Trump: Stop regulating poisoned dog food, and people food

Samantha Allen of The Daily Beast e-mailed me about 4:45 a.m.

Of course I was up, and tried to talk quietly so as not to wake the family.

Fail.

 

trumpstoneAllen writes that Donald Trump often suggests that dogs can be fired. But who could have guessed that he would come out against safe food for all those unemployed canines?

In an official fact sheet that was pulled offline on Thursday afternoon—but not before The Hill reported its key points—the Trump campaign railed against the “FDA food police,” complaining that the agency “dictate[s] how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food.”

The FDA does indeed regulate pet food—but that’s for good reason. Eleven of the 23 pet food recalls by the FDA since September of last year pulled chow off shelves due to food poisoned by listeria and salmonella.

Dr. Douglas Powell, a former Kansas State University food safety professor who now publishes the popular Barfblog, says the FDA’s role is key.

“Just like we regulate the nutritional content of vitamins that we add to breakfast cereal or bread, dogs also need proper nutrition,” he told The Daily Beast. “We should use science to improve the lives of not only humans but our four-legged companions.”

Paring back dog food regulations wasn’t even the most outrageous suggestion in the now-deleted fact sheet. As The Hill reported, the “FDA food police” was listed as one of many “specific regulations to be eliminated” in Trump’s economic plan. The fact sheet depicted “farm and food production hygiene,”food temperature regulations, and “inspection overkill” as cumbersome and costly safety measures that must be reviewed and potentially “scrapped.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment on the “FDA Food Police” but, according to Dr. Powell, the use of the term is “patently ridiculous.”

“Regulations and the ‘food police’ are there to set minimal standards,” said Powell. “The best companies will go above and beyond those minimal standards.”

So tinkering with what are already basic preventative measures against foodborne illness, Powell says, is simply a bad idea. The FDA has already investigated ten foodborne illness outbreaks so far this year and, according to CDC estimates, every year 48 million Americans get sick from their food and 3,000 of them die. The annual figure for foodborne illness-related hospitalizations is a whopping 128,000.

trumpmcdonaldsPowell predicts that if Trump were to pare back FDA regulations, most providers would still be motivated to produce safe food under threat of litigation but “you would see more people trying to cut corners.”

“Every time we have an outbreak, once you delve into the details, what you find is that it wasn’t some act of God,” Powell explained. “It was a series of small mistakes, largely driven by economics, that add up and lead to catastrophe down the road. And people die.”

In fact, Trump’s own restaurants have benefited from “inspection overkill.” In 2012, as the Associated Press reported, the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas received 51 violations “including month-old caviar and expired yogurt.” The hotel reportedly “made [adjustments] immediately” and reopened shortly thereafter.

And during an ungraded inspection of the Trump Cafe and Grill October 2015, the New York City health department found 45 violations. By the time the graded inspection came around two months later, the restaurant had reduced the number of violations to 12. Now, it serves delicious taco bowls.

Of course, as Powell explains, it is not usually the FDA itself that goes around looking for aging yogurt in Trump restaurants but rather local food inspectors who largely adhere to the FDA food code.

“[FDA food police] is a term that doesn’t mean anything but it resonates with, I guess, the people who would vote for Trump,” Powell speculated. “He’s just doing it as an anti-regulation thing. It’s not really about food safety. It’s just an easy target.”

unknownThis isn’t the first time that the FDA has been the “easy target” of an anti-regulation message. In the early 1990s, in what the New York Times editorial board would later call “an industry-financed scare campaign,” advertisements helped convince Americans to restrict the FDA’s ability to regulate vitamin and supplement labelling. The result was the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which set up a separate set of standards for dietary supplements than for other food.

One particularly memorable 1993 TV commercial in that “scare campaign,” as Powell recalls, featured Mel Gibson’s house being raided for vitamins by a SWAT team meant to represent the FDA.

