Sales of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long have been banned in the United States since the 1970s because the creatures are known carriers of Salmonella, which can cause fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea so severe that some patients need hospitalization.
Despite the sales ban and the known risk, salmonellosis outbreaks tied to turtles have increased since 2006, a research team led by scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the journal Pediatrics.
“All turtles — healthy and sick, big and small — can carry Salmonella,” said lead author Dr. Maroya Walters, an epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta. “Because young children have less developed immune systems and are more likely to engage in hand-to-mouth behaviors, turtles of any size are not appropriate pets for households, schools or daycares with children younger than 5 years of age.”
Salmonella is part of the normal gut flora of turtles, and there’s no way to distinguish a healthy turtle from an infected one, researchers note. The bacteria are present in feces as well as surfaces and water that the animals touch, making it easy for infections to spread to kids who touch the turtles or play with the tank or habitat.
With a bullshit name like Harmless Harvest, you gotta except some extra harmless scrutiny.
Coconut water company Harmless Harvestd will temporarily halt bottling products due to concerns by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the safety of processing methods used in the company’s Thailand facility.
The company, which for several years marketed its product as “raw”, has long leaned on high pressure processing (HPP) and proprietary processes shared with the FDA to ensure the safety of its products. But a recent warning letter from the FDA to the San Francisco-based company indicates that no longer may be enough.
In a letter dated Nov. 13, William A. Correll Jr., director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s office of compliance, informed Harmless Harvest of several “serious violations” of the juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HAACP) regulations, relating to its ability to eliminate potentially hazardous spores through microfiltration at its Thailand processing facility.
“Our review of the information and documentation provided by your firm reveals that the coconut juice products manufactured by your firm and offered for entry into the United States are processed in a manner that does not comply with the juice HACCP regulation, 21 CFR Part 120,” wrote Correll.
Among the violations listed in the letter is the claim that Harmless Harvest’s HAACP plan does not adequately demonstrate a 5-log reduction of spores of Cholostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism.
Harmless Harvest’s recently appointed CEO, Gianella Alvarez, addressed the issue in a statement published on Harmless Harvest’s website, saying the company is currently working alongside “FDA regulators, other oversight agencies and expert consultants” to make “process enhancements” that will ensure compliance with the FDA’s regulatory regulations.”
JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times writes that federal food-safety officials haven’t nabbed a culprit after all in an E. coli outbreak tied to Costco chicken salad that sickened 19 and led to the recall of 155,000 food products last month.
Officials with the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that tests failed to identify E. coli O157: H7 from a sample of celery and onions from Taylor Farms Pacific Inc., of Tracy, Calif.
“The ongoing investigation has not identified a specific ingredient responsible for the illnesses,” the FDA wrote in a statement.
The celery-onion mixture was identified as the potential source of contamination in Costco rotisserie-chicken salad that was linked to 19 illnesses in seven states as of Nov. 23.
That was based on five preliminary tests by the Montana Department of Health, which indicated the presence of the bug in chicken-salad samples from a Montana Costco. In response, Taylor Farms voluntarily recalled multiple products that contained the celery mix on Nov. 26, followed by an expanded recall a week later.
Costco pulled the chicken salad from store shelves on Nov. 20 and stopped production.
Still, that doesn’t mean the bug wasn’t in the samples, only that later tests couldn’t find it, the FDA noted. The samples were analyzed with a rapid test to screen for bacteria. But later analysis may have failed to find the germ because other bacteria could have grown, too; there were too few of the bacteria in question to detect; they may have been hard to isolate; or they could have died off over time.
“This does not let celery off the hook,” said Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president of food safety and quality assurance.
The salad was composed of chicken, high-acid salad dressing and the celery/onion mix. Only the vegetables have been known to be associated with E. coli outbreaks, Wilson noted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said the ongoing investigation is working to identify which specific ingredient in the chicken salad is linked to illness. The celery and onion diced blend has not been ruled out as a source of the outbreak. Updates will be provided when more information is available.
Susan Mann of Better Farming writes that Canadian horticultural industry leaders are poring over documents issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration last month outlining new food safety requirements for American growers and businesses shipping produce to the United States.
Canadian and Ontario growers exporting produce to the United States may be impacted by the new rules released as part of the American Food Safety Modernization Act and slated to take effect January 26, 2016. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the three sets of rules November 13. They are: the produce rule governing growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce; foreign supplier verification and accreditation of third-party auditors and certification bodies.
Companies and farmers in the states along with those exporting to the United States are being given time to meet the new requirements.
