July 25, 2014

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...]

Senator Mikulski Introduces Bill to Repeal Monsanto Protection Act


Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is introducing an alternative short term government funding bill today that would repeal the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act." Last week the House passed a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government for three months beyond the deadline of September 30, 2013, and also extended a rider that guarantees agrichemical companies can sell GMO and genetically engineered seeds even if a federal court declares them unlawful. Mikulski's bill would strip that provision before sending the bill back to the House. Center for Food Safety is asking interested consumers to call their senators and ask them to support Senator Mikulski's bill. Colin O'Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for food Safety said in a statement, "Chairwoman Mikulski's … [Read more...]

Ingredient in Antibiotic Soap Creating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Country Stream

A study published in Environmental Science and Technology has found that triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soaps and other consumer products, is creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria in rivers and streams. Triclosan (TCS) is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound. It has been found in ecosystems all across the country. This is the first study to find triclosan resistance in the natural environment. Triclosan is found in products including clothing, kitchenware, toys, body washes, cosmetics, toothpaste, and antibacterial soap. The FDA has found that triclosan, while not currently known to be hazardous to humans, may alter hormone regulation. FDA states that "FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does … [Read more...]

Shuanghui Buyout of Smithfield Foods Approved


Shareholders just approved the buyout of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International of China. More than 96% of shareholders voted in favor. Smithfield executives will make millions on the sale, and the company will become private, which means it doesn't have to report details of its operations to the Security and Exchange Commission. Shuanghui is partially owned by Chinese businessmen and the U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs. Food & Water Watch released a statement about this buyout. Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said, "the recent USDA decision to allow processed chicken imports from China, coupled with news of the Smithfield-Shaunghui merger approval by shareholders and a federal review commission, shows that U.S. regulators are paving the way for meat imported from China - … [Read more...]

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