Category Archives: food safety rules

USDA gets tougher on salmonella imposing stricter limits on bacteria in poultry products

salmonella chickenThe USDA has found salmonella on about a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts heading for supermarket shelves. That’s bad news for consumers. It’s certainly a good reason to handle raw chicken carefully, wash your hands afterward, and cook the meat well. But FoodFacts.com was happy to see that it’s also good reason for better regulation. The USDA gets tougher on salmonella imposing stricter limits on bacteria in poultry products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new, stricter limit on salmonella bacteria in poultry products. It’s a new attempt to make headway against one of the country’s biggest, and most intractable, food safety problems.

Salmonella bacteria on raw poultry and fresh produce are estimated to cause about 1 million cases of illness in the U.S. each year. It has proved difficult to reduce that number because the bacteria are so commonly found in the environment, and especially in poultry.

Even when companies wash chicken carcasses after slaughter, the USDA has found the bacteria on about a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts heading for supermarket shelves. It’s a good reason to handle raw chicken carefully, wash your hands afterward, and cook the meat well.

Under the USDA’s new standard, companies will be required to reduce the frequency of contaminated chicken parts to 15 percent or less. The new standard also sets limits for turkey and ground meat products. A separate standard covers another disease-causing type of bacterium, called Campylobacter.

Alfred Almanza, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety, says that after a year of testing, the USDA will start posting test results from each poultry processing plant online for consumers to see.

“[This] is not a good thing for them, if they’re failing,” Almanza says. “So those are pretty significant deterrents, or incentives for them to meet or exceed our standard.”

The USDA says that when companies meet this new standard, 50,000 fewer people will get sick from salmonella each year.

But there’s a lot of guesswork in that calculation, and some are not convinced that it’s really true. William James, for instance, the former chief veterinarian for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, thinks the USDA’s entire approach to controlling salmonella is flawed. James now works as a consultant for private companies.

James points to the agency experience with an earlier version of the salmonella standard, which he helped put in place. It did reduce the amount of salmonella bacteria that were found on poultry, yet illness rates did not drop.

The problem, he says, is that these USDA standards treat all salmonella alike, when there actually are more than 2,000 different genetic strains of the bacterium, and most of them don’t make people sick. In fact, the ones that don’t make you sick probably are beneficial, because they compete with the salmonella strains that really are dangerous, James says.

James wants poultry companies to take more accurate aim at their problem. “The key here is probably to focus on those few types that are causing illness, and get serious about trying to eliminate those,” he says.

He says that poultry companies should be testing their chicken houses for those specific bacteria, such as one strain called Salmonella Heidelberg. When the bacteria show up in a flock, those chickens should be slaughtered separately, he says, and the buildings where they lived should be decontaminated.

The USDA’s Almanza agrees that having a standard based on the prevalence of all salmonella is imprecise, but he thinks it still will help uncover food safety problems. “If you have a high level of salmonella, you are going to have some that are of significance to public health,” he says.

He believes that the new standard, and the power of posting test results online, will force companies to take additional measures to make sure their products are safe.

FoodFacts.com is sure that many will agree that the idea of bacteria present on the poultry products we’re all purchasing at the grocery store is exceptionally upsetting (and somewhat stomach-turning as well). We’re all aware, though, of the importance of resolving instances of foodborne illnesses. Any steps the USDA is taking towards that resolution are welcome.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/04/465530128/usda-imposes-stricter-limit-on-salmonella-bacteria-in-poultry-products

If you want to avoid foodborne illnesses, you may want to forgo a few different foods – and some of them may be veggies.

precut vegIn the last year or so, foodborne illnesses have been in the news all too often. After the multiple instances of illnesses that plagued Chipotle during 2015, FoodFacts.com has spoken to more than a few consumers actively looking to prevent foodborne illness. How can you do that? If you want to avoid foodborne illnesses, you may want to forgo a few different foods – and some of them may be veggies. Surprised? Read on.

As you might imagine, spending a career thinking about the food-borne illnesses that make people sick (or worse) would force a person to think about the kind of meals he puts into his own body.

That’s because every year, there are approximately 48 million cases of food-borne illnesses in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration. An estimated 128,000 people are hospitalized for these sicknesses, and about 3,000 die on an annual basis.

