Japan to ban restaurants from serving raw pork

The central government will ban restaurants from serving raw pork starting in mid-June, following a similar ban in 2012 on beef liver, the health ministry said Wednesday.

raw.porkRestaurants have increasingly turned to pork after the ban on raw beef liver.

The ministry said it would now require pork to be heat-sterilized to prevent food poisoning. It will also ban retailers from selling pork for raw consumption.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry cited the possibility that pigs’ innards could be tainted with the hepatitis E virus, which causes liver inflammation, as the reason for the ban.

Under the new requirements, pork will have to be heated for at least 30 minutes at 63 degrees, or be heat-sterilized in other ways with a similar effect, the ministry said.

Violators will face up to two years in jail or a ¥2 million fine, it added.

The ministry will also urge consumers not to eat raw pork, saying the meat should be heated for at least a minute at 75 degrees.

The number of hepatitis E patients hit a record high of 146 in 2014 from 55 in 2011, with pork the most likely cause among foodstuffs, according to data compiled by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Terrible idea: UK kids meet animals at a raw milk farm

In the fall of 1998, I accompanied one of my four daughters on a kindergarten trip to the farm. After petting the animals and touring the crops – I questioned the fresh manure on the strawberries –we were assured that all the food produced was natural.

raw.milk.petting.zooWe then returned for unpasteurized apple cider. The host served the cider in a coffee urn, heated, so my concern about it being unpasteurized was abated. I asked: “Did you serve the cider heated because you heard about other outbreaks and were concerned about liability?” She responded, “No. The stuff starts to smell when it’s a few weeks old and heating removes the smell.”

But it’s all smiles at one Rimington farm as children enjoy the sunshine and all the farm has to offer.

Gazegill Farm in Rimington welcomes school groups and visitors to come to the farm and to have a look around.

Science nonsense: No mention of thermometers for UK chicken

How can a supposed science-based organization be taken seriously when it won’t incorporate science-based recommendations into its taxpayer-payer funded advice?

chicken.thermMaybe the Brits think they above such pedantic notions.

According to the UK Food Standards Authority, chicken is safe as long as consumers follow good kitchen practice including, ake sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut in to the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear.


FSA has just published results from its year-long survey of campylobacter on fresh chickens. Campylobacter is a food bug mainly found on raw poultry and is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the UK.

Cumulative results for samples taken between February 2014 and February 2015[1] have now been published as official statistics, including results presented by major retailer. The report can been found via the link further down this page.

The results for the full year show:

  • 19% of chickens tested positive for campylobacter within the highest band of contamination*
  • 73% of chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter
  • 1% (five samples) of packaging tested positive at the highest band of contamination
  • 7% of packaging tested positive for the presence of campylobacter

*More than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (>1,000 cfu/g). These units indicate the degree of contamination on each sample.

More than 4,000 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens and packaging have been tested. The chickens were bought from large UK retail outlets and smaller independent stores and butchers. The data shows variations between the retailers, but none has met the target for reducing campylobacter (see table below). A full analysis of the survey results, including the publication of the raw data and the full year results for smaller supermarkets and shops, is being carried out by the FSA and will be published later in the summer.

Further details of the ongoing testing of chickens for campylobacter were also confirmed by the FSA. A new survey will start this summer and once again sample fresh whole chickens from all types of shops. Continued testing will help the FSA to measure the impact of the interventions now being introduced by the industry to tackle campylobacter.

The FSA has welcomed the publication today of case studies by Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, the Co-op and Waitrose  showing the results of their recently implemented campylobacter reduction plans. The data show significant decreases in the incidence of campylobacter on their raw whole chickens. The tests were carried out on more recent samples than those taken from the FSA survey samples, with some targeted to demonstrate the effect of particular interventions.

Whole genome sequencing to detect foodborne illness in Denmark

The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, is promoting the creation of global databases for WGS results to facilitate intelligent use of this data.

DNADebate in the media around foodborne outbreaks often deteriorates to simplified descriptions of unsafe foods and nobody taking action. But that is not the case. In a 2014 Salmonella enteritidis outbreak fx that affected several European countries the source was identified through the use of whole genome sequencing, WGS, in which an organism’s entire DNA-profile is mapped out. This is just one example of the work to track down and prevent people from eating unsafe food.

