UK supermarkets block efforts to tackle Campylobacter

Government can’t do much to hold food producers accountable, but consumers can. That’s why microbial food safety should be marketed at retail, so consumers can vote with their dollars (or pounds).

campy.chickenThe UK Food Standards Agency has declared that supermarkets are blocking efforts to tackle Campylobacter, which is found in up to 79 per cent of raw birds on sale.

Levels are dangerously high in 19 per cent of chickens and the agency has demanded this figure should be below 10 per cent by year’s end.

It says however that Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose and the Co-op are failing to help. Only Marks & Spencer is giving updates on its plans and progress in tackling campylobacter.

Professor Paul Wiles of the FSA said the industry’s response had been ‘unacceptable’.

Chief executive Catherine Brown said supermarkets had ‘pushed back’ against providing information and claimed the stores were unhappy over the FSA’s publication of campylobacter league tables.

To date, only M&S has given the FSA details of its comprehensive plan to tackle campylobacter, which involves changes on farms and in slaughterhouses.

UAE: Food safety violators to face stiff fine and jail

The Federal National Council (FNC) on Tuesday approved a draft law on food safety with minor amendments, with suggested jail terms of up to two years and fines ranging from Dh100,000 to Dh2 million for flouting food safety rules.

jail.monopolyThe bill will be sent back to the Cabinet for its approval and then for presidential assent for implementation. The bill was passed by the Cabinet in March last year.

The house called for the establishment of a federal authority for the research and development of techniques and policies pertaining to food safety in the country. The authority, the FNC suggested, could implement food safety regulations and services with the judicial power of imposing penalties on those found flouting food safety policies.

Under the proposed law, food imports into the country will only be done with the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Those found importing or distributing unhealthy and dangerous foodstuff will face a prison term of up to two years, and a fine ranging between Dh100,000 and Dh300,000, or both.

The proposed law also authorises the Ministry of Economy to impose fines of up to Dh100,000 for other offences regulated by the Cabinet.

The draft law also states a prison term of not less than a month and a fine of Dh500,000 for those found importing foodstuff containing any by-products of pork and alcohol without permission.

Why not today? Can China up food safety if 2022 Olympics held in Beijing?

If China wants to up its food safety, white mice as food tasters is not the way to do it.

Mouse eating CheeseBut an article in Shanghai Daily states that as a candidate for 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Beijing is eager to show off a wide variety of cuisines to visitors from all over the world.

But wait before serve. What about the safety of your food?

A recent survey by China Youth Daily showed that food safety has become one of the public worries, as well as one of the government’s major concerns.

As the Chinese government is making more efforts, food safety for the general public, hopefully, can be removed from the list of concerns in the years to come.

And for athletes who have higher standards for food, Beijing already has a lot of experience from hosting the 2008 Olympics to make sure their needs met.

Back in 2008, the Olympic Food Safety Action Plan was in place and Beijing also mapped out a preparedness plan to cope with any possible emergencies in food safety during the Olympic Games.

Food for athletes were produced in compliance with strict standards, delivered in a unified way and carried electronic labels recording the whole process from the producer to the eaters.

Even white mice were said to be used to test food including milk, alcohol, salad, rice, oil, salt and seasonings, 24 hours before they are used in cooking or served to athletes.

Analysis for Salmonella of all imported beef products sampled for Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC)

This notice provides instructions for import inspection personnel to follow when collecting samples for Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) that will also be analyzed for Salmonella.

beef.stecRaw beef samples, including import MT08 and MT51 samples, collected for STEC analysis will also be analyzed for Salmonella

Import inspection personnel are not to add a Salmonella type of inspection (TOI) for the analysis

The Salmonella analysis result is non-regulatory, and if positive, the product is not a refused entry

How notify the importer of record when a sample tests positive for Salmonella but is negative for STECs

On June 5, 2014, FSIS announced in the Federal Register (79 FR 32436) that raw beef samples collected for routine and follow-up sampling projects for STEC also will be analyzed for Salmonella. This new approach will allow FSIS to gather baseline data to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef and trim and to gather data necessary to propose new performance standards for ground beef. FSIS does not consider Salmonella an adulterant in raw meat products. Therefore, a positive test result for Salmonella in imported raw beef product, sampled by FSIS import inspection personnel, does not require a regulatory control action to be taken.