Jim Gorny, vice president of food safety and technology for the U.S.-based Produce Marketing Association, says the rules will have “a significant impact on produce businesses, in that they will affect how businesses operate on a daily basis and set definitive regulatory compliance expectations for FDA regulated businesses.”
The compliance dates depend on the size of a business, Gorny says. Large businesses with more than US $500,000 annually in sales have two years to comply with the new regulations and four years to meet the new water testing provisions. Small farms, defined as US $250,000 to $500,000 a year in sales, have three years to comply with the rules and five years to fall in line with the water rules. Very small farms, US $25,000 to $250,000 in sales annually, have four years to comply with the rules overall and six years for the water rules.
Heather Gale, executive director of CanadaGAP, the Canadian food safety program for the fresh fruit and vegetable sector, says they will be reviewing the new U.S. rules and comparing them to the requirements in Canada’s program. The program’s analysis will be published on its website sometime “in the new year,” Gale says.
Al Krueger, executive assistant with the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, says by email Ontario cucumber growers are “already doing what’s required under the new Food Safety Modernization Act.”
Another part of the American package of new food safety rules is the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. It specifies importers are required to verify food imported into the United States has been produced to the same food safety standards required of U.S. producers, Gorny says.
I feel so much better about the safety of my catfish now. And have a better understanding of non-tariff trade barriers.
According to the New York Times, After years of delay, the Agriculture Department on Wednesday established tough new rules to inspect imported catfish, yielding to pressure from domestic catfish producers that risks retaliation from America’s trade partners.
The rules come seven years after lawmakers from the South, at the request of catfish farmers in states like Mississippi and Arkansas, helped secure legislation in the 2008 farm law that moved inspections of catfish from the Food and Drug Administration to a more rigorous program at a new office within the Agriculture Department. Domestic producers of catfish called it a safety measure, but opponents said the new inspection program was a veiled trade barrier intended to limit imports.
“The point of this process has been to ensure that the farm-raised catfish served to American families is safe and nutritious. The U.S.D.A. is in the best position to get this done,” said Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, who pressed to have the inspections moved.
As part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s risk-based and preventive approach to food safety, which is at the core of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the agency began developing a new, more robust surveillance sampling approach in 2014. As the agency moves forward with this approach, it will continue to refine procedures based on lessons learned. The goals of the surveillance sampling are to keep contaminated products from reaching consumers and to facilitate a greater understanding of hazards.
FDA will publish information regarding test results on the web, including total number of samples collected/tested, and collection date, sample type, and pathogen detected for positive samples.
Under the new sampling approach, the FDA is collecting a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over a shorter period of time—12 to18 months—to ensure a statistically valid amount of data is available for decision making. The sampling approach will help the FDA determine if there are any common factors among positive findings such as season, region, and whether the product was produced domestically or imported. The FDA’s past approach to microbiological surveillance sampling has been to collect a relatively small number of samples for many different commodities over many years.
The sampling design for each food represents what U.S. consumers are likely to find in the marketplace. Accordingly, the agency has considered the volume of the target food that is imported and produced domestically and the number of states/countries that produce the target food.
During the first year of this new effort, the FDA focused on sprouts, whole fresh avocados, and raw milk cheese (aged 60 days). The FDA collected more than 800 samples total and tested them for Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7. For fiscal year 2016, The FDA will sample and test cucumbers and hot peppers for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, taking 1,600 samples of each commodity. The agency also plans to test hot peppers for Shiga toxin producing E. coli. The FDA will conduct whole genomic sequence testing on any samples that test positive. In the future, the number of samples collected of a targeted commodity may vary, depending on the question(s) the FDA intends to answer. Data from the sampling assignments already conducted will be released soon.
The FDA will evaluate the data or results generated throughout the sample collection period and use the data to inform the agency’s short and longer term decision making. By developing these data sets, the FDA seeks to identify potential vulnerabilities and ways to enhance the food safety system.
Depending on the results, the FDA may react or take certain steps, such as:
Decreasing sampling, if few positive samples are obtained;
Implementing more targeted sampling if trends are identified; for example, if positive samples come from a specific geographic region, a specific facility, or during a particular season;
Working with state or international regulatory partners to take corrective actions and implement preventive controls;
Developing new or enhanced industry guidance; and
Conducting outreach and information sharing to better protect consumers.
I have this weird affliction (among many): The more I read about a food involved in an outbreak, the more I crave it.
Mad cow disease, I want beef
Salmonella in eggs; I want an omelette
WHO cancer report? Had a steak the next day, and gave the kid a salami sandwich for lunch.
Salmonella in peanut butter? Won’t go there, never liked peanut butter.
The point is that crises or occasions are opportunities to get compelling food safety information into the public discourse.
Unfortunately, most of it sucks.
