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Ground Beef in School Lunches Meets Stricter Microbial Standards

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report published last week, the ground beef supplied to school lunches contains “significantly less” Salmonella contamination than products sold on the commercial market.

USDA’s Economic Research Service examined the impact of food-safety standards imposed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

Because ground beef is a staple of school menus and has suffered a number of product recalls in recent years, AMS pays particular attention to the food safety of ground beef. The report addresses the need for information regarding economic incentives for suppliers to improve the food safety of their products.

The researchers found that the food-safety performance of active suppliers exceeded the performance of inactive ones (meaning they sought approval to supply the NSLP but did not bid for contracts) and commercial market suppliers, “suggesting that AMS standards encourage superior food safety performance.”

AMS and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which regulates ground beef sold in general commerce, have different tolerance levels for microbial testing and testing frequency and for certain slaughter operation procedures.

In order to adhere to AMS’ strict tolerances for Salmonella and other potentially harmful pathogens, ground beef suppliers have to make costly investments in sanitation and cleaning. The companies recoup the costs through higher bid prices, but they still have to bid low enough to be selected by AMS.

The research found that inactive AMS suppliers exceeded FSIS’ tolerance for Salmonella, but that they were worse than all other suppliers on tests that were one-half to one-tenth the FSIS tolerance.

Some evidence suggests that AMS-approved suppliers consider their food-safety performance before bidding on contracts to supply the NSLP. Those suppliers who may not be confident that they would meet AMS food-safety standards and don’t bid then sell their ground beef in the commercial market to other buyers.

Food Safety News

Cargill Recalls Ground Beef From Canadian Walmarts for Possible E. Coli Contamination

Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling Your Fresh Market brand ground beef products from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157 contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced Monday.

The public is being advised not to consume the recalled products described below, which have been sold at Walmart stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef Sirloin 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18363 7
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18369 9
Your Fresh Market Medium Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18365 1
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 475 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29 6 05388 18376 7
Your Fresh Market Extra Lean Ground Beef 900 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18372 9
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 900 g Best Before 2014.NO.28 6 05388 18378 1
Your Fresh Market Lean Ground Beef 1.6 kg Best Before 2014.NO.28 and 2014.NO.29 6 05388 18379 8

 

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by test results. CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The agency is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

For more information: Cargill Meat Solutions, Connie Tamoto, Communications Manager, Cargill, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Office: (204) 947-6187, Mobile: (204) 918-0344, [email protected]

Wal-Mart Canada Corp.: Alex Roberton, Director, Corporate Affairs & Social Media, (905) 821-2111, ext. 75402, [email protected]

Consumers and industry can contact CFIA by filling out the online feedback form.

Food Safety News

1,200 Pounds of Ground Beef Recalled Due to E. coli Risk

Ranchers Legacy Meat Co., of Vadnais Heights, Minn., is recalling 1,200 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coliO157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Products subject to the recall are packaged in plastic cryovac sealed packets, and contain various weights of ground beef.  All products produced on Nov. 19, 2014 are subject to recall.

All of the following have a Package Code (use by) 12/10/2014 and bear the establishment number “Est. 40264” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Individual products include:

  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Beef Patties 77/23
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice Ground Beef 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice WD Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy RD Beef Patties 80/20
  • OTG Manufacturing Chuck/Brisket RD Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Oval Beef Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy WD Chuck Blend Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy USDA Choice NAT Beef Patties 80/20
  • Ranchers Legacy Ground Chuck Blend
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend Bulk Pack NAT Patties
  • Ranchers Legacy Chuck Blend NAT Beef Patties

The product was discovered by FSIS inspection personnel during a routine inspection. Products testing positive on November 21, 2014 were held at the establishment.  The products being recalled were produced on the same day and equipment as the positive product.  Products were shipped to distributors for sales nationwide.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products.

Food Safety News

Texas Company Recalls Ground Beef for Potential Metal Pieces

Sam Kane Beef Processors of Corpus Christi, TX, is recalling approximately 90,987 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FSIS announced Saturday.

The following products are subject to recall:

  • 3-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Chuck,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/12/14” and a use-by date of “10/02/14.”
  • 5-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Beef,” “73% LEAN 27% FAT,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/15/14” and a use-by date of “10/05/14.”
  • 10-lb. packages of “HEB Ground Beef,” “73% LEAN 27% FAT,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “09/18/14,” and a use-by date of “10/08/14.”
  • 10-lb. clear film packages of formed patties made from Sam Kane Beef Processors “Ground Chuck,” bearing the establishment number “337,” a production date of “9/09/14” and a use-by date of “9/29/14.”

