Blog Archives

Caramel Apple-Linked Listeria Outbreak and Recalls: What You Need to Know

On Dec. 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples that has sickened — and hospitalized — at least 29 people in 10 states.

Until further notice, CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are advising consumers not to purchase or eat any commercially produced caramel apples whatsoever. That includes any caramel apples covered in nuts, candy or other toppings.

This outbreak has not been connected to any non-caramel apples. There are no current advisories or warnings against conventional apples.

While the CDC’s initial outbreak announcement did not include a comprehensive list of caramel apple brands implicated in the outbreak, a number of companies and brands have announced recalls or have been tied to the outbreak in the days following the first announcement.

One of the recalled brands, Happy Apple Company, said that one of its apple suppliers, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA, may have supplied apples connected to the outbreak.

Brands that have issued recalls:

In addition, CDC cited two more brands as being associated with the outbreak, but the companies have not issued recalls:

  • Carnival
  • Kitchen Cravings

Illnesses have occurred in the following states:

Arizona (4 illnesses), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3)

A California man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against grocery retailer Safeway, claiming that a contaminated caramel apple sold at a local Safeway store sickened his wife and lead to her death. That man has been retained by foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, which underwrites Food Safety News.

A number of retailers, including Safeway, have reported removing caramel apple products from store shelves.

Known illnesses began occurring in mid-October and were still appearing in late November. CDC has not declared an end to this outbreak, and it’s possible that more illnesses will be counted in the coming weeks.

The following are CDC graphics showing the geographical and temporal distributions of the outbreak:

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Right to Know Something Important

This is the moment of the year we all wait for, when the editorial writers come down from the hills after the election battles to shoot some of the wounded.

The one I’ll take is easy, the Black Knight of the national GMO labeling campaign. Those old enough will remember the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. With some skill as a swordsman, the Black Knight is said to have suffered from unchecked overconfidence and staunch refusal to give up.  In the movie version, the Black Knight ends up getting both his arms and legs cut off, but continues to guard his bridge on his stumps, refusing to quit. That’s a pretty good depiction of where the national GMO campaign is at the moment. It’s on its stumps.

After losing in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, the national GMO labeling campaign moved on to Oregon and Colorado in this past Tuesday’s election. (It had failed to quality for 2014 ballot placement in Arizona.)

On Tuesday, it lost narrowly in Oregon after putting up an $ 8 million campaign that was opposed by the biotechnology and grocery industries with spending of more than $ 20 million. While outspent, the pro-GMO camp in this small market state enjoyed its most competitive campaign ever, but it still came up short.

It had written off Colorado to put its national resources into Oregon, which was probably a good decision in that GMO labeling was crushed in the Centennial State in a near $ 17 million campaign that one television commercial after another featuring local farm leaders speaking directly into the camera. The “yes” campaign in Colorado spent less than $ 1 million

Voter turnout in Oregon hit 68 percent, high for an off-year election. The boost may have come from recreational marijuana also being on the ballot, and many of those voters may have helped the GMO initiative too.  Oregon’s Measure 92 was typical — it would have required the words “Genetically Engineered” on raw food and “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” on food packaging.

It would raise prices without much, if anything, in the way of consumer benefits. There are obviously some in the organic, soap and supplements business who must think they’d benefit, but that’s more of a follow-on story if it ever happens.  Personally, I’ve found it hard to believe that for the price-conscious among us, the words “genetically engineered” would cause me to pay organic prices for anything.

That is sort of an admission that I agree with those who say the best thing the food and biotech agriculture sectors could do would be to just embrace GMO labeling and move on. They say science and food safety is on the industry’s side and they’d be better off taking the money being spent on campaigns (About $ 120 million since 2012), and pour it into ongoing consumer education.

But like the Black Knight, bravado is still coming out of the national GMO labeling movement’s mouth, although there is talk of taking a year off before filing for another state initiative campaign. Maybe we could all use that time to change the rhetoric and the narrative on this issue and give both sides a way out.

