020 - 12:06am

Foodborne botulism is rare but potentially deadly.

The death of an El Paso County, CO, woman who died the this past Sept.20 has since been officially blamed on foodborne botulism, the first death of its kind in a decade.

Cardiovascular disease and diabetes contributed to death, according to the autopsy report. Were it not for botulism, however, the 80-year-old woman could still be alive.

The source of the botulism was previously frozen potatoes stored at room temperature for two weeks. After eating the pre-prepared potatoes, the woman developed trouble breathing; her eyes bulged, her speech slowed, and her muscles became weakened.

The woman’s botulism death was the first in El Paso County since 2008.

Botulism toxins cause vertigo, blurred vision, and difficulties swallowing and can lead to paralysis and labor breathing. Low-acid produce, especially potatoes, may contain botulism spores.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), home-canned vegetables are the most common cause of botulism outbreaks in the United States.

From 1996 to 2014, there were 210 outbreaks of foodborne botulism reported to the CDC. Of the 145 outbreaks that were caused by home-prepared foods, 43 outbreaks, or 30 percent were from home-canned vegetables. These outbreaks often occurred because home canners did not follow canning instructions, did not use pressure canners, ignored signs of food spoilage, or didn’t know they could get botulism from improperly preserving vegetables.

The five main kinds of botulism, according to CDC,  are:

  • Foodborne botulism can happen by eating foods that have been contaminated with botulinum toxin. Common sources of foodborne botulism are homemade foods that have been improperly canned, preserved, or fermented. Though uncommon, store-bought foods also can be contaminated with botulinum toxin.
  • Wound botulism can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into a wound and make a toxin. People who inject drugs have a greater chance of getting wound botulism. Wound botulism has also occurred in people after a traumatic injury, such as a motorcycle accident, or surgery.
  • Infant botulism can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into an infant’s intestines. The spores grow and produce the toxin which causes illness.
  • Adult intestinal toxemia (also known as adult intestinal colonization) botulism is a very rare kind of botulism that can happen if the spores of the bacteria get into an adult’s intestines, grow, and produce the toxin (similar to infant botulism). Although we don’t know why people get this kind of botulism, people who have serious health conditions that affect the gut may be more likely to get sick.
  • Iatrogenic botulism can happen if too much botulinum toxin is injected for cosmetic reasons, such as for wrinkles, or medical reasons, such as for migraine headaches.

All kinds of botulism can be fatal and are medical emergencies. CDC  says anyone with symptoms of botulism, should see a  doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

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

Administrators promise new attention to ag water amid romaine outbreaks

January 7, 2020 - 12:04am
Opinion

Fresh produce plays an important part of an overall healthy diet. While millions of servings of fresh produce are consumed safely every day, recent outbreaks of foodborne illness have once again placed produce safety in the spotlight. We must continue to build upon and implement the science- and risk-based controls envisioned by Congress through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), including those set forth in the Produce Safety Rule.

Last year was the first in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and our state regulatory counterparts began conducting routine inspections of large farms for this rule established by FSMA. (In general, we’re not addressing sprouts operations here, which have additional requirements and earlier compliance dates.) Leading up to 2019, the agency has collaborated with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and our state partners to help prepare farmers to comply with the rule. We have also supported states in the development of their own produce safety programs.

The recent produce outbreaks show that we must remain laser-focused on prevention to help bend the curve of foodborne illness. We remain committed to doing everything we can to prevent outbreaks, working with fellow regulators and the food industry to identify and address causes and keep consumers aware of potential risks.

And, we are making progress in realizing the promises of FSMA with our implementation of the produce safety standards under the rule.

Inspections of Farms, Large and Small

The FDA and our state regulatory partners are completing the first year of routine inspections of large farms covered by the Produce Safety Rule. The states, which are conducting the lion’s share of this work domestically, have conducted almost 1,000 farm inspections under a cooperative agreement with FDA. The agency conducted 183 domestic and foreign produce inspections in 2019. The first routine inspections of small farms are set to begin later this month.

Staying true to our “educate before and while we regulate” philosophy, FDA has focused on education, training and outreach to farms. This outreach includes about 1,400 On-Farm Rediness Reviews that NASDA developed in collaboration with the FDA and state and extension partners to help daters assess how ready they are to comply with the rule.