The products were produced on the above dates (between Sept. 9, 2014, and Sept. 18, 2014, with sell-by dates between Sept. 29, 2014, and Oct. 8, 2014) and bear the establishment number “337” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. The products were shipped to retail outlets in Texas.

The problem was discovered after a retail location received consumer complaints involving ground beef and pieces of metal approximately 3 mm in size. Four separate consumer complaints were received, with one consumer reporting a chipped tooth. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness from consumption of these products should contact a healthcare provider.

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact Herb Meischen, senior vice president of sales and marketing, at (361) 241-5000, ext. 250.

This is the second recall involving products from this company in the past week. The previous recall, involving 2,633 pounds of ground beef chub product possibly contaminated with pieces of plastic, was announced Sept. 30.

Food Safety News

Ground Beef Linked to E. coli Recalled From Two Whole Foods Market Stores in Massachusetts

Whole Foods Market is voluntarily recalling 368 pounds of ground beef products from two of its Massachusetts stores because of potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced early Friday.

Subject to this recall are 73 lbs. of ground beef products produced June 21 at the company’s South Weymouth, MA, store and 295 lbs. produced June 8 and 10 at the store in Newton, MA. The list of products can be found here and is also included at the bottom of this story.

The recalled products were wrapped in brown butcher paper or were in plastic-wrapped trays with Whole Foods meat department scale labels on them.

The recall was announced after three cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection were confirmed in Massachusetts in June, although FSIS stated that additional laboratory tests were not done until this week.

“Working in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between ground beef purchased at Whole Foods Market and this illness cluster,” the agency stated.

“While the onset of illnesses was in June, on August 13, 2014, additional laboratory results provided linkages between the 3 MA case-patients and ground beef purchased from Whole Foods. Traceback investigation indicated that all 3 case-patients consumed ground beef purchased from 2 Whole Foods Market prior to illness onset. FSIS is continuing to work with state and federal public health partners on this investigation to determine a common source and will provide updated information as it becomes available,” FSIS noted.

Why that time lag occurred between the reported illnesses and the additional lab tests, how the E. coli patients are doing now, and whether there were additional E. coli cases associated with this outbreak could not be ascertained for this story since a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health declined to respond to additional questions from Food Safety News beyond the information provided in the FSIS release.

Anne Roach, media relations manager for MDPH, stated in an email that, “I have nothing else for you. The release contains all the information that I have to share.”

Repeated calls and emails to Roach and MDPH Communications Director David Kibbe requesting more information were unsuccessful, nor did media contacts at Whole Foods Market respond to information requests from Food Safety News.

However, a Whole Foods spokeswoman indicated to local media outlets in Massachusetts that no definitive link had been made between the company’s products and this E. coli outbreak.

“There have been no positive test results of product indicating the presence of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria associated with the product sold at the two Whole Foods Market stores,” stated Heather McCready. “This voluntary recall is to advise customers who may still have ground beef in their freezers to discard the product and bring their receipt to either of the two stores for a full refund.”

Consumers with questions regarding the recall can call Whole Foods Market at (512) 477-5566, ext. 20060.

In August 2008, Whole Foods announced a voluntary ground beef recall involving potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination in products supplied by Coleman Natural Beef and processed by Nebraska Beef. Whole Foods then pulled products sold over an approximately two-month period in 2008 from its stores in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps two to eight days (three to four days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children younger than five and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

The products subject to recall include 125 lbs. of the following ground beef products produced on June 8, 2014 at the Newton, MA, Whole Foods Market location:

  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT” with SKU 90013
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT FAMILY PACK” with SKU 90247
  • “BEEF SIRLOIN Patty  93% LEAN / 7% Fat” with SKU 90088
  • “BEEF GROUND 93% LEAN / 7% FAT” with SKU 90035
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT patty FAMILY PACK” with SKU 52179
  • “BEEF GROUND 85% LEAN 15% FAT” with SKU 90004
  • “BEEF GROUND 85% LEAN 15% FAT FAMILY PACK” with SKU 90037
  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 96363
  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value Pack” with SKU 52162
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 95997
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value pack” with SKU 52190
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 GRASS FED” with SKU 95195
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 PATTIES GRASS FED” with SKU 95196
  • “BEEF BURGER GRASS FED GOURMET FEATURED” with SKU 52871

Also subject to recall are 170 lbs. of the following ground beef products produced on June 10, 2014, at the Newton, MA, Whole Foods Market location:

  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT” with SKU 90013
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT FAMILY PACK” with SKU 90247
  • “BEEF SIRLOIN Patty 93% LEAN / 7% Fat” with SKU 90088
  • “BEEF GROUND 93% LEAN / 7% FAT” with SKU 90035
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT patty FAMILY PACK” with SKU 52179
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93/7 PATTIES NE” with SKU 90199
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93/7 NE” with SKU 95051
  • “BEEF GROUND 85% LEAN 15% FAT” with SKU 90004
  • “BEEF GROUND 85% LEAN 15% FAT FAMILY PACK” with SKU 90037
  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 96363
  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value Pack” with SKU 52162
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 95997
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value pack” with SKU 52190
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 GRASS FED” with SKU 95195
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 PATTIES GRASS FED” with SKU 95196
  • “BEEF BURGER GRASS FED GOURMET FEATURED” with SKU 52871

Also subject to recall are 73 lbs. of the following ground beef products produced on June 21, 2014, at the South Weymouth, MA, Whole Foods Market location:

  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 96363
  • “BEEF GROUND PATTY 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value Pack” with SKU 52162
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED” with SKU 95997
  • “BEEF GROUND 90% LEAN GRASS FED, Value pack” with SKU 52190
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 GRASS FED” with SKU 95195
  • “BEEF GROUND 85 15 PATTIES GRASS FED” with SKU 95196
  • “BEEF BURGER GRASS FED GOURMET FEATURED” with SKU 52871
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% Lean 7% fat”  with SKU 90013
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT FAMILY PACK” with SKU 90247
  • “BEEF SIRLOIN Patty 93% LEAN / 7% Fat” with SKU 90088
  • “BEEF GROUND 93% LEAN / 7% FAT” with SKU 90035
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93% LEAN 7% FAT patty  FAMILY PACK” with SKU 52179
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93/7 PATTIES NE” with SKU 90199
  • “BEEF GROUND SIRLOIN 93/7 NE” with SKU 95051

Food Safety News

Banana from Ecuador continues to gain ground in China

Ecuador is currently the world’s largest banana exporter and, in the past, it used to lead the Chinese market, as it exported more than 300,000 cases of bananas a week to the Chinese market. 

“Exports in the 80s began thanks to the visionary effort of Segundo Wong, primarily in the form of barter. He was very successful but we began to lose market share, not because of the fruit’s quality but because of the costs, the lack of shipping logistics, and the cheap fruit from the Philippines and other producers. It was very difficult for us to compete and the companies with the biggest share stopped sending fruit,” recalled Eduardo. 

“We were sending a very small quantity to China, but in recent years, thanks to a rise in consumption, the conflict with the Philippines and the drop in production in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica and the Ivory Coast, we have greatly increased the volume of exports,” he said.

The tension due to the territorial dispute of the South Sea between China and the Philippines, the second largest exporter of bananas in the world, has increased over the years, which has brought complications and impediments to trade between the countries of the region; a situation that, at first sight, seems favourable for Ecuadorian exporters. 

“We have increased the volume of exports and a large number of major reputable importers from China are looking to import larger amounts; not only because of the conflict with the Philippines, but also because of our quality. “


“Nevertheless” 

There are several factors affecting the competitiveness of Ecuador in the Chinese market. 

Ecuadorian bananas require 35 days to arrive at the port of Shanghai, while the bananas from the Philippines only require 3 to 5 days. In addition, Ecuador must pay 10% in tariffs to enter the Chinese market, plus a tax for crossing the Panama Canal, while its Asian competitor is exempt from any fees. 

“Ecuador’s working conditions and workers’ wages are much higher than in most other producing countries, which entails a higher cost of production,” says Ledesma García. 

“Nevertheless, we are selling more and more bananas to China. This year we exported, on average, 217,000 boxes a week, and up to week 25 we had shipped about 4.127 million boxes.”

Looking to the future 

Even though production is at its highest level since 2011 and the level of exports to China is booming, the executive director of the AEBE stressed the need to focus and improve productivity. 

“Currently, we are getting about 1,700 boxes per hectare. We must improve and exceed the 2,000 boxes, “said Ledesma, who added that,” we must also improve logistics with China and reduce transport time to just 25 days by hiring a loose cargo.”

If carried out, these improvements could increase the presence of Ecuadorian crops on Chinese soil and, in turn, would make them more resilient to a possible future resolution of the conflict between Chinese and Filipinos. 

Finally, when asked about what he wished for the future of Ecuadorian banana exports, Ledesma García replied, “I want us to be exporting 400 million boxes, which would cause many countries to stop producing bananas.”