When import inspection personnel receive an E. coli O157:H7 MT08 or E. coli O157:H7 MT51 TOI, under which imported boneless manufacturing trimming are also to be tested for STEC, they are to:

Collect samples following the sampling instructions in FSIS Directive 10,010.1,

Verification Activities for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Raw Beef Products;

Continue to follow the instructions on notifying establishments about sample collection for STEC analysis that are set out in FSIS Directive 10,010.1; and

Inform official import inspection establishment management that all samples analyzed for STEC will also be analyzed for Salmonella. However, the importer of record (IOR) only has to hold and control the lot until the results for STEC are reported, provided there are no other unreported laboratory samples requiring the lot to continue to be held.

Note: Salmonella results reporting may take 1 – 3 days longer than STEC reporting.

4 of the most commonly recalled foods (and how to buy them safely)

We talked to former professor of food safety, Douglas Powell, about the safest ways to eat the things we love.

Baked Goods Concern: While it’s been more than 10 years since the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect, unlabeled allergens—most often peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish and eggs—are still the number one cause of recalls for FDA-regulated foods. And they often crop up unannounced in bakery products. 

Small Thing to Keep in Mind: If you have an allergy, check the label each time you buy a product, because manufacturers sometimes change recipes and a trigger food may have been added. Here’s a helpful list of unexpected words to watch out for, broken down by the type of diet you’re following.


The Concern: These orange-fleshed melons are different from honeydew and watermelon, since their “netted” exterior is more porous, so contaminants from soil, water, animals (and their manure) can get trapped in the rind. Plus, unlike other fruits, they’re not acidic, so pathogens can grow more easily once you cut the melon open. 

Small Thing to Keep in Mind: As many of us already do, avoid buying cantaloupes that look bruised; and, if you purchase precut cantaloupe, make sure it’s refrigerated or on ice. Finally, don’t let the sliced fruit sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.


The Concern: This popular meat (we buy about 86 pounds per capita annually) is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. 

Small Thing to Keep in Mind: A good recommendation is to buy chicken last when you’re grocery shopping, since keeping it cold can prevent bacteria overgrowth. Also, be sure to defrost frozen chicken safely and cook it to 165 degrees (use a meat thermometer).


The Concern: Alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts, which add crunch to salads and sandwiches, score well nutritionally. But in recent years, there have been at least 30 food-related illness outbreaks linked to raw and lightly cooked sprouts. 

Small Thing to Keep in Mind: If you enjoy sprouts in salads, buy only ones with fresh, clean, white stems and roots that have been kept properly refrigerated. Dr. Powell says the safest way to prepare sprouts is to cook them thoroughly before eating (so, stir-fries and pad Thai are fine).

Vibrio in Tampa and New Zealand

The opportunistic pathogen Vibrio vulnificus occurs naturally in estuarine habitats and is readily cultured from water and oysters under warm conditions but infrequently at ambient conditions of <15°C.

SUN0705N-Oyster7The presence of V. vulnificus in other habitats, such as sediments and aquatic vegetation, has been explored much less frequently. This study investigated the ecology of V. vulnificus in water by culture and quantitative PCR (qPCR) and in sediment, oysters, and aquatic vegetation by culture.

V. vulnificus samples were taken from five sites around Tampa Bay, FL. Levels determined by qPCR and culture were significantly correlated (P = 0.0006; r = 0.352); however, V. vulnificus was detected significantly more frequently by qPCR (85% of all samples) compared to culture (43%). Culturable V. vulnificus bacteria were recovered most frequently from oyster samples (70%), followed by vegetation and sediment (∼50%) and water (43%). Water temperature, which ranged from 18.5 to 33.4°C, was positively correlated with V. vulnificus concentrations in all matrices but sediments. Salinity, which ranged from 1 to 35 ppt, was negatively correlated with V. vulnificus levels in water and sediments but not in other matrices. Significant interaction effects between matrix and temperature support the hypothesis that temperature affects V. vulnificus concentrations differently in different matrices and that sediment habitats may serve as seasonal reservoirs for V. vulnificus.

V. vulnificus levels in vegetation have not been previously measured and reveal an additional habitat for this autochthonous estuarine bacterium.