Instead of the “right to know” blather we’ve been haring since before California in 2012, how about we all agree on a “right to know something important” labeling plan.  Here’s the idea: We’d come up with a uniform approach with a panel on all food packages listing all your various food types; GMO, organic, conventional, non-GMO, etc.

Behind each one there would first be an on or off  or red light, green light indicator, like with the  light “on” if the product is organic. Then, and here’s where it gets good, there would be more  indicators on the panel after the food type indicators: recalls, outbreaks, illnesses, and deaths.  We’d rely on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update these numbers every year. We’d have to work out the details, but think of the true consumer benefit that would result from this approach versus the failed initiatives of the past.

This new approach would create a powerful new incentive for food safety. Food companies would do everything possible to make sure their package did not have to report any illnesses or — god forbid — deaths on their product labels for the next year.  Consumers, who are often misinformed about food safety, would be educated at the check-out counter and could make more informed decisions.

The “right to know something important” labeling campaign is going to require bringing both the GMO and the organic camps together. That assumes either of them would want something important on the label, but that is something I seriously doubt.  It sure would be a way of finding out if anybody in the grocery business really believes in this right to know stuff, would it not?

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: Public Wants to Know on Restaurants

Long time readers of this five-year old news service know that we’ve had our “issues” with the kid-glove treatment most state and federal agencies give the restaurant industry. Such treatment is not in the public interest nor ironically is it doing restaurants much good either.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, for example, still refers to the role of “Restaurant A” in a not-so-long-ago outbreak. Your scribes at Food Safety News identified the restaurant chain involved in that one as good old Taco Bell. This reluctance to name the chains involved extends to most foodborne illness investigations.

At USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), retail destinations for recalled meat are quickly identified and shared with the public. So recalled meat that goes to Kroger’s outlets is tracked and publicized in store-by-story detail, but not recalled meat that goes to the chain of Applebee restaurants.

Top food safety regulators in this country tend to share one problem. They are all so smart and educated that they need to over-think about problems that should just be outside their control. If they’d just let it be, it’s easy. Their job is to investigate and report, not get twisted up in whether this or that is fair.

I’ve used this comparison before, but I think it’s a good one and it’s one that I know to be true: All the facts about someone who is in a messy traffic accident in about any city in America with a honest police department must accept that all those facts become part of the public record. It makes no difference that you were the only one who wasn’t drinking, and it was not your fault. You are still part of the story.

Most cop shops got out of the censorship business for the routine stuff about 50 years ago. But we still have lawmakers and regulators trying to slice the edges off information about public health investigations. Others have said CDC, USDA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fall short in the transparency department because of the power of lobbyists and the like.

Personally, I wish that were true because then those of us on the transparency side could just get organized with bigger steaks or more expensive wine. But that’s not the primary motivator for top safety regulators. Most of them think public information should always be tied to advancing public health. But the public has other interests, too, and those almost always outweigh other considerations.

The public clearly wants and deserves current accurate information about restaurants. They want all sorts of  details, the times and dates. And then they will decide on their own.   And here’s where reality makes it’s entrance. The public is going to gather facts from the whatever sources are available. So if CDC and USDA don’t cough up the real facts, the public will find other sources to fill in for them.

I often find myself scrambling for some reliable source of local restaurant information when on the road. It’s often hard-to-impossible to find one with write-ups on the food that also include the establishment’s food safety reputation and history. Sometimes you can find restaurant inspection reports online, and sometimes you cannot. If a restaurant were part of a recent FDA, CDC, or USDA investigation, I’d like to know.

So when I returned from the South last week, a report from DiningGrades.com got my attention because it’s going to start a free food poisoning reporting service tracking food poisoning events. It might be an example of what I am talking about.

Dining Grades announced it’s “free and intuitive” restaurant food poisoning service is going to work this way:

• After selecting the restaurant, the user answers a limited number of questions about the event.
• Contact information, for corroboration by experts, is added.
• DiningGrades.com staff reviews the report.
• The report can be sent to the respective restaurant management team, the respective state or community health department.
• An alert is noted on the DiningGrades.com website/mobile devices for other diners.

