Surveys still suck: US consumers don’t trust industry food safety efforts

Why should they?

The food safety efforts are hidden behind layers of bafflegab that consumers don’t care about, with their crying kids at the grocery store, and their partners who don’t understand the stress they are under and all sorts of modern angst.

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that a new survey from food and marketing agency Charleston Orwig found that more than a quarter of consumers said they do not trust the vigilance of the food industry’s safety efforts.

In a blog post called “Food Safety in America – Time to Bolster Consumer Confidence,” the agency reported a survey of 500 consumers found:

When asked if they trusted the food industry for safe food, 48% said they do trust the food industry and 27% said they did not;

More than 77% of consumers say that cooking a meal in their own kitchens is the best way to ensure it is safe to eat; 

Restaurants were deemed the second safest, with more than 59% of consumers considering this to be a reliable option;

Just 29% of respondents consider food trucks or public vendors safe and almost 42% considering this option potentially unsafe; 

Asked to compare food safety now versus a decade ago, about 35% of consumer said food is safer and 32% said it was less safe;

The survey said 59% of consumers said they assume food from individual farmers, food manufacturers or restaurants is safe if they have not heard about a specific problem;

The survey said that having had a food-borne illness did not make a person think food was less safe than participants overall; 

49% of consumers said grains, beans and pasta are the safest foods, followed by fresh fruits and vegetables at 42%;

Leafy greens and lettuce were tied with processed food as the next category of highest concern with 45% of consumers rating them risky, according to the survey; and

55% say meat and poultry are the riskiest to eat; the blog post speculated the divide could be tied to people’s overall perception of what makes up a healthy diet.

I had David Bowie’s Modern Love linked to this post, but just couldn’t do it, because I don’t like David Bowie. Instead you get Pete.

If you’re not too busy farming read this: Draft Guidance for industry: Standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of product for human consumption,

The purpose of this draft compliance and implementation guidance document is to help covered farms comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.  Entitled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” the rule is part of FDA’s implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

The draft guidance provides a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements for most subparts of the rule. It also outlines how to determine whether produce or farms may be eligible for exemptions from certain requirements, or from the rule in its entirety.  

Specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited, and in some cases, specified using the word must. The use of the word should indicates that something is recommended, but not required. The use of the word including means options that are not limited to the described items.

You are encouraged to submit comments on the draft guidance within 180 days of the publish date to ensure your comments are considered while FDA works on the final version of the guidance.

In addition to the draft guidance, there is an At-a-Glance overview of key points in each of the nine chapters described below, as well as a glossary of key terms. The overviews summarize important aspects of each chapter.  It is recommended that you review the draft guidance itself for complete information.

Frank Yiannas headed to FDA

Bob Brackett, who was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s point man during the E. coli spinach outbreak of 2006 ( and did a great job), told me once it was always part of the plan to work in academia, government and industry, and he’s done it.

Much praise from this critic.

 

Frank Yiannas, the vice president of food safety for Walmart and an outspoken proponent of blockchain, is leaving retail to take a post at the Food and Drug Administration.We visited Frank when he was at Disney, Frank visited us when we were in Kansas, we went shopping together at Walmart, as food safety nerds do.

 

I have a lot of respect for Frank, and hope the bureaucratic screws don’t wear him down.

He always said, where can I get the most bang for my food safety buck (OK, those are my words) but I’m fairly sure Frank would go along with that encapsulation.

And the Susies in our lives.

Food is the new Mob: There’s paperwork and there’s chicken shit; Brazil agriculture ministry investigates food processor



Brazil’s agriculture ministry has opened its own corruption probe into police allegations that BRF SA, the world’s largest chicken exporter, evaded food safety standards, a ministry official said on Wednesday.

Ana Mano of Reuters reports the investigation, announced in the official gazette on Oct. 17, does not name any companies. It follows the release two days earlier of a report by federal police claiming senior managers at BRF allegedly adulterated documents and laboratory results to dodge food safety and quality checks.

The ministry official, who asked not to be identified, said the investigation concerns companies cited in a March 2018 federal police operation, codenamed Trapaça.

The operation alleged that BRF and laboratory Mérieux NutriSciences Brasil colluded to bypass official controls.