FreshPlaza.com

USDA rule would require strict records for ground beef

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed a rule that would improve the traceability of ground beef by requiring all producers of such products to keep extensive records.

Under the proposal retailers would have to record the source, supplier and names of all materials used when making ground beef. FSIS said ground beef sold at retail is often produced by combining cuts from multiple sources, which can be problematic when the agency works to identify the source of a foodborne illness outbreak.

“The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” USDA deputy under secretary for food safety Brian Ronholm said in a press release. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”

Full details of the proposed rule can be found on the FSIS website. Interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the proposal once it has been published in the Federal Register.

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Supermarket News

FSIS Proposed Rule Requires Source Records for Ground Beef Products

ground beefThe U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing to require all makers of raw ground beef products to keep records of the meat’s sources.

Retail outlets regularly make ground beef by mixing cuts of beef from various sources. This proposal, if finalized, will require them to keep clear records identifying the source, supplier, and names of all materials used in the preparation of raw ground beef products.

This would help USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) when tracing the producer of ground meat linked to a foodborne illness outbreak.

“The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”

“FSIS has concluded that record-keeping by retail facilities that grind raw beef to date has not been sufficiently effective,” reads the agency’s statement. “This proposal is in keeping with the agency’s latest efforts to target its food safety prevention tools at areas that will have the most significant public health impact.”

FSIS has opened a public comment period on the proposed rule that will end 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Food Safety News

Africa’s poison ‘apple’ provides common ground for saving elephants, raising livestock

While African wildlife often run afoul of ranchers and pastoralists securing food and water resources for their animals, the interests of fauna and farmer might finally be unified by the “Sodom apple,” a toxic invasive plant that has overrun vast swaths of East African savanna and pastureland.

Should the ominous reference to the smitten biblical city be unclear, the Sodom apple, or Solanum campylacanthum, is a wicked plant. Not a true apple, this relative of the eggplant smothers native grasses with its thorny stalks, while its striking yellow fruit provides a deadly temptation to sheep and cattle.

New research suggests, however, that certain wild African animals, particularly elephants, could be a boon to human-raised livestock because of their voracious appetite for the Sodom apple. A five-year study led by Princeton University researchers found that elephants and impalas, among other wild animals, can not only safely gorge themselves on the plant, but can efficiently regulate its otherwise explosive growth, according to a report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Without elephants ripping the plant from the ground, or impalas devouring dozens of its fruits at a time, the shrub easily conquers the landscape.

Just as the governments of nations such as Kenya prepare to pour millions into eradicating the plant, the findings present a method for controlling the Sodom apple that is cost-effective for humans and beneficial for the survival of African elephants, explained first author Robert Pringle, a Princeton assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“The Holy Grail in ecology is these win-win situations where we can preserve wildlife in a way that is beneficial to human livelihoods,” Pringle said. Similarly, Princeton researchers published two studies in 2011 that showed that allowing livestock to graze with wild animals such as zebras greatly improved the quality of the domesticated animals’ diet.

“It’s a nice example of how conservation needn’t be about sacrifice. It often is — let’s be honest. But there are situations where you can get a win-win,” Pringle said. “This opens the door for people whose main interest is cattle to say, ‘Maybe I do want elephants on my land.’ Elephants have a reputation as destructive, but they may be playing a role in keeping pastures grassy.”

Elephants and impalas can withstand S. campylacanthum‘s poison because they belong to a class of herbivores known as “browsers” that subsist on woody plants and shrubs, many species of which pack a toxic punch, Pringle said. On the other hand, “grazers” such as cows, sheep and zebras primarily eat grass, which is rarely poisonous. These animals easily succumb to the Sodom apple. A 2011 study on sheep published in the journal Kenya Veterinarian showed that the plant caused emphysema, pneumonia, bleeding ulcers, brain swelling and death, among other effects.

As more African savanna is converted into pasture, the proliferation of the Sodom apple may only get worse, Pringle said, which means that the presence of elephants to eat it may become more vital to the ecosystem and livestock. The Sodom apple thrives on ecological mayhem, such as the stress of overgrazing put on the land, Pringle said: “Typically, people will overload the land with more cattle than it can support. Then they remove the animals that eat the plant.”

Ricardo Holdo, a savanna ecologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, said that the researchers present enough data to potentially determine the amount of pastureland that wild Sodom-apple eaters would be able to keep free of the noxious plant. Holdo, who is familiar with the research but had no role in it, said that beyond removing the Sodom apple, animals such as elephants and impalas could potentially increase the food available to cattle. This is a departure from the conventional view in Africa that livestock and wild animals compete for the same scarce resources, he said.