“DiningGrades.com is committed to improvement of food safety and enhancement of public health so with this announcement,” says Dr. Harlan A Stueven, founder of the website. “We are offering this service free to any public health department and healthcare providers.”

Dining Grades LLC was founded in 2010, and reportedly has thousands of users and ratings in all 50 states with a mission to promote food safety by increasing public awareness and formation of partnerships within the food industry.

Stueven says Dining Grades was designed by physicians and a health department inspector, and also offers restaurant patrons a tool to grade restaurants on cleanliness, satisfaction and recommendation. Dining Grades users who choose to become “Secret Diners” have an exclusive opportunity to grade a restaurant on cleanliness using a copyrighted demerit-based questionnaire that leads to a more comprehensive grade.

So I guess maybe the private sector is going to have to collect and provide all the restaurant information the public wants even if our government won’t participate. I don’t have enough experience with Dining Grades to make a recommendation, but it sure works here for illustrative purposes.

The irony for the restaurant industry is passing muster on this type of information servicer is likely to be more difficult than just dealing with some reaction to being named in a government food safety investigation.

I do like Dining Grades’ mission of helping the public make “informed dining choices” through their private “event” reporting and grading system. And as much as I like information provided by the dining public, I’d still like to see a restaurant’s entire public record online someplace before I see their menu.

Food Safety News

Wolverine Packing Recall: What Consumers Need to Know

You may have heard about the FSIS announcement this week that the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, MI, was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This recall is linked to 11 patients in four states. I wanted to provide an update on what FSIS is doing based on the evidence available.

FSIS was notified of the first illness on May 8 and immediately began working with our partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the source of these illnesses. Based on the initial findings in the investigations, FSIS and CDC were able to establish a direct link to ground beef products supplied by Wolverine Packing Company.

As these investigations are initiated, it would be natural for one to assume that the scope of a recall would be limited to the amount of contaminated products that were produced within a specific time frame, or a production lot, to use an industry term. However, it is not uncommon during the course of an investigation to identify additional products that should be included in a recall.

In general, there are several reasons why the amount of product would increase as the agency considers whether to conduct a recall, and, if so, what product is involved:

  • A company cleans its processing equipment at the end of the day, instead of between production lots. If this is the case, there is no basis to distinguish between production lots, and a day’s worth of production effectively becomes one lot. In this situation, FSIS would assume that the entire day’s production was contaminated and subject to a recall.
  • Some plants use multiple lines that converge into common mixers. If contaminated product is being produced by one line, the product from the other lines would become contaminated once it enters the common mixer.
  • Detailed distribution records allow FSIS to narrow the scope of a recall. In the absence of such records, FSIS must take into account the possibility that contaminated product was comingled with other products. Therefore, FSIS would include all the products in question in the scope of a recall to protect public health.

The illnesses associated with this particular recall involve a very rare strain of E. coli O157:H7, so if there are additional illnesses, it may be easier for FSIS to establish a direct link to product from this facility; it also will be possible that any additional illnesses will be linked to product that is already subject to the recall. If any additional illnesses are linked to different production dates that are not covered in the initial recall, then the recall would be expanded.

So far, we have no evidence to suggest that the recall should be expanded, but the investigation is still very active. We continue to look for additional sources either from Wolverine or a common supplier and will certainly pursue those leads if the investigation uncovers them. If warranted, the new information also may result in an expanded recall.

For consumers, we advise all consumers to safely prepare raw ground beef products by cooking them to 160 degrees F. When dining out, this is equivalent to ordering your burger well-done. At the grocery store, check ground beef product labels that bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” with a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”

Industry’s responsibility during any recall follows a consistent pattern. In this situation, Wolverine is responsible for notifying the distributors who received its product to return the product to Wolverine. In turn, the distributor is responsible for alerting any retail outlets or restaurants to which it delivered the recalled product. Retailers and restaurants are expected to pull the product from their shelves or storage area and return it to Wolverine.

