Two Newborns Sickened with Salmonella at CA Hospital
Over the past three weeks, two newborn girls have contracted Salmonella infections at a Central California hospital.
Authorities are investigating how the infants, treated at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, were exposed to the bacteria.
“We don’t have an answer yet,” said Dr. John Walker of the Stanislaus County’s Public Health Services. “However, there has been intense investigation.”
More Victims in Live Poultry Salmonella Outbreak
Three strains of Salmonella linked to baby chicks and ducklings have sickened 144 people in 26 states, up from the 123 people in 25 states reported in a June 11 outbreak update.
The three types of bacteria – Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Lille – have been traced to baby poultry from the Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio, which sells chicks and ducklings through mail orders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The number of people sickened in each state is as follows: Alabama (4), Arizona (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (5), Illinois (1), Indiana (3), Kansas (1), Kentucky (5), Louisiana (1), Maine (4), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New York (16), North Carolina (14), Ohio (37), Pennsylvania (11), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (11), Texas (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (10) and West Virginia (7).
At least 61 people are now ill with E. coli O157:H7 linked to a picnic held by Neff’s Lawn Care in Germantown, Ohio, according to the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department.
Of those sickened, 11 have been hospitalized and 11 have tested positive for the same strain of E. coli, said Bill Wharton, spokesman for the health department.
The cause of the outbreak remains unknown as health officials continue their investigation. Between 200 and 300 people attended the event, and the health department suspects more individuals may report illnesses.
Those who attended the event and fell ill are encouraged to contact the health department at 937-225-4460.
E. coli Cases in CA Now Linked to New Brunswick Outbreak
Back in late April, at least 18 people fell ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating at Jungle Jim’s restaurant in Miramichi, New Brunswick. Two months later, when Canadian health officials finally linked the illnesses to romaine lettuce served at the restaurant, they also announced that matching infections had cropped up in both California and Quebec.
But that was all the information they provided, and it prompted a number of questions about the California connection: Did Californians travel to New Brunswick and eat at Jungle Jim’s, or did the infections occur in California? Were they infected near late April? Did the E. coli strains match genetically? Did they eat romaine lettuce?
For more than a week, no one would say. But on Thursday, the California Department of Public Health provided Food Safety News with some answers.
The California infections occurred in California — none of the people sickened had been traveling to Canada. The state health department spokesman would not say how many Californians were involved in the outbreak.
However, their infections occurred in April, near the time of the New Brunswick outbreak. The official said the cases share “common food item consumption” and that the strains implicated in California and Canada were indistinguishable from one another when analyzed through pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
In short, the evidence strongly suggests that Californians and Canadians were separately infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 after contact with the same batch of romaine lettuce. The majority of romaine lettuce grown between April and October comes from California, and this lettuce may have come from packages that intermingled product from multiple farms.
Girl In Critical Condition with E. coli HUS Linked to Neff’s Lawn Care Picnic
Bill Wharton with the Dayton & Montgomery County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin that a 4-year-old girl is hospitalized in critical condition with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of an E. coli 0157:H7 infection contracted at the Neff’s Lawn Care picnic in Germantown Ohio on July 3. Her condition was downgraded to critical on July 12, 2012.
So far, 62 people have been sickened in this outbreak and 13 people have been hospitalized. Public health officials have not determined the source of the bacteria. Mr. Wharton said, “there was very little, if any, food left over from the picnic.” And many people attending the picnic brought their own foods to the event, complicating matters further.
Get E. coli-HUS help here.
The health department is continuing to interview those who are ill and those who prepared the food consumed at the picnic. The investigators are also looking at food handling, storage practices, potential for cross-contamination, and food temperature controls.
Read Full Article Here
Rocky Ford Cantaloupes Are Back On Sale In Colorado
Rocky Ford cantaloupes were not exactly rolled out as planned on Friday, July 13 for their first sales following last year’s deadly Listeria outbreak.
Instead, the new Rocky Ford Growers Association (RFGA) opted to give away 450 pounds of the cantaloupe during the previous weekend at the popular Cherry Creek Arts Festival. People lined up ten deep to get their hands on the first Rocky Fords of the season.