The U.S. glutton-fest known as Thanksgiving, which kicks off the six-week shopping orgy until Christmas, has appeared on calendars again.
As you do.
And simultaneously, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally approved genetically engineered salmon that has been in the works for over a decade (or two, I can’t keep track).
This has sparked a call for labels on all things genetically modified (I prefer engineered, all food is genetically modified).
FDA says, there’s no legal requirement for companies to label foods as genetically modified.
As you do.
Because FDA’s job is to regulate based on safety, not on consumer whims.
If retailers and consumer groups want to make a fuss, go ahead.
But your arguments suck.
I’ve always been a fan of full disclosure whether it’s labeling, point-of-sale info, a web url, provide full information on how food is produced.
Most people don’t care, but some do, and they can make a lot of noise.
When we sold genetically-engineered and conventional sweet corn and potatoes at a local market in Ontario (that’s in Canada) back in 2000, people preferred the GE stuff – because it required no pesticides.
The more info the better – for those who care.
With turkeys, consumers are, according to NPR , inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on.
Fresh has nothing to do with the time between slaughter and sale. Instead, it means that the turkey has not been cooled to below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it was never frozen.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not define young for turkeys, but it requires that turkeys that lived more than a year be labeled as yearling or mature.
Free-Range are raised in the standard, crowded houses but have access to the outdoors.
Premium means nothing.
No Hormones Added means nothing: By USDA law, turkeys (and other poultry) are not allowed to be given growth hormones.
And so it goes.
A possible fix is using smart phones and QR codes, so those who care can find out everything – and I mean everything, including if the seed was derived from radiation mutagenesis, a primal form of genetic engineering – if they want.
Meanwhile, we have enough food safety idiots practicing the things that actually make people sick.
Do not pass babies with leaky diapers around the table.
In 2005, one American recalled how, when dessert arrived, the family started passing around the newborn baby. As recounted on the Internet site, fark.com, “Apparently, the baby had a pretty full diaper, and it was kinda leaking. He was passed to my uncle, and then passed to someone else. What my uncle didn’t notice was that a little something rubbed off of the baby as he was passed. He looks down on his tie and sees what he believes is some pumpkin pie filling, so he scrapes it off, and takes a bite. He spent the rest of the night in the back yard throwing up.”
We’ll be having turkey and duck with friends on the weekend. It’ll be safe.
Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.
No one’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account is an even remotely accurate representation of their lives, because the overall point of social media is to craft likability; you post things you’ve determined other people might want to see. (Whether or not you are old enough to instinctively understand this surely influenced your level of surprise around this recent, viral “story” about a teenage Instagram model telling it like it is.)
There’s a veritable traffic jam of interesting case studies at this intersection of intimacy and bullsh*t. But today I’d like to pay homage to one in particular: The undercelebrated world of government social media accounts.
No, I’m not talking about President Obama getting a personal Facebook account. Of course Obama got Facebook. No one cares. I’m talking here about what the conversation must have sounded like in the office the day the USDA Food Safety program decided it needed a social media presence through which to share tips for proper poultry preparation.
A brief spin through this Twitter feed shows you the USDA Food Safety Social Media Person making very earnest work of what Social Media People are supposed to do: He or she jumps on trending topics, name-checks celebrities and the pop culture events du jour, and gets in line with holiday-themed and otherwise seasonally appropriate content.
Underlying the patently insane tone of most of these tweets is this blanket assumption that every business, every organization that wants to be successful absolutely must have social media accounts. That’s where the kids are, after all — might as well meet ’em where they live and teach ’em a thing or two about proper meat temperatures while you’re at it!
The question of whether anyone has actually been saved from foodborne illness via tweet is, on the other hand, surely up for debate. Is a guy who doesn’t know to wash his hands after handling raw chicken really a guy who’s following USDA Food Safety on Twitter? Is an irony-appreciating millennial who might not otherwise be open to messaging about listeria going to sit up and pay attention because of the hashtag #Sharknado3?
The official Instagram account of the TSA, meanwhile, takes a more detached stance. This account delivers to its 374,000 loyal followers a mostly objective window into the assorted grab-bag of concealed knives, guns and narcotics the governmental body confiscates daily from travelers at airports all over the country.
Also, portraits of cute drug-sniffing TSA dogs.
Sometimes the photos are accompanied by tips and information about which items, exactly, are kosher to carry onto an aircraft (hint: no knives, guns, or narcotics), but mostly this account seems to operate from a place of gleeful voyeurism: Someone thought they were gonna get that onto a plane?
