WHO declares South African Listeria outbreak ‘largest ever’

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a listeriosis outbreak in South Africa that has killed 67 people and sickened nearly 750 is the largest-ever foodborne illness outbreak recorded — and to date, a contamination source has not yet been found.

Investigators have been looking for where the implicated strain of Listeria comes from since the outbreak first began in early 2017. A major obstacle has been the bacteria’s long and inconsistent incubation period — anywhere between six hours and 10 weeks.

“You wouldn’t know what you ate three weeks ago — maybe the one particular food that made you sick three or four weeks later,” said a representative from WHO. “This is the big challenge we face in this situation.”

To support the investigation, South African authorities have made listeriosis a “notifiable disease,” meaning any patient diagnosed must be reported to health agencies. They’ve found that most reported cases are from the Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. Newborns comprise about 40% of cases, according to WHO. [ More … ]

USDA proposes HACCP plans, Sanitation SOPs for egg product plants

A new rule has been proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve food safety practices in the egg industry.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has proposed requiring egg product plants to develop Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems — which 93% of egg plants reportedly already use.

The proposed rule will also require Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be implemented, and for plants to meet the same sanitation requirements as the meat and poultry industries, with old regulations being discarded.

Basically, FSIS is saying that egg product plants now must make end products in such a way so that end products have no detectable pathogens. HACCP plans, used by most federally regulated plants, ensure that preventive and corrective measures are taken throughout the food production process where hazards may occur. [ More … ]

Food Safety Fridays: ‘Best practices for effectively implementing an ATP sanitation verification system’

The International Food Safety and Quality Network (IFSQN) presents special webinars each Friday on food safety, and last week’s webinar featured Neogen’s Senior Market Development Manager Jim Topper. He delivered a talk about the content developed from the industry standard handbook, “Best practices for effectively implementing an ATP sanitation verification program.

The handbook was developed with the help of many food safety and sanitation experts throughout the industry, and presents real-world practices on implementing sanitation verification programs that deliver greater value to their facilities.

The IFSQN comprises members predominantly employed in the food safety and quality fields from companies all over the world. The organization’s website, www.ifsqn.com , features a variety of articles and other items of interest to food safety and quality professionals.

Last Friday’s presentation was sponsored by DNV-GL, a global quality assurance and risk management company. The company’s food safety practice specializes in providing a number of certification and auditing programs, including the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, FSSC 2200, Global G.A.P., ISO 2200, SQF Code and HACCP.

A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.

Monday links

What’s the latest in the fields of agriculture, food safety, animal science and toxicology? Check it out here.

Animal Science:

Japanese authorities battle bird flu outbreak — Poultry World
Japanese authorities have culled 92,000 chickens following the discovery of the highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza strain in the west of the country.

Every pen, every pig, every day (even the really cold ones) — Real Pig Farming
In the last couple of weeks, frigid weather has slammed many parts of the world. One U.S.-based pig farmer reflects on how he cares for his animals when temperatures plunge, and the ethical responsibility that all farmers face.

Food Safety:

FSMA: What does ‘qualified’ mean? — Food Safety Tech
The term “qualified” appears a few different ways in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules. Cathy Crawford, president of HACCP Consulting Group, clears up some of the ways the term is used.

Experts raise concerns over raw meat diets for cats and dogs — The BMJ
Experts are warning dog and cat owners to be aware of the risks associated with feeding their pets raw meat-based diets, instead of the more conventional dry or canned pet foods. [ More … ]

Food safety when the power goes out: Winter edition

Heavy storms can cause power outages no matter the season. When summer heat is in full force, torrential rainstorms can knock out power lines like they were nothing, just as rapidly accumulating snow and ice can do the same in winter.

Winter power outages come with their own unique challenges, however. When heavy snow and ice take down a city’s power grid, it can be nearly a day or many days before the problem is solved. Ideally, being without power in winter, you can still keep your home warm. Somehow you’ve got to make sure your refrigerator, however, remains the opposite.