“There is enough quantitative information in this paper that they can probably model this effect in a meaningful way,” Holdo said. “When you add the wild [herbivores], they have a negative effect on the Solanum, so they’re actually promoting a higher biomass of high-quality habitat for livestock. So, it’s a win-win in the sense that you’re creating a situation in which you can both have livestock and wild animals, and probably actually increase your yield for livestock.”

The researchers report that they have presented one of the first studies to examine “functional redundancy” in land animals. Functional redundancy refers to the situation in which one species declines or goes extinct and another species steps in to fulfill the same ecological role. This consideration helps ecologists predict the overall effect of extinction on an entire ecosystem. In this case, the effect of large mammals such as elephants and impalas on the Sodom apple population — and perhaps the populations of other plants — is unlikely to be duplicated by another animal species, the researchers found.

“That’s an important question because some species are quite vulnerable to extinction and others aren’t,” Pringle said. “The ones that go first tend to be the biggest, or the tastiest, or the ones with ivory tusks. We’re trying to gauge how the world is changing, and we need to understand to what extent these threatened animals have unique ecological functions.”

The majority of studies on functional redundancy have been conducted in aquatic systems because large land animals can be hard to control in an experiment, Holdo said. The Princeton-led study is made more robust by being unusually long by ecology standards, he said — the researchers observed similar patterns year after year.

“A big part of the reason we don’t understand functional redundancy very well in terrestrial ecosystems is because it’s difficult to manipulate land species,” he said. “Doing these experiments in the kind of environment like you have in Kenya is really challenging — keeping elephants out of anything is really a huge challenge.”

An unexpected feast: Elephants, impalas and a taste for Solanum

Pringle was roughly three years into a study about the effects of elephants on plant diversity when he noticed that the Sodom apple was conspicuously absent from some experiment sites. He and other researchers had set up 36 exclosures — which are designed to keep animals out rather than in — totaling nearly 89 acres (36 hectares) at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya, a multi-institutional research preserve with which Princeton has been long involved. There were four types of exclosure: one type open to all animals; another where only elephants were excluded; one in which elephants and impalas were excluded; and another off limits to all animals.

It was in the sites that excluded elephants and impala that the Sodom apple particularly flourished, Pringle said, which defied everything he knew about the plant.

“This study was really fortuitous. I had always thought that these fruits were horrible and toxic, but when I saw them in the experiment, I knew some animal was otherwise eating them. I just didn’t know which one,” Pringle said. “The question became, ‘Who’s eating the apple?’ It’s a very interesting and simple question, but once you get the answer it raises a lot of other questions.”

Using the exclosures established for the original experiment, Pringle and his co-authors used cameras to document the zest with which wild African browsers will eat S. campylacanthum. Pringle worked with Corina Tarnita, a Princeton mathematical biologist and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as with collaborators from the University of Wyoming, the University of Florida, the University of California-Davis, the Mpala Center and the University of British Columbia.

The researchers specifically observed the foraging activity of elephants, impalas, small-dog-sized antelopes known as dik-diks, and rodents. They captured about 30,000 hours of foraging using cameras they had focused on particular plants. The researchers also marked several hundred Sodom-apple fruit to track how many were eaten, and measured the average height, mortality and reproducibility of Sodom-apple plants in all the exclosures.

The Sodom apple proliferated with each group of animal that was excluded. At one point, the plant’s density was three-times greater in areas restricted to all animals than those that permitted all of them, the researchers report. In February 2011, the researchers counted an average of less than one fruit per plant in the exclosure open to all animals, meaning that nearly every fruit produced by the plants was being consumed. In the plots closed to elephants, that average increased to three fruits per plant. When both impala and elephants were kept away, the average jumped to around 50 fruits per plant, and fruits were more likely to be eaten by insects rather than dik-diks or rodents.

There is a catch to the elephants’ and impalas’ appetite for the Sodom apple: When fruit goes in one end, seeds come out the other. Though some seeds are destroyed during digestion, most reemerge and are potentially able to germinate.

Pringle and Tarnita developed a mathematical model to conduct a sort of cost-benefit analysis of how the Sodom apple’s ability to proliferate is affected by being eaten. The model weighed the “cost” to the plant of being partially consumed against the potential benefit of having healthy seeds scattered across the countryside in an animal’s droppings. They then used the model to determine whether different animal species had an overall positive or negative influence on the population of Sodom-apple plants.