The Agriculture Ministry’s press office had no immediate comment. BRF said it has not been notified of the ministry’s investigation and could not comment. Mérieux denied the fraud and corruption allegations.

Federal police alleged that BRF tried to control dissemination of news that China found traces of the highly toxic dioxin in chicken imports from Brazil in 2015, and acted to prevent the government from investigating the case thoroughly.

The police also accused BRF of using the forbidden antibiotic Nitrofurazone and misreporting the levels of other antibiotics in its industrial processes. BRF has said it is cooperating with the investigation and suspended all employees named in the police report.

Authorities found evidence that BRF ordered the slaughter in 2016 of about 26,000 birds infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, a pathogen harmful to humans, as well as faked information provided to authorities to hide that decision.

The police said chicken from this batch was sold in at least 10 Brazilian states and exported to Europe.

Raw pet food and human illness

My buddy Scott Weese, whom I haven’t played hockey with for about 15 years (but we won the faculty tournament in 2005, so I figured that was a good time to retire and move to Kansas; I’m the goalie, he’s third from left, back row) writes on his WormsAndGermsBlog that human health risks from raw pet food (either from exposure to pathogens in the food or in the feces of pets eating the food) are known to exist but they’re not well characterized. We know that dogs fed raw meat-based diets clearly have increased risk of shedding various pathogens, particularly Salmonella and multidrug resistant E. coli. We know this results in some degree of disease risk in animals and in humans, but the scope of the problem is poorly understood. A recent report from Public Health England provides some more information about the risks associated with feeding raw pet food.

The report is about four people who were infected with E coli O157, a particularly nasty strain of E. coli that can cause serious disease in people.

One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a particularly severe consequence of infection, and died.

The four cases involved the same strain of E. coli O157. Three individuals had been exposed to dogs fed a raw meat diet. Tripe was the specific ingredient that was implicated.

Samples of raw pet food were collected for testing. All samples from one raw pet food producer were positive for STEC (shiga toxigenic E. coli, the group to which E. coli O157 belongs). A positive test was also obtained from the freezer of one of the affected individuals, and from one sample of raw tripe. It strain isolated from the tripe was a different from the outbreak strain but supported the notion that tripe might have been the cause. It’s not surprising that they couldn’t isolate the outbreak strain from the food, given the lag from the time of exposure of people to the time of sampling of pet food. Contamination is probably sporadic, with different strains contaminating different batches.

Feeding raw meat-based diets is popular, but associated with risks to pets and people (have we said that enough times yet?). My preference is for it not to be done, but I’m realistic enough to know that people are going to do it anyway. So, I focus on two things:

Who should definitely NOT feed raw meat to their pets?

Households where pets or people are at increased risk of severe disease, including those where young, old, pregnant or immunocompromised individuals (human or animal) are present.

If raw meat is to be fed, how can the risk be reduced?

We have a fact sheet on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page about how to reduce the risk. In response to this outbreak, Public Health England produced some similar recommendations on handling raw pet food and preventing infections.

Good on ya Scott.

Now, work on driving to the net.

If you ate at this Tampa burger joint recently, officials recommend hepatitis A vaccination

Tampa, or more accurately Sarasota, is equidistant from the equator as is Brisbane.

I have a strong, childhood-based link to that area of Florida and probably why I’ve settled into Brisbane.

Or it’s the familiarity in targeted advertising for funeral homes and life insurance.

A food service worker employed at Hamburger Mary’s Bar and Grille in Ybor City has tested positive for hepatitis A, according to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

The individual worked at the restaurant between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20, an investigation found.

Anyone who frequented the restaurant within the time period and has not previously received a hepatitis A vaccination is advised to do so as soon as possible. Those who have previously had a hepatitis A vaccination do not need to take any additional action.

A 24-hour hotline has also been set up for people who have questions about hepatitis A. It can be reached at 813-307-8004.

Doctor’s offices, pharmacies and state and local health departments offer hepatitis A vaccinations. Find out more at vaccines.gov.

Vaccines work: US advisory group urges hepatitis A shots for homeless

And I would urge Hepatitis A shots for all food service employees.

For the first time, a U.S. advisory committee is recommending a routine vaccination for homeless people, voting Wednesday to urge hepatitis A shots to prevent future outbreaks of the contagious liver disease.

