Fonterra boosting food safety after last year’s recall

Fonterra Co-operative Group, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, is on track in lifting the quality of its food safety processes, nine months after an independent review into its handling of last year’s false alarm food scare.

UnknownThe Auckland-based company has completed audits of 75 per cent of its plants globally and has embarked on necessary improvements and maintenance where needed, put in place protocols to engage external scientific and diagnostic resources and written food and safety quality into all senior management employment contracts, it said in a statement. It’s also set up an incident management team, created a food safety and quality council, and appointed Greg McCullough as head of food safety and quality.

Careful with that cow inmate: E. coli O111 infections associated with a correctional facility dairy — Colorado, 2010

 Excerpts from an article in today’s U.S. Centers for Disease Control Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

On April 20, 2010, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) was notified by correctional authorities regarding three inmates with bloody diarrhea at a minimum-security correctional facility. The facility, which houses approximately 500 inmates, is a designated work center where inmates are employed or receive vocational training. Approximately 70 inmates work at an onsite dairy, which provides milk to all state-run correctional facilities in Colorado. CDPHE immediately began an investigation and was later assisted by the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at Colorado State University and by CDC. This report describes the results of the investigation, which determined that the illnesses were caused by Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O111 (STEC O111) infections.

During April–July, 2010, 10 inmates at the facility received a diagnosis of laboratory-confirmed STEC O111 infection, and a retrospective prevalence study of 100 inmates found that, during March–April, 14 other inmates had experienced diarrheal illness suspected of being STEC O111 infection. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing indicated that STEC O111 isolates from inmates matched STEC O111 isolates from cattle at the onsite dairy. An environmental investigation determined that inmates employed at the dairy might have acquired STEC O111 infection on the job or transported contaminated clothing or other items into the main correctional facility and kitchen, thereby exposing other inmates. To prevent similar outbreaks in correctional facilities, authorities should consult with public health officials to design and implement effective infection control measures.

CDPHE staff also inspected the correctional facility’s kitchens and living areas and identified the following conditions conducive to STEC O111 transmission: poor adherence to standard food-service protocols and hygiene practices, including food handlers working while ill with diarrhea; inconsistent availability of hand soap throughout the facility; dairy employees wearing soiled work clothes into the kitchen and living areas; and transport of potentially fecally contaminated lunch coolers and water containers from the dairy into the kitchen.

CDPHE hypothesized that the outbreak was associated with environmental contamination and propagated by person-to-person transmission, possibly through food preparation. On learning of these results, the correctional facility immediately implemented the following public health recommendations: 1) prohibiting potentially contaminated material (e.g., lunch coolers, water containers, and work clothing from the dairy) in the kitchen area, 2) excluding from work all food handlers reporting diarrheal illness since April 1, 3) requiring food handlers with a confirmed STEC O111 test result to have two consecutive negative stool specimens before returning to work, and 4) limiting transfers of inmates to other facilities until they were cleared by the medical staff.

The complete report is available at:

UK farmer fears roosting starlings may cause salmonella in dairy calves, milk

The Brits love their birds.

But not so for a dairy farmer from the Somerset Levels who told BBC News
that roosting starlings and their salmonella-laden poop contaminating feed has led to the loss of 40 calves and is costing his business up to £40,000 a year.

He fears the droppings may also result in salmonella in his cattle’s dairy milk.

Thousands of starlings migrate from Baltic countries, such as Russia, to Somerset and other parts of the UK over the winter months.

In recent years their murmurations as they prepare to roost have become a major attraction for wildlife enthusiasts.

RSPB spokesman, Graham Madge, said, "The fact that starlings are visiting Somerset are not because the RSPB are encouraging them, it’s basically because these birds can find plenty of food in areas that are relatively warm for the winter.”

Half China’s dairies shut in safety audit

Nearly half of Chinese dairies inspected in a government safety audit have been ordered to stop production, a spokesman said today.

The move follows the 2008 melamine-in-baby milk health scandal, in which Chinese authorities said at least six babies died and another 300,000 were sickened.

Only 643 companies from a total of 1176 had their licences renewed, while 426 failed the quality criteria set by the audit and 107 others had already stopped production to bring themselves into compliance, said administration spokesman Li Yuanping in comments reported on its website.

Of the 145 companies producing milk powder for babies, 114 had their licence renewed, he said.

The authorities will strengthen supervision of dairy companies, both those who passed the audit and the those who did not, and "production without authorisation will be severely punished", said Li.

The measures taken will lead to more than 20 percent of businesses being closed, the Dairy Producers Association of China predicted in an article in China Daily.

Pasteurization protects people

A Kansas State colleague was telling us about his travels during the winter break, including a visit to a daughter-in-law who is seriously committed to providing her young children – and his grandchildren – with raw or unpasteurized goat’s milk.

I said we’d update the table of outbreaks and he could provide it, as information, without the lectures, to his daughter, and possibly leverage the future health of his grandchildren, although that kind of discussion wouldn’t go very far (even though several of the outbreaks involve raw goat’s milk).

Columnist Stephen Hume of the Vancouver Sun writes today that he doesn’t believe claims that pasteurizing milk destroys its nutritional value or that it’s a conspiracy of big agribusiness and big government to promote the interests of big pharma.

I see pasteurization of dairy products as a blessing. It prevents our return to a dreadful past in which diseases transmitted by raw milk afflicted hundreds of thousands every year. In fact, they still do in many parts of the world where people can’t get pasteurized dairy products. …

Raw milk advocates who trumpet the health benefits of unpasteurized products are in fact the beneficiaries of precisely the public health “conspiracy” to pasteurize that so many deride and vilify.

I’m all for personal choice, and there are lots of risky foods out there. Choice is the reason raw milk farmer Alice Jongerden in British Columbia can risk public health, waste tremendous public health resources that could be better used elsewhere, and take up time in the Supreme Court of B.C. by asking judges to set aside a 2010 court order that prohibits her from producing and packaging unpasteurized dairy products.

I choose not to consume raw dairy because the pasteurized alternatives offer an easy disease control option, and I try not to inflict food poisoning risks on my children, who don’t have much of a choice.

An updated list of outbreaks related to raw and unpasteurized milk and products is available at:

Salmonella found on equipment that washes crates at Oregon dairy; 23 sickened

The News-Review reports that salmonella that contaminated packages at Umpqua Dairy’s milk processing plant in Roseburg was found in equipment that washes and sanitizes crates receiving packaged milk and juice, Doug Feldkamp said Wednesday.

Feldkamp said he didn’t know how the salmonella got into the system, which state health and agriculture officials say has been cleaned and now meets safety standards.

The Oregon Public Health Division attribute 23 cases of salmonellosis in nine counties to the bacteria at the dairy. Two people were hospitalized. The cases date back to October of last year. Health officials say that they only last week traced the illnesses to the dairy.

The dairy shut down the Roseburg plant last week and voluntarily recalled products packaged there.

Abuse is shocking and it’s all on video; Ohio dairy farm worker charged with animal cruelty

Billy Joe Gregg Jr. – a man with not two but three first names and of course, it’s Billy Joe – an Ohio dairy farm worker has been charged with 12 counts of cruelty to animals after a welfare group released a video it says shows him and others beating cows with crowbars and pitchforks.

He’s in jail, pondering his 15 minutes of fame.

Associated Press reports the County sheriff’s office says Gregg was fired from Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City on Wednesday.

Conklin calls the mistreatment shown on the video "reprehensible." Chicago-based Mercy For Animals says the undercover video was shot between April 28 and Sunday.

The video is available at:

It is graphic and disturbing.