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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

20 Years of Data Show Poultry, Fish, Beef Have Remained Leading Sources of Food-Related Outbreaks

Between 1998 and 2008, poultry, fish and beef were consistently responsible for the greatest proportion of foodborne illness outbreaks, according to a new government analysis.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the 13,405 food-related outbreaks reported during this time period, identifying 3,264 outbreaks that could be attributed to a specific food category. Fish and poultry remained responsible for the greatest share of these outbreaks over these 20 years — accounting for about 17 percent of outbreaks each — followed closely by beef, which was responsible for 14 percent of outbreaks.

Eggs, on the other hand, played an increasingly smaller role as outbreak sources – accounting for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and for just 2 percent in 2006-2008. This trend was largely due to a decrease in the amount of Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs, according to the report authors.

Leafy greens became a more common outbreak source, responsible for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and 11 percent by 2008-2009. Dairy also grew as an outbreak source, rising from 4 percent in the beginning of the period studied to 6 percent by 2006-2008.

The researchers also looked at the leading pathogen-food combinations that caused outbreaks during the 20-year window, finding that histamine in fish was the most common outbreak source, followed by ciguatoxin in fish, Salmonella in poultry and norovirus in leafy vegetables.

“You see the same combinations of pathogens and foods repeatedly,” said Hannah Gould, epidemiologist in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and lead author of the report. “It’s good to keep tracking that and now to have a method to continue to look at changes over time,” Gould commented in an interview with Food Safety News.

The authors note that the number of outbreaks linked to these commodities should not be confused with the number of illnesses caused by these foods, as outbreaks result in varying numbers of illnesses.

While poultry was responsible for the largest share of illnesses (17 percent) between 1998 and 2008, leafy greens were the next greatest cause of illness, accounting for 13 percent of the 67,752 illnesses attributed to an outbreak food source.

The pathogen/commodity pairs responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses were norovirus and leafy vegetables, which led to 4,011 illnesses of the 67,752 linked to a designated commodity category.

The team also looked at food preparation, finding that restaurants and delis accounted for the vast majority (68 percent) of the places where outbreak-linked foods were prepared. Private homes were the next most common place of preparation, at 9 percent, followed by catering or banquet facilities (7 percent).

“That’s something interesting that we talk about here more than we usually do,” said Gould, referring to the location data, which CDC doesn’t often report in its reviews of foodborne illness data.

Outbreaks after 2008

What about outbreaks that have occurred since 2008? Have these trends continued or have they changed in the past few years?

“Leafy greens and norovirus continues to be a problem and norovirus has been the number one cause of outbreaks in our data for years and years and years and has remained that way,” said Gould.

Gould also led an analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 2009 and 2010 — published in January of this year — which found that during that period, beef, dairy, fish, and poultry were associated with the largest number of foodborne disease outbreaks.

That report also showed that unpasteurized dairy products are the leading cause of dairy-related outbreaks, accounting for 81 percent of the outbreaks linked to dairy during that time period. Gould said the 1998-2008 report shows that the incidence of raw dairy-related outbreaks has been growing over this time.

“Outbreaks caused by dairy went up as well, and that seems to be caused by an increasing number of outbreaks due to unpasteurized milk,” she said.

The data used for this report comes from CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, which was started by CDC in 1973 and went online in 1998. The authors chose 1998-2008 as their reporting period because the format of the database changed starting in 2008, when it became the National Outbreak Reporting System.

Although this new report may appear similar to one CDC released in January titled “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by Using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008,” the two are very different. The January report offers an estimation of total U.S. illnesses linked to various food sources. Though it is based on data from the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, the figures in that report are extrapolated based on national foodborne illness estimates, while this June report looked only at outbreaks reported to CDC.

The complete results of the 2998-2008 data analysis can be found in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Food Safety News

FSIS Requires Labeling of Salt Solutions Added to Meat, Poultry

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final rule requiring that processors of raw meat and poultry disclose the products’ added solutions on their labels.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is requiring that the descriptive designation include the percentage of added solution and the individual ingredients or multi-ingredient components in the solution listed in descending order of predominance by weight.