Carla Johnson of ABC News reports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation at a meeting in Atlanta. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to adopt it and send guidance to health care providers.

Homeless encampments can contribute to disease through unsanitary conditions. Hepatitis A spreads person to person through contaminated food or dirty needles used for injection drugs. The virus also can spread from sexual contact with an infected person.

The recommendation would make it easier for shelters, emergency rooms and clinics that serve the homeless to offer hepatitis A shots along with other services.

Hepatitis A vaccinations already are recommended for children at age 1 and for others in danger of infection, such as drug users, some international travelers and men who have sex with men.

The committee of health experts voted unanimously to add homeless people to those groups. The panel is charged with developing recommendations for the CDC on the use of vaccines in the United States.

Health experts have seen an increase in hepatitis A outbreaks and suspected exposures, caused in part by homelessness and drug use.

Twelve states have reported more than 7,500 hepatitis A infections from January 2017 to October 2018, according to the CDC. There were more than 4,300 hospitalizations and about 74 deaths.

Homeless people have made up a large percentage of the cases in San Diego and Utah. Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee have also reported cases among homeless people.

With even low rates of routine vaccination, the spread of hepatitis A can be slowed, Dr. Noele Nelson of the CDC told the committee before the vote. The recommendation is for a two-dose series of shots, but even one dose can provide immunity for 11 years, Nelson said.

At $28 per dose, a price available through the public health system, the cost of routine vaccination could be in the millions of dollars, Nelson said, but fighting a prolonged outbreak can be even more expensive and disruptive to the health care system.

When facts don’t matter: Arizona cancels vaccine program after backlash from parents who don’t vaccinate

When will post-truth thinking extend to buildings and bridges, which will remain intact because of faith rather than physics?

Australia gets a few totalitarian things right, such as mandatory voting and mandatory vaccination if parents want their kids to attend school.

Stephanie Innes of Arizona Central writes the state of Arizona has canceled a vaccine education program after receiving complaints from parents who don’t immunize their school-age children.

The pilot online course, modeled after programs in Oregon and Michigan, was created in response to the rising number of Arizona schoolchildren skipping school-required immunizations against diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough because of their parents’ beliefs.

But some parents, who were worried the optional course was going to become mandatory, complained to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council, which reviews regulations to ensure they are necessary and do not adversely affect the public. The six-member council is appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey, with an ex-officio general counsel.

Members of the council questioned the state health department about the course after receiving the public feedback about it, emails show. The state responded by canceling it.

The complaints that ended the pilot program came from about 120 individuals and families, including 20 parents who said that they don’t vaccinate their children, records show.

“We’re so sorry we couldn’t make a go of this — strong forces against us,” Brenda Jones, immunization services manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services, wrote in an Aug. 6 email to a Glendale school official, along with a notification about the course’s cancellation.

In an email to two Health Department staff members on Aug. 14, Jones wrote that there had been “a lot of political and anti-vaxx” feedback.

“I’m not sure why providing ‘information’ is seen as a negative thing,” said state Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who spent the last three legislative sessions as chairwoman of the House Health Committee and helped create the pilot program.

“Providing information doesn’t take away a parent’s choice to seek an exemption. … This is a major concern. Vaccines have saved lives for generations. We all want to live in safe and healthy communities.”

Kindergartners in Maricopa County as a whole are now below herd immunity for measles, said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Maricopa County reflects national trends that show people who choose not to vaccinate their children tend to be higher income and white, sh

The American Academy of Pediatrics views non-medical vaccine exemptions to school-required immunizations “as inappropriate for individual, public health, and ethical reasons and advocates for their elimination,” a September 2016 policy statement says.

A California law that took effect in 2016  —  a little more than a year after a measles outbreak erupted at Disneyland and spread to include seven Arizona cases — prohibits personal belief exemptions. Children in California may still get exemptions for medical reasons, as long as their exemption is signed by a licensed physician. Otherwise, they aren’t allowed to enroll in school. 

Lettuce is overrated: STEC in Finland

Escherichia coli are Gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria and part of the normal bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract, while diarrhoeagenic E. colipathotypes such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) are able to cause gastrointestinal infections [1]. STEC can lead to a severe disease, such as haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS) [2]. The risk of HUS has been related especially to children under 5 years and to elderly people. HUS is characterised by acute onset of microangiopathic haemolytic anaemia, renal injury and low platelet count.