Connecting with customers is a key aim of social media, and these posts do that, to be sure — but the wrench in these interactions is that federal agencies don’t have customers. We’re not choosing the USDA Food Safety regulations over some other available option; we don’t compare prices and decide to get searched by the TSA, specifically, when we fly. So why do they care if we like them?
Okay, so likability might be the wrong noun here — we could say their primary motive is to simply humanize an otherwise sterile, standardized and thoroughly regimented chunk of government, and to show that they are in fact performing a useful function; in the case of the TSA, especially, you’re talking about an organization with whom most of the American populace positively dreads interaction. Yes, they’re helping to keep us safe. They’re also basically the dentists of the government world — ones that can get you thrown in jail. (Related: The U.S. Border Patrol’s Twitter feed is similar, but methier.)
So: Is it working? Unlike brand loyalty, which can be measured by what products we actually purchase following a social media interaction, there’s pretty much no way to track whether John Doe is feeling more warmly toward his TSA agent during a full-body search at SFO than he did prior to following the agency on Instagram. And, again, it’s not exactly going to affect the TSA’s bottom line.
What we’re left with, then, is a snapshot of a specific moment in our collective understanding of social media’s purpose as it evolves. Side by side with landmark social movements like Black Lives Matter — which arguably coalesced and gained steam predominantly in the online world, with an aim of affecting real change in the tangible one — we have brick-and-mortar agencies that perform self-evident functions feeling obvious pressure to contribute something, anything, to the jumble of self-promotion and online noise that is social media, regardless of the value. No matter if a Twitter feed makes sense for your organization: Does your organization even exist, if it doesn’t tweet? It’s a vignette that I think will become more telling with time, as the first generation that has never known a world without Twitter or Instagram comes of age, and as businesses (hopefully) learn to wield social media as a tool without embarrassing themselves(or us) anymore than they already have.
In the meantime, if they’re going to post it, we’re going to enjoy it. And hey: once we surgically remove our palms from our faces, we might even learn something.
And now, the U.S. government’s definition of social media (check your brain at the door):
Social media are web or mobile based third-party platforms that facilitate interaction and engagement among individuals in a network or virtual community. Social media offers a participatory environment and includes user-generated content such as videos, photos, videos, microblogs, blogs, and wikis.
Scope and Applicability
Federal agencies utilize social media platforms to engage with the public and to extend the reach of messages beyond traditional email notifications and websites. It is vital that a policy be created and implemented to ensure the Agency is appropriately represented in this space. The FDA encourages the use of social media technologies to enhance communication, collaboration, and information exchange in support of FDA’s mission to protect and promote public health. This policy applies to FDA employees, contractors, and other personnel acting in an official capacity when using social media to communicate with the public regarding FDA-related matters:
Using accounts that the FDA maintains on third-party platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) or,
In forums or blogs where FDA does not have an official presence (e.g. replying to comments in a blog post where FDA was a guest blogger)
(For discussion on the personal use of social media, please see “Personal Use of Social Media by FDA Employees and Contractors” on page 4). FDA-related matters are topics or issues that relate to (1) data or information only available to the social-media user through his or her employment at FDA, (2) products within FDA’s jurisdiction, (3) analyses of FDA programs, policies, regulations, actions or initiatives, or (4) positions or opinions that could reasonably be perceived to reflect FDA’s view on issues within its jurisdiction. This policy does not supersede or replace existing legal obligations in effect. Roles and Responsibilities The Office of External Affairs (OEA) Web and Digital Media Staff and Office of Information Management and Technology (OIMT) are jointly responsible for ensuring that the FDA’s use of social media complies with Federal laws, policies, and best practices. Office of External Affairs:
Develops the overall communications strategy and priorities for the Agency.
OEA Web & Digital Media Staff (OEA Web):
Develops policy and procedures for social media use in consultation with OIMT.
Develops the social media strategy for OEA.
Provides oversight for all social media activities in the Agency.
Reviews/authorizes all social media channel/account requests for the Agency. Authorization is based on the request meeting Federal/FDA requirements and providing a social media strategy and social media plan.
Reviews all Agency procurements and contracts, including Terms of Service (TOS) agreements, related to social media tools and services to ensure necessity and reduce duplication.
Coordinates and manages the Agency’s primary social media channels (currently Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter account @US_FDA, and Pinterest).
Leads the monthly meeting of the FDA Social Media Working Group.
Serves as the Agency liaison for social media to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Digital Communications Division and GSA Social Media Community of Practice.
Office of Information Management and Technology:
Applies the requirements of this policy in its functions of providing appropriate Agency-wide web technology services and security, including technical assistance, to program offices.
Prior to initiating social media accounts or procurement actions and contracts, Centers/Offices meet with OEA Web.
