Going public: Maine wants to limit what you can know about disease outbreaks

Joe Lawlor of the Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is proposing a rule change that would allow it to more easily withhold information on the locations of outbreaks of communicable diseases like measles, chicken pox and pertussis.

public-accountabilityA rule is the same as a regulation, would have legal force behind it and implements an agency’s interpretation of a law.

Contacted Wednesday, CDC spokesman John Martins said the agency does not comment on pending rule changes.

The proposal comes a year after the Portland Press Herald filed a lawsuit in July 2015, when the Maine CDC denied the newspaper’s request for information about chicken pox outbreaks at three schools and a day-care facility during the 2014-15 school year. An outbreak is defined by the Maine CDC as a place where there are three or more cases of an infectious disease.

In a settlement agreement, the information was released to the Press Herald in October 2015, and the newspaper published the outbreak locations.

There were 84 chicken pox cases at Maine schools in 2014-15. Of those cases, 57 affected unvaccinated or undervaccinated children, according to CDC data.

In another case where public health advocates criticized the CDC for being unnecessarily secretive, the agency refused in 2014 to name the restaurant where a hepatitis A outbreak had occurred.

The Maine agency’s policy runs counter to recommendations by public health experts, who say that knowing where outbreaks occur is beneficial to the public health because some people – including infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems – are more susceptible to communicable diseases.

The CDC argued when denying the newspaper’s request last year that releasing the school names could jeopardize personal privacy because “indirect information” about the outbreaks could result in the public being able to identify people who had fallen ill.

But Sigmund Schutz, the Press Herald’s attorney, countered that the newspaper was not requesting personal information, and state law did not permit the CDC to deny the request.

Schutz said the new rule, if adopted, also would be in conflict with state open records laws, which do not give the agency latitude to deny requests based on unlikely scenarios that an individual could be identified.

Schutz said the newspaper will be lodging official comments objecting to the proposed rule. The public comment period ends Monday.

 

What about going public? Why produce organizations adopt food safety protocols

We examine theoretically and empirically the factors associated with commodity organizations’ voluntary adoption of stricter food safety guidelines. Our theoretical analysis finds that larger organizations are less likely to require members to invest in food safety procedures due to higher implementation costs.

lettuce.skull.noroRecalls induce organizations to adopt stricter food safety standards only when expected future gains from improved product reputation outweigh the short run costs of implementing those standards. The same logic holds for organizations representing growers of a product with higher demand, e.g., a larger share of fruit and vegetable sales. Organizations whose members have a larger share of the market for their product are more likely to adopt stricter food safety guidelines when that investment induces members to increase output, a necessary condition for which is that members’ current food safety procedures are more protective than the industry average.

Our econometric analysis finds that organizations with more members are less likely to adopt food safety guidelines for their members, as our theoretical analysis predicts. Organizations whose members account for a larger share of the market for their product and organizations for commodities representing larger shares of fruit and vegetable sales are more likely to implement food safety guidelines, consistent with considerations of long term profitability increases due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production. Organizations that have experienced negative shocks to reputation as measured by the number of Class I FDA recalls are also more likely to adopt food safety guidelines, again consistent with considerations of long term profitability due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production.

Foodborne illness outbreaks, collective reputation, and voluntary adoption of industrywide food safety protocols by fruit and vegetable growers

AgEcon Search

Aaron Adalja and Erik Lichtenberg

http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/235865/2/AAEA_P9730_Adalja_Lichtenberg_final.pdf

 

Salmonella from same processor stalks Seattle cook-outs

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified the feds of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) determined there was a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats of Pierce County and those illnesses.

pig.sex_In the end, at least 192 were sickened by the oddly named Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-.

It has now emerged that the Salmonella that sickened at least 11 people at a Seattle luau in July is the same type — and possibly from the same source — as the July 2015 outbreak.

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times cited Washington state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist as saying they all ate whole roast pork served either at the Good Vibe Tribe Luau at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle on July 3, or at a private event in Pierce County,. The meat in both cases came from Kapowsin, which reopened with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on June 13.

“This is very concerning to me,” said Lindquist.