The agency proposed changes to the labeling of these products on July 27, 2011, in response to petitions wanting to prevent consumers from being misled by the marketing of added-solution poultry products.

In 2010, the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which included three meat and poultry processors, wrote to then-Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen and complained that Pilgrim’s Pride labelled their chicken “100% Natural” and “Reduced Sodium” despite containing 180 mg of sodium per serving — “four times the amount of sodium in truly natural single-ingredient chicken that has not been pumped full of saltwater.”

Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, praised the rule, stating that about 60 percent of all raw meat and poultry products are injected with, or soaked in, a salty solution.

“That sodium increases blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes,” he said. The finalized rule “will make it clear to shoppers that many meat and poultry products are adulterated, not enhanced, with high percentages of salty solutions.”

FSIS stated that the new rule will improve public awareness, will allow consumers to better determine whether certain products are suitable for their dietary needs, and may help lead to “an increase in consumer welfare.”

The rule will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Food Safety News

FSIS Approves Chinese Plants for Poultry Processing

Four Chinese poultry processing plants have been approved to export cooked chicken to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has approved China’s export health certificate which demonstrates that poultry exported to the U.S. was raised and slaughtered in the U.S., Canada or Chile and that it was cooked to a proper temperature.

For the first time, FSIS also published the names of the four Chinese poultry processing establishments it audited in March 2013 and found to be operating under requirements equivalent to those of the U.S.

The plants are located in the Shandong province and include Shangdong Delicate Food Co., Weifang Legang Food Co., Qingyun Ruifeng Food Co., and Qingdao Nine-alliance Group Co.

It will be up to U.S. companies to decide to import cooked poultry from China. It’s currently unknown when – or even if – the marketplace will participate in the arrangement which could be economically beneficial for them.

When they do, FSIS will re-inspect the products exported by the four Chinese establishments when they reach U.S. ports before they will be allowed into domestic commerce.

Chinese-processed poultry that hits U.S. stores would be labeled as such, although if it’s repacked or further processed in the U.S., information that it had originated in China would not be included on the label. FSIS believes this repackaging is unlikely to occur, but states that if it does, it would be done under agency supervision.

Nancy Huehnergarth, a nutrition policy consultant and one of the women behind the Change.org petition to keep Chinese chicken off U.S. plates (which currently has 327,500 signatures), thinks consumers should be scared about the new development given China’s “abysmal” record on food safety. She is particularly worried that consumers’ right to know where their food comes from will be jeopardized by repackaging and reprocessing.

Food Safety News

What U.S. Can Learn From Other Countries About Meat, Poultry Inspection

As the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule went into effect Monday, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Center for Science in the Public Interest released their review of global meat and poultry inspection systems. They recommended that U.S. policymakers begin a broader, data-driven effort to update the Department of Agriculture’s inspection system.

Traditional slaughter inspection methods for beef, pork and poultry are based on the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957.

“These techniques focus largely on ensuring that food comes only from healthy animals,” states the report entitled, “Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0.” “They are much less effective in protecting consumers from the modern-day hazards that commonly contaminate meat and poultry products.”

Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at Pew, compares the U.S. inspection system to a house built in 1906 and frequently redecorated since then. Maybe what we should do instead is knock the house down and build a new one, she suggested.

The report surveyed ante- and post-mortem inspection requirements in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden, plus efforts by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to modernize meat inspection. The review was intended to identify innovations in information management and integrated surveillance that could offer improved protections for U.S. consumers.

One of the key findings in the report is that robust data collection, analysis and sharing are fundamental components of international efforts to transform existing inspection practices into a modern, risk- and science-based inspection system.

The EFSA expert panel convened in 2010 to study approaches to inspections concluded that microbial hazards should be addressed from farm to fork with good manufacturing practices, good hygiene practices, and HACCP systems.

With food chain information, for example, inspectors can identify high-risk animals, herds and flocks before they enter facilities so that slaughter practices, control measures and monitoring can be targeted appropriately.

“Meat and poultry inspection at slaughter is essential for ensuring human health and the health and welfare of food animals, but it needs to be modernized to take into account changes in the most relevant public health hazards,” reads the report by Pew and CSPI.

