Food Poisoning Bulletin
According to a press release from RighttoKnow.org, campaign finance reports show that pesticide and processed foods companies contributed almost $10 million to oppose Proposition 37. That ballot measure would require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO) foods. Stacy Malkan, Media Director for California Right to Know said in a statement, “They will not prevail. This is America. We have the right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children.”
For instance, Dupont Pioneer has contributed $2.4 million. Bayer CropScience has contributed $1 million, and BASF Plant Science gave almost $1 million to defeat Prop 37. Other large contributors include PepsiCo Inc., Nestle USA, Inc., General Mills, Inc., Conagara Foods, Syngenta Corporation, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Hormel Foods, Kellogg Company and Campbell Soup Company. The president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently said that defeating Prop 37 is the highest priority for that group this election year.
Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, from Pesticide Action Network, said that “rather than reducing the need for hazardous pesticides, herbicide-resistant seeds have driven a massive increase in herbicide use that has been linked to significant environmental and public health concerns.” A 2009 report showed that farmers used 318 million more pounds of pesticides in the first 13 years of commercial GE crop production, from 1996 to 2008.
Most other countries in the world, including the European Union, Japan, Australia, and China, already requires the labeling of GMO foods. Prop 37 will appear on this November’s California ballot. It would require food processors to label about 80% of all non-organic processed food sold in grocery stores. Food processors would most likely change labels nationwide, since it would cost more to have a separate set of labels for products sold in California.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has released a draft about improving their food inspection model. The single system model would replace the eight different inspection systems currently in place. Now, the inspection models covers dairy, eggs, meat, processed foods, imported and manufactured food, fish and seafood, and fresh fruits and vegetables separately.
Each facility will be issued a single license. Additional licenses will not be required for additional activities or products. The facilities will provide information about their business, such as management’s commitment to meeting regulations, preventative control plans, that key personnel have completed food handling training, and which products will be produced under different processes.
This information will help the CFIA develop a profile of the companies, how they conduct business, and a base of knowledge about the different food sectors. Inherent risk will then be determined, which will set the level of oversight and conditions of licensing.
Agriculture Gerry Ritz said in a statement, “we have a world class food safety system in Canada but we want it to be the best. A single inspection approach will make an even stronger system that will benefit all Canadians.”
The CFIA is seeking comments from consumers and those in industry until October 31, 2012. These are the aspects of the new model under consideration: a single licensing and registration requirement; more consistent oversight and inspection; a scaled approach that adapts to the size and complexity of the business; and distribution of more information to consumers about compliance and enforcement. To comment, visit the Consultation site of the CFIA.
Canada’s conservative government is cutting the budget for the CFIA by $56 million over the next three years. Spending on food safety alone is being cut by $21 million. One hundred inspectors will be laid off, and almost half of the agency’s veterinarians will be “affected” by the budget cuts. The CFIA is going to stop checking nutrition labels for accuracy, and some inspection actions, such as part of the meat inspection process, will be moved to the oversight of provinces.
The Agriculture Union PSAC has started a campaign called Food Safety First to publicize these changes. They want the Canadian government to hire additional inspectors, declare a moratorium on industry self-policing, and remove obstacles preventing inspectors from taking immediate action when serious health problems arise.
Food Safety News
The incident management team has released the final report on last November’s botulism outbreak involving three siblings.
It began when a 5-year-old boy and then his 7-year-old sister were admitted to the hospital November 8 and 9, respectively, with symptoms that included double vision, sore mouth and lower limb weakness. In a matter of hours, botulism went from being a “possible though unlikely diagnosis” to “sufficiently strong to warrant obtaining trivalent botulinum antitoxin which was administrated to both children, after which the condition stabilized.”
Health Protection Scotland issued a public alert about the botulism threat on November 11 to European Union counties via the established Early Warning and Response System. (EWRS).
Two days later, the investigation team determined that a jar of commercially available korma sauce was the vehicle of intoxication. The United Kingdom’s Food Safety Agency (FSA) took immediate action to remove the affected batch from the supply chain and retail market.
The product FSA recalled was Loyd Grossman Korma Sauce, produced by a branch of the London-based Premier Foods Group Ltd.
