From the duh files: should food workers be vaccinated against Hepatitis A?

JoNel Aleccia of NBC News writes the question of whether hepatitis A inoculations should be mandatory for food workers — or whether the cost to business isn’t worth the wider benefit — is gaining renewed attention from federal regulators, health officials and ordinary consumers amid a spate of new restaurant warnings.

hepatitis.AAs many as 17,000 people a year are sickened by hepatitis A, according to 2010 estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 95 people die. That’s only a fraction of the 48 million people in the U.S. who are sickened by food poisoning each year, but hepatitis A is the only foodborne bug for which an effective vaccine actually exists.

The hepatitis A virus causes acute liver infection that can trigger lingering illness and even liver failure or death, though that’s rare. It’s spread when a person ingests fecal material from an infected person and causes symptoms that include, fever, chills, nausea, dark-colored urine and jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or eyes.

In 2006, experts began recommending universal hepatitis A vaccines for kids starting at age 1, changing the pool of potential infections.

“There was a very rapid transition in the U.S. over the last half decade,” Murphy said. “We have this gap of adults who are not protected in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.”

In other words, the people most vulnerable to hepatitis A are those most likely to work — and eat — in restaurants.

Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety lawyer has lobbied for mandatory vaccination for food handlers since a hepatitis A outbreak tied to two Subway sandwich shops sickened 40 people in 1999.

“It was a horrible outbreak. We represented a bunch of people including a little boy who lost his liver at 8 years old and required a transplant,” he said.

But restaurant industry officials — and some health officials — note that such outbreaks and consequences, though regrettable, are rare.

How to have fewer people barfing from food? Inspections and government are only one tool

It’s an easy story for beleaguered journalists: a belligerent government versus a belligerent union, with both making wild claims about food safety.

Lost in the rhetoric is any concern about the people who eat – pretty much all of us – and the people who barf.

The union representing federal food inspectors says Canada’s food safety system is being pushed beyond its limits.

restaurant.inspectionSome $35-million and 192 inspectors are on the food safety program’s chopping block over the next two years, according to online documents posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The agency has also disbanded a team of inspectors dedicated to protecting consumers from food fraud throughout Metro Vancouver. The Consumer Protection Unit once boasted 11 inspectors, but that number dwindled to four due to attrition.

The federal health ministry referred questions to the CFIA, which responded to the union’s claims with a broad e-mail.

“The statements by the union are false. There have been no cuts to food safety. Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world,” it said.

The agency acknowledged there have been recent changes to how it handles the Vancouver area.

Time to change the discussion and the approach to safe food. Time to lose the religion: audits and inspections are never enough.

• Food safety audits and inspections are a key component of the nation’s food safety system and their use will expand in the future, for both domestic and imported foodstuffs., but recent failures can be emotionally, physically and financially devastating to the victims and the businesses involved;

• many outbreaks involve firms that have had their food production systems verified and received acceptable ratings from food safety auditors or government inspectors;

• while inspectors and auditors play an active role in overseeing compliance, the burden for food safety lies primarily with food producers;

• there are lots of limitations with audits and inspections, just like with restaurants inspections, but with an estimated 48 million sick each year in the U.S., the question should be, how best to improve food safety?

• audit reports are only useful if the purchaser or  food producer reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results;

• there appears to be a disconnect between what auditors provide (a snapshot) and what buyers believe they are doing (a full verification or certification of product and process);

• third-party audits are only one performance indicator and need to be supplemented with microbial testing, second-party audits of suppliers and the in-house capacity to meaningfully assess the results of audits and inspections;

• companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of foodborne illness should also blame themselves;

• assessing food-handling practices of staff through internal observations, externally-led evaluations, and audit and inspection results can provide indicators of a food safety culture; and,

• the use of audits to help create, improve, and maintain a genuine food safety culture holds the most promise in preventing foodborne illness and safeguarding public health.

 

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

EU vs. North America uses of risk analysis

Maybe this is why Europe is somewhat messed up over food.

The European Food Safety Authority says “the decision to separate the tasks of risk assessment and risk management just over a decade ago has transformed the safety of Europe’s food. And while there is wide recognition that this change has strengthened the safety of the food chain, riskman-cycleuncertainty can still exist over the difference in roles and responsibilities of risk assessors and risk managers. … Risk assessors provide independent scientific advice on potential threats in the food chain. Risk managers use this advice as a basis for making decisions to address these issues. At a European level, this separation of roles is fundamental and enshrined in law. It was introduced to make clear the distinction between science and politics; to place independent science-based assessment at the heart of policy making.”

Maybe there’s “wide recognition” in Europe, but in the U.S. and Canada risk assessment, management and communication are recognized as interdependent roles, forming the overall risk analysis approach.

Because value judgements are an inherent part of human activity, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommended in 1997 that risk assessors expand risk characterization beyond the current practice of merely
translating the results of a risk analysis into non-technical terms. This
limited approach is “seriously deficient” and should be replaced with an
analytical-deliberative approach that involves stakeholders from the very
inception of a risk assessment.

