Science, or poetry in motion: Modern pig inspection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced its continued effort to modernize inspection systems through science-based approaches to food safety. USDA is proposing to amend the federal meat inspection regulations to establish a new voluntary inspection system for market hog slaughter establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), while also requiring additional pathogen sampling for all swine slaughter establishments.

The proposed rule also allows innovation and flexibility to establishments that are slaughtering market hogs. Market hogs are uniform, healthy, young animals that can be slaughtered and processed in this modernized system more efficiently and effectively with enhanced process control.

For market hog establishments that opt into NSIS, the proposed rule would increase the number of offline USDA inspection tasks, while continuing 100% FSIS carcass-by-carcass inspection. These offline inspection tasks place inspectors in areas of the production process where they can perform critical tasks that have direct impact on food safety.

There will be a 60-day period for comment once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

To view the proposed rule and information on how to comment on the rule, visit the FSIS website at fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules.

 

Salmonella found by USDA in Canadian deli products

Piller’s Fine Foods, a Waterloo, Canada establishment, is recalling approximately 1,076 pounds of ready-to-eat salami and speck products that may be adulterated with Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The problem was discovered when an FSIS sample of the ready-to-eat salami product was confirmed positive for Salmonella. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

The ready-to-eat speck prosciutto and salami items were produced on Sept. 22 and Oct. 12, 2017, respectively. The following products are subject to recall:

Vacuum-sealed random weight plastic packages containing “Black Kassel Piller’s Dry Aged D’Amour Salami” with Best Before date of May 12, 2018

Vacuum-sealed random weight plastic packages containing “Black Kassel Piller’s Dry Aged Speck Smoked Prosciutto” with Best Before date of May 12, 2018.

These items were produced in Canada and were shipped to distribution centers in California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.         

Everyone has a camera: Sow and piglet edition

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and collaborators are using 3-D imaging to protect newborn piglets by monitoring adult female pigs’ behavior.

Nearly 15 percent of pre-weaned piglets die each year. According to U.S. pork producers, many are crushed by sows (adult female pigs). Modifying the sows’ stalls or crates may help reduce piglet deaths. The first step, according to ARS agricultural engineer Tami Brown-Brandl, is to evaluate sow and piglet behavior in their stalls. Animal behavior contains vital clues about health and well-being that producers can use to better manage their livestock.

Brown-Brandl and a team of scientists from China, Iowa Select Farms and Iowa State University developed a system to automatically process and analyze 3-D images of sows. A camera mounted over birthing crates captures images to determine a sow’s behavior and posture: if she’s eating, drinking, standing, sitting, or lying down.

The system, which accurately classifies behavior, could potentially help prevent sows from crushing their piglets, according to Brown-Brandl, who works at ARS’s Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska.

This technology allows swine producers to better monitor their pigs and determine whether management adjustments, such as changes in crate size or pen arrangement, are needed, Brown-Brandl adds. The data could also help producers locate sick animals more quickly.

Atypical BSE in Alabama cow

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an atypical case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), a neurologic disease of cattle, in an eleven-year old cow in Alabama.  This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) have determined that this cow was positive for atypical (L-type) BSE.  The animal was showing clinical signs and was found through routine surveillance at an Alabama livestock market. 

BSE is the form that occurred primarily in the United Kingdom, beginning in the late 1980’s, and it has been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people. The primary source of infection for classical BSE is feed contaminated with the infectious prion agent, such as meat-and-bone meal containing protein derived from rendered infected cattle. Regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prohibited the inclusion of mammalian protein in feed for cattle and other ruminants since 1997 and have also prohibited high-risk tissue materials in all animal feed since 2009.

Atypical BSE is different, and it generally occurs in older cattle, usually 8 years of age or greater. It seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations.

This is the nation’s 5th detection of BSE.  Of the four previous U.S. cases, the first was a case of classical BSE that was imported from Canada; the rest have been atypical (H- or L-type) BSE.

Satire: Rookie USDA Agent vomits after seeing first rotten orange

Unable to contain his nausea at the horrifying scene before him, rookie USDA agent Michael Dunn vomited Friday after seeing his first rotten orange.