The FDA also established the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program (CAP), which has helped establish state and territorial produce safety programs. This past year the agency awarded $27.1 million to 47 states and American Samoa, with a total of $112.3 million in CAP grants awarded over the past four years. This funding is being used to conduct inspections, as well as to support education, outreach, and technical assistance activities.

We also renewed our commitment to work with NASDA, which is partnering with Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO)External Link Disclaimer, in using $1.3 million in FDA funding to further support the development and maintenance of strong produce safety programs in states and territories.

The FDA will continue to work with our state regulatory partners to maintain consistency in how we do inspections and how we follow up with farms if any observations are made.

Advancing Agricultural Water Standards

One of the particular challenges we’ve faced with the Produce Safety Rule is ensuring that our standards for agricultural water are protective of public health and workable for farms of all kinds and sizes. After we finalized the rule, we heard from the produce community that some of the requirements were too complex, costly, and unworkable, and we determined that we should, based on these and other comments, consider other approaches to address the agricultural water requirements.

We extended the compliance dates for certain agricultural water requirements for covered produce other than sprouts while we are reviewing emerging science and perspectives from experts and stakeholders. FDA produce safety experts have participated in more than 200 educational farm tours, many of which were specifically conducted to observe diverse operations as they relate to the use of agricultural water.

FDA experts are now working on a rulemaking to propose an approach that offers flexibility and addresses the practical challenges of implementing some of the agricultural water requirements across the diversity in farm types, water sources, and water uses. We hope to issue proposed revisions to those agricultural water requirements in 2020.

In the meantime, we continue to stress to growers  the importance of using good agricultural practices (GAPs) for agricultural water. For example, the FDA’s GAPs guidance recommends that growers assess their water quality, considering their water sources and distribution systems, practices, and conditions, as well as land uses, to identify potential sources of contamination and apply controls to minimize microbial food safety hazards.

To facilitate another resource for farmers, and to advance the science around agricultural water, the FDA is also working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a testing  protocol for evaluating the efficacy of antimicrobial products for use in treating agricultural water.

Imported Produce – Same Safety Standards as Domestically Produced

We are committed to ensuring that foods imported from other countries are held to the same standards as food produced domestically. In February 2019, we released the “FDA Strategy for the Safety of Imported Foods,” describing our comprehensive approach to imported food safety.

Part of our strategy is that we intend to help ensure that farmers in other countries who export to the U.S. have access to resources that include training and On-Farm Readiness Reviews.

We also have the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) rule under FSMA, which requires importers to ensure that their suppliers are meeting U.S. food safety standards. Routine FSVP inspections of produce importers began in the fall.

The FDA has enforcement tools and we will act when there is a public health risk, no matter where in the world the food is imported from. For example, a warning letter was issued in August 2019 to the distributor of papaya imported from Mexico that was tied to an outbreak of Salmonella Uganda. Citing significant violations, the FDA raised the possibility of debarment to prohibit the importer from bringing foods into the U.S. for up to five years.

Micro Testing to Advance Prevention Strategy

Surveillance sampling is an important part of our public health mission, particularly considering how FSMA has shifted our focus as an agency to preventing foodborne illness. We have two ongoing microbiological surveillance sampling assignments in fresh herbs and frozen berries, types of produce that have been associated with past outbreaks of foodborne illness. Further, the FDA completed the microbiological surveillance sampling of processed avocados and guacamoles and will publish a final summary of its findings in 2020.

The FDA is conducting a focused assignment to test samples of romaine lettuce grown in the Central Coast, Central Valley, and Imperial Valley in California and in Yuma, Arizona for pathogenic E.coli and Salmonella. This assignment follows multiple outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with romaine lettuce over the past two years. This also follows testing that the FDA conducted last summer in which samples of romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma region were collected from commercial coolers and cold storage facilities. No pathogenic bacteria were found in the testing.

Across all of these assignments, thousands of samples have and will be tested for pathogens. While most of the samples have been free of pathogens, there have been a small number of pathogens found. The FDA’s response has included voluntary recalls and import alerts, in addition to investigating the cause of the contamination.

The Path Forward for Produce Safety

Our commitment to advancing produce safety is unwavering. We will continue to work closely with our state regulatory partners to help ensure that farms understand the requirements for produce safety and to provide consistency across programs. The agency intends to advance agricultural water standards that are feasible for the people who must meet them and protect public health. And, as we move into 2020, we will reach another critical implementation milestone – the initiation of routine inspections for small farms.