“FSA also alerted the public to the potential risks from consumption of sauce from jars of korma sauce from the same batch,” the final report says. The Health Protection Service alerted clinicians in Scotland about the incident and provided warning information early signs and symptoms of botulism.
The outbreak wasn’t over yet, though. A third member of the same family, a 3 1/2-year-old year old girl experienced swallowing problems and was diagnosed with suspected botulism.
All three children recovered from their illnesses.
The final report found no evidence that the korma sauce in the family’s home was contaminated nor did it find any faults in the manufacturer’s production facility or supply chain that could explain the contamination.
“No evidence suggested that any jar, other than the one purchased by the affected family, had been contaminated, ” the report concluded. The incident was formally closed on Dec. 6, 2011.
Local health department issues health advisory to patrons
Food Safety News
Lab tests have confirmed that an employee of Tom’s Gyro in Pocatello, Idaho has been infected with Hepatitis A, meaning that restaurant patrons may have been exposed to the virus.
“While the risk to public health is low, the possibility exists that Tom’s Gyro patrons could have been exposed to Hepatitis A,” warned the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Department, which is conducting an investigation into the incident.
SIPHD issued a public health notice
Wednesday advising patrons who ate at the restaurant between August 2nd and August 14th to receive a Hepatitis A Vaccine or immune globulin (IG) immediately to prevent the onset of illness. Those who ate at the restaurant between July 15 and August 1 may also have been exposed to the virus, but a preventative measure would not prevent illness at this point.
Hepatitis A, which infects the blood and causes damage to the liver, is detected through a blood test. This case of Hepatitis A was confirmed through testing.
The employee is thought to have practiced good hand hygiene while serving customers, but may still have contaminated food or drinks at the restaurant, according to SIPHD.
“The risk of exposure is considered small, but not zero.”
SIPHD says this seems to be an isolated case, and not part of a larger outbreak.
Patrons who ate at the restaurant between August 2 and August 14 may still prevent illness if they were exposed to the virus, and should receive either the Hepatits A vaccine or Immune Globulin (IG). These are available through most healthcare providers, and will also be offered by the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Department.
The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for people between the ages of 12 months and 40 years old who are not pregnant, immune-compromised or have chronic liver disease.
Immune globulin (IG) is recommended for those who are over 40 years old, pregnant, immune-compromised, have chronic liver disease or for infants under 12 months.
At this time, illness onset cannot be prevented among patrons exposed to the virus before August 2.
SIPHD is asking anyone who consumed food or drink at Tom’s Gyro between July 15 and August 2 to see a healthcare provider if they have experienced symptoms of Hepatitis A infection, which include fever, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, jaundice, tiredness, nausea or dark urine.
For more information, contact the Southeastern Idaho Public Health Department at 208-234-5888.
Food Safety News
Food service establishments in Ottawa, Ontario that repeatedly fail health inspections will be required to enroll employees in mandatory food safety training if a proposal set to be discussed next week becomes law.
The proposal – submitted to the Ottawa Board of Health by public health officials – would make food handler training mandatory for employees of restaurants that rack up more than 4 critical infractions in a one-year period.
The health department of the eastern Canadian city does not currently mandate food handler certification for restaurant employees.
“Mandatory training for all food handlers has been found to have limited benefits; a targeted food handler training approach would enable (Ottawa Public Health) to focus efforts on food premises operators with a history of non-compliance, while still offering the training to all those wishing to be certified,” states the proposal, according to the Ottawa Citizen
In addition, because food service workers move from one establishment to another, tracking those who are certified is an unwieldy task, it says.
Health officials conducted 13,837 inspections in the city in 2011, an increase from its 13,710 inspections in 2010.
Last year, 55 provincial offense notices were issued to 39 premises, a jump from the 20 notices issued to 13 facilities the preceding year, reports the Citizen.
The Board of Health will discuss the proposal Monday.
Food Safety News
Last year’s E. coli O157:H7 outbreak attributed to the Kelley Livestock Building at the North Carolina State Fair has brought changes in pedestrian and animal traffic patterns, now designed to minimize health risks at the fair.
The big Raleigh event, next scheduled for Oct.11 to 21, 2012, was responsible for its third E. coli O157:H7 outbreak last year.
