May 30, 2016

OSHA Issues Rules for Retaliation Complaints Under FSMA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today published a final rule establishing procedures for retaliation complaints under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This part of FSMA, which was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, protects employees who "blow the whistle" about potential violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act from retaliation by employers. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels said in a statement, "food industry workers must never be silenced by the threat of losing their jobs when their safety or the safety of the public is at stake. This rule underscores the agency's commitment to protect the rights of workers who report illegal activity in their workplace." The final rule was made effective on April 18, … [Read more...]

Study Finds WIC Improves Preschool Children’s Diet

A study conducted by the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, California has found that WIC (USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children) improves preschool children's diets. A change made in that program in 2009 provided more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat milk in the food voucher package. Diet quality improved for the 4 million children who are served by this federal program. Unfortunately, some in Congress want to cut this efficient and effective program. In the past few years, Republicans in Congress have tried to cut WIC funding, despite the fact that the program improves birth weight, decreases infant mortality, and improves food security. In fact, the program has faced an 8% cut in the past five years, and many WIC clinics … [Read more...]

Import Alert on Shrimp and Prawns from Malaysia

The FDA has announced an import alert on shrimp and prawns from Peninsular Malaysia. Testing has found that one-third of the imports of these types of seafood from that area contain residues of nitrofurans and/or chloramphenicol. Nitrofurans and chloramphenicol are antibiotics, and both are considered carcinogens. FDA testing last year discovered an increase in shipments of Malaysian shrimp and prawns containing residues of these drugs. The drugs are considered contaminants, therefore the seafood is adulterated and not permitted in the United States marketplace. FDA has taken steps in the past to prevent companies with "violative shipments" from continuing to import seafood by placing them on existing Import Alerts. That means the companies' future shipments may be detained without … [Read more...]

GAO Says USDA Needs to Enhance Oversight of GMO Crops

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a report stating that the USDA needs to enhance its oversight and better understand the effects of unintended mixing of GMO (genetically modified organisms, also known as GE, or genetically engineered) crops with other crops. This has long been a concern of those opposed to genetically modified organisms. The report states that the USDA has "not updated its regulations to oversee GE drops derived from alternative technologies in which the GE crop developed contains no plant pest DNA." While the EPA regulates some GE crops as part of its pesticide regulation process, and the FDA works with companies that develop GE crops to consider food safety issues, USDA's GE crop regulations only pertain to crops for which the donor, vector, or … [Read more...]

FDA Rescinds Approval of Carbadox to Treat Swine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is starting the process of rescinding approval of the use of carbadox, an antibiotic, to treat swine because it may leave trace amounts of a carcinogen in the meat. The agency recently reexamined the safety profile of the drug and concluded that there could be "potential risk to human health from ingesting pork, especially pork liver, derived from carbadox-treated pigs." Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine said in a statement, "the manufacturer of carbadox has failed to provide sufficient scientific data to demonstrate the safety of this drug given evidence that carbadox may result in carcinogenic residues. As a result, FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine is taking … [Read more...]

New Food Poisoning Tests Fast But Lack Detail Needed to Track Outbreaks

New food poisoning tests give faster results than old ones but don't provide the level of detail necessary to track outbreaks, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency is advising health labs to  do the old tests whenever the a new one indicates a foodborne bacterial infection. Over the long-term,  the CDC is working with partners to develop better testing methods that can provide results that are fast and detailed. The new tests, called culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs), can provide results in hours instead of the days needed for traditional culture tests which grow bacteria from stool samples to determine the cause of illness. The culture tests provide detailed information about the specific strain of bacteria. This … [Read more...]

Hawaii Puts Restaurant Inspection Reports Online

The Hawaii State Department of Health now has Hawaii restaurant inspection information online. Consumers can now see  food safety inspection reports with descriptions of violations. “We’re taking transparency to an entirely new level,” said Peter Oshiro, who manages the food safety inspection program. “Information from the inspection reports empowers consumers and informs their choices.” The online information is a companion to the Hawaii State Department of Health’s placard program developed in July 2014. The program gives restaurants green, yellow or red placards which must be posted so they are visible at the entrance of each location. Restaurants are fined for not posting them. “Data from the inspection reports give consumers the details behind the green, yellow or red … [Read more...]

FDA Cautions Pregnant Hispanic Women About Listeria Risk

Listeria poses a huge risk for all pregnant women. The foodborne bacteria can cause an infection that triggers miscarriage, stillbirth,  premature birth and infection in newborns even if the expectant mother only experienced mild flu-like symptoms. But Listeria poses an elevated risk for Hispanic pregnant women who are 24 times more likely than the general population to contract the infection.  A major factor in the increased risk is the consumption of queso fresco and other soft cheeses. In 2014, two multistate Listeria outbreaks were linked to soft-cheeses. All of those sickened were Hispanic. Some of them were pregnant women. Some were newborns. And some of them died. In October 2014,  the CDC announced an outbreak linked to Oasis cheeses that killed one person in Tennessee and … [Read more...]

E. coli Prompts Boil Water Advisory at Wellesley College

E. coli has prompted a boil water advisory at Wellesley College. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued the advisory for  four buildings on the campus: Weston Terrace, Fiske House, the Wellesley Community Children’s Center, and the Child Study Center. The advisory means that anyone using water in these four buildings should boil it before drinking it. The advisory was issued after a problem was discovered during routine testing of the water system. The system is being flushed and retested throughout the weekend. No illnesses had been reported at the time the advisory was issued. E. coli symptoms usually develop within two to five days of exposure but can appear within 24 hours or take as long as 10 days to develop.  They include stomach cramps and diarrhea, … [Read more...]

Home Canning? What to Know About Botulism

Home canning is a great way to preserve the bounty of your backyard harvest, but improper technique can cause serious illness and death.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled some tips on home canning, the most common source of foodborne botulism. Tips from the CDC for proper home canning technique include making sure your food preservation information is up-to-date and to always using a pressure canner when canning low-acid vegetables such as green beans, potatoes and corn or, meat, fish and poultry. Click the preceding link for more tips. Botulism is caused by a nerve toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which is found in soil and dust. Symptoms include: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty … [Read more...]

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