More than 400 STEC serotypes have been recognised, of which the best-known serotype is O157:H7 [1]. The most common non-O157:H7 serotypes causing human infections are O26, O103, O111 and O145 [3]. The virulence of STEC is largely based on the production of Shiga toxin 1 or 2 and is identified by detecting the presence of stx1 or stx2 genes [1,4]. The virulence of EPEC is caused by its capability to form attaching and effacing (A/E) lesions in the small intestine. This capability requires the presence of virulence genes called the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) in a pathogenity island (PAI) that encodes intimin [4]. Unlike STEC, EPEC do not produce Shiga toxin. EPEC are divided into two distinct groups by the presence of EPEC adherence factor plasmid (pEAF) expressing bundle-forming pili (BFP), which is a virulence determinant of typical EPEC (tEPEC) [5]. Thus atypical EPEC (aEPEC) are defined as E. coli that produce A/E lesions but do not express BFP. Typical EPEC are best known as a cause of infantile diarrhoea, especially in developing countries [6]. Diarrhoea-causing aEPEC have been shown to be separate group without a close relation to tEPEC, but some serotypes are genetically related to STEC [5]. The pathogenity of aEPEC has been questioned but their involvement with diarrhoeal outbreaks supports the idea that certain strains are diarrhoeagenic [1,7].

Both STEC and EPEC are transmitted through the faecal-oral route, and outbreaks caused by STEC and aEPEC have been described after ingestion of contaminated food or water [7,8]. STEC is common in ruminants and can be found in foods contaminated by ruminant faeces [9]. Most studies on STEC have focused on the serotype O157:H7, but infections and outbreaks caused by non-O157 strains are increasingly reported in Europe and elsewhere [1013]. Atypical EPEC strains are found in animals used for food production, such as cattle, sheep, goat, pig and poultry, in contrast to tEPEC that has been found only in humans [1,14].

Since 1995, clinicians and clinical microbiology laboratories have been obliged to report culture-confirmed STEC infections to the Finnish Infectious Disease Registry (FIDR) maintained by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in Finland. EPEC infections are not reportable. Since PCR instead of culture became the standard for screening of diarrhoeal patients in 2013, the incidence of reported STEC infections has increased in Finland to 1.2–1.8 per 100,000 population between 2013 and 2015 compared with 0.2–0.6 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2012. From 1997 to 2015, six food- or waterborne STEC outbreaks were detected in Finland (Table 1).

Outbreak of multiple strains of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli associated with rocket salad, Finland, autumn 2016

15.may.18

Eurosurvelliance, Volume 23, Issue 35, https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.35.1700666

Sohvi KinnulaKaisa HemminkiHannele KotilainenEeva RuotsalainenEveliina Tarkka,Saara SalmenlinnaSaija HallanvuoElina LeinonenOllgren JukkaRuska Rimhanen-Finne

https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.35.170066

Sometimes if you’re nice to grad students, they are nice back – Chapman edition

Chapman bailed me out of jail on a bogus charge, and all grad students should go through the hell that must feel like: Oh, and because you’ve got a key, I can find a bright kid to pick the lock. It’s the basis of cryptography.

So me and Chapman and this student had a chat this morning about how she wants to do more work for us over the summer.

Don’t know if she’ll work out, I always figured the kids are moldable until about 5, after that it’s a crap shoot (mine have all turned out exceedingly well, despite their despicable parents).

For the first year Chapman worked in my lab, I didn’t know he existed, and now he’s the golden ginger boy of food safety.

The university may shut this idea down, so wat?

I always thought being a uni prof was to come up with novel ideas and be at home while raising kids.

Now it’s lotsa  talk about research excellence, while spending your time on bureaucrat bullshit.

If I had to spend another weekly faculty meeting with 30 or more profs making 6 figures arguing the merits of a 25K per year admin type , I wouldn’t go postal, I’d turn the gun on myself.

I’m still an optimist, despite all my bullshit negativity to the contrary, and will always be there for a student, or anyone else who wants to learn.

Well played, Chapman.