The chill started in Kansas, I live in Australia: USDA scientists have been put on lockdown under Trump

For the many who have asked, barfblog.com is on hiatus while I chill and focus on other things.

But some things deserve a wide audience.

Buzzfeed reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

Indeed, the last tweet from ARS’s official account was sent the day before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Though the terse internal note did not explicitly mention the new presidential administration, department scientists around the country interpreted it as a message from Trump that changes were coming to the department.

The memo was also met with some confusion. When asked if the notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, one regional director told scientists that research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but that all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington.

In a statement on Tuesday to BuzzFeed News, the department acknowledged sending an internal email that halted the release of “informational products like news releases and social media content” on Monday. “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included,” he added.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesperson for ARS, said in the statement.

The Netherlands thing is hilarious. Thanks, Amy.

Veal products recalled due to possible E. coli O26 and O45 contamination

Gold Medal Packing Inc., a Rome, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 4,607 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26 and O45, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

veal-cutsThe veal trim and top bottom sirloin (TBS) products were produced and packaged on August 16, 2016, and October 25, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF only)]

60-lb. boxes containing “BONELESS VEAL”.

2,387-lb. bin containing “TBS”.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17965” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The “BONELESS VEAL” items were shipped to a warehouse in California and the “TBS” items were shipped to distributor locations in Pennsylvania.

The problem was discovered during routine sample testing. There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O26 or O45, because they are harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O26 or O45 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

Is ‘best if used by’ better than ‘best before’

Kristen Leigh Painter of the Star Tribune reports date labels on food don’t quite represent the peril that people think.

use_by_egg1For years, foodmakers have put sell-by and use-by dates on a number of products. But some food experts and environmentalists have argued that people are throwing out perfectly good food because of those dates. And now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed.

The department’s food safety division released new industry guidance that recommends that manufacturers use the phrase “best if used by” rather than “sell by” or “use by” when putting dates on food.

Infant formula is the only food product required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to date its products to ensure the nutrient levels match what is on the nutrition label.

No other products require dates, but manufacturers put them on labels to signal to retailers and consumers when products taste best. The USDA estimates that nearly one-third of all food is thrown away uneaten, something the agency is trying to reduce through better policies or simple packaging changes.

“Research shows that this phrase conveys to consumers that the product will be of best quality if used by the calendar date shown,” the USDA wrote in its guidance. “Foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled ‘Best if Used By’ date.”

Because the U.S. has no uniform date labeling standard, a variety of terms are used. A “sell-by” date is not a safety issue but is meant to help a retailer know how long to display a produce for sale. A “use-by” date is also not a safety issue, but is the last date recommended to consumers for peak quality.

This guidance is part of the Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency’s goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030, an initiative announced last year.

The USDA says food can be consumed after its “best if used by” date so long as there are no signs of spoilage.

“Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten,” wrote the USDA.

The exception is pathogenic bacteria, which is undetectable. If an unlucky consumer purchases a food product carrying this pathogen, however, the expiration date won’t protect them regardless.

Silver Springs Farms recalls more beef for possible e. coli O157:H7 adulteration

Silver Springs Farms, Inc., a Harleysville, Pa. establishment is recalling approximately 7,970 pounds of ground beef and burger products, as well as an undetermined amount of sandwich steak products that may be adulterated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

silver-springs-e-coliThe ground beef items were produced on August 19 and 20, 2016. The exact production dates for the various sandwich steak products are unknown at this time, but are believed to have been produced between August 19 and September 19, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Labels (PDF only)]

20-lb. cases containing 4 packages of 5-lb ground beef 80/20.

10-lb. packages of “Camellia Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package codes 6235 and 6242.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package codes 6242 and 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Beef Pattie 80/20 Flat,” with package code 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Burger Flat,” with package code 6235.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Burger 80/20,” with package code 6237.

10-lb. packages of “Silver Springs Farm Gourmet Beef Pattie 80/20,” with package code 6242.

various sandwich steak products produced by the recalling firm.

There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Silver Springs Farms recalls beef products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination

Silver Springs Farms, Inc., a Harleysville, Pa. establishment is recalling approximately 740 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

silver-springs-e-coliThe ground beef items were produced on August 19, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

20-lb cases containing 4 packages of 5-lb ground beef 80/20.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 4771” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to a distributor in Virginia.

The problem was discovered during a routine verification sampling performed by Silver Springs Farms, Inc. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Seek and ye shall find: Beef products recalled due to possible E. coli O103 contamination

Caviness Beef Packers, a Hereford, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 2,100 pounds of boneless beef trim products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  

caviness-beef-packerssThe 2,100-lb. Combo Bin of “boneless beef trim 84L” products were produced on September 14, 2016 and further processed into ground beef products by another establishment. The recalling establishment has control of all but 320 pounds of ground beef products.

10 lb. chub – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Use By” or “Freeze By” date of October 10, 2016 and bear UPC number 52846-48935. 