For Bill Marler, a Seattle-based products liability and personal injury attorney who has worked as a food safety advocate in the U.S. for the past two decades, there are some innocuous-seeming edibles that won’t ever make it into his grocery cart. The lawyer has represented the victims of major food poisoning cases against companies like Chili’s, Dole, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, prompting him to come up with some very specific rules about the food he eats.

In a recent article published in his firm’s blog, Food Poison Journal, Marler listed six food items he refuses to eat. Check out the list — and Marler’s science-backed reasonings — below, then ask yourself if you really want to go to that dollar oyster happy hour tonight.

1. Pre-cut and pre-washed produce.
Food poisoning expert Bill Marler does not take a bite of any produce that’s been pre-cut or pre-washed.

As convenient as packaged apple slices and pre-washed lettuce may be, Marler “avoids them like the plague,” he wrote. Food is more likely to be contaminated the more it is processed and touched, so Marler purchases unwashed and uncut fruits and veggies. Buying these items in bulk is the enemy, he says: to decrease the risk for listeria, Marler buys enough produce to last him only three to four days.

2. Uncooked sprouts.
Bean, alfalfa, clover and radish sprouts are increasingly popping up in grocery stores nationwide, but Marler won’t munch on them unless they’re cooked. He cited E. coli and salmonella outbreaks associated with the miniature veggies, arguing the risk isn’t work it. Marler said sprouts are particularly dicey because their seeds are prone to bacterial contamination.

3. Red meat cooked medium rare.
Are you picking up on a theme here? Marler seems to be all about the cooking process. While a medium rare burger yields glorious red juices that run on your plate, Marler said such meat also runs the risk of being contaminated with bacteria, especially when it’s ground.

“If it’s not cooked thoroughly to 160°F throughout, it can cause poisoning by E. coliand salmonella and other bacterial illnesses,” he said.

4. Raw shellfish.
How appealing do those $1 oysters seem right now? Oysters may be an aphrodisiac, but they’re not sexy to this lawyer.

“Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that’s in the water,” Marler wrote. If the water is contaminated, the shellfish will be, too. In 2008, the Center of Science for the Public Interest cited fish and shellfish as the number one cause of food-borne illnesses.

Food poisoning through seafood is on the rise: A 2015 report showed that vibrio poisonings, which often spread from the consumption of oysters, increased by a whopping 52 percent over the past decade or so. Vibriosis is one of the most serious kinds of food poisoning. Though it is rare, around half of the people inflicted by one of the specific strains ultimately die from it.

While some of these (uncooked sprouts and pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables) might appear surprising to some, it’s a great list to keep in mind for food safety. A safe food consumer is a happy food consumer. Let’s all stay happy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/food-bill-marler-food-safety-lawyer-wont-eat_us_56a77589e4b0172c659414ef

Think you’re hearing about more foodborne illnesses than you used to? You’re right. Here’s why.

_USP1212-FoodborneIllness-T4FoodFacts.com has always prided ourselves on being a reliable consumer source for information on food recalls due to foodborne illnesses. Think you’re hearing about more foodborne illnesses than you used to? There’s a good reason.  These illnesses have been in the news more and more frequently in the last few years.

A second E.coli outbreak at the Chipotle has food safety experts perplexed. NPR’s Linda Wertheimer talks to reporter Joanne Silberner about why it’s been so hard to identify the contamination source.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the center is investigating five new cases of E. coli linked to Chipotle restaurants. More than 50 people in nine states were infected in an outbreak that began in October. Reporter Joanne Silberner is here to talk about why food outbreaks keep happening and what they mean to eaters like us.

Joanne, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than a quarter of a million people get sick from E. coli infections every year and 48 million people – if you count all kinds of food poisoning – 48 million people get sick. Why do these outbreaks keep appearing?

JOANNE SILBERNER, BYLINE: Good question. There are many reasons. One is that restaurant food is getting more complicated, different ingredients coming from around the world and around the country. There’s also more reporting. You know, it’s more in the news and on social media. You know, you’ll notice it if another few people in your town are sick and you might get to chatting, so you’re more aware ’cause most food outbreaks are not reported. But with social media you may be suspicious and you may realize it’s a good idea to call the public health department if you think something’s going on. And really the bottom line as always is that bacteria and viruses are smarter than us. They’re great at finding places to hide and they’re great at finding ways to sneak into the body.