Here are some guidelines for dealing with these circumstances: [ More … ]

Dairy cow spotlight: Popular and rare breeds

January 11 is National Milk Day in the United States, commemorating what many believe is the day home milk deliveries first kicked off in the country. (If one day of milk-related joy isn’t enough for you, World Milk Day happens on June 1 each year.) Before you pour yourself a celebratory glass, check out these facts on the cows that produce the nutritious drink we know and love.

Some big names

Holsteins are without a doubt the most famous breed of dairy cattle. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you most likely recognize their iconic black splotches on white bodies — though some Holsteins have red markings. The breed comes from the Netherlands, and has the highest milk production of any breed.

Jerseys produce milk that is rich in protein and butterfat, making it a great option for butter and cheese production. Jerseys themselves are commonly a golden, light brown color or sometimes a dusty gray, and get their name from the small island of Jersey between Britain and France. [ More … ]

Romaine lettuce investigated in E. coli outbreak

You may be seeing romaine lettuce in the news a lot lately, the suspected culprit in a foodborne illness outbreak that has affected at least 57 people in the U.S. and Canada. But despite the headlines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s too soon to pinpoint a single cause.

Even though no new cases have been reported since early December, it’s still too soon to say that the outbreak has truly ended, according to the chief of the CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, Ian Williams. This is especially true because the CDC is still uncertain that romaine lettuce is the source of the outbreak.

Although the CDC hasn’t officially identified a source, romaine lettuce began taking heat last week when Consumer Reports advised shoppers to avoid the product, citing it as the likely source of the reported E. coli O157:H7 cases. Canadian authorities have also recommended consumers avoid romaine lettuce for now.

While avoiding romaine lettuce may be wise while outbreak investigations are still ongoing, Williams points out to NBC that acting too soon to blame one product might leave people at risk in case the real source of bacteria turns out to be something different. [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: Doping and the 2018 Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be underway next month, beginning February 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. And as with every set of Olympic Games, curbing illegal doping is a top concern for organizers.

Already, Russia has been banned from participating in the games after an International Olympic Committee investigation into prolonged doping over the years. However, Russian athletes who have historically passed drug tests can get permission to compete under a neutral Olympic flag.

The investigation found that during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, a team of people organized by Russia’s sports ministry tampered with more than 100 urine samples to hide evidence of athlete steroid use, the New York Times reports. Olympic officials are still rescinding medals from that year’s games after reexamining the tainted results, finding that many medal winners had abused steroids. [ More … ]

Neogen’s Jim Topper hosts Food Safety Friday webinar for International Food Safety & Quality Network

Environmental monitoring programs are more important than ever for the food and beverage industries. A robust program that uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) verification monitoring can protect companies from outbreaks, recalls and the costs that come with them.

Neogen’s Jim Topper will present on the topic of establishing effective ATP sanitation verification programs on this week’s Food Safety Friday broadcast.

The webinar will cover, among other topics:

  • The difference between validation and verification
  • Cleaning to a validated standard
  • Swabbing and establishing baselines
  • Interpreting test results and using them to improve cleaning
  • Complementary environmental testing

The webinar is held as part of the International Food Safety and Quality Network’s Food Safety Friday series. The presentation comes from material published by Neogen and other industry experts in the handbook “Best practices for effectively implementing an ATP sanitation verification program.” Click here for more information.

Monday links

Photo by Mauricio Lima via Flickr

What’s the latest in the fields of agriculture, food safety, animal science and toxicology? Check it out here.

Animal Science:

Extended cold spells pose risks to livestock — University of Kentucky
Residents of the Northern Hemisphere already are deep in the throes of winter, with a long stretch of below-freezing temperatures and bitter wind chills. Livestock producers are taking steps to deal with lingering periods of extreme cold, which put animals at risk.

A better bulk bin: Preventing pig feed contamination — Alltech
Stored feed is at risk of mold growth, leading to the development of mycotoxins as well as insect and pest damage, which reduces the nutrient density in feed. Management of feed storage in bulk bins is important to prevent this reduction in nutrition.

Food Safety:

Audits criticize FDA on food recalls — Food Safety Magazine
A series of new audits claim that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not using its relatively recently expanded authority to conduct more food safety inspections, which in turn affects how food recalls are announced to the public. [ More … ]