In 2004, the NC fair’s petting zoo left 108 fairgoers infected with E. coli O157:H7. In 2006, the NC fair’s pita stand was found responsible for infecting three people with the bacteria. And last year, the livestock building was blamed for infecting at least 27 fairgoers with O157.
For 2012, the NC State Fair has spent $206,000 on improvements designed to reduce the likelihood that a fairgoer will come into contact with disease-causing pathogens.
More than one million visitors attend the annual NC State Fair.
After last year’s outbreak, a newly appointed State Fair Study Commission took up the issue with the goal of keeping people and competition livestock separated as much as practical without keeping people totally away from the animals.
An NC public health investigation last year found that fairgoer illnesses stemmed from exposure to sheep, goats and pigs competing in the fair’s livestock shows and being kept in the Kelley building.
NC State Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler set up the study to review the repeated problem of fairgoers being infected with E. coli.
The solutions the study group came up with involve changing the traffic patterns in buildings where livestock are housed or shown, the Kelley Building, Jim Graham Building, and the Expo Center.
The recommendations included changing the location of animals within buildings and how animals and people enter and exit buildings.
In addition, food vendors are being relocated from the area between the Graham Building and Expo Center. Instructional signs at animal exhibits will be larger, and hand-washing stations will have nighttime lighting and more signs to increase visibility.
“The changes put forth by the Study Commission are a practical and effective way to further reduce the potential for disease transmission – both animal-to-human and human-to-animal,” Troxler said. “They build upon protective measures already in place, and they reduce risks while maintaining the fair’s agricultural heritage.”
Lindsay Tallent, mother of then 2-year old Hunter Tallent who spent 16 days in the hospital with kidney failure after being infected with E. coli at last year’s NC State Fair, said its sad that families must be kept further away from the animals, but in the long run it is better to “keep away any spread of diseases and keep families away from what we’ve had to deal with.”
State Fair revenues are being used to pay for the changes.
”While there is no way to completely eliminate the potential for exposure, the measures being implemented will minimize the risk,” said Dr. Megan Davies, state epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health. “We also want to encourage the public to do their part as well by following traffic patterns at the fair and using common sense measures to keep themselves and their families healthy.”
Wake County Community Health Director Sue Lynn Ledford, a member of the study commission, said State Fair visitors can help themselves stay healthy by:
- Leaving strollers outside buildings containing animals.
- Following instructions on signs indicating animals that should not be touched.
- Using the hand-washing stations located throughout the fairgrounds.
- Helping children wash their hands well at the appropriate times.
“While hand sanitizers and hand wipes are easy to use, washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and drying them with clean paper towels is the best way to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness,” Ledford said. “Washing hands before you eat, every time you eat, greatly reduces the spread of disease. This is particularly important after visiting animal exhibits or being in direct contact with animals.”
The 15-member State Fair Study Commission consisted of public health professionals, veterinarians, livestock exhibitors, State Fair staff and representatives of N.C. Cooperative Extension and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
David Smith, chief deputy commissioner of the department, chaired the group.
Missa Bay, LLC recalled almost 300,000 cases and almost 300,000 individually distributed units of fruit, vegetable, and sandwich products this week for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. One of their customers is McDonalds.
That company just issued a statement saying they have stopped serving all existing apple products from Ready Pac’s Missa Bay facility and removed them entirely from the restaurant and distribution centers. The recalled foods have use-by dates of July 8, 2012 through August 20, 2012.
McDonalds spokesperson Danya Proud said that this action is taken “in an abundance of caution”. There have not been reports of illness associated with the recalled products. For questions, you can call McDonalds at 1-800-244-6227. Burger King is another customer of Ready Pac and their fresh apple slices were also part of the recall; they have not issued a statement yet.
The recalled apple slices with expiration dates on or before August 19, 2012 were sold in these states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Diced apples for Fruit and Maple Oatmeal with expiration dates on or before August 19, 2012 were sold in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Snack Size Fruit and Walnut Salad with expiration dates on or before August 20, 2012 were sold in restaurants in these states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. The symptoms can take as long as 70 days to appear after exposure. Anyone who ate contaminated product in August may not become ill under October, so it can be difficult to connect the illness with the contaminated food. If you purchased and ate these products, record it, along with the use-by date and product codes if possible. Contact REady Pac at 800-800-7822 for a refund.