 Sediment and vegetation as reservoirs of Vibrio vulnificus in the Tampa Bay estuary and Gulf of Mexico

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Eva Chase, Suzanne Young, and Valerie J. Harwood

The foodborne pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus has been reported as being present in New Zealand (NZ) seawaters, but there have been no reported outbreaks of foodborne infection from commercially grown NZ seafood. Our study determined the current incidence of V. parahaemolyticus in NZ oysters and Greenshell mussels and the prevalence of V. parahaemolyticus tdh and trh strains.

Pacific (235) and dredge (21) oyster samples and mussel samples (55) were obtained from commercial shellfish-growing areas between December 2009 and June 2012. Total V. parahaemolyticus numbers and the presence of pathogenic genes tdh and trh were determined using the FDA most-probable-number (MPN) method and confirmed using PCR analysis.

Raw oystersIn samples from the North Island of NZ, V. parahaemolyticus was detected in 81% of Pacific oysters and 34% of mussel samples, while the numbers of V. parahaemolyticus tdh and trh strains were low, with just 3/215 Pacific oyster samples carrying the tdh gene. V. parahaemolyticus organisms carrying tdh and trh were not detected in South Island samples, and V. parahaemolyticus was detected in just 1/21 dredge oyster and 2/16 mussel samples. Numbers of V. parahaemolyticus organisms increased when seawater temperatures were high, the season when most commercial shellfish-growing areas are not harvested. The numbers of V. parahaemolyticus organisms in samples exceeded 1,000 MPN/g only when the seawater temperatures exceeded 19°C, so this environmental parameter could be used as a trigger warning of potential hazard.

There is some evidence that the total V. parahaemolyticus numbers increased compared with those reported from a previous 1981 to 1984 study, but the analytical methods differed significantly.

 Long-term study of Vibrio parahaemolyticus prevalence and distribution in New Zealand shellfish

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

D. Cruz, D. Hedderley, and G. C. Fletcher

It’s the season, not the farm, silly (and the poop): E. coli and leafy greens in US

Small- and medium-size farms in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States use varied agricultural practices to produce leafy greens during spring and fall, but the impact of preharvest practices on food safety risk remains unclear.

lettuceTo assess farm-level risk factors, bacterial indicators, Salmonella enterica, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) from 32 organic and conventional farms were analyzed.

A total of 577 leafy greens, irrigation water, compost, field soil, and pond sediment samples were collected. Salmonella was recovered from 2.2% of leafy greens (n = 369) and 7.7% of sediment (n = 13) samples. There was an association between Salmonella recovery and growing season (fall versus spring) (P = 0.006) but not farming system (organic or conventional) (P = 0.920) or region (P = 0.991). No STEC was isolated.

In all, 10% of samples were positive for E. coli: 6% of leafy greens, 18% of irrigation water, 10% of soil, 38% of sediment, and 27% of compost samples. Farming system was not a significant factor for levels of E. coli or aerobic mesophiles on leafy greens but was a significant factor for total coliforms (TC) (P < 0.001), with higher counts from organic farm samples. Growing season was a factor for aerobic mesophiles on leafy greens (P = 0.004), with higher levels in fall than in spring. Water source was a factor for all indicator bacteria (P < 0.001), and end-of-line groundwater had marginally higher TC counts than source samples (P = 0.059).

Overall, the data suggest that seasonal events, weather conditions, and proximity of compost piles might be important factors contributing to microbial contamination on farms growing leafy greens.

The growing season, but not the farming system, is a food safety risk determinant for leafy greens in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Sasha C. Marine, Sivaranjani Pagadala, Fei Wang, Donna M. Pahl, Meredith V. Melendez, Wesley L. Kline, Ruth A. Oni, Christopher S. Walsh, Kathryne L. Everts, Robert L. Buchanan, and Shirley A. Micallef

A repeated cross-sectional study was conducted to identify farm management, environment, weather, and landscape factors that predict the count of generic Escherichia coli on spinach at the preharvest level.

E. coli was enumerated for 955 spinach samples collected on 12 farms in Texas and Colorado between 2010 and 2012. Farm management and environmental characteristics were surveyed using a questionnaire. Weather and landscape data were obtained from National Resources Information databases.

lettuce.tomato.skullA two-part mixed-effect negative binomial hurdle model, consisting of a logistic and zero-truncated negative binomial part with farm and date as random effects, was used to identify factors affecting E. coli counts on spinach.