WERTHEIMER: Is there anything different, do you think, about these Chipotle outbreaks?

SILBERNER: Well, one thing that’s a little different is that it was noticed. It was identified. Most food outbreaks go unidentified. Another interesting thing about it is it continued despite a really major effort by Chipotle to clean things up. There’s a challenge for the company. It’s made its name by using fresh ingredients prepared in-house. That’s their whole shtick.

WERTHEIMER: Like making the guacamole.

SILBERNER: And cutting the tomatoes and grating the cheese in-house, and those two things are going to change. They’re go to be doing the tomatoes and the cheese at a central location and they’re doing a lot more testing.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think we ought to do to protect ourselves from food poisoning?

SILBERNER: Well, if you’re going out to a restaurant, you should look for ones with clean kitchens and places for workers to wash up. And at home – because a whole lot of cases occur at home – make sure your cooking utensils are clean. Separate out raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods. Cook your foods thoroughly and refrigerate them when they’re ready to go into the refrigerator. And if you’re sick, do not prepare food for others.

WERTHEIMER: OK, here’s a bonus question. Congress passed legislation to really beef up the food safety system. Why didn’t things get better?

SILBERNER: Well, the legislation passed in 2011 and with great hope and great fanfare Congress didn’t really adequately fund it. So there wasn’t a lot of money to come up with rules and regulations. The rules and regulations are finally being finished this year. And in the omnibus act that just passed funding the government, some people will consider it not enough, but there’s a lot more money coming up this year for food safety than there has been before. So maybe things will get better.

Better funding from congress. Centrally prepared food items. Better reporting from consumers. We are hearing about more instances of foodborne illnesses than ever before, but with steps being taken by restaurants and our government with a little help from a more vocal consumer, we are making strides in the effort to eradicate these illnesses once and for all.

http://www.npr.org/2015/12/26/461095842/why-food-poisoning-outbreaks-appear-to-be-on-the-rise

FDA issues food safety rules for farmers under Food Safety Modernization Act

lettuceWe were all enthusiastic about the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act five years ago. It was the most sweeping reform to food safety laws in the U.S. in more than 70 years. The FMSA shifts the focus of federal regulators from responding to food contamination to preventing food contamination. We’ve been reactive instead of proactive when it comes to food safety for far too many decades. While several new rules were implemented after the act’s passage in 2011, the majority of requirements will be implemented over time. FoodFacts.com was pleased to learn today that the FDA has acted to issue one of the most significant aspects of the FSMA.

It took much longer than expected, but the Food and Drug Administration has now released the centerpiece — or at least, the most contested — part of that overhaul. These are rules that cover farmers who grow fresh produce, as well as food importers.

“This is a giant step forward,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods.
Earlier drafts of the regulations on vegetable farming generated howls of protest. The rules are intended to prevent disease-causing bacteria from contaminating vegetables that people often eat raw.

But small farmers, in particular, complained that some requirements, such as those calling for regular testing of irrigation water, were onerous and costly. Organic farmers protested against restrictions on the use of manure for fertilizer.

The final regulations contain compromises on some of those requirements. The FDA is conducting more research on the risks of using fresh manure, but in the meantime, it “does not object” to farmers simply following rules that already govern the use of manure in organic farming.

New regulations on food importers, meanwhile, require them to have programs in place to verify that their foreign suppliers are taking just as many safety precautions as farmers in the U.S. And the FDA will check up, sending safety inspectors around the world to visit food suppliers.

Both rules will start to go into effect in two years. Enforcing the new rules will require a boost in the FDA’s budget, and Congress will have to approve it. “It will not succeed without resources,” said the FDA’s Taylor.