We know that getting this right is paramount – and remain committed to working together to bend the curve of foodborne illness.

The co-authors from the Food and Drug Administration: Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, and Judy McMeekin, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

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

Experts present on foodborne chemical and toxin burden

January 7, 2020 - 12:03am

Researchers have presented updated data on the global disease burden caused by foodborne chemicals and toxins.

The data were discussed at a symposia in Arlington, VA, at the annual meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis. This past month last the society updated a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) publication that analyzed disease burdens caused by certain toxins.

Clark Carrington gave a talk on foodborne lead and contributions to decreased IQ in children. Dr. Chen Chen spoke about cassava cyanide, which is primarily a problem in Central Africa. Dr. Aron Barchowsky presented on foodborne arsenic and its impact on cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The global burden of disease from foodborne arsenic, lead, cadmium, and methylmercury was quantified and a summary paper published in 2019.

Methylmercury exposure from fish
Herman Gibb, of Gibb Epidemiology Consulting, found that in 2015, foodborne arsenic, methylmercury, lead and cadmium resulted in more than 1 million illnesses, 56,000 deaths and 9 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide.

“There have been a lot of papers on methylmercury. It has become even more of an issue because of small scale gold miners using mercury to mix with the gold, it forms an amalgam, they take that back to their house and heat it on their stove which drives the mercury off and leaves the gold,” he told Food Safety News.

“It is a common practice in West Africa, South America and Asia. But then that mercury deposits in the waterways and the fish take it up and people consume the fish. Methylmercury crosses the blood brain barrier so it is very toxic to a developing fetus.”

Gibb said guidance levels exist but there isn’t a benchmark to say whether the situation is getting better or worse.

“The way it has been measured in humans is the methylmercury concentrates in hair so by measuring the hair you can measure the mercury intake. The relationship with IQ is based on blood mercury but it is harder to take blood samples. It is a global problem but some regions are impacted more,” he said.

Long-term impact
When the WHO work began, experts were associated with studies on bacteria, viruses and parasites but not many had knowledge of chemicals, said Gibb.

“It is a little bit harder to look at this as you see romaine lettuce contaminated with E. coli, people are worried about that, but you can say don’t buy it and when you go to a restaurant make sure they are not using romaine lettuce,” he said.

“Often with chemicals the effect takes a long time to develop, with arsenic you are not going to get ill tomorrow whereas with E. coli contaminated food you could. The number of DALYs is just as high if not higher for the chemicals. Part of that is because with methylmercury and lead the effect begins at an early age until death. Arsenic is associated with bladder and lung cancer and cadmium with chronic kidney disease.

“Eating food contaminated with Salmonella might make you sick for a week but usually you get over it. Trying to estimate the risk for chemicals can be harder as we are doing more of a dose response function as some effects don’t appear for some time.”

Gibb said the advice to people regarding methylmercury is not to avoid fish altogether.

“There are certain kinds of fish that have more methylmercury than others. These are usually the predator and bigger fish so swordfish and shark while trout and sardines are fairly low in methylmercury. You can watch what kind of fish you eat and limit intake so you are not eating fish every day. There are things that are beneficial. If you say don’t eat fish women are denying themselves omega-3 fatty acids and other helpful things.”

Many other chemicals in food could be examined, according to Gibb.

“We could look at aristolochic acid which is found in grain in the Balkans, people were developing cancer and nobody knew why and then they discovered it was aristolochic acid. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded it was a known human carcinogen. Fish toxins would be another I would look at. The ones we tackled are where we thought the data were sufficient to make global and regional estimates. We would have done more if we had more resources.”

Aflatoxin burden
Felicia Wu, from Michigan State University, found that up to 155,000 annual liver cancer cases globally are caused by aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin produced by mold that grows on corn and nuts, including peanuts and tree nuts such as almonds and pistachios.

For more than a decade, WHO has had the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG). Wu was a FERG member, while Gibb, Carrington, Barchowsky and Chen joined later.

“The group of us were tasked to estimate the global burden of disease associated with chemicals and toxins in the food supply. At least in the U.S., they usually get less attention than foodborne disease outbreaks associated with Salmonella or E. coli, and yet these chemicals and toxins cause an enormous burden of disease and these can range from cancer, dysfunction of the immune system to cognitive impairment and cardiovascular diseases,” she told Food Safety News.