Food Poisoning Bulletin
Vaquería Tres Monjitas is recalling pineapple-guava juice beverage (guava-piña) in all of the package sizes available for undeclared milk. The juice may contain sodium caseinate, a milk derivative, that is not declared on the label. Anyone with a sensitivity or allergy to milk may suffer a severe allergic reaction if they consume this product. No illnesses have been reported to date.
Sodium caseinate is a type of protein found in milk. It is usually used as a food additive. The FDA does not consider it to be a dairy product, even though it contains the proteins that cause allergic reactions to milk.
The juice is available in plastic containers in these sizes: 8 ounce, 14 ounce, 32 ounce, 64 ounce, and 128 ounce. When the labels have been corrected, the product will be available again. For questions, or to return the product for a refund, call the company at 787-474-1817 or 787-474-1818.
Food Safety News
A New Jersey-based company is recalling 293,488 cases and 296,224 individual units of fruit, vegetable and sandwich products because they contain apples that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
Missa Bay, LLC, a subsidiary of Ready Pac Foods,Missa Bay, LLC, Inc. of Swedesboro, NJ initiated a voluntary recall of the products Friday after Listeria monocytogenes was found on equipment used by the company to process its apple products, which are sold at McDonalds, Burger King and a variety of retail locations around the country.
Apples subject to the recall are diced or sliced and have a use-by date of July 8 through August 20, 2012.
The affected products were distributed to the District of Columbia and 36 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
No illnesses have been reported in connection to the recalled product to date.
Items subject to recall include:
- BK Fresh Apple Slices, 2oz, “Burger King” label with use-by date of August 13 or before
- Snack Pac Apples & Caramel, 4oz, “Hannaford” label with use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 4126817191
- Snack Pac Apples, Granola & Yogurt, 4.3oz, “Hannaford” label with use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 4126817195
- Apple Slices, 1.2oz, “McDonalds” label; (ONLY in the following states: CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ , NY, PA, RI , VT). Product is marked with a use-by date of August 19 or before
- Diced Apples for Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, 0.92oz, “McDonalds” label; (ONLY in the following states: CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ , NY, PA, RI , VT). Product is marked with a use-by date of August 19 or before
- Fruit & Walnut Snack, 5.75oz, “McDonalds” label with a use-by date of August 20 or before
- Apple Blue Pecan bistro, 4.75oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 12 or before
and UPC 7774529497
- Fruit Frenzy, 32oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7774523086
- Fruit Tray Bien, 32oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7774521606
- Ready Snax Apples, Cheese with Caramel Dip, 4oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7774523896
- Ready Snax Apples, Celery, Raisins with Peanut Butter, 4oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7774523897
- Ready Snax Apples, Granola & Yogurt, 4.3oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7774523089
- Super Fruit Blend, 6oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 17 or before and UPC 7774523076
- Super Fruit Medley, 10.5oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 16 or before and UPC 7774523746
- Sweet Sunshine Platter, 37oz, “Ready Pac” label with a use-by date of August 16 or before and UPC ￼7774524204
- Apple, Blue Cheese & Pecan Complete Salad Kit, 8.75oz, “Safeway Farms” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 2113033680
- Apple Caramel Dipper, 6.7oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 16 or before and UPC 2619100394
- Apple Peanut Butter Dipper, 6.5oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 15 or before and UPC 2619100268
- Apple Slices, 3.5oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 16 or before and UPC 2619102232
- Baby Carrots, 3oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 16 or before and UPC 2619102517
- Chicken Salad Snack, 6.7oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 12 or before and UPC 2619102760
- Chicken Salad Sandwich, 7.8oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 10 or before and UPC 2619105670
- Fruit & Cheese, 6oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 11 or before and UPC 2619102567
- Protein Power Pack, 7.8oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 11 or before and UPC 2619102565
- Red Grapes, 3oz, “Wawa” Label with a use-by date of August 13 or before and UPC 2619102518
- Turkey & Cheese Sandwich, 7.7oz, “Wawa” label with a use-by date of August 10 or before and UPC 2619105622
- Apples, Celery, Raisins & Peanut Butter, 4oz, “Wegmans” label with a use-by date of August 18 and UPC 7789026744
- Apples, Cheese & Caramel Dip, 4oz, “Wegmans” label with a use-by date of August 15 or before and UPC 7789026743
- Apples, Granola & Low Fat Vanilla Yogurt, 4.3oz, “Wegmans” label with a use-by date of August 18 or before and UPC 7789026737
Advice to Consumers
Consumers who purchased any of the recalled products should record the use-by date and/or UPC code number, immediately dispose of the product, and contact Ready Pac Consumer Affairs at (800) 800-7822 Monday through Friday between 8 am and 5 pm Pacific Time to obtain a full refund.