As the FSIS press release indicated, the recalled products were shipped to distributors for restaurant use in Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. If you are a restaurant owner in these states and are wondering if you have received this recalled product, you should receive notification from your distributor that they were supplied recalled products from Wolverine that were sent to you. Or, you can check product labels that bear the establishment number “EST. 2574B” with a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”

As always, if you have additional questions, do not hesitate to “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative that is available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. Or you can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), which is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. You also can access our online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

Food Safety News

The Lempert Report: Getting to Know Your Customers (Video)

Marketing analysis, issues and trends from Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert View Weekly Videos About New Products Phil Lempert produces weekly videos and comments on product marketing analysis, issues and trends and reviews the impact on the food and retail environments. View Videos Read recent Viewpoint columns from Phil Lempert  

Registering for Premium Content on Supermarket News will give you INSTANT access to invaluable articles and media content that industry professionals rely on. You will have access to our special reports, feature articles, and industry analysis. It’s FREE, easy and quick.

Already registered? here.

Supermarket News

What Should You Know About Diabetes and Foodborne Illness?

Similar to any individual living with a weakened immune system or compromised body systems due to chronic disease, those with diabetes-related complications may be susceptible to increased risk and impact of foodborne illnesses.

One reason those with diabetes may suffer increased impact of a foodborne illness is because diabetes-related complications may delay an individual’s natural response to infection. It can also lengthen the process of recovering from a foodborne illness compared to someone without diabetes.

The most well-known complications of diabetes are related to vascular disease and frequently impact the eyes, kidneys and blood flow to the extremities. Gastrointestinal problems are also fairly common and may impact digestion by keeping food in the stomach longer.

“When those types of things happen, that’s when they’re going to be at a higher risk,” said Dr. Christopher Braden, director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The immune system of someone with diabetes may not appropriately recognize harmful bacteria or pathogens, which can increase the risk of developing infection. Likewise, gastrointestinal and kidney problems may lead to a longer illness duration and healing process if the individual does develop an infection.

High glucose levels can directly affect the immune system through suppressing the functioning of white blood cells, so a person having difficulty regulating glucose levels may have a higher risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

“Someone with a very hard time controlling their glucose levels could have a higher risk because of the direct effect of the glucose on the blood cells,” Braden said.

It is important to keep in mind that, even among those with diabetes, the risk of foodborne illness lies on a spectrum. A person living with diabetes for quite a long time and who is on dialysis will be at a much greater risk for a foodborne illness than another individual who does not have this level of diabetes-related complications, Braden said.

For someone with diabetes, the presence of a foodborne illness may have a huge impact on blood glucose levels due to the way the illness impacts what an individual can or cannot eat at the time. Thus, it is important for those with diabetes to prepare a sick-day plan for reacting appropriately upon becoming ill, said Matt Petersen, managing director of medical information at the American Diabetes Association.

This plan includes basic but important factors such as having electrolytes on hand, checking glucose levels more frequently, and knowing when to call the doctor. For example, when diarrhea and a fever are both present or if dehydration sets in.

“If people with diabetes are ill, they have a lot of issues to factor in,” Petersen said. “Especially if they are using insulin.”

Many of the same food-safety considerations for individuals without diabetes apply to those with diabetes such as handling, cooking and cleaning food properly. But those with diabetes should be more cognizant of these ideas and ready to call a doctor when they become sick, said Dawn Sherr, practice manager at the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

“The big thing is making sure to prevent foodborne illness and doing whatever you can to avoid contracting a foodborne illness,” Sherr said.

Food Safety News

National Cyclospora Outbreak: What We Do and Don’t Know

Nearly two months have passed since state and federal health authorities first became aware on June 28 of two related cases of Cyclospora infection in Iowa residents. Considering Iowa typically sees one or two such cases a year, the small irregularity immediately caught the attention of state health officials.

Within weeks, authorities had identified several hundred cases across a dozen states, with the bulk in Iowa, Nebraska and Texas. Patients’ illness onset dates spread from June 1 to the middle of July.

On Aug. 1, investigators in Iowa and Nebraska concluded that the majority of cases in those two states were connected to lettuce grown by Taylor Farms de Mexico and in salads served at Olive Gardens and Red Lobsters, chains both owned by Darden Restaurants of Orlando, FL.