While there do seem to be some loose ends, we are headed in the right direction. Foodborne illnesses are far too common and costly to the consumers they affect as well as the food manufacturers who recall the tainted food and pay legal expenses associated with those illnesses.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/13/455902270/its-final-fda-issues-long-awaited-food-safety-rules

The story behind product recalls and restaurant closings: food poisoning is more common than you think

foodborne_illnessFoodFacts.com has always made it a point to call attention to food recalls and restaurant closings on our website. We think it’s important to keep as many people informed of foodborne illnesses as possible because they do affect so many people. New food recalls happen every single day of the year and most of them aren’t publicized, so you may not know that a product that’s sitting in your pantry has been recalled to do foodborne pathogens or cross contamination from allergens. You need to know exactly what’s in your food – and sometimes that includes things that aren’t very pleasant and can, in fact, cause immediate and serious harm.

The latest scare comes from Oregon and Washington state, where Chipotle closed 43 restaurants after more than 35 people fell ill with E. coli. Other outbreaks in recent years involved cantaloupes, peanuts and cookie dough.Here’s the story behind product recalls and restaurant closings:  food poisoning is more common than you think.  Some 3,000 Americans die every year from food poisoning, and 128,000 are hospitalized.

It’s not as if Congress has done nothing. In 2011 it passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the biggest change in industry monitoring since the 1930s. The law had broad support from both parties as well as consumer groups and Big Agriculture.

The act makes a number of improvements to the food-safety system. The Food and Drug Administration is empowered to order recalls of contaminated food products — previously, it could only request them — and put in place tougher rules on processing fruits and vegetables. Companies are required to create written safety plans and keep records of safety issues, which the agency has the right to see. The FDA will also do more frequent inspections — once every three years instead of every decade for high-risk facilities — and has greater authority over imported food, which is required to meet many of the same safety standards as domestic food.

The law falls short in some places: Most important, it does too little to address a lax program of domestic self-regulation, especially when it comes to outside safety inspectors, whose independence has been questioned. The agency has proposed a set of rules for improving matters, including a set of model accreditation standards for safety auditors, but they would simply be guidelines.

Yet any discussion of benefits and drawbacks would be premature, since few of the law’s core provisions have taken effect. The FDA only last month finalized its preventive-control rules, and Congress has doled out less than half the $580 million that the Congressional Budget Office says has been needed to implement the law. It is unlikely to open its wallet wider. The process has become bogged down by industry objections to compliance costs and a proposed $225 million in other fees.

Congress, agricultural producers and food retailers need to find a compromise out of the fiscal logjam. One potentially helpful suggestion came from President Barack Obama earlier this year, when he proposed placing all food-safety responsibilities in one agency inside the Department of Health and Human Services, combining the efforts of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which oversees meat and poultry) and a handful of other government offices. This could well increase efficiency and cut down on regulatory overlap, meaning lower costs to industry.

FoodFacts.com will continue to provide news to our community concerning food recalls and restaurant closings. It’s important that we all stay aware so that we can avoid serious illness. And food poisoning IS serious illness – even though we don’t tend to think of it that way. With over 100,000 hospitalizations every year and numerous fatalities, food poisoning isn’t something about which any of us can afford to live in the dark. While we have plenty of systems in place to help us avoid these situations in the first place, none of those has yet been perfect. In the end, it’s still up to us to find out as much as we can about problems as they arise in order to keep ourselves healthy and well.

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-11-04/food-poisoning-is-costly-deadly-and-too-common

Farmers weigh in on new food safety rules … express concerns about the regulatory process

Foodborne illnesses are always a concern in the U.S. food supply. E. coli and salmonella are among the outbreaks we’ve become fairly used to hearing about in the news. FoodFacts.com follows food recalls on our website to keep our community notified of issues with specific products that often include foodborne illnesses. In January of 2011 the firm major reform of food safety laws in seven decades was enacted. The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed with the purpose of making food safer and reducing foodborne illness. It’s been two years and the FDA has put forward a draft for the new rules which has been open for public comment.

According to the Farm Bureau, however, the new regulations may just be too broad to do this job the way it needs to be done. Farmers have very specific concerns with the new regulations and believe that the FDA seems to be unwilling to focus specifically on the commodities that are most often associated with foodborne illness.

“We urge the FDA to reconsider standards that take into account the relative risks and comparative benefits associated with individual commodities. The FDA should initially propose regulations for only those commodities with a history of microbial contamination,” the Farm Bureau wrote in lengthy comments recently submitted to the FDA.