The genetic fingerprints of the bacteria match those from the outbreak that caused 22 clusters of illnesses in June and July 2015 in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and Alaska, Lindquist said.

When reached by phone, John Anderson, chief executive of Kapowsin Meats in Graham, Pierce County, declined to answer questions Tuesday. He referred calls to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

FSIS officials said Kapowsin had implemented new cleaning, processing and bacterial-sampling protocols, including running whole hog carcasses through a steam intervention to kill bacteria. Federal inspectors were at the plant when it reopened in June and have been there every day that slaughter occurred.

The plant remained open Tuesday, FSIS officials said. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were monitoring the outbreak closely.

Health officials urge consumers to use care when cooking whole roast pig to avoid getting sick. Consumers should make sure the meat is clean, avoid cross-contamination of utensils and surfaces, cook the meat to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and quickly refrigerate cooked meat after meals.

But this doesn’t sound so much like a consumer problem as a slaughterhouse problem.

Australian bloggers demanding free meals for reviews: You have ‘as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle’

(Disclaimer: the only free samples we get are barf and shit: literally and lyrically.)

Rebecca Sullivan of News.com reports that both traditional food critics and restaurant owners have started naming and shaming bloggers who contact venues asking for a meal on the house, in exchange for a review.

free.products.blogEarlier this month, the owner of a Sydney restaurant made headlines for his scathing response to a food blogger who requested a free meal.

Tim Philips, the bartender and co-owner at Dead Ringer in Surry Hills, told a “foodie instagrammer” she had “as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle”.

The woman explained her usual arrangement with restaurants is “that you give my friend and I a meal on the house in exchange for Instagram coverage and reviews”.

Mr Philips posted screenshots of the interaction on his Instagram page and was praised for “standing up to what’s right and having balls.”

“I called her out because her business is what’s ruining my industry,” he wrote on Instagram, in response to some commenters who said his response was nasty.

“You missed the irony that I, as a man, am ill-qualified to ‘review’ female menstrual cycles. And this person is equally unqualified to review places they’ve been, with the predetermined obligation of a free meal for nice comments.”

While professional reviewers “always pay for their meals”, he said, “this happens A LOT”.

Food writers who work for traditional media publications cannot accept free meals in exchange for a review.

The Australian’s food critic John Lethlean has started using Instagram to name and shame food bloggers who ask for free meals.

All the food bloggers news.com.au spoke to said they had never contacted a restaurant and asked for a free meal, mostly because they don’t need to.

“I get approached by restaurants and PRs maybe 30 or 40 times a week,” said Michael Shen, who blogs at I’m Still Hungry and has 31,000 Instagram followers.

“I’m pretty strict with transparency. If I’m reviewing a place and I’ve eaten for free I say it at the top of the review so my readers know straight away. My friends told me they feel jibbed when they spend time reading a post and they get to the end and they find out it’s sponsored,” he said.

“I don’t write for a restaurant or a chef, in the end it’s all about your readers. The promise of free food is quite alluring. But to me, it’s like, would you rather risk alienating your audience just for a free meal every now and then?”

Adam Scarf is a photographer with 225,000 Instagram followers and is one of Sydney’s most popular food accounts. He’s offered free meals at least once a day.

Are those leafy greens kept cold? Meh

Leafy green vegetables are highly susceptible to microbial contamination because they are minimally processed. Pathogenic bacteria of concern include Escherichia coliO157:H7, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes. Leafy greens are a highly perishable commodity, and in some cases have a postharvest shelf-life limited to one week.

lettuceThis study provides an approach to optimize storage temperature of leafy greens in the supply chain, considering the cost of refrigeration, sensory quality parameters (i.e., fresh appearance, wilting, browning, and off-odor), and microbial safety using nonlinear programming (NLP).

The loss of sensory quality parameters was expressed as Arrhenius equations and pathogen growth were represented by three-phase linear (primary) and square-root (secondary) models. The objective function was refrigeration cost, which was to be minimized. The constraints were growth of pathogens and the loss of sensory characteristics. An interactive graphical user interface was developed in MATLAB.

