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March 24, 2012
Last week I mentioned "pink slime" in my column and it set off a volley of questions. In recent weeks, the popular media has created a feeding frenzy concerning lean, finely textured beef (LFTB). Let's take a look the product and what are really the issues surrounding it.
Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance with Beef Products Inc., (BPI) the world's largest processor of lean beef processed from lean trimmings, did a great job of explaining what the product is on AgriTalk Radio. Lesch explains that BPI produces lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) from beef trimmings.
The trimmings come from processors removing fat and lean beef from steaks, roasts and other cuts. The trimmings begin as about half fat and half lean beef.
BPI uses a centrifuge process to separate the lean from the fat, resulting in a product that is about 95 percent lean. The process changes the texture of the lean beef, resulting in a product similar to finely ground beef.
As we know, ground or blended beef products carry a potential risk for food-borne pathogens because microbes, if present, are distributed through the product, which makes them somewhat less likely to be killed during cooking compared with those on the surface of whole-muscle cuts. So, Letch says, BPI uses interventions to reduce the possibility of microbial contamination.
During processing, the company uses or ammonium hydroxide, a natural product, to elevate the pH of the LFTB, which he says is extremely effective in killing any microbes. "It is a temporary effect," he says. It makes no physical changes to the LFTB, nor has any lasting effects on the taste or texture of the beef.
The resulting product is pink, Letch says, because it is pure beef, with a little fat. The LFTB is used as a lean ingredient in hamburger, sausage, ground beef and in many other foods.
"Pink slime," Letch says, is derogatory term that is not based on facts.
The whole controversy started when a couple of scientists who formerly were with the U.S. Department of Agriculture referred to the beef product as "pink slime" in an interview on the ABC evening news program March 7, unleashing a rash of negative publicity across conventional and social media.
The ABC program and subsequent news stories, blogs and other posts called the product plant scraps and waste that otherwise would be destined for pet food or rendering and that are mixed with ammonia, which is used in making fertilizers, household cleaners and other industrial products.
The fierceness of this intensified when it was reported that USDA plans to procure 7 million pounds of the product for incorporation into beef entrees for school lunches.
An online petition started to circulate via Facebook "to get this slime out of our schools." Several publications even ran a photo of a product they identified as LFTB, but it was not.
School districts across the country where pressured by citizens concerned about health risks conjured up by the misinformation, and requested USDA to allow them to purchase products without LFTB. U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 15 it would offer more choices to schools in the National School Lunch Program when it comes to purchases of ground beef products.
In the announcement, USDA noted it only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable, including all products containing lean finely textured beef.
However, because of customer demand, the department will adjust procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without lean finely textured beef.
USDA continues to affirm the safety of lean finely textured beef product for all consumers and urges customers to consult science-based information on the safety and quality of this product.
While USDA sets national nutritional guidelines for school meals, school districts make local decisions on what food to feed kids to meet these guidelines. On average, schools in the National School Lunch Program purchase approximately 20 percent of their food through USDA, and approximately 80 percent of food served is purchased directly by schools or school districts through private vendors.
Here are the facts.
LFTB is not scraps destined for pet food but is, rather, a federally inspected and approved beef product. The product is 94 percent lean beef and 6 percent fat, according to BPI. Ammonia is naturally occurring, it is found in the human body and virtually all foods and it plays an important role in helping the body maintain a desired pH level, according to the American Meat Institute.
Ammonium hydroxide is ammonia and water; it's not the kind of ammonia used to make fertilizers and household cleaners, AMI said.
In food processing, ammonium hydroxide is recognized as safe by food safety authorities in most countries, including the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. It is used to kill pathogens in meat and other food products.
The compound is used as an antimicrobial food additive in baked goods, cheeses, puddings, chocolates and other confectionery such as caramels, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation.
Other forms of ammonia are used in condiments, relishes, snack foods, jams and jellies and nonalcoholic beverages.
FDA approved ammonium hydroxide as safe for use in food processing in 1974 following an extensive review of the science and rule-making.
In an interview on the AMI website, Dr. Gary Acuff, Texas A&M University professor and director of its Center for Food Safety, outlined the process to produce LFTB noted that he is glad they use this type of natural product to reduce the potential of pathogenic microbes and ensure consumer safety.
Original Article Here: http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2012/mar/24/pink-slime-not-based-on-...
By Julian Pecquet - 03/23/12 02:57 PM ET
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and an array of consumer groups urged quick action after a federal court ruled that the Food and Drug Administration must start withdrawing approval for the use of unsafe antibiotics in animal agriculture.