“If you don’t want to lose your vitamins, make the FDA stop,” Gibson implores at the end of the ad.

But the Trump campaign may already be rethinking its own anti-FDA stance. As The Hill reported early Thursday evening, the anti-regulation fact sheet has already been replaced with one that doesn’t specifically target the FDA. Humans and dogs everywhere can rest a little easier tonight.

On Dauphin Island, FDA scientists work to keep seafood safe

I love it when scientists and regulators pick up the microphone – or keyboard – and explain what they do.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple of military-backed food safety types, as well as those dispatched from Fort Riley in Kansas.

gulf-seafood-lab-1-300x225These friendships endure, and I hope they’ve learned a fraction of what I’ve learned from them.

Capt. William Burkhardt III, Ph.D, Director of FDA’s Division of Seafood Science and Technology, writes that on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, two dozen scientists and staff in the FDA’s only marine research laboratory have one common goal: to keep consumers safe from contaminated or unsafe seafood.

I am the director of the FDA’s Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory (GCSL) on Dauphin Island, Alabama, where we detect chemical and biological hazards and work to reduce the likelihood of illness associated with seafood. In early August, the agency invited U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt to tour the facility and see our work first-hand. Rep. Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District and chairs the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

At the GCSL, we use the latest technology to detect and identify things that can potentially contaminate seafood. There are drug and chemical residues that may be present from the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in aquaculture production. There are also petrochemicals from off-shore drilling.

There are marine biotoxins that occur naturally, such as harmful algal toxins that go up the marine food chain and eventually get into fish. There are bacteria that occur naturally in marine waters, such as vibrios, that can cause serious, even deadly, illnesses. And there are viruses, such as the norovirus, in marine water that are ingested by shellfish.

We routinely test a wide array of samples from public and private sources, and work closely with FDA’s compliance and enforcement teams in and out of the country so that action can be taken when appropriate.

Our scientists are often brought in when a natural or man-made disaster threatens to contaminate fish or an outbreak is tied to seafood. We’re involved right now in the response to an outbreak of hepatitis A in Hawaii tied to imported scallops, providing microbiological support to identify the virus that has sickened more than 200 people.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, spilling an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we staffed sampling locations. A year after that spill, we allayed the concerns of fishermen participating in the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo tournament, billed as the largest fishing tournament in the world. FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs set up a mobile laboratory in our parking lot and together we tested samples that fishermen brought in, working round-the-clock for two weeks. We were able to assure the fishermen that there was no oil or dispersants in their fish.

In 2005, we were heavily involved in the response to Hurricane Katrina, in which there were concerns that chemicals would be swept into the Gulf and then into the fish. We deployed staff to sample crabs, shrimp and other seafood and send them by courier back to our labs. Ultimately, we found some elevated levels of bacterial contamination, but that dissipated relatively quickly during the time in which the area was closed to fishing.

We are also invited by other countries to assist in emergency response. For example, six years ago we traveled to Chile after an earthquake there and used our technology to detect norovirus in the drinking water.

When Haiti was hit with a cholera outbreak in 2010, we responded in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our tests found cholera in seafood collected from Port au Prince. These findings were used to tighten recommendations on the movement of ballast water in and out of ships to minimize transmission of the outbreak.

We work with the seafood industry to find practical solutions to common problems. For example, we’re working with oyster fisherman to identify strategies to control bacterial (vibrio) growth. And we’ve advised barracuda fishermen to avoid certain parts of the Caribbean where the fish are vulnerable to biotoxins.

As I showed Rep. Aderholt around our labs, it was a good opportunity to reflect on the important work we do here and the impact we have. Whether it’s in the United States or overseas, we want to be known as a group of scientists that helps people everywhere enjoy seafood safely.

 

Soap and water works: FDA says antibacterial soaps do nothin

Bacteria are good at making babies.

antibacterial.soapSo next time you see an advert claiming the product removes 99.9 per cent of bacteria, talk to a microbiologist who will say that’s a 3-log reduction, we look for 5-7 log reductions.