“As soon as the kid caught a glimpse of that produce lying there decomposing, he turned away, hunched over, and started throwing up like crazy,” said supervisor Carl Webster, adding that it was not uncommon for brand-new agents to react in such a manner when suddenly confronted with a putrefying, fly-covered rind. “He’ll get past it, though—you build up your tolerance after a while. The key is to not let it faze you but also never forget that this rotting pulp was once a sweet, delicious part of someone’s fruit bowl or lunchbox.”

At press time, Dunn had steeled himself and looked at the orange once more, but was vomiting again before he could make it back to the car.

Cooking pork to control Hep E: Use a fucking thermometer

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture very publicly began to urge consumers to use an accurate food thermometer when cooking ground beef patties because research demonstrated that the color of meat is not a reliable indicator of safety.

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety at the time, Catherine Woteki, said, “Consumers need to know that the only way to be sure a ground beef patty is cooked to a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present is to use a thermometer.”

At the time, I said, no one uses a meat thermometer to check the doneness of hamburgers. The idea of picking up a hamburger patty with tongs and inserting the thermometer in sideways was too much effort (others insist the best way to use a tip sensitive digital thermometer is to insert into the middle of the patty at a 45 degree angle).

I was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, I started doing it and discovered, not only was using a meat thermometer fairly easy, it made me a better cook. No more extra well-done burgers to ensure the bugs that would make me sick were gone. They tasted better.

By May 2000, USDA launched a national consumer campaign to promote the use of food thermometers in the home. The campaign featured an infantile mascot called Thermy that proclaimed, “It’s Safe to Bite When the Temperature is Right.”

Seventeen years later, the converts are minimal. Canada came to the thermometer table a few years ago,  Australia is doing a slow policy creep, but the UK is still firmly committed to piping hot.

The UK Food Standards Agency recently published the sixth, chief scientific adviser’s Science Report, entitled Data Science. No mention of thermometers except to determine refrigerator temperatures or included as packing on food.

Science-based policy depends on whose science is being quoted to what ends. The fancy folks call it value judgments in risk assessments; Kevin Spacey in the TV series House of Cards would call it personal advancement.

So last week, when UK media reports dubbed Hepatitis E the Brexit virus, with the potential for 60,000 Brits to fall sick annually from EU pork, the UK Food Standards Agency once again reiterated how fucking unscientific they are.

“Following media reports this morning we wanted to remind consumers of our advice about cooking pork thoroughly. We always advise that whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal should be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, the meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.”

The National Pig Association — it’s a thing, “recommends that consumers follow the advice from the Food Standards Agency that pork and sausages should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout, with no pink or red in the centre, to greatly reduce the risk of infection.”

Back to science instead of a rainbow fairy tale on safe cooking procedures, in May 2011, USDA recommended pork, and all whole meat cuts, only have to get to 145 degrees internally, not the 160 the agency had previously suggested, followed by a 3-minute rest.

The U.S. pork board for years promoted pork be cooked with a “hint of pink.”

This has more to do with breeding efforts to produce leaner pork.

But HEV is a different beast.

Public Health England reported the number of severe cases has almost trebled since 2010, with 1,244 reported in 2016, compared with 368 six years earlier.

The virus causes a flu-like illness and in severe circumstances, could cause death.

This strain has been linked to pig farms in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark and is only killed in meat if people cook it for longer than usual.

Dr Harry Dalton, a gastroenterologist at Exeter University, told a conference on neurological infectious diseases HEV had become a major threat and that no one should eat pink pork and that pregnant women and transplant patients should not eat pork at all.

He also said the virus is heat resistant and survives being cooked until the meat is heated to above 71C (160F) for two minutes.

Looks like some research is required, not that the Brits would change their no pink policy. Maybe they’re homophoblic.

With Memorial Day on Monday in the U.S. and a bank holiday Monday in the U.K., whatever that is, USDA yesterday once again stated, “The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed and food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.”

Recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 34 percent of the public use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers – and that’s self-reported, people lie on surveys.