As of Aug. 22, the foodborne parasite has infected at least 625 people in 22 states, making it the largest Cyclospora outbreak in the U.S. since 1997. Of those cases, 517 (83 percent) are concentrated in Iowa, Nebraska and Texas.

But, as time goes on, the investigations in Texas and the remaining states have still not identified an outbreak source. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a team of investigators at Taylor Farms in Mexico performing environmental assessments of the facilities and traceback investigations to determine where else – if anywhere – contaminated lettuce might have been sold, according to FDA spokesman David Steigman.

A number of cases in Texas are not easily connected to Darden Restaurants and Taylor Farms, said Dave Theno, Ph.D., CEO of Gray Dog Partners, a technical food safety consulting agency. But he said that the evidence remains “pretty compelling” that most of the illnesses are part of one event until an FDA investigation proves otherwise.

“A lot of things are possible, but what appears to be most likely is likely to be the answer,” Theno said. “If you look at the map, you could make a case that this thing went right through the heart of the country.”

Because fresh produce has a relatively short shelf-life, distribution channels typically run up north from Mexico, not east to west. Based on the geography of the outbreak, it would make sense to assume that contaminated produce was sent north through Texas and ended up in Iowa and Nebraska.

Theno said the most important question for investigators in Mexico to answer is whether Taylor Farms has crop contamination problems that moved Cyclospora through their facilities or whether it’s an area-wide contamination issue – possibly from a water source – that might mean nearby crops were also affected.

Investigation complications

A number of factors complicate the investigation as a whole.

First, a representative from Darden Restaurants told NBC News that they do not use Taylor Farms salad in their Texas restaurants. It is not clear if the restaurant sources Taylor Farms salad in any states besides Iowa and Nebraska.

A Florida woman who tested positive for Cyclospora in July told Food Safety News that she ate salad at Olive Garden several days before falling ill. This may suggest that Darden uses Taylor Farms salad in Florida, which has 31 confirmed illnesses, the fourth-highest number of the states involved.

Representatives for Darden, Olive Garden and Red Lobster have not responded to numerous requests for comment from Food Safety News.

Further complicating the matter, not even all of the cases in Iowa and Nebraska have a clear connection to Darden. Roughly 80 percent of Iowa cases and 75 percent of Nebraska cases appear connected to Darden, leaving the remaining 20 to 25 percent more of a mystery, according to Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk.

To complicate the investigation even more, the salad came into the U.S. pre-mixed with Taylor lettuce and other ingredients.

Perhaps the biggest issue distancing the Texas illnesses is that they began, on average, a week later than those in Iowa and Nebraska.

In Texas, where illnesses appear to have less of a connection to Darden and Taylor, patients are being interviewed and re-interviewed about all the places they may have dined.

Texas state health department spokeswoman Christine Mann told Food Safety News that illnesses in Texas generally fall into smaller clusters than those in Iowa and Nebraska, making the investigation in Texas more difficult.

The biggest roadblock, however, has been the relatively long incubation period of Cyclospora parasites. Patients may not experience symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea for several days – or even weeks – after exposure.

“It’s difficult to explain to people why it’s taking so long,” Mann said. “By the time the cases are finally reported to the CDC, several weeks have gone by. When an epidemiologist finally interviews patients, they might not remember eating the food that got them sick.”

Some cases, Quinlisk said, may be isolated Cyclospora illnesses that have gotten swept up in the outbreak investigation. A few hundred cases get reported in the U.S. each year on average.

Lessons for the future

Quinlisk described the investigation into the Iowa and Nebraska illnesses as “very detailed.”

The classic food history interview involves an 18-page questionnaire that takes more than an hour for each patient to complete. Patients may then receive additional calls from the environmental health team looking for more information.

The state health departments in those states performed targeted cluster investigations using case-control studies. In short, they interviewed patients who got sick, as well as fellow diners who didn’t get sick, to tease out any statistical differences in their meals. They even retrieved credit-card records from patients to coordinate dates of exposure.

