July 28, 2014

Official in Malaysia Gives Dangerous Food Safety Advice


A story in the New Straits Times has revealed that a public health official in Malaysia has given citizens some very dangerous food safety advice. Dr. Orthman Warijo, vice-president of the Malaysian Public Health Physicians' Association said, "look at the physical appearance of the food to find out if the gravy has become sticky. Sniff the food to determine if it is rotten. Taste the food. If one is confident that the food is edible, then one can proceed. Otherwise, leave it." That advice is completely wrong. Pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium botulinum, and Campylobacter do not change the appearance, taste, texture, or smell of the food. The bacteria that make you sick are invisible, colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Even when there are enough … [Read more...]

FDA Withdraws Approval of Arsenic in Animal Feed


On September 30, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration responded to a Center for Food Safety petition, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the "vast majority of arsenic-containing compounds used as feed additives for chicken, turkeys and hogs." A lawsuit filed by that agency, along with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Food & Water Watch, Center for Environmental Health,  and Health Care Without Harm, among others, compelled the response. FDA is going to withdraw three of the four arsenicals and all drug approvals related to those compounds. That means of the 101 drug approvals for arsenic-based products, 98 will be withdrawn. Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement, "the withdrawal of these harmful feed additives is … [Read more...]

Food Safety Tips For National Seafood Month


October is National Seafood Month. Fish and seafood are a healthy part of a balanced diet and, as with all foods, proper handling and preparation are key to reducing the risk of food poisoning. Here are some tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Buying Fresh Fish Does something smell fishy? Don't buy it. Fish should not smell fishy, sour or like ammonia. Whole fish should have firm, shiny flesh; clear, slightly bulged eyes and red gills that are not slimy. Shrimp should also be odorless.  And shrimp  flesh should be shiny and translucent. Don't buy seafood that is not refrigerated or displayed on a bed of ice. Buying Fresh Shellfish Look for labels or tags on sacks of live shellfish. These tags have information such as the processor’s certification number, which … [Read more...]

CDC, FDA and the Government Shutdown, What You Need To Know


The government shutdown will halt outbreak detection and infectious disease surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and food facility inspection and monitoring of imports at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both agencies are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which has furloughed 52 percent of staff because of the shutdown. By its own definition, the FDA's purpose is to protect public health by "assuring the safety, effectiveness, quality, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, most of our nation’s food supply, all cosmetics, dietary supplements, and products that give off radiation."  It is also responsible for regulating tobacco products. The FDA regulates … [Read more...]

Government Shutdown Cripples USDA


This morning, a message on the U.S. Department of Agriculture web site reads: "Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again." The USDA web site has been shuttered because of the government shutdown, so if there are any recalls for Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, etc. on meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs, an announcement will be made, but consumers will not be able to search for recalls. The USDA Hotline has been closed, food safety education has stopped, and label reviews will be halted. As part of essential services, inspection of meat, poultry, and egg products will continue, but 1,200 Food Safety and Inspection … [Read more...]

Surface Steam Pasteurization Can Stop Listeria on Fish


New research published at Nofima, the food research institute in Norway, has found that Listeria can be eliminated on fish by treating the surface with 100 degrees C (212 degrees F) steam for a few seconds. Listeria is a problem in the seafood industry, especially smoked fish and fish pates that are eaten without reheating. Those chilled products with a longer shelf life are more vulnerable to the Listeria bacteria because it is omnipresent and can grow at temperatures below 40 degrees F. In addition, Listeria is the most heat resistant of non-spore forming pathogens. Short time, high temperature surface treatments target contamination without causing "unwanted thermal degradation." Since fish is so sensitive to heat, most treatments cook the fish and can make it tough and dry. In … [Read more...]

General Mills Will Sustainably Source Top 10 Ingredients by 2020


General Mills of  Minneapolis will sustainably source 100 percent of its 10 priority ingredients by 2020, the company announced this week.  Those 10 ingredients, which include oats, wheat, corn, dairy, fiber packaging, cocoa, vanilla, palm oil, sugar cane and sugar beets, represent 50 percent of General Mills' total raw material purchases. "As a food company, we know that the vitality of our business depends upon access to high-quality ingredients," said Jerry Lynch, vice president and chief sustainability officer at General Mills. "We also know where we can have the greatest impact from an environmental standpoint. We believe that through sustainable sourcing, we can create the most long-term economic, environmental and social value." About two-thirds of General Mills' greenhouse … [Read more...]

Controversy Over Chinese Chicken in School Lunch Program


The USDA has responded to a controversy about serving processed chicken imported from China in the National School Lunch Program. A few days ago, Bettina Siegel of The Lunch Tray claimed that the USDA is misleading parents about whether those foods will be served to schoolchildren. A Q&A about China's poultry processing system equivalence on the FSIS website claims that chicken processed in China will not be included in school lunches, saying "the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service ensures that products included in school lunch programs are produced, raised, and processed only in the United States, its territories or possessions, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands." The problem is that school districts buy some of the food they … [Read more...]

CDC Electronic Laboratory Reports Improve Outbreak Response

Not everyone uses calorie counts at fast food restaurants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been promoting its electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) by the 10,400 labs that send reportable data to health agencies. In the Cyclospora outbreak that is still ongoing, government health officials encouraged doctors and labs around the country to use telediagnosis to speed up diagnoses. CDC has funded 57 state, local and territorial health departments to increase the use of ELR. The number of health departments that are using the system has more than doubled since 2005. State and local departments estimate that almost two-thirds of lab reports were received electronically. When information about a potential foodborne illness outbreak is received and disseminated quickly, the source can be identified more quickly and fewer … [Read more...]

Monsanto Protection Act Removed From Senate CR


The "Monsanto Protection Act" has been removed from the Senate Continuing Resolution appropriations bill, which funds the government for another three months past September 30, 2013. The U.S. House added the rider to the version they sent to the Senate. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) said in a statement, "The Monsanto Protection Act is bad policy for the country and the State of Hawaii. The Senate version of the Continuing Resolution Act does not include this provision. This provision took the ability of the Secretary of Agriculture to fully exercise his regulatory power over GMOs, and compromised the role of our courts as a check on the legislative and executive systems, making it significantly more difficult for concerned citizens to present their case." He continued, "I strongly … [Read more...]

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