"The FDA has been dragging its feet on this for 35 years," Slaughter said in a statement Friday. "We've all known that this is a public health issue for quite some time. … I'm pleased to finally see some progress, and I can only hope that we see swift action from the FDA on this looming crisis."
The drug and agriculture industries say feeding antibiotics to animals that aren't sick keeps them healthy and protects consumers. Critics of the practice say it risks making life-saving medicines less effective, an opinion New York Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz appeared to share Thursday.
"Research has shown that the use of antibiotics in livestock leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be — and has been — transferred from animals to humans through direct contact, environmental exposure and the consumption and handling of contaminated meat and poultry products," Katz wrote.
Steven Roach, the public health program director at Food Animal Concerns Trust, called the court order "a great victory for public health."
"After decades of delay, the FDA finally will be forced to act on two of the major antibiotics in livestock feeds," he said in a statement. "The court made clear that voluntary action by drug companies is no substitute for FDA fulfilling its mandate to withdraw from the market drugs that have [been] found to be unsafe."
The federal agency is expected to issue formal guidance next week on restricting antibiotic use in healthy animals. Like the initial guidance announced two years ago, the new guidance is expected to still rely on voluntary compliance by farmers and ranchers.
The court ruled in a lawsuit against the FDA filed last May by the National Resources Defense Council and three other member groups of Keep Antibiotics Working: the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Original Article here: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/food-safety/217869-swift-fda-action...
Norovirus Suspected In Michigan Hockey Rink Illnesses
TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) — Health officials say a norovirus is suspected of causing up to 30 high school-aged hockey players to get sick while at a suburban Detroit rink for a tournament.The Taylor Fire Department says the youth hockey players from different teams were at the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor on Sunday night when some began vomiting.
Some were taken for treatment by ambulance and others were taken by private vehicles to area hospitals. The city-owned complex was shut down so air and water tests could be performed.
The building also was being cleaned and could reopen Wednesday.
Norovirus is part of a family of viruses that are spread person-to-person and cause flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping.
This article taken from: http://www.necn.com/03/13/12/Norovirus-suspected-in-Mich-hockey-rink-/la...
CDC Study Shows Outbreaks Linked To Imported Foods Increasing
ATLANTA,-- Fish and spices the most common sources
Foodborne disease outbreaks caused by imported food appeared to rise in 2009 and 2010, and nearly half of the outbreaks implicated foods imported from areas which previously had not been associated with outbreaks, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta.
"It's too early to say if the recent numbers represent a trend, but CDC officials are analyzing information from 2011 and will continue to monitor for these outbreaks in the future," said Hannah Gould, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases and the lead author of the study.
CDC experts reviewed outbreaks reported to CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System from 2005-2010 for implicated foods that were imported into the United States. During that five-year period, 39 outbreaks and 2,348 illnesses were linked to imported food from 15 countries. Of those outbreaks, nearly half (17) occurred in 2009 and 2010. Overall, fish (17 outbreaks) were the most common source of implicated imported foodborne disease outbreaks, followed by spices (six outbreaks including five from fresh or dried peppers). Nearly 45 percent of the imported foods causing outbreaks came from Asia.
This article continues at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/cdc-study-shows-outbreaks-linked-to-imp...
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OTTAWA, - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and AllJuice International Inc. are warning the public not to consume the Aljuice brand Fruit Beverages described below because these products may contain harmful glass fragments.
The following products, sold in 473 ml glass bottles, are affected by this alert:
Brand -- Alljuice
Product Key Lime Fruit Beverage, UPC Code 7 74557 40525 9, beginning with BB 2014 JUN 15
Strawberry Kiwi Fruit Beverage, UPC Code 7 74557 50500 3, beginning with BB 2014 JUN 16
Cranberry-Raspberry Cocktail Fruit Beverage, UPC Code 7 74557 30500 9, beginning with BB 2014 JUN 16
Mango Fruit Beverage, UPC Code 7 74557 90002 0, beginning with BB 2014 JUN 16
Brand -- St. Maarten Product Mangos & Carrots Fruit Beverage, UPC Code 7 74557 90016 7, beginning with BB 2014 JUN 16
These products have been distributed in Ontario.
There have been no reported injuries associated with the consumption of these products.
The recalling firm, AllJuice International Inc., Thornhill, Ontario is voluntarily recalling the affected products from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.
For more information, consumers and industry can call one of the following numbers:
AllJuice International Inc. at 416-707-0704;
CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).