Only once those regulations are successfully put in place and enforced, should the FDA even consider expanding regulations to cover other commodities.

“We know that there have been problems with E. coli in leafy greens or with salmonella in tomatoes, for example, and the industry has voluntarily taken the initiative to curb some of those problems,” said Kelli Ludlum, American Farm Bureau Federation food safety specialist. “That’s where it really makes sense for FDA to focus their efforts. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to go significantly broader than that and regulate a whole scope of commodities that have never had foodborne illnesses, and, because of the way they’re grown and consumed, are very unlikely to have those issues.”

Including low- and no-contamination risk commodities is a waste of both growers’ and the governments’ time and money.

“Instead of shrinking the size of the haystack in which they’re looking for that public health threat needle, by choosing to regulate all produce, they’re only making that haystack bigger, which neither farmers nor government inspectors and regulators have the resources for,” Ludlum said.

Specifically, because considerable changes to the draft rules are expected to be made as a result of public comments, the Farm Bureau believes a second draft of the proposed rule should be put out in order to work through the regulatory process adequately. Congressional lawmakers agree and are also calling for another round of comments. 30 senators and 45 House members said they were concerned about the impact of proposed rules on farmers and businesses that an additional comment period could help alleviate.

“We encourage the FDA to release a second draft of the combined produce safety, preventive controls for human food and animal feed, foreign supplier verification program and third-party audit certification rules to allow for sufficient review as to how all the rules are intended to work together,” Farm Bureau wrote.

Farmers are clearly concerned by the possibility of over-regulation that may not be necessary to ensure the safety of the food supply. While new regulation has clearly been needed and food safety is of the utmost importance to all Americans, the Farm Bureau’s concerns certainly pose a significant question regarding the FDA’s overarching approach to the issue. Time and money are important resources for both the government and America’s farmers. We’d be happy to see a second round of public comments to help the FDA arrive at a sensible set of much needed food safety rules that work for the government, the growers and consumers.

http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=38139

The FDA can’t seem to meet its schedule for modifying U.S. Food Safety Regulations

FoodFacts.com has some interesting news to report tonight coming out of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Back in January of 2011 a new law was signed requiring the F.D.A. to modernize food safety regulations. The F.D.A. has stated that the scope of the project is tremendous and will require additional time to complete. A lawsuit has been filed against them because of their failure to meet the deadlines given and now the Agency is fighting to have that lawsuit dismissed.

Here at FoodFact.com, we do feel that the U.S. can be behind other nations in our determinations regarding certain ingredients and their overall safety for the population. There are many food additives that have been banned in other countries that are still permitted in the U.S. food supply. There are many other ingredients that haven’t been studied to the degree required to deem them safe and yet the F.D.A. has allowed their use. So we can’t claim to be completely surprised by this latest news.

The lawsuit was actually filed back in August by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed into law at the beginning of 2011 was designed to help prevent food-borne illnesses that result in thousands of deaths each year. The two non-profit groups are accusing the F.D.A. of repeatedly missing hundreds of mandatory deadlines for issuing the regulations required by this law. They have asked the court to order the Agency to comply.

The F.D.A.’s efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed include a statement that their decisions regarding the law’s enforcement aren’t subject to judicial review. We don’t necessarily understand that as it seems to infer that the F.D.A. can’t be taken to court. They’ve also stated that they haven’t “unreasonably delayed” the dissemination of regulations. While the Agency isn’t arguing the fact that they have missed deadlines, they are trying to say that the deadlines aren’t really that important.

Sadly there are thousands of Americans who would have a different opinion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 people die from food-borne illnesses each year and another 48 million (fully one in six citizens) get sick from food contamination.

