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More than 600 sick in 45 states because of poultry pets

Salmonella traced to backyard flocks and pet chicks and ducklings continues to claim victims, with public health officials now tracking eight outbreaks across 45 states.

chick-nuzzler-406Since the outbreaks were reported on June 2, there have been 287 confirmed cases added, bringing the total to 611 people sickened, according to an update this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 138 outbreak victims had to be hospitalized, according to information available on 496 of the outbreak victims. The illnesses began Jan. 4 and are ongoing. People who became ill after June 16 may not yet be reflected in the outbreak statistics because of the lag time between onset of symptoms and data being reported to federal officials.

“These outbreaks are expected to continue for the next several months since flock owners might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry or participate in risky behaviors that can result in infection,” according to the CDC.

In interviews, 434 of 493 ill people told health officials they had been in contact with live poultry, including chicks, chickens, ducks and ducklings, during the week before they became sick.

Victims reported buying live baby poultry from several suppliers, including feed supply stores, Internet sites, hatcheries and friends in multiple states. Some of the places ill people reported contact with live poultry include their home, someone else’s home, work or school settings.

“Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings have linked the eight outbreaks to contact with live poultry such as chicks and ducklings sourced from multiple hatcheries,” CDC reported.

“Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.”

To help prevent the spread of Salmonella bacteria, the CDC advises consumers to:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam;
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house; and
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry without adult supervision.

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Food Safety News

More sick, 20 hospitalized in Chicago E. coli outbreak

The number of people sickened in an E. coli outbreak traced to a suburban Chicago restaurant continues to increase, with 65 now confirmed. Twenty of the victims’ symptoms were so severe they were admitted to hospitals.

Public health officials have not yet determined the root cause of the outbreak, which was traced to the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill location on 26th Street in the suburb of Bridgeport. The restaurant remains closed, according to Matt Smith, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

logo Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill“As part of our comprehensive investigation, we have taken and tested numerous samples from the restaurant and have tested staff,” Smith said Thursday. He did not say whether the department had the test results yet.

It remains unknown when exactly the health department became aware of the outbreak. The department posted a news release about the outbreak July 1, but has not posted an update since then.

The restaurant’s owners voluntarily closed the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, according to the July 1 news release. A second Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill on North Marshfield was also voluntarily closed, but the health department cleared it and the owners reopened.

At least two Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill customers who became ill and had to be hospitalized after eating food from the 26th Street location have filed civil lawsuits seeking compensation.

In their lawsuits, the two victims reported eating food from the restaurant on June 22 and June 24, respectively. A third victim who was hospitalized with the outbreak strain of E. coli told Chicago’s CBS News affiliate she ate at the restaurant during the last week of June.

Chicago public health officials continue to urge people to seek immediate medical attention if they ate food from the restaurant and later developed symptoms of E. coli infection.

Generally symptoms develop within five to seven days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In otherwise healthy adults symptoms usually include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

“Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening,” according to the CDC. “Around 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

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Food Safety News

Second wave of California figs brings more volume

The California fig season started strong with great sizing and quality. While bigger sizing brought optimism to retailers looking for a premium at checkout, a lack of volume kept figs from being promotable.

The second season is also sizing well with the bonus of more volume, according to Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing, based in Madera, CA.KurtKurt Cappelluti

“It could be the best one we’ve ever had as far as growth and production on our 300 plus acres of young trees,” Cappelluti said. “That means we’ll have figs as late as anyone. The young trees will give us a ton of production, which was missing during the first season, and sizing looks to be better. That’s good news for retailers looking to satisfy fig fans.”

Regular rain through California’s 2016 spring season benefitted the young fig trees, according to Cappelluti. After several years of severe drought, routine rain pushed growth on the young trees and is now pushing good volume.

“This year’s quality will be as good as our 2015 season and the great volume will give us strong supply into November,” he added. “It’s exciting when nature and our plans come together for a season like this. The people who love figs will love the 2016 season.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

NJ Health Officials Confirm 2 More Hepatitis A Cases

On Thursday, health officials in Hamilton, NJ, confirmed two more cases of Hepatitis A in the township about a month after a food service worker at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering in Hamilton first became infected with the virus.

Health officials said that an employee of the Hair Port Salon in Hamilton had been diagnosed with Hepatitis A infection. The employee has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home, they added.