This recall taken from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/corpaffr/recarapp/2012/20120316be.shtml
Board Member, STOP Foodborne Illness
My only child, Alex, died from Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome caused by eating E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef back in 1993 when he was only 6 years old. It was the most horrendous experience possible. His first symptoms were severe abdominal cramping and bowel movements that consisted strictly of blood and mucus. Alex suffered terribly as his organs shut down one by one. At one point one of his lungs collapsed requiring bedside surgery. His brain swelled so horribly that shunts were drilled into his head in an effort to relieve the pressure, but to no avail. My brave little boy’s last words to me before slipping into a coma were, “Don’t cry Mommy” as I couldn’t stop the tears from silently flowing. His last gesture to his dad was to blow him a kiss. I was with him when he suffered a grand mal seizure and was put on a ventilator. My little boy, my only child, was dead.
Alex had wanted to be a paramedic when he grew up so that he “could help others”, his words. So when he died we hoped to be able to donate his organs so that he could fulfill that wish of helping others but his organs were unsalvageable because of the damage caused by the toxins.
There was no cure for this awful disease then and there still isn’t today. Doctors can only hope to support bodily systems until the toxins pass through. It is for this reason that it is critically important for meat and poultry companies to put into place prevention strategies and technologies to ensure that contaminated meat doesn’t make its way into the marketplace. That’s why we need to support innovations and advances that enhance food safety.
After Alex’s death, I felt compelled—really more like obligated—to fulfill his wish of helping and protecting other consumers by being his voice and working with federal regulating agencies and with companies to see to it that we did a better job as a country in generating a safer food supply. In the process I have visited numerous meat and poultry plants, have provided input on public policies and food safety laws and have served on the National Advisory Board for Meat and Poultry Inspection.
One of the many plants I visited was Beef Products, Inc. I got to know the owners, Eldon and Regina Roth, and was impressed by their complete commitment to the safety and wholesomeness of the meat products that they produced. I was also impressed by the food safety culture that they instilled throughout their company. We shed tears together over what happened to Alex and realized how we share the common goal of preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. Ever since that moment, BPI has generously supported STOP and has never asked for anything in return.
That said, one point that needs to be perfectly clear is this: After what I personally experienced watching my son suffer and die, I am very skeptical and cynical about for-profit meat companies and their professed commitment to food safety. Not all companies “walk their talk”. BPI does.
There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around the internet and on TV about lean beef trim produced by Beef Products, Inc. As I stated earlier, I have personally visited their plant and the categorization of calling their product “pink slime” is completely false and incendiary. Consumers need to understand that this product is meat, period, and that the use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product and is routinely used throughout the food industry. There are many types of interventions including food grade antimicrobial sprays which are used on all manner of foods. Some of these things may sound icky and gross, especially when inaccurately portrayed. These interventions are necessary in ridding meat of deadly pathogens and are required to prove they pose no threats to consumers. Companies would be prohibited by the USDA and FDA to use substances that could be harmful in human consumption.
I am very concerned that mis-categorization campaigns such as this “pink slime” campaign will cause well-intentioned companies such as BPI to cease innovations for developing better food safety technologies and strategies. Why try to do something better only to get set up as a target? If this does in fact happen, and promising technologies get thwarted, we, the American public, will be the losers. And tragedies like Alex will continue to go on and on and on.
STOP Foodborne Illness is a national non profit, public health organization dedicated to preventing foodborne illness and death from foodborne pathogens by:
• Advocating for sound public policy
• Building public awareness
• Assisting those impacted by foodborne illness
While STOP Foodborne illness does not endorse specific companies or technologies, we applaud those that foster innovation for better processes that lead to safer foods.
Public Health Confirms Four Salmonella Cases
Four cases of salmonella have been confirmed and another 36 are being investigated by Hamilton’s public health department.
Public health says it believes the cases are connected to the Eat a Pita restaurant on Main Street East at Kenilworth Avenue.
Dr. Chris Mackie, an associate medical officer of health, says the restaurant has been temporarily shut down, and may remain closed for days.
During a scheduled health inspection of Eat a Pita on Feb. 1, inspectors found that cooked chicken wasn’t being kept at a high enough temperature. Similar problems were discovered during a followup inspection on Thursday.
Mackie says that one case of salmonella and one case of gastrointestinal illness came to public health’s attention last Friday. Lab results confirmed the two cases were connected to the same facility as two others, leading health officials to declare a salmonella outbreak late Wednesday.
The decision was made to reach out publicly to those who might be affected by the outbreak.
“In this case we determined that we couldn’t contact everyone directly,” says Mackie. “We investigate these things thoroughly to make sure that there isn’t something at play that might be affecting a much broader population.”
This article continues at: http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/676921--public-health-confirms...