Maggie Fox of NBC News reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says antibacterial soaps do little or nothing to make soap work any better and said the industry has failed to prove they’re safe. Companies will have a year to take the ingredients out of the products, the FDA said. They include triclosan and triclocarban. Soap manufacturers will have an extra year to negotiate over other, less commonly used ingredients such as benzalkonium chloride.

“Companies will no longer be able to market antibacterial washes with these ingredients because manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections,” the FDA said in a statement. “Some manufacturers have already started removing these ingredients from their products.” Triclosan used in 93 percent of liquid products labeled “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial” – at least 2,000 different products, according to the FDA. “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water”.

In 2013 FDA gave soap makers a year to show that adding antibacterial chemicals did anything at all to help them kill germs. It made the rule final Friday.

Where’s the leafy greens lobby? Feds to seek listeria, leafy green connections after Dole outbreak

Mike Hornick of The Packer writes that health officials will begin routinely asking listeria outbreak victims if they consumed leafy greens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

lettuce.skull.noroThe addition of leafy greens to the standard federal questionnaire on listeria comes in response to last winter’s outbreak linked to a Dole Fresh Vegetables salad plant in Springfield, Ohio. That outbreak sickened 33 in the U.S. and Canada and was tied to at least one death. Dole stopped production in January and reopened the plant in April.

It was the first reported listeria outbreak in the U.S. associated with leafy greens, and the eighth with fresh produce. All occurred since 2008, according to an Aug. 26 report by the CDC.

“It is unclear whether the appearance of these outbreaks might be attributed to improved outbreak detection, changes in consumer behavior, or changes in production and distribution,” the report says. “Fresh produce processors are advised to review food safety plans and consider incorporating measures to avoid the growth and persistence of listeria.”

In the Ohio centered outbreak, the older questionnaire failed to identify a common source for seven infections reported by Nov. 30.

Then in December and January, eight new or previously interviewed patients or their representatives took part in open-ended interviews or provided shopper card records.

That revealed the connection. All reported consuming leafy greens in the month before the onset of illness.

Among these, seven reported romaine and six reported spinach, higher than national food consumption estimates of 47% and 24%, respectively. Six patients recalled consuming packaged salad, according to the report.

Dole Fresh Vegetables denied responsibility in two foodborne illness lawsuits that followed the outbreak.

Face palm: Jeni’s says its ice cream is ‘absolutely 100 percent safe’

One of my daughters got married on the weekend. I have two grandsons. The Tragically Hip may never play live again (it’s a Canadian thing, but 1-in-3 Canadians watched the concert Saturday night from Kingston).

jauce.weddingMy other 30-year bookmark is my formal and informal interests in the interactions between science and society. In 1997, I co-wrote a book called Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk: The Perils of Poor Risk Communication.

We had a top-10 list of conclusions to be applied in whatever risky business might come along:

  • a risk information vacuum is a primary factor in the social amplification of risk;
  • regulators are responsible for effective risk communication;
  • industry is responsible for effective risk communication;
  • if you are responsible for communicating about risks, do it early and often;
  • there is always more to a risk issue than what science says;
  • always put the science in a policy context;
  • educating the public about science is no substitute for good risk communication practice;
  • banish no risk messages;
  • risk messages should address directly the contest of opinion in society; and,
  • communicating well has spinoff benefits for good risk management.

I watch these microbial food safety risk shitfests, document them in barfblog.com, and sigh-a-sigh worthy of someone who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Or maybe I did.

Who knows, at this point.

Following the Listeria-Blue-Bell-ice-cream debacle, some of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams tested positive for Listeria in April, 2015.

At the time, I applauded Jeni’s CEO John Lowe for the proactive steps they announced after finding Listeria in their ice cream, but also wondered why they weren’t looking before?