Produce testing program still slated to be cut at year’s end
Food Safety News
Testing conducted by the government’s Microbiological Data Program (MDP) has prompted a recall of cilantro for potential Salmonella contamination, marking the second time this week and the third time this month that the produce testing program – scheduled to be terminated at the end of the year – has sparked a recall.
Because of MDP’s discovery, Fresco Green Farms of Winchester, California is recalling 1,643 cases of Cilantro harvested from July 18th 2012 to July 27th 2012.
Earlier this week, grape tomatoes produced by Iowa-based Menno Beachy were recalled after testing by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, one of the 11 state agencies that participate in MDP, revealed Salmonella in a sample of the product, prompting a recall Wednesday.
A day later, the Department issued another advisory about possible Salmonella contamination, this time in cilantro from Fresco Green Farms that was sold to grocery stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The stores have been asked to remove the cilantro, which was distributed between July 26 and August 6, 2012, from shelves, and consumers are advised to throw away any cilantro purchased at locations where the affected cilantro was sold. A list of these retailers is available on MDA’s website
The grape tomato and cilantro samples that tested positive for Salmonella were both taken on July 30, but the tomato recall was issued earlier because the presence of the bacteria on the cilantro took longer to confirm, says Carrie Rigdon, Rapid Response Team Planner for Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division.
“Laboratory results are still pending on the serotype for the cilantro,” said Ridgdon in an e-mailed statement to Food Safety News.
The tomato and cilantro market withdrawals come on the heels of another MDP-prompted recall of almost 200,000 cantaloupes at the beginning of August, initiated after the New York State Department of Agriculture’s MDP program found Listeria monocytogenes on the melons.
The Microbiological Data Program, a small program housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, was originally started in 2001 as a way to keep tabs on contamination rates of fresh produce, but has expanded its role to include recall tip-offs.
The small program – which costs USDA $4.5 million a year – was scheduled to be shut down in July after being excluded from this year’s budget plan, but was put on life support after its impending shutdown was widely publicized by the media. It is now set to be canceled at the end of 2012.
A copy of the recall can be found here
For more coverage of MDP and the controversy over its funding, see:
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published August 10 and was updated August 13 to include the name of the company who initiated the recall.
Articles of Interest
Food Safety News
Consumer Reports, the popular monthly product testing magazine, was awarded a $2 million grant by the Pew Charitable Trusts to study food safety, the New York Times reported Monday.
According to the Times, the organization has already received a one million dollar installment. The magazine’s scientific staff will begin their first round of testing of meat, poultry, and other foods this fall.
“We’ll be focusing mostly on pathogens, heavy metals and carcinogens in food,” Jennifer Shecter, a senior policy analyst at Consumer Reports told NYT, which added that the magazine would also be “studying levels of antibiotics and their role in producing resistance to drugs.”
As the NYT reports, lab testing is expensive and Consumer Reports “was limited by its budget. The Pew grant will alleviate that burden.”
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, recently released a report, “Meat Without Drugs,” and launched a campaign to pressure retailers to sell meat from animals raised without antibiotics.
‘Such delays call into question the Obama administration’s commitment to reforms’
Food Safety News
The New York Times over the weekend called on the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to release food safety rules that the agency has been reviewing for 8 months — adding to a growing chorus of consumer advocates, industry groups, and lawmakers asking for the rules to move forward.
Nineteen months after President Obama signed the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act into law, the critical elements of the law are not in place, but stuck in regulatory limbo.
