October 24, 2014

(Not-So) Fun Facts About Norovirus, The Leading Source of Food Poisoning Outbreaks in America

norovirus-outbreaks

Two outbreaks this week are a good example of why norovirus is the leading cause of food poisoning outbreaks in the U.S. One was at a Ground Round restaurant in Minnesota, the other was at an elementary school in Indiana. Norovirus is highly contagious virus that affects about 2o million Americans each year. The amount of virus that fits on the head of pin, as few as 18 particles, is enough to make 1,000 people sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has compiled a norovirus fact sheet with the following information. Although it is sometimes called "the cruise ship virus," only about 1 percent of norovirus outbreaks take place on cruise ships. Most, about 65 percent, happen at restaurants and originate from an infected food worker. Symptoms … [Read more...]

California Issues Warning for Recreational Shellfish Harvesting in Ventura County

clams

The California Department of Public Health  has issued a warning about recreationally harvested shellfish from the Ventura county coastline due to dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that can cause illness or death.  Consumers are advised not to eat recreationally harvested bivalve shellfish (such as mussels, clams or whole scallops or the internal organs of lobster or rock crab. This warning does not apply to commercially harvested shellfish. >Domoic acid is a toxin that can cause  Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) a potentially fatal illness. Symptoms of poisoning from domoic acid develop between 30 minutes and 24 hours of ingestion and can last several days. They include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, and in severe cases, … [Read more...]

Senators Ask That COOL Not be Weakened

GroundBeefLabel

U.S. Senators have sent a bipartisan letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking that efforts to weaken or suspend Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) be rejected while discussing funding for the government for Fiscal Year 2015. COOL was created in response to consumers asking for information about where the meat and seafood they buy comes from. Implementation of COOL has been challenged in international courts for more than five years. The letter states that the Senate shouldn't undermine the U.S. position on this issue by inserting a legislative rider into an Appropriations bill before the World Trade Organization decision on the matter is final. The ruling isn't public yet, but other countries are trying to resist COOL implementation because they think it would hurt their … [Read more...]

Advocates Want OMB To Finalize Catfish Inspection Rule

Catfish

Food & Water Watch along with other organizations such as Consumer Federation of America and Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention called on the Office of Management and Budget to finalize an inspection program for domestic and imported catfish. The USDA drafted a final rule on this matter back in 2008 but nothing has happened since then. The FDA currently regulates catfish. Domestic processors are currently inspected just once every 5 to 10 years; only 2% of imported catfish is inspected. In 2013, Americans consumed more than 305 million pounds of catfish; about 78% of this is imported, with 95% of imported products coming from Vietnam. That country uses many animal drugs in aquaculture that are not approved in the U.S.; 32 drugs have been approved for use in … [Read more...]

Boil Water Order for E. coli Lifted For Mercer Island, WA

Water-glass-feature

The boil water advisory for E. coli in the City of Mercer Island, Washington has been lifted as of  October 8, 2014. Restaurants can reopen after speaking directly with a Health Inspector and following step by step procedures. Residents should flush their water systems at home. Follow these steps: flush pipes for five minutes by running the cold water tap at all faucets. If you live in a multi-level house, start at the top of the house. If the water is discolored, run water until it is clear. You may notice a strong chlorine smell - this is not harmful and shows that disinfected water has reached the house. The smell will abate if left to stand in a pitcher. Follow manufacturer's instructions for appliances such as water softeners and filters. Throw away ice from automatic ice-makers; … [Read more...]

USDA Should Protect Consumers from Australian Meat

Carcass

Food & Water Watch sent a letter to the USDA to protect U.S. consumers from Australian meat and to re-evaluate the equivalency of that country's meat inspection system. Meat companies are abandoning the Australian Meat Inspeciton System (AEMIS) that was found to be equivalent to the U.S. system. This is the fifth time in two years that Food & Water Watch has asked the USDA to look at the Australian system. Food & Water Watch's executive director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement, "Although the European Union has flagged definite problems in allowing meat companies to police their own inspection systems, the USDA has yet to speak out about this every obvious conflict of interest. Yet if the result of a privatized meat inspection system in Australia is food that is unsafe to … [Read more...]

Knott’s Berry Farm Restaurant Treated for Cockroaches

Cockroach

The restaurant called Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm in California was closed this week after cockroaches were found during a routine inspection. The permit for the establishment was restored Thursday, October 7, 2014 after treatment was completed. Officials at the park said the infestation was an "isolated structural incident" and was contained to utility areas in the restaurant. The restaurant was closed from 2:00 pm to 9:30 pm. Cockroach feces can cause allergic reactions and trigger serious asthma symptoms in some people. The insects can also carry pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella, along with parasitic worms. They can also spread typhoid and dysentery. They eat fermenting products, glue, soiled … [Read more...]

FDA Warning Letters for September 2014

FDA

The FDA has sent many warning letters to corporations during the month of September 2014. These letters inform the corporation owners of problems with food safety and HACCP violations. Well Luck Company in New Jersey received a letter on September 17, 2014 warning about rodent problems at their facility. Live mice were spotted in the facility during an inspection. Dead mice were found on glue traps in the picking area and next to the cooler entrance door. A dead rat was found in a rodent trap in the warehouse storage area. In addition, roach-like insects "too numerous to count" were in the fortune cookie processing room. Equipment was not properly stored, litter and waste was not removed, and food products were spilled onto the warehouse floor. Losurdo Foods of New Jersey was warned … [Read more...]

Mercer Island, WA Still Under Boil Water Advisory

Water glasses

The City of Mercer Island, Washington has issued another statement on the boil water advisory in place for E. coli found in the water supply. Officials have set a timeline for ending the advisory. For the fifth day in a row, all of the latest water-sample tests are clear. But one child has been diagnosed with an E. coli O157:H7 infection. Lab tests are still pending to see if this illness is linked to the water supply problem or is the result of exposure to another source such as contaminated meat, raw milk, or feces. Mayor Bruce Bassett said, "We know this incident has been challenging, and we thank Islanders for their patience, as well as star and partner agencies. At this point, we are all eager to see life return to normal, but our first priority is protecting the health of our … [Read more...]

Consumers Union: Cost of GE Food Labeling $2.30 Per Year

New Nutrition Label

Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has estimated the cost of labeling GE foods and has released a report based on a literature review. They state that the median cost incurred by producers and retailers will be $2.30 per person per year; less than a penny a day. Labeling foods that contain genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO) ingredients has been a contentious issue for years. Consumers and consumer groups want these food labeled so people can make an informed choice; polls show that more than 90% of consumers want these foods to be labeled. Industry generally opposes labeling, stating it would increase costs dramatically. Consumers Union asked ECONorthwest to resolve this disagreement. The studies reviewed include assessments … [Read more...]

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