Staff and customers who visited the salon between Dec. 4 and Dec. 30 may be at risk of contracting the virus and should be vaccinated if they have not already done so, officials said.

Hepatitis A was also confirmed Thursday in a fitness instructor at a Hamilton-area YMCA. The instructor is recovering at home, official said.

Anyone who visited any of those locations between Dec. 5 and Dec. 29 may be at risk.

Officials confirmed during routine questioning that both individuals had eaten at, or from, Rosa’s during the first illnesses, but they were not certain that the subsequent cases were related.

They planned to hold a press conference Friday at 2 p.m. EST at the HamStat Call Center Training Room at 5 Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Way in Hamilton to provide information and answer questions from the community and the media.

Health officials urged anyone with concerns or who develops symptoms to call a doctor. The symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dark urine and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

The disease varies in severity, with mild cases lasting two weeks or less and more severe cases lasting four to six weeks.

Food Safety News

World’s food supply got a little more plentiful: Resistance gene found against ug99 wheat stem rust pathogen

June 27, 2013 — The world’s food supply got a little more plentiful thanks to a scientific breakthrough.

Eduard Akhunov, associate professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University, and his colleague, Jorge Dubcovsky from the University of California-Davis, led a research project that identified a gene that gives wheat plants resistance to one of the most deadly races of the wheat stem rust pathogen — called Ug99 — that was first discovered in Uganda in 1999. The discovery may help scientists develop new wheat varieties and strategies that protect the world’s food crops against the wheat stem rust pathogen that is spreading from Africa to the breadbaskets of Asia and can cause significant crop losses.

Other Kansas State University researchers include Harold Trick, professor of plant pathology; Andres Salcedo, doctoral candidate in genetics from Mexico; and Cyrille Saintenac, a postdoctoral research associate currently working at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Borlaug Global Rust Initiative.

The team’s study, “Identification of Wheat Gene Sr35 that Confers Resistance to Ug99 Stem Rust Race Group,” appears in the journal Science.

It identifies the stem rust resistance gene named Sr35, and appears alongside a study from an Australian group that identifies another effective resistance gene called Sr33.

“This gene, Sr35, functions as a key component of plants’ immune system,” Akhunov said. “It recognizes the invading pathogen and triggers a response in the plant to fight the disease.”

Wheat stem rust is caused by a fungal pathogen. According to Akhunov, since the 1950s wheat breeders have been able to develop wheat varieties that are largely resistant to this pathogen. However, the emergence of strain Ug99 in Uganda in 1999 devastated crops and has spread to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen, though has yet to reach the U.S.

“Until that point, wheat breeders had two or three genes that were so efficient against stem rust for decades that this disease wasn’t the biggest concern,” Akhunov said. “However, the discovery of the Ug99 race of pathogen showed that changes in the virulence of existing pathogen races can become a huge problem.”

As a first line of defense, wheat breeders and researchers began looking for resistance genes among those that had already been discovered in the existing germplasm repositories, he said.

“The Sr35 gene was one of those genes that was discovered in einkorn wheat grown in Turkey,” Akhunov said. “Until now, however, we did not know what kind of gene confers resistance to Ug99 in this wheat accession.”

To identify the resistance gene Sr35, the team turned to einkorn wheat that is known to be resistant to the Ug99 fungal strain. Einkorn wheat has limited economic value and is cultivated in small areas of the Mediterranean region. It has been replaced by higher yielding pasta and bread wheat varieties.

Researchers spent nearly four years trying to identify the location of the Sr35 gene in the wheat genome, which contains nearly two times more genetic information than the human genome.

Once the researchers narrowed the list of candidate genes, they used two complimentary approaches to find the Sr35 gene. First, they chemically mutagenized the resistant accession of wheat to identify plants that become susceptible to the stem rust pathogen.

“It was a matter of knocking out each candidate gene until we found the one that made a plant susceptible,” Akhunov said. “It was a tedious process and took a lot of time, but it was worth the effort.”

Next, researchers isolated the candidate gene and used biotechnical approaches to develop transgenic plants that carried the Sr35 gene and showed resistance to the Ug99 race of stem rust.

