Local doesn’t mean safe; tales of tomato woes

I’ve been promoting local my whole life, but I’m thinking now that we may have shot ourselves in the foot. Michelle Obama asked us to grow gardens, and I believe everyone did.”

tomato.irradiationSo say shippers like Gary Margolis, president of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Gem Tomato & Vegetable Sales Inc. in The Packer.

Then there’s what he and other big shippers throughout the produce industry call an uneven playing field when it comes to food safety.

“While the local guys are shipping under the food safety radar, our guys are swabbing their warehouses with toothbrushes,” Margolis said. “We have to jump through all these hoops, and they come in through the back door.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take a food safety outbreak for the industry and the government to bring some more order to “local.”

It’s all fine until someone gets Salmonella; Queensland Premier dopey on food safety

One of the claims in former Australian Prime Minister Julian Gillard’s new biop is that ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher cut Queensland Premier Campbell Newman down to size at his first COAG meeting after being elected Premier, because of Salmonella.

Campbell NewmanMs Gillard said Mr Newman was “a pugnacious individual”, who was describing at length to the other premiers and chief ministers his plans to cut regulations in his state.

He said at his local kebab shop he had been appalled to find out how many regulations there were on the handling of meat, including rules regarding the temperature the meat needed to be while on the spit and he was going to abolish all this red tape.

Ms Gillard said the “studiously polite” Katy Gallagher then spoke up, commenting that would be all fine “until the first Salmonella outbreak.”

There have been many Salmonella outbreaks since then.

Statement of the American Society for Microbiology on the national strategy to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) congratulates the Obama Administration for its September 18 announced White House National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB).   The strategy outlines bold steps to slow the public health threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including efforts to stimulate innovative research.   Importantly, the Strategy will establish a new Task Force for Combatting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria which is directed to submit an action plan to the President by February 2015. This elevated attention at the highest level of government is needed because in the United States alone, antibiotic resistant bacteria cause 2 million infections a year and 23,000 deaths.

ab.res.prudent.may.14Innovative research is needed to discover new, effective antibiotics and to ensure existing antibiotics are properly targeted. Research will lead to innovative diagnostics to improve detection and tracking of pathogens, new vaccines targeted to drug resistant organisms and new antibiotics in partnership with private industry. Cutting edge genetic sequencing technologies used at point of care can enhance surveillance of antimicrobial resistance, enabling rapid tracking of genetic signatures and ensure rapid, accurate diagnosis and appropriate use of antibiotics saving lives and reducing resistance resulting from inappropriate treatment.  Because an estimated half of antibiotic prescriptions are inappropriate, encouraging the development of rapid, point of care tests is critical to identifying and tailoring treatment of resistant bacteria and minimizing the use of broad spectrum antibiotics.  

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will play leading roles in the national response. The collaborative efforts of the these agencies will be extremely important to advance development and use of rapid diagnostic tests for identifying drug resistant infections. Enhanced regulatory processes and reduction in approval cycle time will be key. Reimbursement of new diagnostic tests will also be a major incentive for development of new diagnostics by the private sector. The recommended expansion of DNA sequencing capacity and collection of microbial genetic sequences in a centralized National Database of Resistant Pathogens will allow comparison of outbreak stains with the database collection, improving their control.

The emphasis on tracking resistance in humans, animals and food and promoting antibiotic stewardship across the food chain is vitally important, as well as minimizing antibiotic use for non-health purposes. The President’s Executive Order calls for work internationally, recognizing that efforts must be global to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance and its spread.

The National Strategy articulates national goals, priorities and specific objectives that provide an overarching framework for federal investments to combat antimicrobial disease. It will be extremely important that new and adequate funding is provided to accomplish this comprehensive agenda. The ASM appreciates the new initiatives and is committed to working with federal agencies and Congress as this ambitious agenda to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance gets underway.

Sports training or food safety?

To coach little kids in (ice) hockey in Brisbane requires 16 hours training, which I have completed. To be a sports medic requires eight hours, with an annual five-hour update, which I did on Saturday.

To provide food that could kill requires no training.

Thanks to my family and friend Kyle for getting me out there for the training.

doug.cpr.sep.14

Should kids be allowed to wash hands at school? Or is sanitizer enough?

Someone wrote me this morning and said at their U.S. elementary school, the 5th graders are not permitted to wash hands after mandatory bathroom times and the teacher stands outside of the bathroom with hand sanitizer squirting it as each child leaves the bathroom. The hand dryers are too loud and the teachers don’t want wet hands because there’s no paper towel.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002This as UN deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, warned the world’s lack of progress in building toilets and ending open defecation is having a “staggering” effect on the health, safety, education, prosperity and dignity of 2.5 billion people.

They may not be related, but proper sanitation requires access to proper tools.

In Denmark, nearly one-quarter of foodborne illness outbreaks from 2005 to 2011 were caused by asymptomatic food handlers, according to researchers from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen.

“Symptoms compatible with norovirus infection among household members, especially children, of food handlers should be taken into account, as mechanical transfer of virus particles from private homes to industrial kitchens appears to be an important cause of outbreaks,” the researchers wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. “Existing guidelines recommend exclusion of symptomatic and post-symptomatic food handlers and strict hand hygiene, when household members are ill with gastroenteritis.”

handwashing.junk.apr.13A study in Finland concluded Noroviruses are easily transferred to ready-to-eat foods via foodservice workers’ handling.

Researchers at the Finnish Food Safety Authority and the University of Helsinki confirm virus-free food ingredients and good hand hygiene are needed to prevent contamination of prepared foods.

Promote hand hygiene, but the tools have to be there.

