Baby formula ‘white gold’ in China from NZ; new baby formula rules could block 50 Kiwi exporters

As many as 50 New Zealand baby formula exporters look set to be blocked from exporting their products to China.

 This follows a Chinese audit of New Zealand’s $200 million infant formula industry last month.

baby_formula Infant milk formula has become white gold in China and more than 100 New Zealand based export companies have sprung up to cash in.

But food scares have China increasingly worried about product safety and it is imposing tough new rules from next week.

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye say it’s “really positive” that China has been making changes over the last 12 months to lift its food safety laws.

The Chinese audit has found 12 of New Zealand’s 13 major baby formula makers do not meet all the rules.

However, the Government is confident it can get them to comply in time.

Don’t kiss that turtle, stop touching that bearded dragon and stop touching yourself: CDC reports 132 sick in multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Cotham

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collaborating with public health, veterinary, and agriculture officials in many states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Cotham infections linked to contact with pet bearded dragons purchased from multiple stores in different states.

bearded_dragon_picBearded dragons are popular pet lizards, native to Australia (sure, blame Australia), that come in a variety of colors. Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.

On January 22, 2014, CDC was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services of a cluster of Salmonella Cotham infections with a high proportion of ill persons reporting exposure to pet reptiles. Since 2012, there have been 12 ill persons infected with Salmonella Cotham in Wisconsin, and 10 (83%) of 12 persons reported contact with pet bearded dragons. Wisconsin receives funding under the CDC FoodCORE (Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response Enhancement) program. These centers work together to develop new and better methods to detect, investigate, respond to, and control multistate outbreaks of foodborne diseases.

Salmonella Cotham is a rare serotype. Searching historical Salmonella databases, CDC determined that Salmonella Cotham represents only 0.01% of all human isolates in the United States since 1963. Before this outbreak, typically less than 25 Salmonella Cotham infections were reported to PulseNet annually. Given the rarity of the Cotham serotype and the information gathered by Wisconsin, CDC conducted a search of PulseNet for all Salmonella Cotham infections reported since 2012.

As of April 21, 2014, a total of 132 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham have been reported from 31 states since February 21, 2012. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows (listed in alphabetical order): Arizona (4), California (21), Colorado (2), Florida (3), Georgia (1), Idaho (3), Illinois (6), Kansas (6), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Minnesota (3), Missouri (7), Nebraska (1), Nevada (3), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (3), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (5), Texas (6), Utah (3), Virginia (3), Washington (4), and Wisconsin (12).

Among 132 persons for whom information is available, dates that illnesses began range from February 20, 2012 to April 1, 2014. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 79 years, with a median age of 2 years. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are children 5 years of age or younger. Fifty-one percent of ill persons are female. Among 67 ill persons with available information, 28 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

On March 25, 2014, CDC sent a questionnaire to the states involved in the investigation to obtain more detailed information from ill persons about recent contact with reptiles. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about contact with animals and foods consumed during the week before becoming ill. To date, CDC has received a total of 31 completed questionnaires. Twenty-seven (87%) of 31 persons interviewed reported contact with reptiles or their environments before becoming ill. When asked about the type of reptile, 25 (81%) of 31 persons reported contact with lizards; of these 25 persons, 21 (84%) specifically reported contact with bearded dragons, a type of lizard. The percentage of ill persons in this outbreak reporting contact with a reptile is substantially higher than the percentage of U.S. households that reported owning a pet reptile in a survey conducted in 2013-2014 by the American Pet Products Association (5.6%). State and local health departments are continuing to interview ill persons.

The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory has isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham from samples from a pet bearded dragon and its terrarium (habitat) collected from an ill person’s home in Oregon.

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports Oregon scientists cracked the case after a baby in Marion County got sick. Emilio DeBess, a Public Health Division epidemiologist, decided to investigate. Taking time on his lunch hour in early April, he visited the home and collected nine samples, swabbing two bearded dragons and the surrounding environment. Eight samples turned up positive for the rare strain involved in the outbreak.

DeBess said the baby, who is less than 1 years old, had no contact with the reptiles, which are kept by the parents. The baby was not even allowed in the same room.

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.”