May 28, 2015

USDA Says COOL Doesn’t Benefit Consumers


Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) doesn't provide benefits to consumers, according to the USDA's chief economist. A report from the USDA was sent to Congress last Friday, May 1, 2015. The report was mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill. The report states that "In terms of consumers, USDA's regulatory impact analyses concluded that while there is evidence of consumer interest in COOL information, measurable economic benefits from mandatory COOL would be small. USDA's regulatory impact analyses also found little evidence that consumers are likely to increase their purchased of food items bearing U.S.-origin labels." However, the report did recognize the interest in labeling based on the consumer's right to know what they are purchasing. The World Trade Organization has ruled against the … [Read more...]

Salmonella Paratyphi Can Cause Serious Illness


Salmonella paratyphi can cause paratyphoid fever, an illness similar to typhoid fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Humans are the only source of these bacteria which causes severe illness. In the U.S., typhoid and paratyphoid fever are not as common as they are in other parts of the world. About 6 million cases of paratyphoid fever are reported worldwide each year, of those only about 100 are in the U.S. The risk is elevated in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The highest risk is associated with travel to southern Asia.  Symptoms, which can take between six to 30 days to develop, include gradually increasing fatigue and a fever, headache and a rash on the trunk of the body. Anyone experiencing these … [Read more...]

Senators Urge Full Food Safety Funding After Blue Bell Outbreak

Capitol Building, Architect of the Capitol

U.S. Senators urge full funding of the Food Safety Modernization Act after the deadly Blue Bell Listeria monocytogenes outbreak and the recall of potentially contaminated pasta salad at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest. FSMA has been underfunded by less than half the amount it needs for full implementation since it was signed into law four years ago. The Senators include Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter states, in part, "The Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted to bring our nation's food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred. Prevention is … [Read more...]

CFA Analyzes USDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Program


The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has released an in-depth analysis of the USDA's primary meat and poultry food safety regulation program. That program was implemented after the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to undercooked burgers at Jack in the Box restaurants. The report, called "The Promise and Problems of HACCP: A Review of USDA's Approach to Meat and Poultry Safety" looks at the history of the program and identifies gaps. Two examples are: plants fail to develop effective food safety plans, and the USDA fails to identify problems with those plans; and plants are repeatedly cited for recurring violations with very little consequences. CFA is recommending that the government develop better approaches to reviewing food safety plans. Plants should be required to … [Read more...]

Officials Notified About Jeni’s Ice Cream Listeria Before Recall


According to ABC, federal health officials knew about the Listeria monocytogenes contamination in Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream a week before the recall was issued to the public. The FDA was notified on Aprl 15, 2015, but the recall was not issued until April 23, 2015. Ice cream and Listeria monocytogenes has been in the news ever since a deadly Listeria outbreak was linked to Blue Bell ice cream. Ten people have been sickened in that outbreak, and three people have died. Government officials have discovered that people were sickened by this ice cream as far back as 2010. Ice cream is not a food normally associated with food poisoning outbreaks, but all ready-to-eat foods that are not cooked by the customer (known as a "kill step") are vulnerable. Deli meats and cheeses, raw milk, and … [Read more...]

Judge Signs Injunction Against Wholesome Soy

Bean Sprouts

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel for the Northern District of Illinois signed a consent decree of permanent injunction against Wholesome Soy Products and their owners. The owners, Paul and Julia Trinh, signed the document on April 5, 2015. The decree prevents them from distributing adulterated mung bean and soybean sprouts. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department's Civil Division said in a statement, "we must work to ensure that the food we buy from store shelves is safe and produced under sanitary conditions. The Department of Justice will continue to work with our partners at FDA to accomplish that goal." Wholesome Soy products are linked to a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak this past fall. Five people were sickened, and two … [Read more...]

Consumer Reports Calls for FDA to Increase Tests on Imported Shrimp

After conducting a study that found antibiotics, which are illegal in shrimp farming, and bacteria that cause food poisoning on imported shrimp, Consumer Reports is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step up testing.  The consumer watchdog wants Congress to increase funding to the FDA so it can inspect and test more imported shrimp and keep tainted products out of the foods supply. Americans eat more shrimp than tuna, consuming more than 18 million servings each day. Most of it, 94 percent, is imported from farms in Indonesia, Thailand and India. And most of it, 96 percent, is not inspected. Consumer Reports purchased 342 packages of frozen raw and cooked shrimp from grocery stores, natural food stores and discount food clubs in 27 cities. Those stores include … [Read more...]

U.S. Senators Ask FDA To Investigate Supplement Manufacturers


U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are calling on the FDA to investigate manufacturers of dietary supplements who list "acacia rigidula" as an ingredient in their products. That phrase masks the addition of BMPEA, a dangerous synthetic amphetamine. A study released earlier this month in Analytical Chemistry found the drug in 11 out of 21 of over-the-counter dietary supplements. The supplements that contain BMPEA, or β-methylphenylethylamine, increased from 42.9% in 2012 to 52.4% in 2014. The Senators wrote, "for too long, dietary supplement manufacturers have either failed to list BMPEA on product labels or have listed the stimulant as a 'natural botanical' which the Food and Drug Administration's own scientists have disproved. Other countries and entities … [Read more...]

Death of Girl, 4, Spurs Mandatory E.coli Tetsing Bill in Orgeon


Serena Profitt, age 4, died last summer of E. coli poisoning. A bill introduced in the Oregon House, HB 3540, hopes to prevent similar tragedies. Health authorities believe Serena and her friend, Brad Sutton, 5, both contracted E.coli infections from the same source, but they never identified it. Bradley was hospitalized and survived, but help for Serena came too late. The children both became ill over Labor Day weekend last year experiencing bloody diarrhea. Serena’s family brought her to the hospital twice but she was sent home each time without being tested for E. coli. Serena's symptoms persisted, so the Profitts brought her to a different hospital where she was admitted going into shock and kidney failure. She died two days later after suffering a stroke and a massive … [Read more...]

Preventing Listeriosis During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at elevated risk for listerioisis, one of the deadliest kinds of food poisoning, and the complications can be tragic. Among pregnant women, Listeria infections can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and in newborns, infection or death. Symptoms, which can take as long as 70 days after exposure to develop, include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea and upset stomach. Most pregnant women are 10 times more likely than the general population to contract listeriosis. For pregnant women who are Hispanic, the risk is 24 times higher. Some of that increased risk is attributed to food choices like Mexican-style soft cheeses. For all women, avoiding certain foods during pregnancy is the best way to reduce the risk of listeriosis. According to the Centers … [Read more...]

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