Friday was the first day Rocky Ford cantaloupes were supposed to be available at some King Soopers stores, which make up about 35 percent of the grocery business in Colorado. Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Safeway stores won’t get their first Rocky Ford cantaloupes until next Friday, July 20.
June’s hot weather moved this season’s harvest forward by a couple of weeks and the crop is much smaller than a year ago because growers planted fewer acres with cantaloupe.
Growers say the hot days and cool nights experienced in the growing area along the Arkansas River produce a melon with the high sugar content that is favored by consumers.
Last year, Rocky Ford cantaloupes were pulled from the shelves on September 5 because the melons were linked to a 28-state Listeria outbreak that killed as many as 37 people and sickened at least 146.
It was the most deadly U.S. foodborne illness outbreak in a century.
The actual source of the outbreak proved to be Jensen Farms, a cantaloupe grower on the Colorado/Kansas border. While the company’s farm is located about 90 miles away from the historic Rocky Ford growing areas, Jensen still marketed its cantaloupes under the “Rocky Ford” label in 24 states.
Read Full Article Here
Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Minnesota Denny’s
Three people were hospitalized with Salmonella Montevideo infections after eating at Denny’s in Rochester, MN. One more case has not been confirmed but is thought to be part of the outbreak.
The three patrons became ill between July 2 and July 7 after eating at the same Rochester Denny’s between June 27 and July 5. Officials at Olmsted County Health Services are looking into how the bacteria might have entered the restaurant, and suspect that it was being carried by a customer or employee.
The restaurant has been fully cooperative throughout the investigation, taking all measures recommended by health officials. County and state health departments have discarded potentially contaminated foods, sanitized all food preparation surfaces, enforced glove use among all employees and excluded all ill or recently ill workers.
Oyster Bay Shellfish Harvest Suspended After 8 Fall Ill
Shellfish harvesting in areas in Oyster Bay, New York has been suspended after 8 people who ate shellfish from that area were sickened with Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections.
Approximately 1,980 acres on the north shore of Oyster Bay have been closed until environmental samples reveal that the danger of Vibrio contamination has passed, announced the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Friday.
The New York State Department of Health reported that 3 residents of Nassau County – where Oyster Bay is located – and 5 people from 3 other states became ill after eating raw or partially cooked shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbor.
Laboratory analysis has confirmed that the infections were caused by the Vibrio bacteria, a naturally-occuring organism that thrives in warm marine water environments.
Symptoms of Vibrio infection usually occur around 24 hours after ingesting the bacteria, and include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Symptoms usually resolve within a week. Illness may be more severe in those with compromised immune symptoms or preexisting chronic diseases.
Man’s Death May Be Linked to Last Year’s Listeria Outbreak
PulseNet’s genetic fingerprint may link Montana death to Listeria-tainted cantaloupe outbreak
Last fall’s outbreak of Listeria traced to cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Colorado grew into one of the deadliest in U.S. history, causing at least 146 illnesses and 32 deaths. But as with any outbreak, health officials can never say for certain that the contaminated product did not sicken, or even kill, more than those counted.
Now, just as Colorado cantaloupes return to store shelves for the new growing season, the foodborne pathogen tracking network known as PulseNet may have connected the cantaloupe outbreak to a listeriosis death in Montana.
The connection was made when PulseNet discovered that a clinical sample of Listeria from a 75-year-old Bozeman, Montana man who died in January was indistinguishable from a rare genetic fingerprint of Listeria found on a cantaloupe from an outbreak victim’s home. PulseNet compares pathogen samples across the U.S. using a DNA mapping technique called pulsed field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE.
Benjamin Silk, Ph.D., epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Food Safety News that the Bozeman victim was now considered part of the outbreak, bringing the official case count to 147 people in 28 states. The CDC has stopped short of attributing the man’s death to the outbreak until health officials in Montana complete an investigation into his infection and other health complications.
“The high number of deaths associated with this outbreak have caused them to be a focal point, but it’s hard to say whether an infection caused death when it happens weeks or months after infection, especially in elderly victims,” Silk said. “The medical risk factors that lead to susceptibility for Listeria infection can also independently be linked to risk of death.”
Either way, Silk said the CDC is certain that the man suffered a Listeria infection from eating Jensen Farms cantaloupes months prior to his death. One other case in Montana has been known since early in the outbreak investigation.