Their review also revealed that none of the countries sends meat inspectors to every meat and poultry slaughter and processing plant every day, as is done in the U.S. Some countries use private or quasi-governmental inspectors in their meat and poultry inspection systems, while others have completely turned over certain aspects to industry.

Based on their findings, Pew and CSPI recommend that the U.S. commission comprehensive scientific assessments to evaluate its existing meat inspection approaches and alternatives for modernization, that a more significant effort to improve data collection related to meat and poultry production and testing be undertaken, and that the U.S. think about incorporating food chain information into its meat and poultry inspection system.

“While CSPI supports modernizing meat and poultry inspection, USDA has adopted an incomplete solution without the scientific backing necessary to assure consumers that poultry will carry fewer hazards, like Salmonella and Campylobacter,” said CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal.

One criticism of the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule, which establishes the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), is that while it does require enhanced sampling for all poultry plants, it doesn’t specify which pathogens the plants should be testing for.

Eskin told Food Safety News that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is dedicated to improving public health, but that the agency’s proposals, including the poultry inspection rule and Salmonella Action Plan, are “baby steps and they need bigger leaps.”

“We welcome and appreciate the report from Pew and CSPI, which supports many of our efforts to modernize and strengthen America’s food safety system,” a FSIS spokesperson told Food Safety News. “As the Government Accountability Office acknowledged today, FSIS ‘has moved to an increasingly science-based, data-driven, risk-based approach’ to protecting public health. This will help us prevent thousands of illnesses every year.”

GAO published a 67-page report entitled, “USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products,” on Monday. It recommends that FSIS take action to reduce pathogen contamination on chicken and turkey products, make sure that agency food-safety standards are being met, and better assess whether on-farm practices are effective in reducing pathogens in live poultry.

Food Safety News

15 Members of Congress Ask Vilsack For More Answers on Poultry Inspection Rule

Fifteen members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Friday with questions about the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).

The members — including Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) — wrote that they are “extremely disappointed” that the agency didn’t address their concerns about the rule, adding that it is “detrimental to food and worker safety” and “abdicates food safety oversight from USDA.”

The letter asks Vilsack about an implementation timeline and agency plans for what happens if more (or fewer) than the expected 219 plants decide to shift to the new system, how FSIS will verify that NPIS plants are meeting requirements and producing safe food, how many positions will be displaced or eliminated, health and safety activities at the plants, and how the agency will make sure the plants adhere to animal welfare laws.

They also inquire in the letter what penalties there will be for NPIS plants involved in a foodborne illness outbreak. Specifically, the members want to know if such plants will have to give up the system.

The members request answers to their questions within 30 days so that they can further evaluate the rule.

Food Safety News

Salmonella Strains Linked to Live Poultry Sicken 344 People in 42 States

As of Sept. 23, 344 people in 42 states and Puerto Rico have been sickened by one of three outbreak strains of Salmonella linked to contact with live poultry, according to the latest update released Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

No deaths have been reported, although 32 percent of those who became ill between February and August of this year have been hospitalized, CDC noted.

Since the agency’s last update on Aug. 8, 44 new ill persons have been reported from Alabama (1), Arizona (1), Connecticut (1), Georgia (1),  Illinois (1), Iowa (2), Kansas (1), Kentucky (3), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (2), New Jersey (1), New York (4), North Carolina (4), Ohio (6),  Pennsylvania (4), South Carolina (3), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (2), Texas (1), Utah (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (1).

Among persons who reported the date they became ill, illnesses began between Feb. 3, 2014, and Aug. 23, 2014. Ill persons range in age from younger than 1 year to 95 years, with the median age being 32 years. Thirty-three percent of ill persons are 10 years of age or younger. Fifty-four percent of ill persons are female. Among 224 ill persons with available information, 71 have been hospitalized.

CDC stated that related illnesses occurring after Aug. 24 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, which, on average, takes two to four weeks.

The outbreak strains, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Hadar, have been linked through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback findings to contact with chicks, ducklings and other live poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Cincinnati, OH.

Mt. Healthy Hatcheries has posted a statement about the outbreak, noting that it has suspended business relationships with its largest outside supplier of eggs and chicks while the Salmonella investigation continues.