Another issue that makes these investigations tricky is that not everyone who eats the contaminated food ends up sick. The parasite is not evenly dispersed across all the salad, and so some diners may ingest a large number of organisms, while others may eat from the same salad bowl and ingest only a few or none at all.

The general rule of thumb, Quinlisk said, is to expect about 40 percent of those who ate a contaminated food to actually end up with symptoms.

One issue this outbreak raises is the need for more coordination between state health departments during large, interstate outbreaks, said Craig Hedberg, Ph.D., environmental health professor at the University of Minnesota.

Hedberg compared the national jurisdiction of food regulation from FDA to the patchwork of state health departments that make up the majority of environmental health investigation resources.

“Our public-health system is really based on individual state authorities, and we don’t have a national framework for conducting outbreak investigations in parallel with the kind of regulation we have with respect to the food itself,” Hedberg said. “The CDC attempts to help guide those investigations, but because of limited resources and different priorities across different states, that coordination doesn’t always occur as seamlessly as we’d like to see it.”

Theno said he felt this current outbreak demonstrated the need for better cooperation and communication between federal investigators at FDA and the companies potentially involved in the outbreak.

“I think we need to find a way for companies and regulatory agencies to work much more closely together on these outbreaks,” Theno said. “It takes a long time for the agency to reach back into the supply chain. The faster we can get to the source of an outbreak, the sooner we can stop it and the better we can prevent it in the future.”

(Cyclospora is a single-celled food- or waterborne parasite that may cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the U.S., it is often associated with imported fresh produce. In 1996, at least 1,465 people were infected with Cyclospora in an outbreak linked to raspberries grown in Guatemala. Another 804 people were sickened by Guatemalan raspberries the next year. In 2005, 592 contracted Cyclospora infections after eating basil imported from Peru.)

Food Safety News

IAFP 2013: What Do We Know About Antibiotic Resistance?

Curbing antibiotic resistance in the food supply is a complex task, said Dr. Hua Wang, associated professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University, in her address at a symposium on antibiotic resistance at IAFP Monday. Wang and her colleagues are working on a nuanced solution to this nuanced problem by pinpointing the places in food production where resistance is most likely to appear and focusing preventive efforts there. 

Wang presented her talk as a sort of state-of-antimicrobial-resistance address. First, without downplaying the threat of antibiotic resistance, she tried to provide some context:

“Pathogens account for a small amount of the microbial population,” Wang said. “When talking about antibiotic-resistant pathogens, that number is even smaller.”

When it comes to antibiotic-resistant (AR) pathogens in the food supply, that number gets even smaller. Narrow that to antibiotic-resistant pathogens that don’t get cooked to death, and we’ve got a very small sliver of the overall microbial biomass.

But having a limited presence should not suggest AR pathogens don’t pose a serious threat to public health and a challenge to food manufacturers. In fact, the presence of AR pathogens in food is accelerating, she said.

A recent study conducted by Wang and her colleagues found that commensal bacteria (the bacteria that hitches a free ride in your body without causing you harm) might greatly contribute to the spread of AR genes. Other studies have backed up that conclusion, Wang said.

“These studies show that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can persist even without direct exposure to antibiotics in the host’s system,” she said.

Scientists are having a hard time getting access to farms to study AR among livestock. Instead, Wang and her team chose to collaborate with the cheese industry to get access to production facilities where they could measure for AR along critical control points.

Once they found the points that made the biggest difference in the presence of AR microbes, they made a number of mitigation recommendations to the cheese industry. By following these recommendations, the industry removed problematic AR strains and reduced the AR gene pool “significantly,” Wang said.

“It is important to recognize that prudent use of antibiotics does not mean a ban of use or not use,” Wang said, “but knowing what, when, and how to use the antibiotics.”

In another realm, scientists are finding that AR bacterial genes can be passed from the microflora of a mother onto those of her newborn child. Infants never directly exposed to antibiotics can be shown to harbor bacteria with AR genes immediately after birth.

Despite everything we know, Wang pointed out, AR emergence “is still a puzzle.”

Food Safety News