In August 2014 a listeria outbreak hit headlines in Denmark. The outbreak had broken out in November 2013 and went on for months making at least 38 people sick and claiming 16 lives. The fact that this event was recognized as an outbreak stems partly from the fact that Danish labs used WGS technology to compare the listeria isolates from humans with bacterial strains isolated from food, thereby enabling linking the outbreak to a food source.

The use of WGS technology is making it possible for scientists to more quickly link many more cases of foodborne disease to an outbreak. The National Food Institute is working to make WGS data widely available through the creation of global databases for WGS results.

The use of WGS in solving foodborne outbreaks is described in greater detail in two articles in Pan European Networks Science & Technology: Foodborne outbreaks, not the whole story and Microbiology 2.0. The article is written by Jørgen Schlundt, former director of the National Food Institute, now professor at DTU Management Engineering.

The National Food Institute is part of the Global Microbial Identifier network, which works to create a global system of DNA genome databases that can be used for microbial and infectious disease identification and diagnostics. The databases will enable the identification of relevant genes and the comparison of genomes to outbreaks and emerging pathogens.

Roy writes Michael: something about food safety

On May 20, 2015, Michael Taylor  (right, exactly as shown) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted in a FDA blog that, “we’ve got to build prevention into the food safety system globally.”

Mike_Taylor_7624-199x300Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, also wrote the Food Safety Modernization Act is about providing assurances that the food system is doing everything it can to prevent problems and to provide food in grocery stores and restaurants that is as safe as it possibly can be.

Friend of the barfblog.com, Roy Costa responded by writing:

I appreciate Michael Taylor’s comments and also believe that FSMA is a step in the right direction. The fact, however, is that companies around the globe have already adopted food safety systems. This article makes it sound like preventative controls are something new and that such programs will be brought about by new federal law. The fact is in most major operations the preventative controls are in place right now. There are firms that have not adopted such in their operations, and FSMA may help to address this, but by and large, the large foodborne illness outbreaks we have seen are not the result not having a prevention program, but the failure of the program to prevent the hazard from occurring.

Breaking a law, however, comes with a high cost for non-compliance, and that hammer is needed for some. But for most operators, this is not the answer to the microbial contamination control problem in their facilities. Our overarching goal in industry should be to be in compliance with FDA’s new laws, however, we need effective food safety management systems and we do not always have them. This is illustrated by the findings of serious sanitation issues, after the fact, in the investigation of the Blue Bell ice cream plant outbreak and many others.

As a regulator, consultant, auditor and investigator for almost 40 years, I am painfully aware of the difficulties in the implementation of complicated quality assurance and safety programs. In light of this, I feel simply more or different “preventative controls” are not likely to improve the situation much, by themselves.

 roy.costaStill, we look to FDA to help us, and I am still wondering if we will get what we need from the agency. We need consistent application and enforcement of the rules, and FDA has to get agents into the field, but most importantly, firms must organize their companies around food safety. This means establishing active and effective committees, appointing dedicated food safety staff, and a planned approach to assuring the safety of products. Companies must also effectively train and educate everyone in the organization, and maybe most importantly, apply the available science and technology to the food safety problem.

A lack of commitment within companies is a root cause of much of the failures of the existing programs, along with a lack of resources. We waste tons of money on audits, manuals, record keeping etc, etc, when we should be investing in educating our employees, improving our  infrastructures and applying technology. These applications should include onsite laboratory capability, remote monitoring of critical processes, and sophisticated traceability and recall programs.

I totally support what FDA is doing with FSMA, but we should recognize that a new system of preventative controls is only a solution if our food safety management systems are working effectively.

FDA alleges California crab, halibut importer violated food safety rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to a California seafood firm, alleging violations of food safety rules.

Mr-Krabs-SpongeBob-SquarePants-300x214In an April letter stemming from February inspections, the government said that T&L Trading’s live king crab and halibut had been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions that may have rendered them injurious to health.

A phone call to the company in Montebello, California, on Thursday morning went unanswered.

Among the alleged violations, the company wasn’t in compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations because it did not have product specifications designed to ensure fish and fishery products the company imports are not injurious to health or have not been processed under insanitary conditions, the FDA said.

The firm also did not monitor the safety of water that comes into contact with food or food-contact surfaces, the condition and cleanliness of food contact surfaces or the prevention of cross contamination with sufficient frequency to ensure compliance with good manufacturing practice requirements, the FDA said.

Lost in translation: My way

In late November, 2014, I ventured off to Tokyo to do a week of shooting for a food safety documentary.

powell.japan.video.may.15 murray.lost.translationLike most TV, me and another dude, formerly of the UK Food Standards Agency, spent a lot of time sitting around and driving places, but it ended with a 2-hour documentary on food safety in Japan.