“It is important to note that although some CDC data suggests a link to chicks from our hatcheries, the vast majority of chicks we ship are not associated with this outbreak. Mt. Healthy Hatcheries ships thousands of chicks each week to customers, and our commitment is to provide safe, healthy chicks at all times,” the statement reads.

The company also stated that it has implemented specific interventions to mitigate the exposure to all Salmonella on its chicks and on its hatchery operations and has adopted best management practices for poultry hatcheries.

CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory tested Salmonella isolates collected from 11 people infected with either Salmonella Infantis or Salmonella Newport. Of those isolates tested, two were drug-resistant (defined as resistant to one or more antibiotics) and nine were pansusceptible (susceptible to all antibiotics tested).

CDC warns people who keep live poultry to take steps to protect themselves from Salmonella infection. This advice includes always washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching live poultry or anything in the areas where the birds live and roam and not allowing live poultry inside your home.

Food Safety News

Food & Water Watch Sues USDA Over New Poultry Inspection Rule

Food & Water Watch (FWW) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture on Thursday that would stop the implementation of the agency’s New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).

The new poultry inspection rule, announced July 31, requires additional microbiological testing at all poultry processing facilities and introduces a fifth inspection system available for U.S. plants to voluntarily adopt. NPIS is based on the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) and directs poultry companies to sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to an FSIS inspector.

The consumer group is concerned that the system allows companies to privatize poultry inspection.

According to USDA, the goal of NPIS is to free up inspectors from each line to be able to ensure that sampling and testing are done properly and sanitation requirements are met, and to verify compliance with food safety rules.

Wenonah Hauter, FWW executive director, said that the system “flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers,” and the the complaint states that it will deny consumers “the right to know which products that have an official inspection legend and establishment number are actually federally inspected.”

FWW believes that NPIS violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) requirement that federal government inspectors, and not poultry slaughter establishment staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated young chicken and turkey carcasses.

The organization is also concerned that allowing line speeds to increase to 140 young chickens per minute for NPIS establishments means that carcasses can pass by one federal inspector much faster than under the Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), which limits each inspector to 35 carcasses per minute, and the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), which limits them to 30.

Further, the complaint states that the “proposed NPIS rules were not similar to the final rules in a number of ways,” that there was “inadequate risk analysis and response to comments,” and that there was no opportunity for the organization to orally present its views about the rules at a public meeting.

“USDA’s new system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry,” Hauter said. “It’s essentially a return to Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle.’ It’s a huge step backwards for our food safety system.”

Food Safety News

Food & Water Watch Sues USDA Over New Poultry Inspection Rule

Food & Water Watch (FWW) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture on Thursday that would stop the implementation of the agency’s New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).

The new poultry inspection rule, announced July 31, requires additional microbiological testing at all poultry processing facilities and introduces a fifth inspection system available for U.S. plants to voluntarily adopt. NPIS is based on the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) and directs poultry companies to sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to an FSIS inspector.

The consumer group is concerned that the system allows companies to privatize poultry inspection.

According to USDA, the goal of NPIS is to free up inspectors from each line to be able to ensure that sampling and testing are done properly and sanitation requirements are met, and to verify compliance with food safety rules.

Wenonah Hauter, FWW executive director, said that the system “flies in the face of the agency’s mandate to protect consumers,” and the the complaint states that it will deny consumers “the right to know which products that have an official inspection legend and establishment number are actually federally inspected.”

FWW believes that NPIS violates the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) requirement that federal government inspectors, and not poultry slaughter establishment staff, are responsible for condemning adulterated young chicken and turkey carcasses.

The organization is also concerned that allowing line speeds to increase to 140 young chickens per minute for NPIS establishments means that carcasses can pass by one federal inspector much faster than under the Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), which limits each inspector to 35 carcasses per minute, and the New Line Speed Inspection System (NELS), which limits them to 30.

Further, the complaint states that the “proposed NPIS rules were not similar to the final rules in a number of ways,” that there was “inadequate risk analysis and response to comments,” and that there was no opportunity for the organization to orally present its views about the rules at a public meeting.

“USDA’s new system will harm consumers and reverse 100 years of effective government regulation of the meat industry,” Hauter said. “It’s essentially a return to Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle.’ It’s a huge step backwards for our food safety system.”