The Montana death had not been linked to the cantaloupe outbreak before now because the victim’s specific Listeria infection was not associated with PFGE pattern combinations from any other outbreak victims, food samples or samples found at Jensen Farms. Following months of investigation, health officials and the public were under the impression that Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes had transmitted four different PFGE combinations of Listeria to victims, and his combination was not one of those.
Wyoming To Loosen Raw Milk Rules, Just A Bit
Proposed changes to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules put the Cowboy State no closer to allowing commercial sales of raw milk, leaving advocates for retail sales disappointed.
Wyoming is one of 20 states that bans the commercial sale of raw milk. That position is not changing, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Current law even bans farm families from drinking their own raw milk, but it’s never been enforced that way.
So the proposed rule is being clarified to allow producers who are the sole owners of animals to serve raw milk in their home to family members, non-paying guests, and farm and ranch employees.
That clarification is included in revisions to the Wyoming Food Safety Rules that the department proposed last May
, which are subject to a public comment period and hearing. At a forum in Casper last week, raw milk advocates showed up to push for retail sales of raw milk as permitted in California.
A veteran of the legislative tussles over raw milk sales, state Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) sought a more simple and specific change in the rule’s language. She proposed removing the word “sole” from the ownership requirement.
Wallis, first elected to the Wyoming House in 2006, is currently seeking election to her fourth term.
The Casper Star Tribune quoted Wallis as saying, “Because people want fresh milk today, the only way they can get it is to make a deal with somebody who has the capacity to keep a cow.”
Wallis participates in a cow share agreement with someone who cares for the animal and delivers milk to her family ranch on the Bitter Creek in Wyoming’s northern Campbell County. The department promised to have her suggestion reviewed by the Wyoming attorney general.
Oregon Takes Off the Gloves
Last year, health officials in Oregon announced they would adopt the 2009 FDA Retail Food Code, which governs safety regulations about food workers. But last week, officials said that the Oregon Public Health Division Foodborne Illness Prevention Program will not adopt the “No Bare Hand Contact” section of the Code.
Requiring food workers to use gloves is controversial. In 1999, the FDA evaluated the risks of microbiological contamination of foods by food preparation workers in 81 foodborne illness outbreaks, and found that the majority of outbreaks were caused by transmission of the pathogen to the food by worker’s hands. In 66 of the outbreaks (82%), the food worker was the source of the infection. Seventy-five of the outbreaks involved food workers were infectious at the time of the outbreak.
In 14 out of 34 outbreaks where hand contact was the method of transmission, the implicated food worker was not wearing gloves. But the study found that when workers were wearing gloves, the gloves were used improperly. And that’s the issue that restaurateurs had with the new Oregon plan.
Read Full Article Here
USDA Releases First Results for Non-0157 STEC Tests in Beef Trim
On June 4, 2012, the USDA started required testing of beef trim for six non-0157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, commonly known as STEC bacteria. Today they released the first report on this new testing system. Those six bacteria, which include E. coli 026, 045, 0103, 0111, 0121, and 0145, cause more than 100,000 illnesses in the United States every year.
Out of 110 analyses of raw ground beef in federal plants, three tested positive for the pathogens. Testing revealed the presence of E. coli 0145 in one sample, E. coli 0103 in 1 sample, and E. coli 045 in one sample. A follow-up RGBC positive test result was obtained for the E. coli 0103 bacteria. Testing also revealed the presence of E. coli 0157:H7 in four samples out of 115.
Read Full Article Here
USDA Decides to Spare Produce Testing Program This Year
After an uptick in press coverage on the impending shutdown of the Microbiological Data Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to keep the produce testing program running, at least through the end of the year.
As Food Safety News reported last week, if the program were to shut down, as it was slated to at the end of this month, public testing for pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella on commodities like tomatoes, lettuce and cantaloupes would drop by 80 percent.
“While the Microbiological Data Program does not align with USDA’s core mission, the department will continue its work with state partners using existing agreements to conduct sampling and testing through this program through the end of the year,” a spokesman told Food Safety News late Monday night.
