September 25, 2020

CDC Says There Is a Coronavirus Risk in Eating Out in Restaurants

According to the Centers for Disease Control and PRevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for the week of September 11, 2020, there is a coronavirus risk in eating out in restaurants. These are the findings from a case-control investigation of symptomatic outpatients from 11 health care facilities. The researchers found that close contact with people who are infected with the virus or going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options were both associated with a COVID-19 positive test. Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results "were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results." The problem is that mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain when eating … [Read more...]

ICMSF Opinion on Coronavirus and Food Safety: Not a Hazard

The International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) has released an opinion paper on the relationship of the novel coronavirus to food safety. In brief, the ICMSF opinion on coronavirus and food safety is: "SARS-CoV-2 should not be considered a food safety hazard since a true food safety hazard enters the human body with food via the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract, where it can infect organs/tissues elsewhere in the human body." SARS-CoV-2 is the technical term for the novel virus. COVID-19 is the name of the illness it cases. The "19" is used as an identifier since the virus was first discovered in 2019. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets and infects humans through the respiratory system. Many billions of meals have been consumed, and … [Read more...]

FDA Is Resuming Domestic Inspections With New Risk Assessment System

The FDA is resuming domestic inspections with a new risk assessment system during the coronavirus pandemic. Inspections were suspended in March 2020 as the pandemic was just starting. FDA inspectors have still "conducted mission critical inspections," as they put it, even though regular inspections were suspended. The agency continued to maintain reviews of consumer products, especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including hand sanitizers made with methanol and diagnostic tests that were making potentially false claims. The FDA has developed a rating system to let inspectors know when and where prioritized domestic inspections can begin. It's called the COVID-19 Advisory Rating System and uses real time data to assess the number of COVID-19 cases in a local area … [Read more...]

Americans Using Bleach and Disinfectants Improperly, According to CDC

According to a study published in the CDC's Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for June 5, 2020, many Americans are using bleach and disinfectants improperly during the coronavirus pandemic. Calls to poison centers regarding exposure to cleaners and disinfectants have increased during the pandemic. An internet panel survey found gaps in knowledge about the safe preparation, use, and storage of cleaners, bleaches, and disinfectants. One of the most striking items in the survey is that about 19% of American adults have used bleach to clean food. Overall, 39% of U.S. adults engaged in at least one high risk practice including washing food with bleach: they also said they applied household cleaning or disinfectant products to bare skin, or intentionally inhaled or ingested … [Read more...]

CSPI Urges FDA Action Against Supplement COVID-19 False Claims

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is asking the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take enforcement action against supplement COVID-19 false claims. The watchdog group found 46 products on Amazon that claimed their supplements fight viruses in a scan on May 29, 2020. CSPI also wants Amazon to delist these products and to work with the FDA and FTC to protect consumers from these manufacturers' false claims. And CSPI adds that those 46 listings are just a small sample of the "illegal and potentially unsafe supplements currently sold on Amazon and other online retailers." Federal law prohibits dietary supplement makers to claim that they prevent, treat, or diagnose any disease, including coronavirus. Many of the supplements CSPI found for sale implied … [Read more...]

Coronavirus Shutdown Increases Rodent Activity in More Areas

One of the more unpleasant realities caused by the coronavirus shutdown is that rats and mice are moving into suburbs in search of food as restaurants close. The rodents rely on food and waste that those venues generate. With more restaurants closed down, the animals have had to search further afield to find something to eat. Rodent activity will likely increase in areas where it hasn't happened before. That means that homeowners must guard against rodent infestation. If you do find evidence of rats in or around your home, call an exterminator. Rats can be dangerous in and of themselves and have been known to bite people and animals. In fact, 9,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms every year for rat or mouse bites. They can also carry serious diseases such as hantavirus, … [Read more...]

Feds Investigating Six Meatpacking Plants After COVID-19 Outbreaks

Federal regulators are investigating six meatpacking plants after large COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to those facilities. The plants include JBS Packerland in Green Bay, Wisconsin, American Foods Group in Green Bay, Smithfield Foods in Cudahy, Wisconsin, and Salms Partners in Denmark, Wisconsin, Pizza crust manufacturer TNT Crust in Green Bay and Birds Eye Foods in Darien, Wisconsin are also being investigated, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Meatpacking and meat processing plants have become hotspots for coronavirus illnesses in the past few weeks. Smithfield Foods in South Dakota had to close last week after 300 employees were sickened by the virus. One of the issues with these facilities is that employees have to work in close contact with each other. Employees have … [Read more...]

COVID-19 Outbreaks at Meatpacking Plants Increase Food Supply Concern

While the USDA and FDA reassure the public that the shortages they are seeing in grocery stores are primarily the result of panic buying and shortage and not due to problems in the supply chain, other consumer advocate groups are increasingly concerned. COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the country are decreasing supply. That doesn't mean that you have to start hoarding pork, beef, and chicken. It's an acknowledgment that those workplaces may be at higher risk for coronavirus hotspots. They are considered an essential service and need to remain open during the pandemic. So COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants are a concern. At least 13 processing plants around the country have closed in the past few weeks because so many employees have contracted this illness. … [Read more...]

Beginning Cooks: Learn About Potentially Hazardous Foods

As the coronavirus pandemic has closed many restaurants and is forcing more people to cook at home, we are starting a new series helping beginning cooks learn about potentially hazardous foods. It is unfortunately true that many foods are inherently risky for foodborne illness. If you know how to handle and cook these foods you can help keep your family safe and reduce the risk of a doctor's visit or hospitalization during the pandemic. And there are general food safety tips and cooking tips that are important during this time. Learn about safe minimum temperatures, who is at risk for food poisoning complications, and learn the common symptoms of food poisoning. This list will be expanded over the next days and weeks. If you have a question about avoiding food poisoning, handling … [Read more...]

FDA Releases More Info About Pandemic Food Shopping

The FDA releases more info about shopping for food during the coronavirus pandemic. Information about the virus keeps changing as scientists learn more about it. The first statement is, "We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This particular coronavirus causes respiratory illness and is spread from person-to-person, unlike foodborne gastrointestinal or GI viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food." FDA also says that although your local grocery store may be temporarily out of some products, there are no nationwide shortages of food since food production and manufacturing is spread … [Read more...]

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