Food Safety News

Study: Shoppers Spread Raw Poultry Juices at Store, Home

Shoppers may want to be more mindful of what they touch after handling packages of raw poultry at the grocery store, according to a new study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on consumer safety behavior when shopping for poultry.

Researchers in the study found that few people used either the plastic bags intended to carry raw meat products nor the sanitizing solution intended to mitigate the spread of harmful bacteria when provided by stores.

As a result, customers were repeatedly shown to spread poultry juices — potentially contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter — to numerous other objects, including their shopping cart, other food items, and even their children. After customers handled raw chicken or turkey packaged in sealed plastic, researchers were still able to find traces of poultry protein from juices using swab tests, suggesting that any pathogens on the meat would likely hitch a ride in the juices.

Kansas State University professor Dr. Edgar Chambers presented these findings last week at the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) conference in Indianapolis. The study involved shadowing 96 grocery shoppers in three U.S. cities to monitor how they handled raw poultry both in the market and back at home.

As Chambers explained, the shoppers only knew they were part of a shopping study and weren’t told that the researchers were specifically interested in how they handled poultry. The study took place in grocery chains of various sizes, from large national chains down to local family-owned stores.

The researchers found that, while 85 percent of stores supplied meat bags to customers, fewer than 20 percent of customers used them.

After customers handled poultry, researchers watched to see what else they would touch next, counting the first three objects or places they touched.

Within the first three touches after handling poultry, the study found that consumers had contact with the following:

  • Cart (85 percent)
  • Dry goods (49 percent)
  • Other meat or poultry (33 percent)
  • Refrigerated goods (31 percent)
  • Personal item (grocery list, purse, etc.) or a child (31 percent)
  • Frozen goods (16 percent)
  • Fresh produce (9 percent)

At the checkout counter, baggers or cashiers placed 82 percent of raw poultry products in separate bags, a percentage much higher than Chambers admitted to expecting.

“I was surprised,” he told the audience. “I was actually thrilled by that.”

Researchers also followed shoppers home to see how they treated poultry packages in their kitchens. Once taking the poultry out of the bag, 55 percent of shoppers stuck it directly into the refrigerator or freezer, while others first placed it on another surface:

  • Counter (33 percent)
  • Kitchen table (4 percent)
  • Sink (4 percent)

When storing the poultry, most consumers placed packages directly into the fridge or freezer without keeping them in a bag, as recommended by food safety experts. Here’s how storage practices turned out:

  • Placed directly in fridge without bag (35 percent)
  • Placed directly in freezer without bag (24 percent)
  • Placed in bag in fridge (19 percent)
  • Place in bag in freezer (14 percent)

Finally, throughout the study, researchers would swab anything that came into contact with the poultry packages to see if chicken or turkey proteins transferred from the packages. That included hands, any food items that touched the package in the shopping cart, any surface the package touched at home, the inside of reusable shopping bags, and the outside of the package itself.

“What we learned is that transfer does occur,” Chambers said.

While the researchers did not swab for bacteria such as Salmonella or Campylobacter, Chambers said that the presence of proteins suggests that any harmful bacteria on the package could also make its way to the outside.

Last year, Consumer Reports released a study that found 43 percent of retail raw chicken products contained Campylobacter, while 11 percent contained Salmonella.

As a takeaway, Chambers listed a number of recommendations for both grocery stores and consumers to help minimize the chance of anyone getting sick simply from handling packages of raw poultry:

  • Stores should provide bags and hand sanitizer in the meat department.
  • Customers should be educated on using bags and hand sanitizer when handling packages in the meat department.
  • At home, customers should put meat packages in bags when placing them in the fridge or freezer.

Food Safety News

CDC: 300 People Infected With Salmonella Linked to Contact With Live Poultry

The latest update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that, as of Aug. 5, 300 people from 42 states and Puerto Rico have been reported to be infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport or Salmonella Hadar.

Since the last CDC update on June 27, 2014, a total of 49 new ill persons have been reported from Alabama (2), Arizona (1), Colorado (1), Georgia (3), Idaho (2), Iowa (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), Nebraska (3), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (4), Puerto Rico (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (3), Vermont (1), Virginia (8), Washington (1) and West Virginia (4).