Wales to close only public food safety lab

I’m big on my Welsh heritage as I get older, but not sure I understand this.

hugh.pennigtonUK food safety go-to-person, Groundhog Day’s Hugh Pennington, says the closure of Wales’ only publicly-run food testing laboratory due to cuts mean councils may struggle to respond to another incident like the horsemeat scandal, and that relying on private laboratories could create problems in times of crisis.

Cardiff council said cuts had forced the closure but it would ensure public safety was maintained.

Eight other local authorities also use the laboratory.

It means the councils, like others around Wales, will contract-out the testing to privately-run facilities.

But Prof Pennington, an expert on bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “If you don’t have [a publicly-run lab] you could get into serious difficulties.

Prof Pennington led the investigation into the 2005 E. coli outbreak in south Wales

tipton.slasher.statue“Like horsemeat, where something comes out of the blue and suddenly there’s an enormous issue, the public want it resolved and you have to work out if there’s a public health threat.

“You have to work out what the scale of the problem is and you need some sort of central authority working for the public to do that.

“You can’t do that just by relying on outsourcing all your testing.”

Food safety takes a hit in Danish budget proposal

At a time when a listeria outbreak continues to claim new victims – 13 people have died and a 29th person was confirmed as infected on Thursday – salmonella fears caused an egg recall and a steep increase in MRSA has been recorded, the government’s budget proposal released this week calls for cut in food control funding.

sorenThe government’s budget includes a 139.9 million kroner ($24.8 million) reduction in food safety controls and research. The cuts from a total food security budget of roughly 1.4 billion kroner and would be spread across the next four years. 

The cut was revealed on the same day that a new salmonella scare led to the recall of chilli-flavoured pork chops and just days after the food company Lepo recalled a batch of the popular liver pate spreadleverpostej after the discovery of listeria. 

 According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), measured by capita Denmark has some of the worst food security in the EU. The EFSA ranks Denmark as third worst country when it comes to the number of people infected with listeria, the eighth worst for campylobacter infections and the 11th worst when it comes to salmonella. 

Defense attorney grills former peanut plant manager in trial linked to Salmonella outbreak

Defense attorneys for three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak sought to deflect blame and poke holes in the government’s case Tuesday as they questioned a co-defendant, who is a key prosecution witness.

PCA.AIB.certificateThe co-defendant, Samuel Lightsey, was a former manager of a Georgia peanut processing plant blamed in the 2008-09 outbreak. He was indicted along with his former boss, Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, and two others. Lightsey pleaded guilty in May after reaching a deal with prosecutors.

The 76-count indictment accuses Parnell and his brother, food broker Michael Parnell, of shipping tainted products to customers and covering up lab tests showing they contained salmonella. It also charges Stewart Parnell and the plant’s quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, with obstructing justice.

Tom Bondurant, an attorney for Stewart Parnell, asked Lightsey about his plea agreement, which recommends that he not serve more than six years in prison. He had been facing decades behind bars.

Bondurant then pointed out that the government’s lawyers could ask the judge for further leniency, including no prison time, if Lightsey’s able to “substantially assist” their efforts.

“So the truth alone is not enough. You need a scalp to make this deal work, don’t you?” Bondurant said.

Bondurant asked Lightsey a series of questions to demonstrate that Stewart Parnell had given him considerable authority over the Georgia plant and relied on him.

“You made decisions every day about how to run the plant, didn’t you?” Bondurant said.

“That’s the job,” Lightsey responded.

Bondurant also had Lightsey review audits predating the salmonella outbreak that showed the plant receiving high marks from inspectors and a box of what he said was nearly 4,000 lab reports, of which about a dozen tested positive for salmonella.

Food fraud: It’s what’s for dinner?

David Edwards of the Scientific American Blog Network writes that beef that’s horsemeat, grouper that’s actually tilapia—thins the global economy every year by an estimated $49 billion. That’s a lot of bogus burgers and suspect sushi.  Yet containing the problem is no small task.  Some experts estimate that approximately 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. food supply is affected by food food_fraud_adulterationfraud. Another study found that about 10 percent of the food Americans buy is likely adulterated. The sprawling, complex modern food industry can be difficult to monitor and regulate – making it an easy target.

Food fraud, the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging, is not new. For as long as people have sold food to one another and not just grown it to feed themselves, the road to market has been mapped with cut corners. By the 17th century, governments started pushing back, introducing food purity laws to detect, among other things, watered-down milk and bread plumped up with chalk.

But that kind of after-the-fact reaction is not enough to discourage sophisticated 21st century criminals, who are sometimes armed with high tech resources like encrypted websites and who know that they can depend on often lax, inconsistent or ill-defined regulations to raise their odds of getting away with it. Worse still, investigations into the European horse meat scandal of 2013 found that the profit margins available to the more sophisticated and organized criminals are beginning to approach those normally associated with other forms of organized crime.

More than Canada would admit: Denmark says ‘serious errors’ in handling of Listeria outbreak with 12 dead, another 12 sick

Denmark’s food safety watchdog made “serious mistakes” in its handling of a listeria outbreak linked to the death of 12 people, the country’s government has said.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMFood minister, Dan Jørgensen, has blasted the food authorities, Fødevarestyrelsen, over its handling of the Listeria outbreak that has claimed the lives of 12 people in Denmark over the past year.

A Fødevarestyrelsen report has showed there were serious errors in its handling of the case and concluded that it should have carried out its investigation into the source of the outbreak, Jørn A Rullepølser, more quickly and effectively.

“When it is proved there is a direct connection between the food products and deaths, the authorities should immediately launch a thorough investigation of the specific company,” Jørgensen said in a press release. “That hasn’t happened quickly enough, which is lamentable.”