Sucks to be a regulator: European food safety office evacuated after explosives found

The European Food Safety Authority in Parma, Italy, received a package with explosive material on Tuesday which a local bomb squad destroyed, police said.

A worker in the authority’s mail room called police after discovering a suspicious, book-sized package addressed to an employee who no longer worked at the authority, a police spokeswoman said.

The package contained a small amount of a powdered explosive material that was enough to maim, she said.

Two floors of the building where the authority is housed were temporarily evacuated while the bomb was neutralised la Repubblica newspaper’s website said.

Regulators mount up; or learn how to talk

The purpose of this paper is to report how food regulators communicate with consumers about food safety and how they believe consumers understand their role in relation to food safety. The implications of this on the role of food regulators are considered.


Forty two food regulators from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom participated in a semi-structured interview about their response to food incidents and issues of food regulation more generally. Data were analysed thematically.


Food regulators have a key role in communicating information to consumers about food safety and food incidents. This is done in two main ways; proactive and reactive communication. The majority of regulators said that consumers do not have a good understanding of what food regulation involves and there were varied views on whether or not this is important.

Practical implications

Both reactive and proactive communication with consumers are important, however there are clear benefits in food regulators communicating proactively with consumers, including a greater understanding of the regulators’ role. Regulators should be supported to communicate proactively where possible.


There is a lack of information about how food regulators communicate with consumers about food safety and how food regulators perceive consumers to understand food regulation. It is this gap that forms the basis of this paper.

How food regulators communicate with consumers about food safety

British Food Journal

Annabelle M Wilson , Samantha B Meyer , Trevor Webb , Julie Henderson , John Coveney , Dean McCullum , Paul Ward

Siloed agencies hindered in efforts to fight animal-to-human diseases

The multiple agencies in the U.S. at the local, state and federal level – operating in their own silos – is restricting public health efforts to control zoonoses.

New York University sociologist Colin Jerolmack found even though many newly emerging infectious diseases readily spread from one species to another, “agency members interpret certain diseases as ‘livestock diseases’ or ‘wildlife diseases,’ and they view categories of animals outside their purview as irrelevant to their institutional prerogatives. Consequently, there is little sense of mutual understanding and common goals – and thus little coordination – across these various organizations.”

Jerolmack’s study, which appears in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, examined the following agencies and departments: a state Department of Health (DOH); the Department of Agriculture (USDA); a state Department of Wildlife; a state Department of Agriculture; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through interviews with agency or departmental personnel, he looked at how the distinct organizational cultures of these agencies produced incompatible or even competing agendas that hampered efforts to respond to zoonoses—infectious diseases that can be passed between species.

Jerolmack’s interviews revealed several instances in which agencies and departments adopted a siloed, rather than cooperative, approach when faced with zoonoses:

• A state Department of Agriculture official who bristled at efforts to remove livestock that may have posed a health risk to residents because, “We’re here to support anyone doing farming [and] keeping animals… We want people to continue keeping animals on their property.”

• “Strained” relationships between a state’s Department of Health and Department of Agriculture “sometimes meant that the DOH did not receive information on circulating diseases in animals that may become a problem for humans later on.” A DOH employee, noting that bird flu strains, particularly those found in livestock, can mutate quickly, said such outbreaks should be considered vital public health information—a view not shared by that state’s Department of Agriculture.

• A city public health official, responding to an outbreak of salmonella, did not turn to the state’s Department of Agriculture, the USDA, or any other agencies involved in animal health for help or information. Nor did it share information with them. The official “mentioned the need to change residents’ cultural practices, but neglected veterinary medicine solutions,” Jerolmack recounts.

• The same agency adopted a siloed approach in addressing other zoonoses, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus: “It did not regularly communicate with animal agencies or analyze surveillance data on disease outbreaks in animals, but instead responded with medical and educational campaigns once one or more people became infected,” Jerolmack writes.

Jerolmack notes the CDC has recognized the need to do a better job of building relationships with the veterinary world. In 2006, it created the Geographic Medicine and Health Promotion Branch, which tracks the flows of both humans (as travelers) and animals (as they are imported or exported), and its director, Dr. Nina Marano, is a veterinarian. He adds that during an outbreak of rabies in the 1990s, state agencies worked together to stem the tide of the disease—a response he views as an “example of the successful alignment of priorities and action among the myriad agencies responsible for human and animal health.” However, his study found these instances to be the exception rather than the norm.

Canadian bureaucrats won’t talk, so politicians demand full inquiry into Listeria outbreak; rendition of remorse was a little late

The Canadian politicians investigating last year’s listeria outbreak that killed 22 were so frustrated by the lack of information from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada they have demanded a full public inquiry.

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that a report to be released Thursday will conclude that the two-month parliamentary study was unable to gather enough evidence to get to the bottom of the outbreak. The call for a public inquiry represents a rebuke to the government’s own investigation into the issue led by Sheila Weatherill, who will release a report this summer.

The committee report will also call for an overhaul of the Public Health Agency of Canada so that it becomes more of an independent health watchdog. The committee further recommends that inspection reports at food processing plants be released to the public.

And since CFIA and others are stonewalling, what with their “we went public when we had hard scientific proof” and epidemiology-is –for-wusses line, we’ve put together a timeline that should help the investigators in their, uh, investigation.

Chronology of testing events prior to the August 17, 2008 public alert of possible contamination of Maple Leaf Foods’ deli meats by L. monocytogenes

Date Event
May 2008 Initial detection of Listeria spp. in environmental tests by Maple Leaf Foods
June 2008 Initial detection of small increases of reported cases of listeriosis in Ontario by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
July 21, 2008 Acquisition of food samples acquired from Toronto long-term care home for testing
August 4, 2008 Detection of L. monocytogenes in opened packages of deli meat from the home
August 13, 2008 Confirmation of genetic similarities between the L. monocytogenes bacteria found in the deli meats and in ill individuals through DNA fingerprinting
August 16, 2008 Detection of Listeria spp. in an unopened packed of Maple Leaf Foods deli meat

And it took the Public Health Agency of Canada until Aug. 23, 2008, before they made a definitive link and then Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods went on his award-winning rendition of remorse.