November 27, 2015

USDA Finalizes Guidelines for Food Allergens

The USDA has released a set of guidelines to help reduce adverse reactions to allergens in food. The 26-page set will help meat, poultry, and processed egg product producers to manage ingredients that trigger allergic reactions. There are eight main food allergens addressed in this country: eggs, fish, soy, tree nuts, milk, peanuts, wheat, and shellfish. Those ingredients are the ones that cost the most allergic reactions, about 90%. The guidelines state that the number of recalls of USDA-regulated products for undeclared allergens increased from seven in 2008 to 29 in 2012. USDA's Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza said in a statement, "our mission as a public health agency is to protect America's most vulnerable populations, including children, from harm, and these new … [Read more...]

FDA Finalizes FSMA Rule for Food Importers

The FDA has finalized the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for food importers, in accordance with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. This rule requires that food importers perform "certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produce din a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards." FDA head Michael Taylor said in a statement, "under the new rules, importers will have the obligation to verify they are meeting U.S. standards. This is a fundamental paradigm shift from the FDA detecting and responding to problems with imported foods to industry being responsible for preventing them." Imported food makes up almost 20% of the food Americans eat. We import 52% of fresh fruits and 22% of the fresh vegetables in our diet. … [Read more...]

FDA Finalizes FSMA Rules on Produce Safety

The FDA finally finalized the rules on produce safety last week. Michael Taylor, the head of that agency said in a statement, "Its been a long and arduous task, to say the least. Finalizing the rules is just one part of building a modernized food safety system." The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed in 2011. The major rules in that Act have been slowly finalized by the FDA and the Office of Management and Budget. This latest new rule targets produce grows. They must ensure the safety of water in irrigation, since some outbreaks have been caused by produce contaminated by irrigation water that contains Salmonella or E. coli bacteria. They must make sure workers practice good hygiene in the field and while packing. A Cyclospora outbreak linked to imported cilantro lead to a ban … [Read more...]

Warning About Seafood in California Updated by CDPH

The California Department of Public Health is updating its warning to consumers about some seafood caught along the coast. Dungeness and Rock crabs, along with mussels and clams in some counties should not be eaten because they may contain high levels of domoic acid, a toxin. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the consumption of these fish. Consumers should not eat recreationally and commercially caught Dungeness and Rock crabs caught in the waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line. The advisory has been extended to recreationally harvested bivalve shellfish (mussels and clams) from Humboldt and Del Norte counties. The white meat (adductor muscle) of scallops caught in those areas can be eaten, but the viscera should be … [Read more...]

McDonald’s Food Worker in Waterloo, NY Has Hepatitis A

A food worker at the McDonald's restaurant at 2500 Mound Road in Waterloo, New York has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, according to the Seneca County Health Department. Anyone who ate there in late October and early November is at risk for contracting this illness. There is a low risk of getting the disease, but if you have not been vaccinated for hepatitis A, you should get either a hepatitis A vaccination or an immune globulin vaccination, depending on your health and other factors. The ill food worker worked there October 29, October 31, November 2, November 3, November 5, November 6, and  November 8, 2015. If you ate there on October 29, 2015, it is too late to get a shot. If you ate there on October 31, 2015, you need to get a shot today. Hepatitis A and immune globulin … [Read more...]

FDA Asks for Consumer Comments on Labeling Term “Natural”

The FDA is asking for consumer comments on the labeling term "natural". The agency has received three Citizen Petitions asking that that term be defined in food labeling, and one Citizen Petition asking that the FDA prohibit the term "natural" on food labels. Some federal courts have asked for administrative determinations from the FDA regarding whether some foods, specifically those with genetically engineered ingredients and those containing high fructose corn syrup, can be labeled "natural." The FDA states "it has not engaged in rule making to establish a formal definition for the term 'natural,' we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of 'natural' in human food labeling." The term is considered to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added or included in a … [Read more...]

Study Finds Kitchen Utensils Can Spread Bacteria Between Foods

Food safety advice for home cooks has always included certain rules. Always wash your hands before preparing foods and after handling raw meats, poultry, and eggs; keep perishable foods refrigerated, and wash all utensils well after using them. But a new study conducted at the University of Georgia has found that utensils should also be washed after each use and before they are used on another food. Scientists found that the bacteria will "latch on" to utensils such as knives and graters and then contaminate the next food prepared with that item. But most consumers are not aware that this problem exists, according to the study's lead author Marilyn Erickson, an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences' department of food science and technology. … [Read more...]

FDA Orders Juice Manufacturer to Cease Operations

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered Sun Valley Juice Company of Ketchum, Idaho to stop "receiving, processing, preparing, packing, holding, and distributing juice" until the agency determines that the company is in compliance with food safety laws and regulations. The company has been sent a letter ordering it to cease operations within five days. The company has compiled. Several attempts were made to help the company comply with regulations before it was shut down. In 2006, a court-ordered agreement, called a consent decree, was signed by a federal judge. That agreement, between the FDA and Sun Valley Juice Company, stated that the company would establish and implement a hazard prevention plan. But FDA investigators have found the company has been out of compliance … [Read more...]

Warning Against Eating Crabs in Central and Northern California

The California Department of Public health advised consumers not to eat Dungeness and Rock crabs caught in waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara county line because of dangerous levels of domoic acid. This naturally occurring toxin can cause food poisoning. Test results have shown "persistently high levels" of domoic acid in these shellfish. The levels are over the state's action level for the crab's body meat as well as the viscera, which is also known as crab butter. These crabs pose a "significant risk to the public" if they are eaten. Domoic acid is related to a bloom of a single-celled plant called Pseudo-nitzschia. Conditions that support the growth of this plant are not possible to predict, so food safety experts rely on continuous testing to check if … [Read more...]

The FDA Has Advice for Keeping Halloween Safe, Not Scary

The FDA has some food safety advice to keep Halloween this year safe, not scary. Always check the treats your children bring home after going out in their costumes. I'm old enough to remember the scares in the 1980s when some very disturbed people tampered with Halloween candy. Don't let people snack on their treats and candy while they are out trick-or-treating. They should eat a meal or snack before they leave the house, and should not go out on an empty stomach. Always check the candy and treats before the kids eat them. Look for strange appearances or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in the wrappers. Don't let the kids accept anything that isn't commercially wrapped; if your kids are older, warn them about this before they go out. And always throw away anything that looks … [Read more...]

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