The Food Safety Modernization Act is the first overhaul of food safety laws in over 70 years in the U.S. The new regulations are designed to establish standards for the sources of contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. It would also hold importers responsible for the safety of their own products. Food companies would also be required to identify possible causes of contamination and take action to prevent them. While FoodFacts.com does realize that this is a tremendous undertaking, we also understand that it’s a very necessary step for the United States to take to protect our own consumers from a variety of dangers related to foods. We’ll keep an eye on this developing story and keep you updated. In the meanwhile, remember you can always check out FoodFacts.com to find out about the latest food recalls and their reasons.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/03/usa-food-lawsuit-idUSL1E8MUCSC20121203

New York’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary beverages …the right thing to do or government interference? Thoughts from our community, please

Food Facts wants our community to weigh in on this very controversial piece of news. Last month, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor proposed a ban on the sale of large sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would affect restaurant establishments, movie theaters and street food sellers. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing this ban in order to curb the rising problem of obesity in New York City.

The ban would apply to drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces and range from sodas to energy drinks to sweetened iced teas which would be prohibited from sale in delis, fast-food outlets, sporting venues and even hot-dog and sandwich carts which are common on most New York City street corners. If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect in March of 2013. In New York City, more than half of adults are obese or overweight. And about one-third of New Yorkers drink more than one sugary drink per day. This information comes from the New York City health commissioner. The proposed ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 30 calories per 8-ounce serving, so unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas and flavored or vitamin waters with no calories would not be affected.

According to the mayor, the only thing the ban actually would do is make it less convenient to consume more than 16 ounces of a chosen sugary beverage. After all, a consumer would be free to buy a second one. Because the city does have jurisdiction over local eating establishments they are confident they have the authority to restrict the sales of these beverages.

Since the proposal, other mayors around the country are considering similar actions. Many in the health and nutrition community are supportive of the measure. Many in the New York City community and the government are not.

Here, in our Food Facts community, many are aware of the unhealthy and possibly downright harmful ingredients in soda. But, we’re also pretty aware that those statements don’t just involve sugary sodas and pretty much extend to diet versions, as well. You can check out two examples right here:

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Diet-Soda/Coke-Cola-Diet-Coke-Soda-20-oz/778

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Cola/Coca-Cola-20-fl-oz/44984

We’d like our Food Facts friends to weigh in on this issue. Let us know:

1) Is the ban, and others like it that will undoubtedly follow, an infringement on our basic rights? If the New York City government can ban large sized sugary beverages, what other nutrition-based decisions can they go on to force on adult residents?

2) Is the ban a viable way to attempt to control a growing obesity problem in New York and other cities like it?

3) Does the ban actually not go far enough? If we know that the ingredients in soda are actually harmful to our health and that’s true for both diet and sugar-laden beverages, why aren’t governments trying to control the intake of all kinds of drinks? Aspartame is just as controversial as high-fructose corn syrup and phosphoric acid and potassium benzoate certainly don’t qualify as additives we don’t need to worry about.

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that can be looked at from many points of view. As a member of the Food Facts community, we’d like to hear your stance and reasoning. As educated consumers, your opinions are valuable, not only to us, but to all communities and cities considering ways and means to curtail the growing problems of obesity and poor nutrition becoming more and more prevalent in our country every day.

Bacteria seen in nearly half of U.S. meat

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Foodfacts.com has learned that Almost half of the meat and poultry sold at U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores contains a type of bacteria that is potentially harmful to humans, a new study estimates. Researchers tested 136 packages of chicken, turkey, pork, and ground beef purchased at 26 grocery stores in five cities around the country, and found that 47 percent contained Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), a common cause of infection in people. What’s more, roughly half of the contaminated samples contained strains of the bacteria that were resistant to at least three antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline. Some strains were resistant to a half dozen or more.

Although the high contamination rates may sound alarming, the threat these bacteria pose to humans is still unclear.
“We know that nearly half of our food supply’s meat and poultry are contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those are multidrug resistant,” says Lance B. Price, Ph.D., the senior author of the study, which was published Friday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. “What we don’t know [is] how often these transfer to people. We need more studies to quantify the public health impact.” S. aureus, and drug-resistant strains in particular, can cause serious infections and even death in humans. However, simple precautions including cooking meat thoroughly, washing hands after handling meat, and keeping raw meat separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination are believed to neutralize the risk of infection, according to experts not involved in the research.