While elephants ate an enormous amount of Solanum seeds, they also often destroyed the entire plant, ripping it out of the ground and stuffing the whole bush into their mouths. The model showed that to offset the damage an elephant wreaks on a plant, 80 percent of the seeds the animal eats would have to emerge from it unscathed. On top of that, each seed would have to be 10-times more likely to take root than one that simply fell to the ground from its parent.

Impalas, on the other hand, can have a positive overall effect on the plants, the researchers found. Impalas ate the majority of the fruit consumed — one impala ate 18 fruit in just a few minutes. But they do not severely damage the parent plant while feeding and also spread a lot of seeds in their dung. Of the seeds eaten by an impala, only 60 percent would need to survive, and those seeds would have to be a mere three-times more likely to sprout than a seed that simply fell from its parent.

“A model allows you to explore a space you’re not fully able to reach experimentally,” said Tarnita, who uses math to understand the outcome of interactions between organisms. “Once you’ve explored it, however, the conclusions and predictions need to be confronted with reality. This model helped us conclude that although it is theoretically possible for elephants to benefit the plant, that outcome is extremely unlikely.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

CDC: E. coli Outbreak Linked to Wolverine Ground Beef Appears Over

A four-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections that sickened 12 people and was associated with the May 19 recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef from Wolverine Packing Company appears to be over, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Friday.

The illnesses all began between April 22 and May 2, 2014, and while the infections did not cause any deaths or the life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), seven people were hospitalized. The ill persons ranged in age from 16 to 46, with the median age being 25.

Michigan and Ohio each reported five cases, and Massachusetts and Missouri each had one.

“Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that contaminated ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Company was the likely source of this outbreak of STEC O157:H7 infections,” CDC’s final report states.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) began investigating the outbreak on May 8 with the first illness report, according to Brian Ronholm, USDA’s acting under secretary for food safety. He commented on the Detroit, MI, company’s recall in Food Safety News on May 22, three days after the recall was initiated.

The recalled ground beef was shipped to distributors for retail and restaurant use nationwide. There was no distribution of the products to the U.S. Department of Defense, the National School Lunch Program, or catalog/Internet sales.

The use-by date on the recalled ground beef has passed, but the product is often frozen for later use. FSIS has issued a retail list showing outlets where the product may have been purchased for take-home use. The agency did not disclose the names of restaurants that purchased the recalled beef.

Food Safety News

FSIS Releases List of Some Retail Locations Believed to Have Received Recalled Ground Beef

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) released a list of retail locations in several states the agency “has reason to believe” received ground beef recently recalled by Wolverine Packing Co. of Detroit, MI.

“This list may not include all retail locations that have received the recalled product or may include retail locations that did not actually receive the recalled product,” the agency noted. “Therefore, it is important that you use the product-specific identification information available here, in addition to this list of retail stores, to check meat or poultry products in your possession to see if they have been recalled.”

The list includes Gordon Food Service Marketplace, with stores in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin; Surf N Turf Market in Sebring, FL; Giorgio’s Italian Deli in Stuart, FL; M Sixty Six General Store in Orleans, MI, and Buchtel Food Market in Buchtel, OH. FSIS has not released the names of any restaurants that may have received the recalled ground beef.

Wolverine Packing recalled about 1.8 million pounds of ground beef on Monday because of potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7. At the time the recall was issued, there were 11 E. coli illnesses in four states linked to the recalled product.

The ground beef products were produced between March 31, 2014, and April 18, 2014. Click here to see the full list of products that were recalled. The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” and will have a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14”.

The ground beef products were shipped to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. There was no distribution of the products to the Department of Defense, the National School Lunch Program, or catalog/Internet sales.

FSIS officials began gathering primary distribution information from Wolverine Packing after the recall was issued, the agency stated Wednesday, noting, “This process is lengthy and involves contacting each establishment at each level of distribution. As FSIS identifies retail establishments (e.g., supermarkets), the agency will update the distribution list. Please continue to check back over the coming days for updates.”

Food Safety News

CDC Investigation: Multistate Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Recalled Ground Beef

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Monday evening that it is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections.

The likely source of the infections, CDC reported, is the now-recalled ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Co. of Detroit, MI, and distributed nationwide for retail and restaurant use.

On Monday, CDC also released some advice to consumers about avoiding eating undercooked ground beef in restaurants, which is what sickened people in this outbreak reported doing.

A total of 11 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from four states, CDC noted. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Missouri (1) and Ohio (4).