2-3 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01656-00000.

1.5 lb. tray pack of – 73% Regular Ground Beef products with a “Sell By” date of September 28, 2016 and bear UPC number 2-01654-00000.

The products subject to this recall were further processed by a firm other than Caviness Beef Packers, “EST. 675” and may not bear the establishment number “EST. 675”, on products available for direct consumer purchase. These products were shipped to retail locations in Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified of a USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) sample that tested positive for E. coli O103. Because the company works with the AMS Commodity Program, AMS did routine microbiological testing. This shipment of beef was never intended for the National School Lunch Program (NLSP) and no sales were made to the NLSP. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O103 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

7 sick: Multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 linked to beef products from Adams Farm

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) infections.

adams-farmSeven people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from four states.

Five ill people have been hospitalized. No one has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that beef products produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts is a likely source of this outbreak.

On September 24, 2016, Adams Farm Slaughterhouse recalled beef, veal, and bison products due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

The products subject to recall have establishment number EST. 5497 inside the USDA mark of inspection and include several lot numbers and cuts of meat. The full list can be found on the USDA website.

These items were shipped to farmers’ markets, retail locations, and restaurants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and eastern New York. The products may have been shipped to neighboring states.

We recommend that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled meat products.

Don’t cook recalled meat products and eat them. Throw the meat out or return it to the place of purchase. If you throw it away, put it in a sealed bag in the trash so that children, pets, or other animals can’t eat it..

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 27, 2016 to September 4, 2016. Ill people range in age from 1 year to 74, with a median age of 25. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Five ill people have been hospitalized.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence indicate that beef products produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Massachusetts is a likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. All five (100%) of the five people reached for interview reported eating ground beef in the week before they became ill.  Preliminary traceback information indicates that ill people ate ground beef which had been produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover ground beef from an ill person’s home and from a restaurant for testing; that beef had been produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse. Test results showed the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 in both samples of the leftover ground beef.

 

Fewer people barfing? Pathogen versus illness reduction

I’ve commented many times on the machinations of Washington and other capitals, with their proposals, and lobbyists and general isolation from the reality of foodborne illness and ask a basic question: will whatever some social actor is proposing actually lead to few people barfing?

eintsteinquestioneverything(It’s like the question I asked my hockey club: do coaches run practice or do parents? They couldn’t answer so I stepped aside as head coach. Still coach kids and adults, but wearied of the bureaucracy; that’s for other people more skilled at it than I).

Dr. William James writes for meatingplace.com that it’s time for USDA to move from pathogen reduction to illness reduction.

Will requiring testing of an expanded array of products help us achieve a downward trend of illnesses from E. coli O157:H7? Some meat companies think not, because trim from these products is already tested.  FSIS thinks more testing might help because it claims these cuts are increasingly used for grinding by further processors, retailers, and foodservice customers.

In a puzzling statement, FSIS said it intends to focus on Salmonella Dublin. S. Dublin isn’t on CDC’s list of top 10 serotypes causing illnesses.  And according to FSIS, S. Dublin is reported to cause more severe illness than any other meat-borne Salmonella, but it “rarely infects humans.”

So, what is the plan to reduce Salmonella illnesses from beef? “[W]e think one way to get at that is through a performance standard,”Meatingplace.com reports FSIS as saying.

FSIS did mention they were looking at the presence of Salmonella in lymph nodes as a key to a new approach to controlling illnesses.  That’s encouraging.

The FSIS announcement for pathogen controls doesn’t have many new ideas, and is not likely to be effective.  We need a fresh approach.

The goal for FSIS needs to evolve from pathogen reduction to illness reduction.

Lamb products recalled due to possible E. coli contamination

PT Farm, LLC, a North Haverhill, N.H. establishment, is recalling approximately 15 pounds of lamb products that may be contaminated with E. coli, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

hopkinsThe lamb products, a neck and one leg, were derived from a carcass produced on Sept. 6, 2016 and were shipped to a retail store in Somerville, Massachusetts and sold at their retail counter on Sept. 7, 2016.

The problem was discovered on Sept. 7, 2016 when the establishment was notified of an E. coli positive water supply sample result and resulting ‘water boil’ notice initiated by the North Haverhill Municipality Water Department located in North Haverhill, New Hampshire.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Hamburger safety videos: Who’s the bullshitter, UK or US?

How can two different countries come up with two different recommendations – yet equally cheesy videos – on the basics of hamburger food safety?

Value assumptions in risk assessments.

My guess would be the UK Food Standards Agency thinks consumers can’t handle thermometers so they provide misguided and meaningless risk messages. And when talking about steaks, they don’t talk about needle- or blade tenderized steaks, in which the outside is pushed into the inside.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gets the science right, but fails to expand beyond the simplistic cook-chill-clean-separate mantra and doesn’t mention sourcing food from safe sources, like the World Health Organization does.

I provide information. You decide.