Scientists are learning that aflatoxin harms humans’ immune systems which can result in a impaired responses to infections. Studies seem to imply vaccine resistance. If exposed to a lot of aflatoxin in the diet and vaccinated against a particular disease, it is possible aflatoxin could reduce vaccine efficacy but this has not been confirmed. Wu’s research group has been studying the link between aflatoxin and disruption of the immune system with most of the work in 2019.

Wu said people are exposed to aflatoxin by consuming corn and peanuts as staples in the diet, typically in warmer climates.

“There hasn’t been enough attention in the past to see how the toxin increases the susceptibility of humans, especially children, to infectious diseases. Right now the primary cause of death in children under the age of five, aside from neo-natal reasons, is infectious diseases. Children whose immune systems are not fully developed cannot adequately deal with these infectious diseases and the mortality rates are very high,” she said.

“What I was interested in contributing to this conversation is they are also being exposed to a lot of aflatoxin and it may well be the case that if we are more careful about reducing or eliminating aflatoxin in their diets, that can bolster their immune systems to fight these infectious diseases and there could be a lower mortality rate.”

Food storage and climate issues
Wu was involved in a recently published a paper where samples of corn were taken from different households in southwest Nigeria.

“We found corn we sampled when it had just been freshly harvested could meet the U.S. FDA’s aflatoxin action levels, as they were quite low. But once that corn has been stored in warm and moist conditions for several months then the aflatoxin levels keep on climbing to extremely high levels. The reason for that is the fungi that produce aflatoxin thrive in storage and warm and moist conditions are typically associated with mold growth,” she said.

“There is a level of top down control with regulation or a food safety standard. However, there are bottom up interventions that can help reduce aflatoxin in the corn and nuts to begin with. These include things farmers can do in the field and improved food storage conditions.”

It is likely climate change is going to make aflatoxin problems worse as the suitable range for aspergillus fungi to grow, thrive and produce aflatoxin is going to spread further north and south, said Wu.

“In the U.S. a lot of the states where we are producing the most corn are further north, they don’t regularly have aflatoxin problems. If the climate continues to warm then we may see the spread of aflatoxin problems to those producers in the corn-belt.”

The link between aflatoxin and liver cancer has been known for close to 60 years but the study of the impact on the immune system is relatively new. Wu said it could turn out that aflatoxin affects human’s response to Salmonella or vice-versa with future interesting work looking at the combination of dietary toxins and microbes to see if there are any synergistic effects.

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

Consumer Reports taps former USDA food safety official to direct food policy

January 7, 2020 - 12:01am

Consumer Reports Monday announced the appointment of former USDA deputy undersecretary Brian Ronholm as director of food policy for the 80-year old non-profit organization.

“Mr. Ronholm will lead Consumer Reports’ advocacy efforts to advance a safe and healthy food system. He will be based in CR’s Washington D.C. office,” according to the announcement. “Brian brings deep legislative and regulatory experience in food policy to CR.  As deputy under secretary, food safety, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), he provided leadership, management, and oversight of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the public health agency with more than 9,000 employees responsible for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry, catfish and processed egg products”

Brian Ronholm

01Ronholm was named by President Barack Obama to serve a deputy undersecretary to  Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, the last person confirmed by the U.S. Senate as USDA’s undersecretary for food safety.    Hagen left the government in December 2013 and Obama did not name a replacement. Instead, he named former FSIS AdminsitratorAl Almanza to serve with Ronholm, also with the title of deputy undersecretary for food safety.

Ronholm and Almanza led USDA food safety until replaced by appointments made byPresident Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.

Ronholm joined the Obama administration from the congressional office of U.S.Rep. Rosa DeLaura, D-CT,  where he was the agriculture appropriations associate who coordinated food and nutrition programs and funding.

David Friedman, vice president of advocacy for Consumer Reports, said, “We’re excited to welcome Brian to CR. His experience and commitment to making our food system work for consumers will be instrumental in our efforts to build a better marketplace.  People should be able to shop for food with confidence, knowing the products we buy and the systems used to produce them are safe and healthy, and Brian is an ideal leader to drive this critical work at CR.”