Here is the two-minute version.

And I had to do that airport entry-greeting 10 times before the director was happy, after going to the bathroom and changing into a suit after a 12-hour flight.

I had to buy a new suit, because I hadn’t worn one in 15 years.



CDC: Reductions in foodborne STEC, some Salmonella, not so much the others in 2014

It’s becoming an annual rite: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports progress on some bugs, and no progress on others in the food supply. Batz could probably explain it better than I.

cdc.surveillance.2014But the data is important to focus policy efforts and make improvements.

In 2014, rates of infection from a serious form of E. coli and one of the more common Salmonella serotypes decreased compared with the baseline period of 2006-2008. Meanwhile, some other less common types of Salmonella increased. Campylobacter and Vibrio rose again in 2014, continuing the increase observed during the past few years. Today’s report summarizes the rates of infection per 100,000 population and tracks illness trends for key foodborne illnesses.

Infection with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157, which can sometimes lead to kidney failure, decreased 32 percent when compared with 2006-2008 and 19 percent when compared with the most recent three years. These infections are often linked to consumption of undercooked ground beef and raw leafy vegetables. Salmonella Typhimurium, which has been linked to poultry, beef, and other foods, was 27 percent lower than it was in 2006-2008, continuing a downward trend begun in the mid-1980s. Two other less common types of Salmonella, Javiana and Infantis, more than doubled for reasons that are unclear. Salmonella Javiana is concentrated in the southeastern United States, but has been spreading within the Southeast and to other areas of the country. However, when all Salmonella serotypes are combined, there was no change in 2014.

Campylobacter increased 13 percent and Vibrio increased 52 percent compared with 2006-2008. Yersinia has declined enough to meet the Healthy People 2020 goal.

cdc.surv.14The data are from FoodNet, CDC’s active surveillance system that tracks nine common foodborne pathogens in 10 states and monitors trends in foodborne illness in about 15 percent of the U.S. population. Today’s report compares the 2014 frequency of infection with the frequency in the baseline period 2006-2008 and in the three most recent years. Overall in 2014, FoodNet logged just over 19,000 infections, about 4,400 hospitalizations, and 71 deaths from the nine foodborne germs it tracks. Salmonella and Campylobacter were by far the most common– accounting for about 14,000 of the 19,000 infections reported.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that changes in food safety practice are having an impact in decreasing E. coli and we know that without all the food safety work to fight Salmonella that more people would be getting sick with Salmonella than we are seeing now,,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “The increasing use of whole genome sequencing to track foodborne illness cases will also help; however, much more needs to be done to protect people from foodborne illness.” 

The recent decline in the incidence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 follows several years of increasing scrutiny for beef products. Since 1994, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken STEC O157:H7 extremely seriously and made a number of changes in its regulatory oversight of the beef industry to protect public health.”We are encouraged by the reduction of STEC O157:H7 illnesses, which reflects our science-based approach to beef inspection, and we look forward to seeing further reductions in Salmonella and Campylobacter infections as our improved standards for poultry take effect later this year, ” said Al Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA. “Data sources like FoodNet allow us to be strategic in developing our food safety policies, and we will do everything within our power to keep reducing cases of foodborne illness from all meat and poultry products.”

Under the provisions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to publish major new regulations in 2015. The regulations are geared toward ensuring produce safety, implementing preventive controls on processed foods, and improving the safety of imported foods.

“Prevention of illness is the fundamental goal of our new rules under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at FDA.  “We have worked with a wide range of stakeholders to devise rules that will be effective for food safety and practical for the many diverse elements of our food system. Once the rules are fully implemented, FoodNet will help us evaluate their impact.”

The FoodNet report also includes results of culture-independent diagnostic tests (a new method for diagnosing intestinal illnesses without needing to grow the bacteria) done in the many hospital laboratories in the FoodNet sites. In 2014, the results of more than 1,500 such tests were reported. More than two-thirds of the tests were for Campylobacter. Other tests performed were for STEC, Salmonella, Shigella and Vibrio. Some of the tests had a positive result. However, the infections were not confirmed by culture, and so CDC experts did not include them in the overall FoodNet results for 2014.

Money and barf: Economic effects of foodborne illness

Friend of the barflog.com, Michael Batz, who researches food safety risk and policy at the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute, and hasn’t shaved in awhile (find him on Twitter at @mbbatz) writes about a recent publication he co-authored, Economic burden of major foodborne illnesses acquired in the United States.