The report can be found at the RiskWorld web site at:
http://www.riskworld.com/Nreports/1997/risk-rpt/html/epajana.htm

It has pretty circles.

InfographicsRiskARiskM

Florida resident says restaurant inspection reports should be openly displayed

Frances Green of Lake Worth writes that as a Florida resident who often travels to other states to visit family, I’m disappointed Florida doesn’t require restaurants to display their sanitation inspection scores.

rest.inspection.grade.colorMany other states require this practice, which allows customers to see how a restaurant rates and forces the restaurant to work hard to maintain standards, since their scores are prominently displayed for all to see.

The only law now on the books requires restaurants to produce their latest inspection report on request. Who is going to do that? Visitors from states required to display scores must wonder why Florida doesn’t provide this information for residents and visitors. Obviously, the restaurant lobbyists are hard at work preventing this practice.

That’s a lot of poop: nearly 179 million cases of acute diarrhea occur each year in US

Washing produce is never enough, but that’s what a researcher says in a review of causes of foodborne illness. A better suggestion would be rigorous on-farm food safety programs.

lettuceIn the United States, approximately 179 million cases of acute diarrhea occur each year, and most of those cases are entirely preventable, a researcher from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) concluded in a New England Journal of Medicine review article.

Herbert L. DuPont, M.D., director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the UTHealth School of Public Health, examined current causes, prevention strategies and treatment for acute diarrhea in healthy adults. He says the main causes of diarrheal infections include norovirus outbreaks and foodborne pathogens, with most coming from contaminated leafy green vegetables.

Produce is the most common source of diarrhea due to foodborne intestinal illness. Most consumers are not aware that 98 percent of spinach and lettuce bought from grocery stores is not inspected and much of it comes from developing countries. One study showed that of the 2 percent that is inspected, 40 percent failed inspection and could be contaminated by diarrhea-producing E. coli or Salmonella.

“Consumers need to give their leafy greens a bath and a shower in order to make sure they are safe to eat,” says DuPont, instructing that leafy greens must be soaked in a bowl of water or the sink and then rinsed thoroughly by running water through a colander before consumption in order to avoid contaminants.

Norovirus in UK food outlets to be mapped for first time

The University of Liverpool is leading a £2 million Food Standards Agency (FSA) project to map the occurrence of norovirus in food premises and industry workers.

NorochickNorovirus outbreaks can rapidly affect large numbers of people. In 2012 a batch of frozen strawberries infected 11,000 people in Germany, but there are significant gaps in the authorities’ understanding of which strains cause infection and which foods are the most likely to harbour the bacteria.

Researchers will produce data that will help the FSA to develop plans to reduce the infection by collecting swabs from work surfaces at more than 200 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the North West and South East of England.

It is not clear what proportion of the infections come from food itself and which come from the people and environment involved in bringing it to the plate. The team will also investigate occurrences of the virus in shops in three of the highest risk foodstuffs: oysters, salad and berries.

They will combine the information with the outputs of the other research strands to generate an assessment of the true impact of the virus to infection in the UK.

Epidemiology and population health expert, Professor Sarah O’Brien said: “The FSA has been hampered by a lack of data on the origins of outbreaks in the past, but this research should give it enough information to work on prevention strategies, and insight which allows it to focus its resources most effectively.”

They had one of those, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority; government reinvents wheel

The New Zealand government is to set up an independent food safety advice group to recommend regulatory changes in the wake of last year’s global recall of dairy products over a false botulism scare.

barf.o.meter.dec.12The Food Safety and Assurance Advisory Council was one of 29 recommendations from the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident released in December last year, Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said Wednesday.

“At the moment there is no independent group that looks at the whole of New Zealand’s food safety and assurance system and is able to provide high-level independent advice and risk analysis,” Kaye said in a statement.

“This council is being set up to do this and will report to the director-general of the Ministry for Primary Industries. It will provide a valuable sounding board for new ideas and contribute to raising consumer and market confidence in New Zealand’s food,” she said.

She also expected the six-member expert panel to identify current and future trends, risks and issues that may impact on the country’s food safety and assurance system.

Dairy giant Fonterra pleaded guilty in a New Zealand court last month to four food safety-related charges connected to global recall of whey protein concentrate over the false botulism scare, which happened in August last year.

Fonterra is also fighting a civil case brought by French food giant Danone, which is claiming compensation of 350 million euros (483.59 million U.S. dollars) for the scare.

Universities blinded by rankings and scientific gobbledygook

It’s bad enough that public institutions like Kansas State University use public funds to promote crap.

As a parent of four university daughters, I’ve seen the debt they’ve accumulated and the crap they’ve been sold.

Crap1But it’s bigger than public institutions – the foundations of science are for sale, to the highest bidder.

I tend to be the reviewer journal editors go to when they sense crap – I have a ridiculously large rejection rate because I know bullshit when I read it.