The Obama administration did not request funding for the little-known $4.5 million program in its fiscal year 2013 budget request, arguing that the food safety program did not belong under the Agricultural Marketing Service, where it is currently housed, and Congress has so far not included the program in appropriations bills. (AMS did not respond to a question late Monday about why the Pesticide Data Program, also a food safety program, was not being targeted for elimination in the budget).
State officials who work in MDP labs, which pull produce samples in 11 states, had not been given formal notice about the future of the program as of last week, but some told Food Safety News they had been informed that regular MDP sampling would cease at the end of July. The FDA has not announced any plans to increase produce testing if MDP is cut.
Read Full Article Here
U.S. Third In Food Safety After Israel and France
Safety is almost an asterisk in the Global Food Security Index, recently released
by DuPont and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
In an overall assessment of the affordability, availability and quality of food, the United States emerges as No. 1 overall, but America was bested by Israel and France in the “quality” category, where food safety was part of the score.
No surprises that the U.S., with the largest economy and most productive agricultural sector, is the most food secure country on the planet. Losing the Gold and Silver metals on quality and food safety to Israel and France is a little harder to explain.
In the data set for food safety, the U.S. got 99.3 percent while Israel and France both earned a 100 percent score. The composite is supposed to measure “the enabling environment for food safety.”
The food safety composite was one of about 16 data sets used to create the Global Food Security Index, which covers 105 countries. The U.S., Denmark and Norway topped the overall rankings, in that order.
Commissioned by DuPont, a developer of genetically modified crops, and produced by the data-crunchers at the Economist Intelligence Unit, the new food security index offers a way to compare countries around the globe.
“We’ve always known that what get measured, gets done,” said Ellen Kullman, DuPont’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“As we talked to governments, NGOs, and farmer organizations around the world, we’ve come to realize that while we share a common goal of food security, we do not share a common language,” she said. ”To truly address the root cause of hunger, we must have a common path forward to tackle such pressing issues as food affordability, availability, quality and safety.
Mandatory Pig Traceability Coming Soon to Canada
Traceability is soon going to be a requirement for pigs raised for slaughter in Canada.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has written new regulations designed to require pork producers to identify all farmed pigs and farmed wild boars using approved methods and to record and report all movements of pigs from birth or import to slaughter or export.
CFIA says new requirements “strengthening Canada’s livestock sector” will protect Canada’s swine herd, and help reopen export markets in the event of an animal disease outbreak.
The Government of Canada said mandatory traceability for pigs is being required only after consultations with the swine industry, provinces and territories and other stakeholders.
Canada already has mandatory identification systems in place for cattle, bison, and sheep.
Whole Foods in Pittsburgh Recalls Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron Cheese
The Allegheny County Health Department and Whole Foods Market in Pittsburgh are recalling Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese sold at the East Liberty Whole Foods store for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled cheese was packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label and a code beginning with 293351. The cheese was sold at the store between May 20, 2012 and July 3, 2012.
One person has become ill after eating this product. Anyone who has purchased this cheese should not eat it. Contact the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD if you still have this product in your home so it can be tested for the bacteria.
Read Full Article Here
Corn Chowder Recalled, May Contain Foreign Material
An Indiana firm is recalling 94,850 pounds of corn chowder soup varieties because they may contain foreign materials.
The company – Morgan Foods, Inc. of Austin, IN – issued a voluntary recall of 4 types of corn chowders after receiving complaints from two customers who said they found pieces of a marker pen in the product.
The soups were sold in 18.8 ounce cans, and include the following varieties:
PMI Nutrition International is recalling AquaMax™ feed products for fish for the potential of elevated vitamin D levels. And the company is expanding its recall to include additional varieties of Mazuri® and LabDiet® feed products for the same problem.
You can see the extensive list of products, along with item number, full product description, package sizes, and lot codes at the FDA site. The products include food for guinea pigs, monkeys, rodents, frogs, leaf eaters, waterfowl, game birds, flamingos, cranes, wolves, moose, zebras, mice, parrots, insectivores, crocodiles, bears, turtles, and ornamental fish. You can also see all of the product labels at the FDA site.
If you have purchased any of these products, return them to the place of purchase for a refund. For questions or more information, call Customer Service at 1-855-863-0421, extension 224, Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT.