Among persons for whom information is available, CDC stated that they became ill with symptoms from April 22, 2014, to May 2, 2014. Those sickened range in age from 19 years to 46 years, with a median age of 26 years. Fifty-four percent of ill persons are male. Among 10 people with available information, six reported being hospitalized. None of those sickened in this outbreak have developed HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure), and no deaths have been reported, CDC noted.

Recent reports of four HUS cases in Kansas, including one woman who had traveled to Texas, have not officially been connected to this CDC outbreak investigation. However, given the wide distribution and the large amount (about 1.8 million pounds) of the now-recalled ground beef, more E. coli cases may emerge.

Food Safety News will update this story on Tuesday with comments from CDC officials about the progress of the investigation.

According to the CDC report, investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC, obtains DNA “fingerprints” of E. coli bacteria through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE.

The type of bacteria responsible for this outbreak is among those referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. Some types of STEC frequently cause severe disease, including bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. STEC bacteria are divided into serogroups (e.g., O157 or O121). E. coli O157 is the STEC serogroup found most commonly in U.S. patients.

Signs and symptoms of E. coli infection are available here.

This outbreak can be visually described with a chart showing the number of persons who became ill each day. This chart is called an epidemic curve or epi curve. Illnesses that began after May 1, 2014, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to four weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. coli O157 Infection for more details.

Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Co. is the likely source of this outbreak.

As of May 16, 2014, in interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures during the week before becoming ill. All of the 10 ill persons interviewed reported eating ground beef prepared at a restaurant before becoming ill.

Findings of multiple traceback investigations of the ground beef used at restaurants where ill persons reported they had dined identified Wolverine Packing Co. as the source of the ground beef. On May 19, 2014, Wolverine voluntarily recalled approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7.

The ground beef was shipped to distributors for retail and restaurant use nationwide. There was no distribution of the products to the Department of Defense, the National School Lunch Program, or catalog/Internet sales. Products are regulated by USDA-FSIS and bear the establishment number “2574B” inside the USDA mark of inspection and have a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.” A full list of recalled ground beef products is available from the FSIS website.

CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview them about foods eaten before becoming ill. FSIS is continuing to work closely with CDC and state partners during this investigation to determine the source of contamination and identify any other potentially contaminated products still on the market. CDC will update the public when additional information is available.

Food Safety News

FMI Connect breaks new ground in a familiar venue

FMI Connect breaks new ground in a familiar venue.

The Food Marketing Institute is returning to familiar ground as it switches back to an every-year schedule for its major trade show and brings the event back to Chicago, but much about the conference has evolved from its previous incarnations.

FMI Connect — The Global Food Retail Experience is set to take place June 9-13 at Chicago’s McCormick Place with a lineup of exhibits and educational programs that reflect the opportunities and challenges that industry faces today and is likely to face in the future.

“Over the last couple of years we went through a process with our board — specifically our strategic thinking committee — to better understand from the industry what the industry’s hopes and expectations are from FMI, and how we can be a real partner to the industry in advancing their business needs,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, in an interview with SN. “One of the things that came out of that process and the discussions we had with the various industry sectors and their representatives was the need for one event where everyone in the industry comes together, and there was a real consensus that there was a need for the industry to get together on an annual basis.”

Part of what was driving that, she said, is the speed at which change is occurring in the food retailing industry.

“We need to come together on at least an annual basis, so that we can all understand what’s changing, what are the new opportunities, what are the new challenges, and what do we need to be thinking about as we plan for the future of our companies. We’re trying to meet the need as expressed by our retailers and wholesalers.”

The industry appears to be responding well to the plan, as indicated by advance registrations, Sarasin pointed out.

“Our registration numbers are very strong,” she said, noting that as of early May, FMI Connect registration was 36% ahead of the 2012 event in terms  retailer and wholesaler registration counts. “We are trending up on retailer registration, which will drive other types of registration as well. We are feeling pretty good about where we are [this early], and so I think it will be really strong.”

She noted that thew high number of advance registration is particularly encouraging because in the last few years, FMI has noticed that registrations tend to come in later and later for events.

In addition, Sarasin said the trade show portion of the event has been “trending very well” in terms of exhibit booth sales.

“It’s going to be a very impressive floor at the show,” she said.

Supermarket News

FSIS is ‘Super-Sizing’ Ground Beef Pathogen Testing This Summer

(This May 16, 2014, blog post by Brian Ronholm, Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is reposted here with permission.)