Michael Batz RZ ED PART 2New numbers! We have some new numbers! (Everybody loves numbers!)

 In a report posted online yesterday, the USDA Economic Research Service put the economic burden of fifteen foodborne pathogens at $15.5 billion per year. That’s a lot of scratch.

But haven’t we been here before?

The new report simply puts some writing and analysis around the numbers ERS put out last year in the form of detailed data tables for these same pathogens. (I’m a distant third author on this report, mostly because Sandy Hoffmann is so generous; ERS did a lot of work here to update and improve estimates Sandy and I developed a few years ago, as part of our Ranking the Risks report and related journal articles).

It’s been a busy year for foodborne illness “burden of disease” studies. Earlier this year, FDA economists published their own estimates of the annual costs of foodborne illness, while CDC published estimates of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) for seven foodborne pathogens. And later this year, the World Health Organization will publish eagerly anticipated estimates of the global burden of foodborne disease, also in DALYs.

What a time to be alive.

Most of these efforts build on CDC’s 2011 estimates of foodborne illness incidence. Whether in dollars, DALYs, QALYs, or what-have-you, these burden of disease studies consider not only how many illnesses we expect to see each year, but also the severity of those diseases and the chronic sequelae that can result. These estimates enable us to line up foodborne disease with other public health concerns, and to directly compare the impacts of specific foodborne hazards to one another.

It can be a bit confusing to decipher the swirls of numbers across these studies, each built on different assumptions, methods, and data, but it’s fair to say that they are mostly in agreement about which foodborne bugs cause the greatest burden on public health. Salmonella, Toxoplasma, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Norovirus have the highest estimated disease burden in the U.S. Other foodborne hazards that rank highly include E. coli O157, C. perfringens, ciguatoxin, and Vibrio species.

At this point, there’s nothing surprising about this list. We’ve had five years of hearing it, after all.

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk about all these estimates (slides here). I was feeling pretty good about how far we’ve come at getting a bead on the burden of foodborne disease, and how these estimates can help inform our priorities. Then I read this new commentary published in the Journal of Public Health Policy: “How useful is ‘burden of disease’ to set public health priorities for infectious diseases?

Now, a title like that is not going to be followed by an abstract that reads, “Like, totally useful, dude.”

The authors, Ruth Berkelman of Emory University and James LeDuc of the University of Texas, make a compelling case for why low burden of disease should not equate to low public health importance. Using examples like Nipah, Ebola, and MERS, they point out that the most effective time to act for some emerging zoonotic diseases is early. For example, they write:

“If longer chains of human transmission of Nipah begin to appear, a vaccine and effective treatment would be critical. Arguments about its relatively low current burden of disease are unconvincing when the threat of introduction into densely populated urban centers is large for Nipah and for a number of other emerging infectious diseases that have the potential for spread, domestically and internationally. That it takes a long time to develop a vaccine or effective therapeutic drug is reason to start now, before an emergency starts.”

 The commentary isn’t directed at food safety, but it makes two good points. First, while disease burden estimates provide useful information, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking they are the only measures to consider. For example, pathogens that impact infants, pregnant women, or other vulnerable populations may warrant special attention, as might those with very high case fatality rates, regardless of the number of annual cases.

Second, we should not only be ranking which problems are worst, but identifying which solutions are best. We should be asking which opportunities for intervention have the greatest public health bang for the buck?

I often make these same points when discussing burden of disease, but sometimes I forget, perhaps because I’m too easily lost in the analytical weeds, or too entranced by the shiny new numbers sorted from big to small. And so they bear repeating.

US: Economic burden of major foodborne illnesses acquired in the United States


United States Department of Agriculture

Sandra Hoffmann, Bryan Maculloch, and Michael Batz


What Is the Issue?

sorenne.moneyEach year, one in six people in the United States is sickened by a foodborne illness. Government, industry, and others expend considerable resources in trying to prevent these foodborne illnesses. To best marshall these resources, food industry managers and policy- makers need to know both the value of these efforts to society and how to target use of these resources. Estimates of the economic burden of illness provide a conservative measure of how much people are willing to pay to prevent these illnesses. This report provides an overview of recent estimates of the economic burden imposed annually by 15 leading foodborne pathogens in the United States. It also provides individual pathogen “pamphlets” that include:

  • a description of the course of illness that can follow an infection with the pathogen;
  • a summary of information about the pathogen’s annual foodborne illness incidence and economic burden relative to other foodborne pathogens;
  • a disease-outcome tree showing how many people experience different outcomes from food- borne exposure to the pathogen in the United States each year; and
  • a pie chart showing the annual economic burden associated with different health outcomes resulting from infection with the pathogen.