“If you think the food supply has become markedly safer since then, think again,” wrote the Times.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent drafts rules for preventive controls, produce safety, feed controls, and foreign supplier verification in December 2011. Major regulations to head to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), where they undergo a cost-benefit analysis, but the office has only 90 days to weigh the costs and benefits of the rule — though it can be expanded to 120 days with an extension.
“While coordinating suggestions from various agencies can take time, a delay of eight months and counting lends credence to the suspicions of consumer advocates who think election-year politics are at play, with Democrats trying to avoid Republican charges that rules kill jobs,” added the editorial. “The budget office denies this, and can point to many rules that have been approved, including a crucial one reducing mercury emissions from power plants. But several important rules, like those on food safety, remain in limbo.
The Times notes that there are many significant rules languishing at OMB, including clean water regulations, labor protections for home care aides, and creditor regulations aimed at protecting veterans, the poor, disabled from bank garnishments — “Such delays call into question the Obama administration’s commitment to reforms that are needed to make government work better and more effectively.”
Obama’s head of OIRA, otherwise known as the regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein recently resigned from the administration to return to Harvard, leaving many questions about what impact his departure might have on the major rules under review.
In an article over the weekend, the Denver Post also highlighted the longtime delay for food safety rules, noting that it has been about a year since the tragic Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes claimed more lives than any other outbreak in nearly a century.
“The law was too recent to prevent last summer’s deadly listeria outbreak (and local growers have since implemented their own safety provisions), but more than 18 months later, it should be a vital safeguard against further illnesses,” wrote Lisa Wirthman for the Post. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
Food Safety News
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s annual report to Congress, released this week, offers an overview of what the agency has been up to over the past year.
In FDA’s latest report, which is required by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, one thing is immediately clear: FDA has an enormous food safety mandate. The agency regulates $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion worth of imported food. In all, the agency oversees more than 421,121 registered domestic and foreign food facilities.
It’s been about a year and a half since President Obama signed FSMA into law. Though FDA is waiting on drafts of key food safety rules to be released by the White House Office of Management and Budget — where they have now been under review for eight months — the agency has moved forward in a number of other key areas.
In fiscal year 2011, FDA said it used around $190 million for FSMA implementation, $131 million of which was used to inspect domestic food facilities and $33 million for foreign facilities. The agency also gave $25 million to states for food inspections. In its report, FDA noted that the numbers do not include the cost of inspections at the U.S. border, nor did it include the cost of lab analyses or criminal investigations.
Out of 167,033 registered domestic facilities, FDA and states under contract inspected 19,073. Out of 254,088 registered foreign facilities, FDA and states under contract inspected 995. Of the 22,325 domestic food companies FDA has deemed “high-risk,” the agency inspected 11,007, or nearly half of them.
Exactly how much does it cost for FDA to inspect a food maker? For a “high-risk” facility, the average cost is $21,000. For a “non-high-risk” facility, the average is $14,200. Foreign high-risk food facilities cost taxpayers around $24,800 per inspection.
FDA said it is still working on its framework for establishing which food facilities fall into different risk categories.
When it comes to food imported into the United States, through multiple ports of entry, FDA still inspects a small percentage. The agency said it physically examined around 2.3 percent, or 243,400 import lines out of 10,439,236. Field exams cost around $170 each, but if samples are analyzed they cost around $2,800 each.
The agency has also “devoted significant time and resources” to building a more integrated national food safety system. FDA said in the last year they established several working groups to help state, local and tribal stakeholders work to help with the integration. Part of the plan is to integrate response efforts between multiple levels of jurisdiction so that the public health response is “coordinated, faster, and more effective.”
One of the key priorities is creating uniform national standards for program standards, facility inspections, lab testing and outbreak response. In its report, FDA said that achieving more uniformity would “enable greater ability to utilize analyses and observations across jurisdictions to protect public health.”
Sandy Eskin, the director of the Pew Charitable Trusts Food Safety Campaign, said that while the annual report offers a “useful snapshot” of how FDA is implementing FSMA, she remains concerned about “the type of oversight FDA will be giving state contractors as well as the substantial costs associated with traditional ‘pre-FSMA’ inspections.”
“Of course,” she added, “FSMA’s vision for inspection and food import safety will be incomplete as long as the proposed rules regarding the prevention-based requirements for facilities and importers remain bottled up at OMB.”
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