Articles of Interest
200 Ill With Norovirus Infections After Swimming in WI Lake
At least 200 people contracted Norovirus infections after swimming in a Wisconsin lake on the Fourth of July. One child who also swam in the lake was hospitalized.
The Jackson County Health Department, along with the county’s Forestry and Parks division, began an investigation into the outbreak on Monday July 9 after being notified that many people who had been swimming in Lake Wazee the previous week were experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nausea, fever and body aches, all symptoms of a Norovirus infection.
Read Full Article Here
Food Quality: An Issue As Important As Safety
Food safety is important, but it is not the only consideration when choosing foods.
For example, for people in the U.S., the aversion to dog meat and horse meat is more a cultural matter than a safety issue. For Jews and Muslims, the aversion to pork might have begun as a safety issue historically, but now it is more a religious and cultural matter. Some people shun genetically modified foods because they fear such foods would be unsafe to eat, and some shun them for other reasons, such as their environmental or economic impacts. Some people prefer eggs from free range chickens not because it makes a big difference in the quality of the eggs, but because of their concerns about animal cruelty. Foie gras was banned in California because of concerns about animal cruelty, not food safety. Pink slime may be viewed as disgusting even if it is safe to eat. Some people might wish to avoid certain foods because they are farmed or manufactured in ways that harm the environment. No one has argued that whale meat or turtle meat is unsafe. Shark fin soup is not unsafe. Products might be shunned because they are produced under onerous conditions for workers. Some people think particular foods should be controlled because they increase the likelihood of becoming overweight.
Snack manufacturers argue that there are no bad foods, only bad diets. What should regulatory agencies do about that, especially when many people do have bad diets?
A clear distinction should be drawn between unsafe products and unsafe practices. If infants are fed with tea or cola, perhaps along with breast milk or infant formula, they might not get sick immediately, but they may experience health consequences in the future. What about the case in which, to save money, one grandmother diluted the infant formula by half, because, she said, the baby wouldn’t know the difference? Here it is not the products but the practices that are unsafe. Where does one draw the line between safety concerns in the traditional sense, i.e. pathogen contamination, and other food-related concerns?
Agencies with responsibilities for food regulation should be explicit about what is within the scope of their work, and what is excluded. They should explain how they do their work, and be plain about its limitations. This is important because non-specialists don’t make sharp distinctions between questions such as “is it safe for you?” and “is it good for you?” Many people take approval of a product by an official-sounding agency as an endorsement of that product. The manufacturers take advantage of this. They know that if they claim something has been approved by an agency, many customers will think that means it is good for you, or has other virtues. On close examination we might see that approval is actually based on little more than the manufacturers submitting the proper forms, with the agency making no independent assessment of any kind.
If the national food regulatory agency’s mandate is to look only at safety in the narrow sense of worrying about immediate harm to users, which agencies would attend to other considerations that might be important?
To illustrate, there is good evidence that long chain fatty acids in the diets of pregnant women and infants affect the child’s development, not only physically but also intellectually. Ocean fish and beef from grass-fed cows have good fatty acids in them. However, some industrially produced meats – cultured fish fed mainly with grains and cows fed with grains rather than grass – are not as rich in these crucial fatty acids. How should factors that affect consumers’ long-term intellectual development be addressed? Which government food agencies should look after them?
If infant formula manufacturers make bogus claims that synthetic fatty acids added to infant formula make important contributions to infants’ development, who will call on them to account for these claims? If these are not safety issues, what should we name them?
Biotech Riders in Proposed Farm Bill Stir Controversy
It was a battle over agricultural biotechnology that didn’t happen — at least not in the House Agriculture Committee’s July 11 markup of its version of the proposed new Farm Bill.
After a long day of discussing, and then voting on, more than 100 proposed amendments, the wearied-looking legislators finished the markup without addressing some controversial biotech riders tucked into Title X: Horticulture
But that doesn’t mean heated debate over these riders won’t flare up as the Farm Bill makes its hopeful way toward approval in September.
Critics of agricultural biotechnology say that genetically engineered crops can be harmful to human health and to the environment. They point to warnings from an array of scientists that the artificial insertion of genetic material into plants could cause significant problems such as an increase in the levels of known toxicants in food, the introduction of new toxicants or new allergies, and the reduction of the nutritional value of food.