Develops the social media strategy for the Center/Office and ensures that it aligns with Agency priorities, their office or center communications strategy, and is coordinated with OEA Web. The strategy should include why social media is being used to meet the stated goals. The social media strategy must be submitted to OEA Web for review.
Develops social media plan in order to most effectively implement and manage the Center/Office’s social media presence including best practices, guidelines for consistency, how these mechanisms will support the goals outlined in the social media strategy.
The social media plan must be submitted to OEA Web for review.
Completes a privacy impact assessment and operates in compliance with HHS and the FDA’s social media policies.
Coordinates with and contributes content to OEA Web for posting on the FDA’s Agency-wide social media channels (Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, @US_FDA, Pinterest).
Assists with the dissemination of information on the FDA’s social media policies, guidelines, and best practices within the Center/Office.
Follows approved procedures for collecting and managing records associated with any social media accounts owned by the Center/Office.
Office of the Chief Counsel (OCC):
Provides legal advice relating to the web and social media.
Office of Operations, Division of Ethics and Integrity:
Oversees ethics requirements for FDA employees, including requirements pertaining to the use of social media.
Office of Information Management (OIM), Records Management Staff:
Oversees records management requirements for the FDA, including requirements pertaining to web records.
Personal Use of Social Media by FDA Employees and Contractors
FDA recognizes the right of employees to express their personal views via social media and encourages employees to use social media to share information that may benefit the public health, consistent with the following.
Principles, guidelines, and standards of conduct that apply to FDA employees in their official duties may apply to employee participation in social media, even in their personal capacity. For example, employees are bound by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, the conflict of interest statutes, the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§7321-7326,1 and the FDA Policy on Use of Government Electronic Equipment and Systems, FDA SMG 3140.1.2 Moreover, employees must understand that non-public information (e.g., personal privacy information, trade secrets, confidential commercial information, or information subject to government privilege) may not be conveyed via social media unless its release to the public is lawful and has been authorized by FDA management in accordance with the law.
To use social media in his or her personal capacity, an employee does not need to obtain permission or approval from supervisors or agency management and does not need to obtain outside activity ethics clearance pursuant to the HHS Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct at 5 CFR § 5501.106(d).
However, the ethical restrictions on receipt of compensation, disclosure of nonpublic information, and improper use of government title or official authority still apply to this activity.
New produce safety rules from the government Friday are intended to help prevent the kind of large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness that occurred over the past decade linked to fresh spinach, cantaloupes, cucumbers and other foods.
Under the rules, the government soon will have new oversight of the farms that grow Americans’ food. That means, for example, making sure workers are trained to wash their hands, irrigation water is monitored for harmful bacteria and animals do not leave droppings in fields.
The rules require farmers to test irrigation water quality, regularly train workers on the best health and hygiene practices, and monitor wildlife that may intrude on growing fields, among other measures.
Compared with the original proposal, the final rule requires less stringent standards for irrigation water quality and reduces the frequency of testing, in some cases. The organic industry had expressed concerns about the rules, especially because many organic farmers use raw manure as fertilizer and try to treat irrigation water with fewer chemicals.
Advocates for food safety laws have cited the pressing need after several high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks. In 2006, E. coli in fresh spinach was linked to several deaths, including a 2-year-old. A 2011 outbreak of listeria linked to cantaloupes killed 30 people. This year, four people have died in a salmonella outbreak linked to Mexican cucumbers.
Also on Friday, the FDA released new rules to ensure the safety of food imported for the U.S. market.
These rules could help prevent against outbreaks such as the salmonella in Mexican cucumbers or cyclospora illnesses linked to Mexican cilantro. The FDA said the cilantro was grown in fields where American investigators found toilet paper and human feces.
The Sun Valley Juice Company is barred from receiving, processing, preparing, packing, holding, or distributing juice until the FDA finds that the company is following federal laws and regulations. Sun Valley Juice Company has complied with the demand to shut down.
The company’s website advertises “freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice.” No one answered the phone at the company Friday.
According to the FDA, the company has repeatedly violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and terms of a consent decree put in place by a judge in 2006. As part of the court-ordered agreement between the company and the FDA, the Sun Valley Juice Company agreed to put a hazard prevention plan in place. The consent decree was part of repeated attempts to help the company come into compliance before the shutdown, according to the FDA.
Because the company does not pasteurize its juice, it has to follow other regulations to ensure its juice is safe to drink and not contaminated with harmful bacteria. Pasteurization is a process that kills the bacteria leading to illness like E. coli.
Sun Valley Juice Company will not be allowed to reopen until FDA inspectors are satisfied its products are safe and that the company will follow safety laws.