Now that the resistance gene has been found, Akhunov and colleagues are looking at what proteins are transferred by the fungus into the wheat plants and recognized by the protein encoded by the Sr35 gene. This will help researchers to better understand the molecular mechanisms behind infection and develop new approaches for controlling this devastating pathogen.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

“When you sell fresh, you sell more”

“When you sell fresh, you sell more”

Dorot Farm, an Israeli company founded in 1941, is currently the largest exporter of fresh and sweet carrots to the U.S. and Canada. “We export around the world, to Russia, Europe and North America, and we have offices in Melville, Long Island, and in Israel,” says Ami Ben-Dror, CEO of B.D.A, Dorot Farm’s Representative for Europe and North America.

The company deals mainly with fresh and sweet carrots, with a focus on offering the best quality and special varieties. Ami explains that “we started in the North American market a few years ago. We ship Cello carrots directly to supermarkets in 1, 2, 3 and 5 pound formats, and Jumbo carrots to the food service, which are very sweet and produce less waste when peeled,” explains Ami. “People appreciate their freshness, sweetness, colour and taste.”

The Jumbo carrots actually became a success story in North America, with very large volumes shipped every season (lasting from February to August). “We received very good feedback on the quality; we started almost 8 years ago and all USDA regulations are met,” states Ami. The bottom line is that “with farms all around the world, you need to find where your growers can have the advantage.”

In this sense, Ami stresses the importance of branding, investments, structure and the capacity to agree in the formation of joint ventures.

The firm also exports a lot to Europe; a destination which, according to Ami, has great potential, since it is a market where large volumes of carrots are still kept in storage for months. “The next step is for big growers to go on joint ventures to grow in the Israeli season, because when you sell fresh, you sell more.”

Focusing on fresh could in fact be the key to extend Dorot Farm’s window in the European market, which currently spans for three months. “The feedback from supermarkets and the food service confirms the difference in quality, and as a leading exporter, we need to focus on innovation, and this is the way to go.”

Ami assures that North America still has plenty of potential to continue growing, and perceives market diversification as an essential move for any horticultural company, as “in the end, despite the different preferences of European and North American consumers, they all want the same: to eat fresh and to be provided with convenience.”

For more info:
Ami Ben Dror
Dorot Farms
Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 12/23/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

“Spanish citrus sales more difficult than last year”

Gert Bouman, Frutaria:
“Spanish citrus sales more difficult than last year”

Demand for Spanish citrus is currently lagging far behind. That’s what Gert Bouman of Spanish private producer Frutaria says. He points to the recession in Europe as an explanation for the difficult sales – “even worse than last season” – because of which, quite simply, less fruit is sold. “But export to markets outside Europe is also difficult.”


“Of course we see nothing is being sold to Russia. Large volumes weren’t going there anyway, but the produce still has to be sold in other countries. Countries like Poland are also lagging behind this year. The mood is just very lacklustre,” Gert says.  ”We are very busy, but it’s all at very low prices. At the moment, we are fully focusing on retail, because there is little demand on the markets, and you only get low prices. But you’re also seeing promotions on 2 kilos for 99 cents in supermarkets in the Netherlands and Germany. You have to wonder whether that’s good for the industry. The consumer thinks this is the price for an orange, undervaluing the product.”


“The production runs in the south of Spain are good. We ended the Clementine season, and stopped with good quality Navelinas. Now we’re getting the Clemenvilla season started, and we’ve begun with the Salustianas,” Gert says. He thinks a further reorganization of the Spanish citrus sector is unavoidable. The past five years, many cooperatives and private companies have disappeared, a trend which will only continue. With prices like that, there’s no future in the sector, and nobody is enthusiastic about investing in citrus productions, quite the contrary.”


For more information:
Gert Bouman
Frutaria
T: (+34) 661 252 509
M: (+34) 661 252 509
[email protected]
www.frutaria.com

Publication date: 12/17/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

More holistic approach needed when studying diets of our ancestors

Researchers have long debated how and what our ancestors ate. Charles Darwin hypothesized that the hunting of game animals was a defining feature of early hominids, one that was linked with both upright walking and advanced tool use and that isolated these species from their closest relatives (such as ancestors of chimpanzees); modified versions of this hypothesis exist to this day. Other scholars insist that while our ancestors’ diets did include meat, it was predominantly scavenged and not hunted. Still others argue that particular plant foods such as roots and tubers were of greater importance than meat in the diets of these species.