 Ronholm said he “is thrilled to be joining Consumer Reports, which has an extraordinary history of science-based advocacy on food issues, and an outstanding reputation as a trusted resource for consumers, policymakers, and industry.  By combining the voices of consumers with the power of CR’s research and testing, we will work for a food system that puts the health and safety of families first. We must work together to reduce foodborne illness rates, ensure that our food systems are safe and transparent and that consumers are informed when making the best choices for themselves and their families.  I’m proud to be joining this team to enhance this legacy and help empower a new generation of consumers.”

Prior to joining CR, Brian most recently served as Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati, and he served in the same senior position at Arent Fox LLP.

Ronholm served at USDA from 2011 to 2017. In addition to overseeing FSIS, he chaired the U.S. Codex Policy Steering Committee, an interagency partnership that engages stakeholders in the advancement of science-based international food safety standards to facilitate fair trade, and served as Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), which provides impartial scientific advice to federal agencies for use in developing integrated food safety systems.

As Agriculture Appropriations Associate for Rep. DeLauro from 2006 to 2011, he managed issues related to the House Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee during Rep. DeLauro’s tenure as chair of the subcommittee.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization and consumer’s voice.  It has won protections for safe food and water.  CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. It does not accept advertising or other “commercial influences.”    

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

Salmonella Dublin outbreak ended in 2019; but 3 other active investigations carried over to 2020

January 6, 2020 - 3:35am

A deadly salmonella outbreak from last year ended before 2019 expired, but three other multistate foodborne illness Investigations involving Listeria and E. coli O157: H7 remain open into 2020

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, which is responsible for investigating multistate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, closed the salmonella outbreak investigation.

A Dec. 30 CDC report said the outbreak involving contaminated ground beef “appears to be over. It ended with a tally of 13 illnesses in eight states and included nine hospitalizations and one death.

During the outbreak investigation, the CDC warned the public not to eat Stater Bros Ground Beef.

The outbreak was associated with the Nov. 15, 2019 recall of 34,222 pounds of ground beef by Hanford, CA-based Central Valley Meat Co., it may be contaminated with Salmonella Dublin.

The recalled beef, produced on July 23, 2019, was shipped to retail locations in California and labeled as the Stater Bros brand and establishment No. “EST. 6063A”

The epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence all pointed to the contaminated ground beef as the source of the Salmonella Dublin outbreak. However, a single common supplier of ground beef accounting for all of the illnesses could not be identified.

Illnesses in the outbreak were experienced from Aug.8, 2019 to Oct. 22, 2019. The ill people ranged in age from 39 to 74 years of age, with a median age of 66. One death in California resulted from the outbreak.

An outbreak of Listeria infections linked to hard-boiled eggs tops the list of open multistate investigations that continue in 2020. Also responsible for one death, the outbreak count includes seven Listeria cases in five states with four hospitalizations.

Almark Foods has recalled all its hard-boiled egg production at its Gainesville, GA facility for potential Listeria contamination. The recalled eggs were sold to foodservice and retail outlets under more than 30 brand names.

Almark’s business customers who’ve bought and recalled the products on their own include Bakkavor Foods, Diebergs Kitchen, Reichel Foods, and Great American Deli.

The two E. coli O157: H7 outbreaks that remain open in 2020 both likely involve romaine lettuce, making it the four consecutive years that romaine and E. coli have been like “gum on the shoe” problem for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eight E. coli cases in three states with three hospitalizations are blamed on Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp Chopped Salad Kits. The recalled Fresh Express bagged salads had UPC 0 71279 30906 and began with lot code Z, and best-before date 07DEC19 were recalled.

Romaine was one of the ingredients in the Fresh Express salad kits, but CDC has not determined if its the same product involved in the larger open outbreak.

The E. coli outbreak involving romaine from the Salinas growing area of California sickened 138 people in 25 states before 2019 ended. It had sent 72 to hospitals but fortunately has not killed anyone yet.

CCD has warned consumers to eat any romaine grown in the Salinas, CA area. If consumers cannot determine where romaine was grown, they also should not eat it.

Shiga toxin-producing E.  coli typically causes stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting over 5 to 7 days. However, it can also cause kidney failure known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS.

The current outbreak is caused by the same strain of E. coli O157: H7 that caused the outbreaks linked to leafy greens since 2017.

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

Pages