Lowe also said, “Finally, let me reiterate: we will not make or serve ice cream again until we can ensure it is 100% safe. Until we know more about reopening, we are going to continue to keep our heads down and to work hard to get this issue resolved. But know this: you’ll be hearing from us soon.”

Sounds like some cookie-cutter MBA approach to crisis.

And no one can ensure 100% safe.

triple.face.palmJeni’s possibly found this out, on Aug. 9, 2016, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fired off a warning letter saying Listeria had again been found in Jan. and Feb. 2016 in their Columbus facility.

“Two of 75 samples were found to have listeria by the FDA’s lab. Those two samples came from:

* The floor adjacent to the prep room, nine feet from a prep table where the base for Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso was being processed and packaged.

* The floor of the wash room by a drain, two feet from a sink used to wash, rinse and sanitize equipment parts, utensils and containers used in production.”

Jeni’s said it took immediate corrective actions and prevented any spread to food contact surfaces or areas around food contact surfaces. It also noted that it has taken more than 2,000 environmental swabs in the past year and listeria has never been detected on food contact surfaces or around food contact surfaces and that its “test-and-hold” procedures, which have been in place for a year, have not turned up a single positive test for listeria.

Dan Eaton of Columbus Business First quotes founder Jeni Britton Bauer, CEO John Lowe and Quality Leader Mary Kamm as jointly writing in a Wednesday blog post“As a result of our sanitation and other food safety procedures, our environmental testing program and our test-and-hold procedures, we can assure everyone that the food we produce is absolutely 100 percent safe.”

Triple face palm, like Neapolitan.

 

 

Going public: Schumer wants FDA’s food recall process overhauled

Maybe Chuck Schumer is eyeing a career in comedy like his somewhat related cousin, Amy.

Chuck says federal regulators are too slow getting bad food off the shelves.

amy.schumer.sexThe New York Democrat is calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review its recall process from top to bottom to determine if it’s doing enough to prevent contamination-related food illnesses.

The action follows a preliminary report by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggesting the FDA has taken far too long to initiate food recalls.

Schumer notes that a 21-state E. coli outbreak linked to tainted flour began in December but the recall wasn’t issued until May.

Whole genome sequencing takes time. So does any foodborne illness investigation, especially ones that are now leading the world in linking together previously unconnected victims and food vehicles.

A better approach might be a standardized guide for going public, so everyone knows the rules, even if they don’t agree with them.

Salmonella-positive serrano peppers recalled

Warren Produce, Edinburg, Texas, has voluntarily recalled 200 cartons of serrano peppers after a sample tested positive for salmonella.

serrano.pepperThe cartons were from 18 orders, but Warren Produce managing member Jimmy Henderson said none of the product is expected to make it to retail.

Henderson said the company was notified of the issue at 4:30 p.m. July 22 after the Food and Drug Administration sampled a single lot. Warren Produce recalled that lot along with two others from the same grower, although those lots did not test positive for salmonella. The recalled lots are #115181, #115158 and #115186.

By the morning of July 25, Henderson had received confirmation from 15 of the 18 destinations for the peppers that the product was pulled from the supply chain.

Henderson described the recall as “very effective.”

More STEC found: Multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infections linked to flour

On July 25, 2016, General Mills expanded its recall to include more production dates. A list of all the recalled flours and how to identify them is available on the Advice to Consumers page.

sorenne.doug.usa.today.jun.11Four more ill people have been reported from two states. The most recent illness started on June 25, 2016.

An infection with another serotype, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC O26), has been added to this outbreak investigation. STEC O26 was isolated from a sample of General Mills flour (pic, left, from 2011; Sorenne did not eat the flour and awareness of cross-contamination was robust).

One person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections.

46 people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O121 or STEC O26 have been reported from 21 states.

Thirteen ill people have been hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicate that flour produced at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri is a likely source of this outbreak.

Several recalls and recall expansions have been announced as a result of this investigation.