Research technology has come a long way since Darwin’s time, making possible the kind of analysis early scholars could only have imagined. Recent work has presented reconstructions of early hominid diets on the basis of chemical makeups of fossil tooth enamel, evidence of microscopic wear on teeth, and advanced studies of craniodental anatomy, to name a few.

However, according to Ken Sayers (Georgia State University) and C. Owen Lovejoy (Kent State University) in an article published in the December 2014 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology, although modern-day technology provides valuable insight, such tools alone cannot provide a complete picture of the diet of early hominids. Instead, they should be included — alongside other methodologies — in holistic studies grounded in the fundamentals of modern evolutionary ecology.

Sayers and Lovejoy suggest that researchers should examine a species’ particular habitat and “whole-body” anatomy, including digestion, locomotion, and possible cognitive abilities. In particular, foraging theory — a branch of evolutionary ecology that investigates animal feeding decisions through the lens of efficiency principles — is especially important to consider, as it demonstrates that diet is regulated by the potential value and costs of exploiting individual food items (whether plant, animal, or other) and by the relative abundance of the most profitable foods. In the case of the earliest-known hominids, evidence about their morphology and likely cognitive abilities — in addition to data obtained from modern technologies — provide little support for a reliance on any one particular food type. Rather, these species likely had a broadly omnivorous diet that became increasingly generalized over time.

According to Sayers and Lovejoy, the early hominid diet can best be elucidated by considering the entire habitat-specific resource base and by quantifying the potential profitability and abundance of likely available foods. Furthermore, they warn that hypotheses focusing too narrowly on any one food type or foraging strategy — such as hunting or scavenging or any one particular plant category — are too restrictive and should be viewed with caution. Modeling these species’ diets instead “requires a holistic, interdisciplinary approach that goes beyond merely what we can observe chemically or through a microscope, and draws from ecology, anatomy and physiology, cognitive science, and behavior.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Costco contemplates more international expansion

As Costco Wholesale Corp. continues its international expansion, it is contemplating warehouse opportunities in China but is not yet ready to move on them, Richard A. Galanti, EVP and CFO, told analysts Wednesday.

“We recognize it’s a giant market, and every few years senior management goes over there and looks around,” he said.

“While we’re confident about what we do, and we’re very hands-on, we’ve got a lot of things going on in a lot of directions. We know somebody’s going to get there first, but when other people have gotten other places first, we do fine when we come in, so [expansion to China] will happen at some point, though I don’t know when. But we’re not ready yet.”

Although U.S. expansion will continue, the percentage of growth overseas will continue to rise, he said. “We are probably right at the mid-point of trending from the majority of locations in the U.S. to less than half in the U.S.,” he explained.

Expansion will continue in existing international markets, Galanti said, “and all of Europe is certainly an opportunity for us.”

Costco hopes to open a second location in Spain in the second half of fiscal 2016, he noted, “and we’re still fighting to get our first unit open in France.”

Galanti made his remarks during a conference call to discuss financial results for the first quarter ended Nov. 23. Net income for the 12-week quarter rose 16.7% to $ 496 million, while sales increased 7% to $ 26.3 billion and comparable sales, excluding gasoline, were up 7%, with average transaction size up 2.5% and average frequency up 4.5%.

Food and sundries, candy, deli and spirits were “relative standouts” during the quarter, Galanti noted.

Organic foods have risen to $ 3 billion annually, from about $ 1.4 billion two years ago, he said, “and it’s growing. I can’t tell you how quickly it will grow, but it’s certainly growing faster than our top-line overall.”

E-commerce sales were up 20% and represent just under 3% of total sales, he pointed out.


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Among Costco’s e-commerce activities is a partnership with Google Express in six U.S. markets — the San Francisco Bay Area, where testing started 10 months ago, plus Los Angeles and New York, with Chicago, Washington D.C. and Boston added in October.  “It’s too early to tell completely but we are seeing increased overall spending, and Google has been a good partner to work with,” Galanti said.

The company opened eight new warehouses during the quarter — six in the U.S., its seventh location in Australia and its second location in Leon, Mexico. Galanti said Costco has no openings scheduled for the second quarter, with a handful set for the third quarter and 20 openings planned for the fourth quarter for a total of approximately 30 new locations for the fiscal year, compared with 29 openings in fiscal 2014.

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