On the other side of the health divide, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates recently reaffirmed its support of biotechnology in the production of safe, nutritious food. AMA also pointed to the continuing validity of federal regulation, saying that food produced through biotechnology poses no more risk than food produced in conventional ways.
In an effort to boost the public’s understanding of this new way of producing food, the International Food Information Council Foundation has released five videos
featuring leading physicians in the fields of pediatrics, food allery and obstetrics who answer frequently asked questions about food biotechnology.
In 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration established a policy declaring that there is no substantial or material difference between genetically engineered foods and foods that haven’t been genetically engineered.
Even so, many consumers are wary, if not downright opposed, to this new technology.
In a July 12 press release, the Center for Food Safety
vowed to continue its strong opposition to the bill’s attachments, describing them as “irresponsible and unnecessary changes to USDA regulations” that would severely weaken the agency’s oversight of genetically engineered crops, and thus “fundamentally erode science-based review.”
Remaining optimistic, the Center expects the riders to be eliminated on the House floor when the full House considers the draft version of the Farm Bill, or when the House and Senate bills go to conference.
On the other side of the biotech fence, Karen Batra, spokesperson for Biotechnology Industry Organization, BIO
, told Food Safety News
that the organization doesn’t want to speculate on how Congress will vote on a final package, “but we are pleased with the bipartisan support shown in the committee for clarifying the US regulatory system for ag biotech.”
The fact that the provisions remain in the proposed bill is good news, she said, because they offer common-sense modifications that would benefit an approval system that has become “duplicative, unpredictable and costly.”
Summary of the Riders
According to the summary of the proposed bill
, the biotechnology provisions in Title 10 reiterate that the USDA is authorized to regulate the introduction and cultivation of products of biotechnology if the products pose a plant pest risk.
When a petition for deregulation of a biotech variety is received, a comprehensive plant pest risk assessment is conducted. Once it is determined that the product poses no plant pest risk, the authority to regulate the product under the Plant Protection Act ceases and a final decision is made to deregulate the product.
Recent petitions for deregulation have taken several years, though the actual review takes only weeks, and USDA regulation provides for a maximum limit of 180 days.
The current framework of the Plant Protection Act, which is intended to ensure the safety of biotechnology crop reviews, has been impeded by numerous procedural lawsuits. Many of these lawsuits have been proven to include frivolous claims and have been based on extraneous statutes that conflict with USDA’s statutory mandate to regulate based on plant pest risk.
These challenges have strained the limited resources of the USDA, imposed millions of dollars in unnecessary costs on taxpayers and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost opportunity costs on our national economy, and endangered the United States’ leadership role in this new and beneficial field of science.
Agricultural biotechnology is an evolutionary technology with revolutionary potential to feed an ever-increasing world population, while enhancing environmental stewardship.
In conclusion, says the summary, the provisions “will ensure that the transparent, comprehensive and scientifically-based review of these products occurs in a timeframe that facilitates continued innovation and adaptation of new tools to meet the challenges of food security.”
House Farm Bill Future Uncertain
Legislation keeps catfish inspection, seeks recall insurance study
After the House Agriculture Committee completed markup and cleared its version of the farm bill late into the night on Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner on Thursday told reporters that he has not made any decisions about the bill coming to the floor.
“I think Chairman [Frank Lucas (R-OK)] and the committee have done an awful lot of good work. No decisions about coming to the floor,” Boehner told reporters during a press conference. He also said he had some reservations about provisions in the bill, citing what he called “a Society-style dairy program” as an example.
The lack of a timeline is worrying for agricultural interests as current farm bill expires September 30 and there are only a handful of working days left before August recess. Politico reported late Thursday that the bill is one “republican leaders seem to want nothing to do with” and unlikely to see a floor vote — a decision that would infuriate both sides of the aisle and likely force Congress to vote on an extension of current policy.
The House version of the bill, which cleared the ag committee by a 35-11 vote, cuts $16.5 billion from food stamps, roughly $12 billion more the Senate version of the bill that cleared the upper chamber last month. While both bills eliminate direct payments — which have become increasingly controversial as both farm income and deficits soar — the House bill added a new price support system and new insurance for rice and peanut farmers who found the Senate’s safety net lacking.
