NASA Apollo program helped boost US food safety

For those in need of a history lesson, a brief on the development of HACCP.

NASA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system created decades ago for the lunar landing initiative is credited to this day with reducing foodborne illnesses.

Originally developed for astronaut food in the early days of the Apollo program – because no one wanted diarrhea in a space suit or barf in a space helmet — the HACCP system has been adopted by major players in the food industry

Sixty years ago, at what is now Johnson Space Center in Houston, a nutritionist and a Pillsbury microbiologist partnered with NASA to provide uncontaminated food for the astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.

Instead of testing end products, Paul Lachance and Howard Bauman came up with a method that identified and controlled potential points of failure in the food production process.

To make astronaut food safe, the duo introduced hazards in the production line, observed the hazard and determined how it could be prevented.

In 1971, the deaths of two people from botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by bacteria, prompted the National Canners Association to adopt stricter standards. The Food and Drug Administration and the canners association implemented the HACCP regulations for low-acid canned food.

In 1993, an outbreak of food poisoning at a fast-food chain prompted meat and poultry manufacturers to adopt to the HACCP regulations as part of an effort to restore public confidence in the industry. A decade after that, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture made HACCP regulations universal for meat, poultry, seafood and juice producers.

Standardization was further strengthened in 2011 when the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act came into existence. While HACCP applies to all U.S. food producers, all applications are unique to particular foodstuffs.

Is it hepatitis A day and no one told me?

After posting this week’s infosheet on a Brazilian soccer club’s hep A outbreak possibly linked to dirty water bottles we picked up three more stories on hep A exposures:

Cincinnati, OH:
A food handler at a PF Chang’s restaurant in West Chester, OH was diagnosed with hepatitis A earlier this week, and today there was a report of the vaccination clinic running out vaccine and sending exposed individuals to an urgent care facility as a back up (resulting in wait times upwards of three hours).

Boise, ID:

Nearly 300 people were vaccinated for hepatitis A at Boise’s Central District Health this past week.
The rush came after a health scare at the Red Feather Lounge where an employee confirmed infected with the virus

New Zealand:

An orchard worker was found  to have hepatitis A and was  sent home to the Solomon Islands.
The fruitpicker, who was working at Apollo Pac in Whakatu for the season, was referred to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s (DHB’s) public health unit with the symptoms of Hepatitis A, including nausea and jaundice. The DHB’s medical officer of health Caroline McElnay was cited as saying  23 people who had been living in close quarters with the person had also been screened for the disease and given an injection of antibodies for temporary protection.

Happy hep A day.