Pathogen growth is of more concern than loss of sensory quality in fresh-cut Iceberg lettuce when considering a shelf-life of up to two days, and the model indicates is difficult to maintain sensory qualities for longer shelf-life values. Browning is of maximum concern for fresh-cut Iceberg and Romaine lettuce, whereas off-odor is the biggest concern for fresh-cut chicory.

Cost, quality, and safety: A nonlinear programming approach to optimize the temperature during supply chain of leafy greens

LWT – Food Science and Technology, Volume 73, November 2016, Pages 412–418

Abhinav Mishra, Robert L. Buchanan, Donald W. Schaffner, Abani K. Pradhan

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002364381630370X

Nerd alert: Risk assessment in Europe

The European Food Safety Authority says a special issue of the EFSA Journal presents the main outcomes of EFSA’s 2nd Scientific Conference “Shaping the Future of Food Safety, Together” held in Milan, on 14-16 October 2015. 

kvANE_s-200x150The event was a unique opportunity for stakeholders in Europe’s food regulatory system – policy makers, risk assessors, scientists and NGOs – to identify future challenges for food safety risk assessment in Europe. Over 1000 delegates came together in what proved to be a stimulating and insightful debate on global food safety concerns. The discussions covered an impressive range of topics and provided inspiration for EFSA’s Strategy 2020. The conclusions will help EFSA and the wider risk assessment community to chart a course in food safety risk assessment in the coming years.

The special issue of the EFSA Journal reflects the conference’s three plenary and nine parallel sessions and is accompanied by a Foreword from EFSA’s Executive Director, Bernhard Url.

All the conference material that was published on the conference’s dedicated microsite will be archived on EFSA’s website. This includes the programme, webcasts, recordings and video clips which will continue to be publicly available and linked to the special issue of the EFSA Journal. 

nerd-alert.g-jpgf

FDA’s role in the global food system

Michael R. Taylor and Howard R. Sklamberg write in the Harvard International Review (introduction only):

michael.taylor.fdaWe work for a public health regulatory agency – the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — that oversees products accounting for 20 percent of US consumer spending. FDA regulates industries that meet fundamental human health needs in the areas of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, blood and blood products, and medical devices. FDA also regulates the tobacco, dietary supplement, and cosmetic industries. In addition, we regulate the food industry. Twenty-five years ago, the FDA could afford to think and act as the domestic agency we were. Today we can’t. Every industry we regulate has become global in terms of how they source ingredients, manufacture finished products, and seek markets for the products they make here in the United States. Annual import entries of FDA-regulated products have almost tripled from 2004 to 2014, rising to about 33 million. The companies we regulate are often multinationals that have an international outlook and are affected by international standards, which they seek to harmonize.

So, FDA has had to become global, too. Since 2011, the US Congress has given us two new import safety laws with mandates and tools to ensure that imported medical and food products are as safe as domestic products. We now have offices in seven foreign countries compared to zero in 2007. We have full-time staff working on international harmonization of regulatory standards, trade policy issues, and regulatory partnerships with foreign governments. Our international engagement — and the importance of international relations to our success — is only increasing. In this article, we will highlight the international dimension of our food program, which has responsibility for the safety, composition, and labeling of all human and animal food products — except meat, poultry, and some processed egg products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. We will focus specifically on the global public health and economic challenge of protecting the safety of our food supply to show how fully intertwined our domestic consumer protection mission is with challenges facing the global food system. Furthermore, we will explain how implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 brings home the lesson that when it comes to food safety, we’re all in this together.

Congress and FDA share a vision of how the United States must engage internationally on food safety for the good of its citizens and the good of the global community. Our work in the years ahead is to fully execute that vision.

Show me the data: FSIS to begin posting location-specific food safety data online

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will soon begin sharing new levels of food safety data specific to slaughter and processing facilities in the United States, on Data.gov.

dataThe agency has detailed its framework for releasing this data in its Establishment-Specific Data Release Plan, which the agency anticipates will allow consumers to make more informed choices, motivate individual establishments to improve performance, and lead to industry-wide improvements in food safety by providing better insights into strengths and weaknesses of different practices.