As grilling season heats up, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is enhancing our food safety testing program for ground beef. While FSIS has a range of safeguards to reduce E. coli in ground beef, this summer we will begin new testing to improve the safeguards against Salmonella as well. Salmonella is commonly found in ground beef and, in fact, caused an illness outbreak in January 2013 in six states. Salmonella is an especially difficult bacteria for food safety experts to address because it is so prevalent in almost all food sources.

Recognizing that we need more information about the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef to better prevent foodborne illness, FSIS is “super-sizing” our pathogen testing program to include Salmonella every time our laboratories test for E. coli in samples of ground beef and ground beef sources. Because the samples taken for E. coli testing are much larger than those we have taken in the past for Salmonella, there is higher likelihood that we will be able to detect the bacteria if it is present.

Once FSIS has collected enough data about the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef, we will create a new standard to encourage ground beef processors to strengthen their Salmonella controls, resulting in safer products and fewer foodborne illnesses. The data collection process will take some time, but it is critical that the new standard is supported by meaningful data. Of course, we will continue to analyze any positive samples for multi-drug resistance and specific serotypes to determine whether they are contributing to human illnesses.

Salmonella is the most urgent issue facing FSIS when it comes to protecting consumers and it is why we developed our Salmonella Action Plan. This plan details our strategy for reducing the number of Salmonella-related illnesses, and this enhancement to our sampling and testing programs is part of that comprehensive effort. Another part of our war on Salmonella is encouraging consumers to take steps to protect themselves from illnesses, including cooking all ground beef to 160 degrees F (poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F). For more information on ways to keep your family Salmonella-free this summer, we invite you to check out FoodSafety.gov or AskKaren.gov before your next cookout.

Food Safety News

Michigan Officials Link Recent E. Coli Illnesses to Undercooked Ground Beef

State and county public health officials in Michigan are investigating five confirmed Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157 illnesses, with preliminary information pointing to undercooked ground beef as the likely source.

The illnesses have been reported in five adults between 20-41 years old who noticed symptoms from April 22 to May 1. Three people have been hospitalized, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Officials said that none of the ill individuals have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe complication of E. coli O157 infection, and that no deaths have been reported.

So far, the investigation indicates that the sickened individuals ate undercooked ground beef at several different restaurants in multiple locations. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is working with local health departments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine where the ground beef came from and where it was distributed.

“E. coli O157 illnesses can be very serious or life-threatening, especially for young children, older adults, and people who are immunocompromised,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, the health department’s chief medical executive. “Whether you cook at home or order in a restaurant, ground meats, including ground beef, should always be cooked thoroughly to the proper temperature.”

Consumers are advised to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only eat ground beef that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to be sure that ground beef has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

A gastrointestinal infection caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157 can cause diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps three to four days after exposure (incubation ranges from two to 10 days). Most people get better within five to seven days, but the elderly, infants, and those with weak immune systems are more likely to develop severe or even life-threatening illness such as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Persons who are ill with these symptoms and have consumed ground beef recently should consult with their medical provider and ask about being tested for an E. coli infection.

Food Safety News

Ground Veal Recalled in Canada for E. Coli Risk

Groupe Colabor Inc. is recalling Viandes Lauzon brand lean ground veal from the Canadian marketplace due to possible E. coli O157:NM contamination.

The recalled product was sold to hotels, restaurants, institutions, daycare and healthcare facilities in Quebec and includes the following:

Brand Name        Common Name       Size              Code(s) on Product UPC                     
Viandes Lauzon Lean Ground Veal 2 x 2.5 kg 30/04/14 Item #35180

Facilities are being told to check for the recalled product and either throw it out or return it to the supplier.

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:NM may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

If you ate any of the affected product(s) and experienced illness as a result, please contact your healthcare provider and/or notify your local health department so tests can be conducted on either food or human samples and results can be reported to the appropriate public health agencies.

Food Safety News

Ground Veal Recalled in Canada for E. Coli Risk

Groupe Colabor Inc. is recalling Viandes Lauzon brand lean ground veal from the Canadian marketplace due to possible E. coli O157:NM contamination.

The recalled product was sold to hotels, restaurants, institutions, daycare and healthcare facilities in Quebec and includes the following:

Brand Name        Common Name       Size              Code(s) on Product UPC                     
Viandes Lauzon Lean Ground Veal 2 x 2.5 kg 30/04/14 Item #35180

Facilities are being told to check for the recalled product and either throw it out or return it to the supplier.

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

Food contaminated with E. coli O157:NM may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

If you ate any of the affected product(s) and experienced illness as a result, please contact your healthcare provider and/or notify your local health department so tests can be conducted on either food or human samples and results can be reported to the appropriate public health agencies.

Food Safety News