Genome Sequencing of 100,000 Foodborne Pathogens Underway
New database will speed up outbreak investigations
Over the past three years, scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have conducted whole genome sequencing on over hundreds of foodborne pathogens to get a detailed map of their DNA. Now, with the help of university researchers and a private company, they’re expanding that figure to 100,000.
The initiative, aptly titled “The 100K Genome Project,” is a private-public collaboration between FDA, the University of California Davis and Agilent, a testing technology company.
By developing this new database, FDA hopes to help health officials cut down on the time it takes to identify the source of an outbreak.
Right now, investigators are able to identify clusters of illnesses by uploading pathogens isolated from different individuals to the government-maintained PulseNet database. But the information in PulseNet can only tell which cases are related. It does not provide the genetic details needed to figure out what food the bug is coming from.
For that, investigators must question victims to see whether they ate a common food in the days preceding their illnesses.
“Humans tend to move around a lot and they don’t have a good memory of what they ate, so getting good information from humans is really hard,” explains Steven Musser, Director of the Office of Regulatory Science at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Musser, who is working on the genome sequencing project, says this new database will supplement PulseNet by providing high-resolution data, such as where an organism was found, whether it is resistant to any antibiotics and perhaps even the food on which it was found.
“In terms of resolution it would be sort of like looking at the stars with the Hubble space telescope versus looking at them with binoculars,” he explained in an interview with Food Safety News.
This new database will be comprised mostly of genetic information on pathogens isolated from food, he says, so if a human isolate is uploaded and matches a pathogen already in the database, investigators will know what region, or even business, the matching food sample came from.
Publisher’s Platform: President Obama, Tell Your Kids Not To Eat Their Fruits and Veggies After August 1st!
Food safety program started by Bush to be killed by Obama at end of July
Sign Change.org Petition to Save the Program.
President Obama, you probably do not remember my three daughters: Morgan, Olivia and Sydney, hanging out with Sasha and Malia and Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers backstage before one of the inaugural parties, but $50,000 out of my pocket does. As you might remember, I went all in for your 2008 campaign, and judging by the calls and emails that I get on a daily basis from your campaign, you want me to do it again.
Within a few months of taking office, you came face to face with what I have seen for decades – another multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. The now infamous Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella tragedy sickened several hundred throughout the United States and killed nine. I thought you got it when you were quoted as saying:
“That’s what Sasha eats for lunch probably three times a week. And you know, I don’t wanna have to worry about whether she’s gonna get sick as a consequence to having her lunch.”
True, that outbreak – and several others in proceeding years – prompted Congressional action on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – that you very, very quietly signed into law. However, the law still remains unfunded and many of the food safety rules remain hidden away in the your White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
And, now because of industry pressure, your administration wants to kill the $4.5M budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program (MDP). Ironically, to this long-time democratic supporter, the program was launched under President Bush’s 2001 Food Safety Initiative, and until the end of July tested about 15,000 samples of fruits and vegetables each year, far more than any other federal or state program.
Here is how MDP works: Public health officials pull samples of tomatoes (cherry, round, roma), cantaloupe, lettuce (leaf, romaine, cut, and pre-washed), celery, parsley, cilantro, spinach (bunched and bagged and pre-washed), hot peppers, sprouts (alfalfa and clover), onions (bulb and green), and yes, even Sasha’s peanut butter, and test for pathogens that can kill your kids and mine.
The samples are collected from distribution centers in 11 states that represent about 50 percent of the United States population. Any isolated pathogens are sent for pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing and the resulting genetic pattern is uploaded to the Centers for Disease Control PulseNet database so that it can be matched against human isolates or outbreak patterns. MDP also tests all isolates for antimicrobial resistance and contributes data to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring (NARMS) database.
From 2009 to 2012, MDP found Salmonella 100 times, E. coli O157:H7 twice and Listeria monocytogenes 8 times. Over the same time period, the program sparked 23 Salmonella recalls, two E. coli O157:H7 recalls and five Listeria recalls. Of the pathogens the program identified during that time, 39 Salmonella isolates were matched to human illnesses – as were the two E. coli O157:H7 and all eight Listeria isolates.
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