Among those who reported the date they became ill, illnesses began between Feb. 3, 2014, and July 10, 2014. Ill persons range in age from younger than 1 year to 95 years, with the median age being 28 years. Thirty-seven percent of ill persons are 10 years of age or younger. Fifty-four percent of ill persons are female.

CDC noted that llnesses that occurred after July 8, 2014, might not yet be reported due to the average time of two to four weeks it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

No deaths have been reported to date, CDC noted. However, 31 percent of those sickened have been hospitalized.

CDC reported that epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings have linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio. Of those sickened, CDC stated that 80 percent had had contact with live poultry the week before their illness began.

The agency noted that Mt. Healthy Hatcheries is the same mail-order hatchery that has been associated with multiple outbreaks of Salmonella infections in the past linked to live poultry.

CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory tested for antibiotic resistance Salmonella isolates collected from 11 of those sickened. Two were resistant to one or more antibiotics and nine were susceptible to all antibiotics tested.

Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores and other who sell or display chicks, ducklings or other live poultry should provide information to owners of such poultry and potential buyers of the birds before selling them, CDC stated. This health-related material should include information about the possibility of contracting a Salmonella infection from handling live poultry.

Those who keep live poultry or are around them should protect themselves by washing their hands with soap and water immediately after contact with live poultry (or anything else in areas where the birds live and roam) and not allowing any live poultry inside their house. More consumer advice can be found here.

Food Safety News

Reactions Vary to USDA’s Poultry Inspection Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the final rule of its Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection on Thursday, requiring all poultry processing plants to engage in additional microbiological testing and establishing the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), which companies can choose to opt into or not.

Predictably, the agency’s move drew reactions from across the spectrum.

“USDA is to be commended for standing up for food safety in the face of significant pressure,” said National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger, adding that the rule “provides additional tools to plants and federal inspectors to verify that plant food-safety programs are protecting against foodborne illness.”

One of the major complaints about the rule when it was proposed in 2012 was that it increased the maximum inspection line speed to 175 birds per minute. USDA said it heard these comments and decided to keep the maximum at 140 birds per minute as allowed in its other inspection systems.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) — the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. — had a modestly positive reaction to the line speed change.

“Responding to a key concern raised by the courageous poultry workers who exposed the human cost of bringing chicken to our dinner plates, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez today took an important step to prioritize worker safety,” said NCLR CEO and President Janet Murguía. “Although life-altering injuries are already far too widespread among this workforce, I am proud to say that the collective efforts of tireless advocates helped the administration prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.”

Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, thanked “coalition partners in labor, food safety and the civil rights community for standing side by side with us throughout this process.” In his statement, Hansen also thanked the U.S. Department of Labor “for raising important safety questions” and Vilsack “for listening to our concerns and taking the necessary steps to fix this rule.”

But not everyone was pleased with the outcome. Some groups say that 140 birds per minute — with 2.3 seconds to inspect each bird — is still too fast.

“This is not a meaningful victory because there are not accompanying worker safety regulations to deal with the musculoskeletal disorders and other work-related injuries that both the plant workers and USDA inspectors suffer every day working in the poultry slaughter plants,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Industry was disappointed with the line speed change for a different reason: “It is extremely unfortunate and disappointing that politics have trumped sound science, 15 years of food and worker safety data and a successful pilot program with plants operating at 175 birds per minute,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “The rule also goes against global precedent, in which the limiting factors for line speeds are the ability to meet food safety standards, keeping workers safe, and the capability of the equipment to run effectively — not government regulations. Broiler plants in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Belgium and Germany, among others, all operate at line speeds of 200 or more birds per minute.”

Others are still wary of the rule’s ability to address food safety concerns.

“This rule means fewer USDA food safety inspectors in poultry slaughter facilities, which is a recipe for more foodborne illness and more people in the hospital,” said Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY). “We fully expect industry will flock to the more lax HIMP processing, which has not been supported by rigorous evaluation.”

While also dealing with the denial of their petition to USDA to have strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella declared as adulterants, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that, “With more than 600 people sick from the Foster Farms outbreak alone, this is hardly the time to reduce USDA’s oversight of the poultry industry.”