In July 2016, laboratory testing by General Mills and FDA isolated STEC O26 from a sample of General Mills flour. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O26 isolated from the flour sample was closely related genetically to isolates from an ill person. The flour tested was not included in the earlier General Mills recalls.

On July 25, 2016, General Mills further expanded its flour recall to include additional lots.

CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled flours.

Do not eat raw dough or batter, whether made from recalled flour or any other flour. Flour or other ingredients used to make raw dough or batter can be contaminated with STEC and other pathogens.

Consumers should bake all items made with raw dough or batter before eating them. Do not taste raw dough or batter.

Restaurants and retailers should not serve raw dough to customers or allow children and other guests to play with raw dough.

This investigation is ongoing, and we will update the public when more information becomes available.

 

 

FDA shares data on cucumber and hot pepper testing

Tom Karst of The Packer reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released preliminary results of pathogen testing of cucumbers and hot peppers.

animal.house.cucumberStarting November 2015, the agency began microbiological surveillance sampling and testing of cucumbers and hot peppers because these products have previously been involved in large-scale outbreaks, according to the FDA report. The outbreaks were linked to hospitalizations, and in the case of hot peppers, two deaths, according to the FDA.

The agency is in the midst of testing approximately 1,600 samples for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in cucumbers, and Salmonella spp., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and E. coli O157:H7 in hot peppers, according to the report. 

So far, the FDA said it has tested 452 samples of hot peppers and 352 samples of cucumbers. Of those, 13 of the hot pepper samples and three cucumbers samples tested positive for Salmonella. The rest tested negative for the targeted pathogens, according to the FDA.

The FDA report said the testing continues and offered no conclusions about the results so far.

Sanitation sucks: Federal court orders Minnesota sprout and noodle company to cease operations

On July 15, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., doing business as Canton Foods; its president and owner, Vieta “Victor” C. Wang; and its vice-president, Juney H. Wang, for significant and ongoing violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and its implementing regulations. The business, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sells rice and wheat noodles, and mung bean and soy bean sprouts.

Canton 2The U.S. Department of Justice brought the action on behalf of the FDA. The complaint that accompanied the consent decree alleges that Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has an extensive history of operating under unsanitary conditions in violation of current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations and the FD&C Act. The FDA conducted multiple inspections, most recently in 2014 and 2015, and the FDA investigators observed repeated unsanitary conditions, including, rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count, improper cleaning, mold-like substances on equipment, failure to prevent cross-contamination from allergens and improper employee sanitation practices. Despite receiving a Warning Letter and participating in regulatory meetings with the FDA, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., and Victor and Juney Wang failed to take adequate corrective actions to ensure the safety of their food. Additionally, the FDA worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to resolve this matter.

“The FDA expects food companies to follow cGMP regulations, and when a company does not address violations and sanitary protocols are being neglected, it poses potentially hazardous conditions,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA is taking the necessary actions to protect consumers and the U.S. food supply.”

Food, especially produce, is vulnerable to contamination with pathogenic microorganisms if exposed to unsanitary conditions during growing, harvesting, packing, holding or manufacturing, processing or transportation. Rodents in a facility are an additional cause for concern as they can sometimes carry and transfer bacteria and pathogenic microorganisms, like Salmonella, onto food. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

As a result of this action, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. is prohibited from directly or indirectly receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, and/or distributing any article of food at or from its facility. If Kwong Tung Foods Inc. intends to resume operations, the company must notify the FDA, and, among other requirements, retain an independent food safety expert to ensure Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has and implements, to the FDA’s satisfaction, an appropriate written Sanitation Control Program. If it resumes operations, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. must also retain an independent laboratory to conduct analyses of its food processing environment and food products, and provide employee training on sanitation and appropriate food handling techniques.

Although no illnesses have been reported in connection with Kwong Tung Foods Inc., consumers with complaints about any FDA-regulated products can report problemsto their district office consumer complaint coordinator.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.