What Did the Study Find?

Foodborne pathogens impose over $15.5 billion (2013 dollars) in economic burden on the U.S. public each year. Just five pathogens cause 90 percent of this burden. Estimates of economic burden per case vary greatly, ranging from $202 for Cyclospora cayetanensis to $3.3 million for Vibrio vulnificus.

  • Fifteen pathogens cause 95 percent or more of the foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States for which a specific pathogen cause can be identified. They are Campylobacter spp., Clostridium perfringens, Cryptosporidium spp., Cyclospora cayeta- nensis, Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus, Salmonella non-typhoidal species, Shigella spp., STEC O157, STEC non-O157, Toxoplasma gondii, Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio parahaemo- lyticus, Vibrio other non-cholera species, and Yersinia enterocolitica.
  • Eighty-four percent of the economic burden from these 15 pathogens is due to deaths. This reflects both the importance the public places on preventing deaths and the fact that the measure of economic burden used for nonfatal illnesses (medical costs + productivity loss) is a conservative measure of willingness to pay to prevent nonfatal illness.
  • Pathogens’ rankings by total economic burden generally follow their rankings by economic burden due to pathogen-related deaths, with notable exceptions. Campylobacter causes slightly more deaths per year than Norovirus, yet because of the very large number of nonfatal cases caused by Norovirus, its economic burden is higher than that of Campylobacter. The high medical costs and productivity losses caused by Clostridium perfringens contribute to its total economic burden exceeding those of three other pathogens with higher economic burden due to deaths (Vibrio vulnificus, Yersinia enterocolitica, and STEC O157).
  • Estimates of the incidence of foodborne disease acquired in the United States, and therefore economic burden estimates, are very uncertain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the foodborne disease incidence from these 15 pathogens could range from 4.6 million to 15.5 million cases in a typical year. Based on this range of incidence estimates, economic burden could range from $4.8 billion to $36.6 billion (2013 dollars).

How Was the Study Conducted?

This report provides estimates of the costs of foodborne illnesses based on recently published journal articles. The estimates from that research, updated for inflation and income growth to 2013 values, are available in ERS’s Cost-of-Illness Estimates for Major Foodborne Illnesses in the U.S. data product at http://www.ers.usda. gov/data-products/cost-estimates-of-foodborne-illnesses.aspx.

This report summarizes the findings from the ERS data product and provides additional educational materials based on the data product and journal articles targeted to a broad audience. The data product website allows users to explore the sensitivity of economic burden estimates to modelling assumptions. The data product also provides the information needed to update estimates for inflation and income growth over time.

The estimates underlying this report extend and update prior ERS cost-of-illness estimates by adding 11 patho- gens and updating cost estimates for 4 other pathogens. These new estimates combine a cost-of-illness measure of economic burden for nonfatal illnesses and a willingness-to-pay measure for deaths. The estimates for new pathogens are based on a synthesis of data sources, including National Inpatient Sample data on hospitalization costs, and existing scientific literature. Estimates for all pathogens use 2011 CDC estimates of the incidence of foodborne illnesses acquired in the United States and associated hospitalizations and deaths. In modeling the likelihood of other health outcomes, the estimates rely on FoodNet data and reviews of scientific literature. In modeling the duration of illnesses and severity of health outcomes, the estimates rely on a review of clinical medical literature.

Thunderbirds Are Go: Jeni’s says ‘We plan to fire this baby up by the end of the week’

I’m not sure what baby Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, is talking about but that’s what she posted on Facebook, along with, “Mr. Sulu, stand by to take us to maximum warp.”

thunderbirds_10241The Columbus-based ice cream maker has been shut down for nearly three weeks after Listeria was found in a pint of its ice cream in Nebraska. Last week it pinpointed the source of the bacteria to a spout on a pint-filling machine and began instituting a series of changes both inside its Michigan Avenue production kitchen and to its operations there.

“It’s been a flurry of activity this past week in our production kitchen,” Britton Bauer wrote. “We removed walls, set up foot foaming stations; we now have a conveyor belt!

Fabulous. Maybe you could outline your Listeria testing protocols and make the results public.