Food Safety News

FSIS Poultry Rule Requires More Pathogen Testing, Introduces Voluntary Inspection System

The new poultry inspection rule announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires additional microbiological testing at all poultry processing facilities and introduces a fifth inspection system available for U.S. plants to voluntarily adopt.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the rule a “longstanding effort” to “modernize our system” and said the agency is confident that it will result in safer food.

USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) already tests for Salmonella and Campylobacter, Vilsack said, but this rule requires plants to do additional testing at least twice per shift.

“They will have to pick the pathogen that they believe is a hazard within their establishment, and, being a poultry establishment, it could either be Campylobacter or Salmonella,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza.

“This is extraordinarily important,” Vilsack said. “We think it will increase the chances of us detecting problems and it places a responsibility and burden on the processing facility to do additional testing.”

The New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) is based on the HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) and directs poultry companies to sort their own product for quality defects before presenting it to FSIS inspectors.

“In this option, we’re moving away from a system that was devised and designed as far back as 1957, where individual inspectors are at the beginning of a line taking a look at issues that really involve quality assurance, not so much food safety,” Vilsack said. “We still have a responsibility to inspect carcasses, and we will continue to have inspectors at the end of the evisceration line doing that important inspection.”

The goal is to free up inspectors on each line to be able to ensure that sampling and testing are done properly and sanitation requirements are met, and to verify compliance with food safety rules.

“They’re all going to be performing food safety tasks that are more relevant to public health and food safety than sorting duties that they’re relegated to today,” Almanza said.

After many public comments expressed concern that the proposed increased line speed of 175 birds per minute would jeopardize worker safety, FSIS responded by maintaining the maximum line speed of 140 birds per minute to match all other existing poultry inspection systems.

According to Vilsack, the plants that have been using HIMP on an experimental basis for more than a decade have an average line speed of 131 birds per minute.

“We are still looking to improve worker safety,” he said. The rule also requires plants adopting the NPIS system to set up a method of notifying employees about initial indications of injury and encouraging early reporting of injury. In addition, FSIS inspectors will be trained to watch for injuries and report concerns directly to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

FSIS estimates that the NPIS will prevent nearly 5,000 Salmonella and Campylobacter foodborne illnesses each year. The system is part of the agency’s Salmonella Action Plan, unveiled last December, along with revised pathogen reduction performance standards for all poultry and new standards for poultry parts, which will be announced later this year.

Vilsack said that the department does not have an estimate of how many companies will choose to opt in to NPIS.

“This is a significant opportunity to bring the inspection system for poultry into the 21st century, relying on sampling and testing, understanding the science of pathogens much better than we did in 1957, and, I think, it also reflects a department that took very seriously the comments that were provided over the last several years about this rule,” Vilsack said.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

Illinois Meat and Poultry Processor Loses License for Repeated Violations

Parks Locker Service of Greenfield, IL, has had its license revoked by the Illinois Department of Agriculture for repeated violations of the state’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Act.

The closure followed a July 16 hearing in Springfield during which an administrative law judge heard testimony that department inspectors had identified 136 violations at the company’s Greene County facility between March 25 and June 17 which managers were either unwilling or unable to fix.

Most of the violations involved unsanitary conditions such as rust on meat hooks, water dripping onto meat rails, peeling paint on walls and ceilings near where meat was stored or processed, and holes in floors, walls and doors.

The license revocation is effective immediately, but the company can appeal the decision.

 

Food Safety News

Illinois Meat and Poultry Processor Loses License for Repeated Violations

Parks Locker Service of Greenfield, IL, has had its license revoked by the Illinois Department of Agriculture for repeated violations of the state’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Act.

The closure followed a July 16 hearing in Springfield during which an administrative law judge heard testimony that department inspectors had identified 136 violations at the company’s Greene County facility between March 25 and June 17 which managers were either unwilling or unable to fix.

Most of the violations involved unsanitary conditions such as rust on meat hooks, water dripping onto meat rails, peeling paint on walls and ceilings near where meat was stored or processed, and holes in floors, walls and doors.

The license revocation is effective immediately, but the company can appeal the decision.

 

Food Safety News