Use a fucking thermometer and stick it in.

(If you don’t like profanity, don’t read, but if you want to read, your IT censors may figure you can’t handle such dreadful language, and messages are getting blocked. You may want to have a word with your IT folks.)

Trump’s expected pick for USDA’s top scientist is not a scientist

Catherine Woteki, served as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama administration.

She recently told Pro Publica “This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there.”

Trump expects to appoint Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Morningside College sounds like painting with Dali (below) on SCTV’s Sunrise Semester.

Clovis advised Trump on agricultural issues during his presidential campaign and is currently the senior White House advisor within the USDA, a position described by The Washington Post as “Trump’s eyes and ears” at the agency.

Clovis was also responsible for recruiting Carter Page, whose ties to Russia have become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny, as a Trump foreign policy advisor.

Neither Clovis, nor the USDA, nor the White House responded to questions about Clovis’ nomination to be the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics.

Clovis has a B.S. in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an MBA from Golden State University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama. The University of Alabama canceled the program the year after Clovis graduated, but an old course catalogue provided by the university does not indicate the program required any science courses.

Clovis’ published works do not appear to include any scientific papers. His 2006 dissertation concerned federalism and homeland security preparation, and a search for academic research published by Clovis turned up a handful of journal articles, all related to national security and terrorism.

I can’t make this shit up.

Seek and ye shall find: E. coli O103 found in Waco beef

Waco, Texas will always have a special place in the barfblog.com family.

Amy was a French professor there for one year. She was required to follow a dress code, one that didn’t include beach shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts.

Her car was randomly shot at driving to work one day – which is why she volunteered to go to Iraq as part of a teaching mission, correctly reasoning it couldn’t be much more dangerous than Waco.

Chapman did a duck and hide under the table at a Waco restaurant as one of the regular booms went off to scare away starlings.

I’ve been told many times I look like David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect,

Waco is also home to rare strains of E. coli.

H & B Packing Co., Inc., a Waco, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 73,742 pounds of boneless beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The boneless beef items were produced on March 6, 2017. The following products are subject to recall:

60-lb. box containing boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

Multiple combo bins containing 73,682-lbs of boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. M13054” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to food manufacturers within the state of Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified by the State of Texas’ Meat Safety Assurance Unit about a positive non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli sample.

There have been no confirmed reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism.

should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in customers’ freezers.

Customers who have purchased these products are urged not to use them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Waco is also near George W. Bush’s ranch retreat, as Harold and Kumar found out.

The chill started in Kansas, I live in Australia: USDA scientists have been put on lockdown under Trump

For the many who have asked, barfblog.com is on hiatus while I chill and focus on other things.

But some things deserve a wide audience.

Buzzfeed reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration.

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

Indeed, the last tweet from ARS’s official account was sent the day before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Though the terse internal note did not explicitly mention the new presidential administration, department scientists around the country interpreted it as a message from Trump that changes were coming to the department.

The memo was also met with some confusion. When asked if the notice constituted a halt on the publication of academic articles, one regional director told scientists that research papers could be published in academic journals and presented at conferences, but that all media interviews must be approved by the office of communications in Washington.

In a statement on Tuesday to BuzzFeed News, the department acknowledged sending an internal email that halted the release of “informational products like news releases and social media content” on Monday. “Scientific publications, released through peer reviewed professional journals are not included,” he added.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, ARS values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesperson for ARS, said in the statement.

The Netherlands thing is hilarious. Thanks, Amy.

Veal products recalled due to possible E. coli O26 and O45 contamination

Gold Medal Packing Inc., a Rome, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 4,607 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26 and O45, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

veal-cutsThe veal trim and top bottom sirloin (TBS) products were produced and packaged on August 16, 2016, and October 25, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF only)]

60-lb. boxes containing “BONELESS VEAL”.

2,387-lb. bin containing “TBS”.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17965” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The “BONELESS VEAL” items were shipped to a warehouse in California and the “TBS” items were shipped to distributor locations in Pennsylvania.

The problem was discovered during routine sample testing. There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O26 or O45, because they are harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O26 or O45 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.