Tom Spears of the Ottawa Citizen says he’s just written the world’s worst science research paper: More than incompetent, it’s a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble.

Now science publishers around the world are clamouring to publish it.

They will distribute it globally and pretend it is real research, for a fee.

It’s untrue? And parts are plagiarized? They’re fine with that.

Welcome to the world of science scams, a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.

And even veteran scientists and universities are unaware of how deep the problem runs.

When scientists make discoveries, they publish their results in academic journals. The journals review the discovery with independent experts, and if everything checks out they publish the work. This boosts the reputations, and the job prospects, of the study’s authors.

Many journals now publish only online. And some of these, nicknamed predatory journals, offer fast, cut-rate service to young researchers under pressure to publish who have trouble getting accepted by the big science journals.

In academia, there’s a debate over whether the predators are of a lower-than-desired quality. But the Citizen’s experiment indicates much more: that many are pure con artists on the same level as the Nigerian banker who wants to give you $100 million.

Last year, science writer John Bohannon sent out a paper with subtle scientific errors and showed that predatory journals were often failing to catch them. The Citizen covered his sting, published in Science magazine.

Estimates of their numbers range from hundreds to thousands.

To uncover bottom-feeding publishers, the simplest way was to submit something that absolutely shouldn’t be published by anyone, anywhere.

My short research paper may look normal to outsiders: A lot of big, scientific words with some graphs. Let’s start with the title: “Acidity and aridity: Soil inorganic carbon storage exhibits complex relationship with low-pH soils and myeloablation followed by autologous PBSC infusion.”

Look more closely. The first half is about soil science. Then halfway through it switches to medical terms, myeloablation and PBSC infusion, which relate to treatment of cancer using stem cells.

The reason: I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology.

I wrote the whole paper that way, copying and pasting from soil, then blood, then soil again, and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars. They had squiggly lines and looked cool, so I threw them in.

Footnotes came largely from a paper on wine chemistry. The finished product is completely meaningless.

The university where I claim to work doesn’t exist. Nor do the Nepean Desert or my co-author. Software that catches plagiarism identified 67 per cent of my paper as stolen (and that’s missing some). And geology and blood work don’t mix, even with my invention of seismic platelets.

I submitted the faux science to 18 journals, and waited.

Predators moved in fast. Acceptances started rolling in within 24 hours of my submission, from journals wishing to publish the work of this young geologist at the University of Ottawa-Carleton.

First came the Merit Research Journal of Agricultural Science and Soil Sciences, which claims it sent me to “peer review” by an independent expert in the field who gave me a glowing review. It laid out my article and was ready to post it online 48 hours after submission — for $500.

That’s cheap. The going rate at genuine journals is $1,000 to $5,000.

I didn’t pay.

There are seven more acceptances from the International Journal of Science and Technology, Science Journal of Agricultural Research and Management, the International Journal of Current Research, Science Park, Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Research (actually based in Jordan), American Journal of Scientific Research, and International Journal of Latest Research in Engineering and Computing. Yes, “Latest.” Makes you wonder what other kind there is.

Several others are still considering and a couple are silent and appear to have shut down.

Only two turned me down, for plagiarism. And one of these will turn a blind eye and publish anyway if I just tweak it a bit.

Emblem of the King Arthus from Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975 Graham ChapmanThe acceptances came embarrassingly fast. A real journal needs weeks at the very least to ask reviewers — outside experts — to check an author’s work.

I wrote back to one of these publishers explaining that my work was “bilge” and the conclusions don’t stand up.

The journal wrote right back offering to tweak a few passages and publish anyway. And by the way, it asked, where’s the $500?

At the University of Saskatchewan, medical professor Roger Pierson wonders how can scientists trust the journal system to share knowledge.

“Basically you can’t any more,” he said, except for a stable of well-known journals from identifiable professional societies, where members recognize ethical work is in all their best interests.

He had just spent time with the committee that oversees tenure and promotions at his university.

“We had three cases where people had published things in what were obviously predatory journals, and they didn’t think anything was wrong with that.

“The reality though is that these (fake journals) are used for promotion and tenure by people who really shouldn’t be there. The world is changing fast … It’s a big problem.”

And taxpayers wonder if the university system is broken.

I don’t know of a better system than vigorous and brutal peer-review, but universities are rapidly becoming redundant in their quest for meaningless metrics.

And for any university to claim they are global, geography shouldn’t be a factor.

China establishes food safety risk communication branch

I’ll always go content over style by about 60-40, but getting the facts right is only one part of effective food safety risk communication.

communicationTell that to the Chinese.

Chen Junshi, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering at the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, told an international seminar Monday that “a branch specialized in food safety risk communication with the public has been formed as well under (an) expert committee.”

Chen added that it is very important to deliver the right message on food safety to the public.

Uh-huh.

Decision makers, as shown by the establishment of the communications branch, have begun to recognize the significance of helping the public form a rational perception of food safety issues, Chen said.

Doomed to fail.