“Numerous studies of this type done in other countries…have generally come up with the same findings, that multidrug-resistant S. aureus are present in a variety of animal meats,” says Pascal James Imperato, M.D., the dean of the School of Public Health at SUNY–Downstate Medical Center, in Brooklyn. “But, so far, no one has been able to draw a connection between the presence of those bacteria in meats and human illness.” Multidrug-resistant bacteria strains are “always a concern for humans,” says M. Gabriela Bowden, Ph.D., a bacteria expert and assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, in Houston. “But if you follow the hygiene rules that you would follow for Salmonella or E. coli, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
The meat, which was sold under 80 different brands, was purchased in Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Fort Lauderdale; and Flagstaff, Ariz. The variety and number of S. aureus strains found on the samples suggest that the livestock themselves — rather than contamination during processing and packaging — are the source of the bacteria, the study notes.

Each year farmers and ranchers give millions of pounds of antibiotics to farm animals, most of them healthy, to make them grow faster and to prevent — rather than treat — diseases, says Price, the director of the Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Flagstaff.
The combination of bacteria, antibiotics, and livestock living in close quarters creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive and mutate, which may explain the high levels of drug-resistant S. aureus seen in the study, he adds. Virtually all (96 percent) of the S. aureus strains Price and his colleagues isolated had developed resistance to at least one antibiotic. Strains resistant to three or more antibiotics were found in 79 percent of turkey, 64 percent of pork, 35 percent of beef, and 26 percent of chicken samples.
“It’s four different meats from four different animals in different geographical areas,” Bowden says. “[S. aureus] may be more prevalent than we think.”

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), which has been a particular menace to humans in hospitals and communities alike, was found in one package each of beef, turkey, and pork, though not chicken. This sample size wasn’t large enough to arrive at an accurate estimate of its prevalence in meat nationwide, according to the study.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently monitor the country’s meat supply for evidence of four major types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (including Salmonella and E. coli). The study findings suggest that S. aureus should be screened for regularly as well, the researchers say.

Article provided by Amanda Gardner

Understanding the Dangers of Sodium Benzoate as a Food Preservative

6910jams
Foodfacts.com wants to make you more aware of what controversial ingredients manufacturers are putting into our foods. Sodium benzoate is a commonly used preservative in such items as soft drinks, fruit juices, and jams. Here’s why you need to be concerned about it.

As more people become aware of the chemicals they put into their bodies when they eat processed foods, food preservatives have come under increasing scrutiny. These chemical additives serve the important purpose of stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi which could cause illness if left unchecked. Unfortunately, the dangers of food preservatives are becoming increasingly recognized. One unhealthy preservative that’s received recent attention is sodium benzoate.

Sodium benzoate is a commonly found preservative in such food and drink products as fruit juice, soft drinks, coffee flavoring syrups, as well as a variety of condiments. Although the FDA has previously classified sodium benzoate as a safe preservative, this classification is now being questioned. It appears that sodium benzoate forms a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C. Benzene not only causes damage to DNA, the genetic material, it’s also a known carcinogen and appears to play a role in a variety of diseases due to it’s DNA damaging capabilities.

Another reason sodium benzoate may be considered an unhealthy preservative is its effect on children. Some studies have shown that sodium benzoate along with artificial food colorings can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive. This can be a particular problem for kids who consume soft drinks on a regular basis since most carbonated beverages have sodium benzoate as a preservative. Because of increasing awareness of this problem, Coke is planning on removing this unhealthy preservative from its soft drink products this year.

Because the conversion of sodium benzoate to benzene occurs in the presence of vitamin C, this unhealthy preservative may be particularly unsafe when used in fruit jellies, jams, and fruit juices where high vitamin C fruits are present. It’s also thought that heat plays a role in the conversion to benzene, so heating products containing this preservative could increase the risk of negative health effects.

Unfortunately, many of the preservatives used in common food products have raised health concerns although sodium benzoate appears to be under the most scrutiny right now. To reduce your risk of exposure, read nutrition labels closely and avoid products that contain sodium benzoate, which can also be listed on the label as E211. Be particularly careful to avoid buying products high in vitamin C that have this unhealthy preservative and never put any product containing sodium benzoate under heat. To avoid the dangers of food preservatives entirely, avoid processed and packaged foods and make your own fresh items at home.

Article provided by: www.ehow.com