By Kate Wilkinson
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Two In NJ Sickened From Raw Milk
TRENTON, N.J. — Health officials say two people in New Jersey have been sickened from drinking raw milk from a central Pennsylvania dairy connected to dozens of illnesses in four states.
The New Jersey health department says a 27-year-old man from Burlington County and a 3-year-old boy from Gloucester County became ill after consuming raw milk from the Family Cow Dairy in Chambersburg, Pa.
The dairy resumed bottling raw milk this month after a voluntary 11-day shutdown following illnesses first reported in January.
The U.S. government says unpasteurized milk can contain harmful bacteria. Besides New Jersey, authorities have confirmed cases of bacterial infection in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
Pennsylvania allows the sale of unpasteurized dairy products. New Jersey doesn't, although a bill has been introduced in the Legislature to legalize its sale.
This article taken from: http://www.statesman.com/news/nation/2-in-nj-sickened-from-raw-milk-from...
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Two More Cases Of E. coli Confirmed, Brings Total To 14
MICHIGAN –The Centers for Disease Control says there are two more confirmed cases of E. coli reported, this time in Michigan. A total of 14 people from six states have been infected with E. coli, including one case in Wisconsin. The CDC says preliminary results of their investigation has linked the E. coli to eating raw clover sprouts at Jimmy John’s restaurants.
Health officials are telling people to stay away from the sprouts until further notice.
This article taken from: http://fox6now.com/2012/02/25/two-more-cases-of-e-coli-confirmed-brings-...
By Jeff Vieau
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WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee and the only microbiologist in Congress, today sent a letter to over 60 fast food companies, producers, processors, and grocery chains asking them to disclose their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.
In addition to asking for company policy, Slaughter asked the restaurants to provide a breakdown of the percentages of beef, pork and poultry which they serve raised "without any antibiotics," raised with antibiotics only for "therapeutic reasons," or raised with "routine use of antibiotics."
"Very simply, consumers have a right to know what's in their food," said Slaughter. "It's like that old commercial, 'where's the beef?' We just want to know, 'what's in the beef?' The US is facing a growing public health crisis in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and information about how these companies are contributing to its rise or resolution should be available to consumers."
Citing some alarming statistics, including that in 2011 the US had the most outbreaks ever of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella due to contaminated meat and poultry, the letter noted that "the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to chickens, cows, and swine has been shown to harm human health by contributing to diseases that do not respond to treatment."
This article continues at: http://www.louise.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id...
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CHAMBERSBURG - The number of cases of sickness linked to The Family Cow raw milk stands at 77 in four states.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Thursday added another case from Chester County. State totals: Pennsylvania 67, Maryland five, West Virginia three and New Jersey two.
The outbreak of campylobacteriosis is the largest linked to raw milk in Pennsylvania in five years. The two prior record outbreaks since 2006 were both in 2008 - 72 cases during an outbreak originating in Lancaster County and 68 from Montgomery County raw milk. More than 250 people in Pennsylvania have become ill after drinking raw milk during the past five years, according to the state health department. Campylobacter bacteria caused six of the seven outbreaks during that time.
Shankstead EcoFarm, trading as The Family Cow, is among 153 farms in Pennsylvania and 12 local farms permitted to sell raw milk or cheese from cows or goats. Proponents of raw milk say the unpasteurized product has health benefits.
Raw milk bottled at the Family Cow about Jan. 16 has been blamed for the recent outbreak. The farm began selling raw milk again on Jan. 27 after passing a state Department of Agriculture inspection.
Edwin Shank said the farm has improved its handling of raw milk.
This article taken from: http://www.publicopiniononline.com/localnews/ci_19984720
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A shipment of orange juice from Canada has been rejected after testing positive for the prohibited fungicide carbendazim, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says in its latest weekly update. Eight other shipments tested negative.
So far, of the 104 shipments the FDA sampled between Jan. 4 and Feb. 2, 24 have tested positive and been detained or rejected, and 71 have tested negative. Of the blocked imports, 12 were from Canada and 12 from Brazil.
Results are pending on nine shipments. See the full results here.
A positive result means a sample contained 10 parts per billion or more of carbendazim, which controls fungi that mar the skin of oranges but are not considered harmful to humans.
Though carbendazim is widely used by other countries, U.S. regulators banned its use on oranges in 2009. Trace amounts are still allowed in orange juice and 31 other foods, including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits.
Coca-Cola alerted regulators about low levels of the fungicide in its own orange juice and in competitors' products, prompting the testing of imports and heightened scrutiny. The FDA has tried to reassure consumers that orange juice is safe to drink.
This recall taken from: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2012/02/fda-bloc...
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