Results indicated that the odds of a contamination event (non-zero versus zero counts) vary by state (odds ratio [OR] = 108.1). Odds of contamination decreased with implementation of hygiene practices (OR = 0.06) and increased with an increasing average precipitation amount (mm) in the past 29 days (OR = 3.5) and the application of manure (OR = 52.2).

On contaminated spinach, E. coli counts increased with the average precipitation amount over the past 29 days. The relationship between E. coli count and the average maximum daily temperature over the 9 days prior to sampling followed a quadratic function with the highest bacterial count at around 24°C.

These findings indicate that the odds of a contamination event in spinach are determined by farm management, environment, and weather factors. However, once the contamination event has occurred, the count of E. coli on spinach is determined by weather only.

Multifactorial effects of ambient temperature, precipitation, farm management, and environmental factors determine the level of generic Escherichia coli contamination on preharvested spinach

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Sangshin Park, Sarah Navratil, Ashley Gregory, Arin Bauer, Indumathi Srinath, Barbara Szonyi, Kendra Nightingale, Juan Anciso, Mikyoung Jun, Daikwon Han, Sara Lawhon, and Renata Ivanek

Paperwork: Costco Canada’s fish import licence suspended by CFIA

Canada’s food safety watchdog has suspended Costco Canada’s fish import licence.

img_6050The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the retail giant is not reliably following food safety controls on a consistent basis.

The agency says Costco is in violation of federal fish inspection regulations and the suspension on imports went into effect on Feb. 26.

It says there is no product recall associated with the licence suspension.

The company’s website indicates it operates 89 warehouse store locations across Canada.

“The CFIA has determined that adequate controls for food safety are not being reliably implemented by the company on a consistent basis, which is in violation of the Fish Inspection Regulations,” the agency says on its website.

The CFIA says Costco can’t import fish products into Canada until it takes corrective action and the agency is satisfied that the chain can effectively manage food safety risks.

Suspension will affect ‘limited number’ of canned tuna products: Costco

Costco Canada said the import licence was used to import a limited number of loads of canned tuna products.

The company said the suspension does not affect any other fish sold in Costco Canada warehouses.

City, state assumed the other was inspecting hospital kitchens in Illinois

After looking through inspection reports for 12 Chicago hospitals, the 2 Investigators found critical food violations. Even worse, they uncovered a bureaucratic problem that left some hospital kitchens with no oversight at all.

The city thought state government was inspecting the kitchens, while the state thought the city was conducting the inspections.

In 2014, the kitchen at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital had a critical violation for a broken dishwasher that was not sanitizing dishes and another violation for chicken stored at dangerous temperatures.

“You would think they would be more interested in the well-being of the patients,” said Anthony Teague, a former patient at Stroger Hospital.

In 2014, Resurrection Hospital also had multiple critical food-temperature violations. This forced the hospital to throw out multiple food items, including lettuce, eggs, cheese sauce, Italian sausages and burgers.

Roadkill is his only red meat

In its continuing quest for food porn, NPR quotes Jeff Potter as saying, “Last autumn, my brother phones on his way home from the grocery: ‘I was driving to the store and there wasn’t a deer in the road, but on the way back there was, so it’s gotta be fresh!’ “

roadkill.deerPotter, who lives in exurban Lansing, Mich., was busy processing mail orders for his outdoor sports business, but he knew he had to act fast or someone might beat him to it. He spread a tarp in the back of the family minivan and raced to the scene, where he found a young doe on the shoulder of the road. He pulled the deer into the van, then called the police for permission to take it home. To eat.

Potter is a 53-year-old father of two who operates Out Your Backdoor, a website dedicated to “indie” outdoor culture. He has hunted, fished, biked and skied around Williamston, Mich., his whole life. Today it’s much less rural than it was when he was a kid, but “there’s still this tremendous amount of interstitial space that deer thrive in,” he says. And during the fall mating season, when the animals start getting frisky, “there are tremendous numbers of car-deer accidents around here.”

Potter is known among his friends and family for collecting roadkill of all species: deer, pheasant, turkey, rabbit, squirrel. They call him when they spot felled critters by the roadside, and he serves stews and roasts made from them at family dinners and large dinner parties. How do his guests rate the meals? So far, he says, he’s “batting 1,000.” Roadkill venison makes up the near totality of the red meat his family consumes. And no one’s ever gotten sick.

Not that he knows of.