“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”

FSIS employs roughly 7,500 food safety inspectors who work in more than 6,000 meat, poultry and processed egg facilities across the country and more than 120 ports of entry every day. Over the past seven years, the agency has taken an increasingly data-driven approach to identifying and preventing food safety concerns, and the data these men and women collect in regulated facilities every day have made it possible for FSIS to implement significant food safety changes since 2009. More information about these efforts to modernize food safety inspection can be found at www.Medium.com/USDA-Results. Between 2009 and 2015, this work led to a 12 percent drop in foodborne illness associated with FSIS-regulated products.

The new datasets will begin to publish on Data.gov on a quarterly basis starting 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Initially, FSIS will share information on the processes used at each facility, giving more detail than is currently listed in the searchable establishment directory, as well as a code for each facility that will make it easier to sort and combine future datasets by facility. Additionally, FSIS will release results for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and Salmonella in ready-to-eat (RTE) products and processed egg products.

On a quarterly basis, FSIS will then begin to share other datasets, including results for Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli(STEC) and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; results for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and young turkeys, comminuted poultry, and chicken parts; routine chemical residue testing data in meat and poultry products; and advanced meat recovery testing data.

Criteria such as data availability and possible impact on public health will be considered by FSIS to determine which datasets are best suited for future public release. User guides that provide context to the data will be included with each dataset.

“This plan is another step toward better engagement with our stakeholders and they will now have quality information on an ongoing basis,” stated USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza.

The Establishment-Specific Data Release Plan was developed in response to the President Obama’s call for increased data sharing and greater transparency under the Open Government Plan by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Beginning in 2010, FSIS consulted with various stakeholder groups, including the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection Subcommittee on Data Collection, Analysis, and Transparency and the National Research Council on this issue. With the expertise of these organizations, FSIS developed its plan that will not only provide consumers with the opportunity to make more informed choices, but make data publicly available that could yield valuable insights that go beyond the regulatory uses for which the data were collected.

 

How do you clean your knives?

Improperly cleaned and sanitized chef knives present a potential contamination risk and a source for foodborne illness.

How-to-clean-a-kitchen-knife-300x200This study compared the efficacies of two cleaning methods (three-compartment manual dishwashing and sanitizer wiping) at removing food soils from contaminated chef knives.

Knife-washing procedures were standardized after observing knife-cleaning behavior in a kitchen. Adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence was used to measure levels of organic soils. Results indicated that the three-compartment manual dishwashing was more effective at removing food soils from knife surfaces than the sanitizer wiping (P < .0001). This study also assessed the influence of other factors on the soil removal efficacies.

A comparison of the efficacy of chef knife-cleaning methods

Journal of Foodservice Business Research; Published online: 29 Jun 2016; DOI:10.1080/15378020.2016.1198611

Xiaodi Suna, Carl Behnkea, Barbara Almanzaa & Douglas Nelsona

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15378020.2016.1198611

Health Canada proposes rules for veterinary drugs in livestock

John Cotter of Canadian Press reports the Canadian government is proposing new rules for veterinary drugs used in livestock as it works to reduce human health risks associated with resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials.

ab.prudentHealth Canada says the decreasing effectiveness of antimicrobials is having a significant impact on the government’s ability to protect Canadians from infectious diseases.

“The overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in animals is a contributing factor to the development and spread of AMR (antimicrobial-resistance),” reads a summary of the proposed rules.

“The development of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in animals can pose serious risks to human health when they are transmitted as food-borne or water-borne contaminants. Antimicrobial-resistant infections are associated with a greater risk of death, more complex illnesses, longer hospital stays and higher treatment costs.”

The department says current regulations do not provide the necessary regulatory oversight to mitigate the risk.

The proposed changes would restrict the importation of some veterinary drugs used in livestock, require drug manufacturers to follow stricter rules regarding the quality of active ingredients and allow for increased monitoring of drug sales.

The department is seeking feedback on the proposals until Sept. 8.

Health Canada says the proposed changes will align Canada with policies in the United States and the European Union.