Outbreak alert: Listeria monocytogenes in deli meats and cheeses

Four U.S. states have been affected by an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes, a hardy foodborne pathogen that can survive in a variety of environments, making it challenging for food producers and processors to eradicate in their facilities.

The bacteria has sickened eight people in the ongoing outbreak, resulting in one death. The states impacted are Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Authorities haven’t named a specific supplier of food products, but the outbreak is associated with deli counter products — cheeses and ready-to-eat meats — from several different stores. At this time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not advising consumers to avoid eating at delis or buying deli-sliced products. [ More … ]

2020 Pet Census to reveal insights into U.S. pet population

There are censuses for people, and now, there are censuses for dogs and cats.

Wisdom Health announced this month its plans for a 2020 United States Pet Census, coinciding with the U.S. government’s census for the same year.

What kind of demographic data does a pet census seek out? Anything that can be used to understand U.S. pets and improve their quality of life, the veterinary science company says: size, breed, activity levels, overall lifestyle, etc.

Part of the census will involve data collected by the Wisdom Panel, a comprehensive DNA test offered by Wisdom Health. With this panel, anyone can order a swab, take a sample from their own pet, send it back to the company and receive a detailed report outlining the pet’s breed history, ancestry, and genetic health conditions. Wisdom Health says that panel results gained from the census will be used to weigh healthcare options for dogs and cats. [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: Rise of crack cocaine use in the U.K. harkens back to previous crises

Courtesy the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Many people associate high usage of crack cocaine with the 1980s and 90s, when an epidemic swept the United States, devastating urban neighborhoods and ending more lives than can be easily calculated.

And although nowadays opioids have taken over as the class of drugs causing concern in much of the world, crack cocaine has not disappeared from the scene. Far from it, in fact. Its usage has “skyrocketed” in the United Kingdom, according to a report published by Public Health England (PHE) and the Home Office.

The report found that users of the drug increased by 8.5% between 2011 and 2017, information that was compiled based on interviews with specialist drug workers, drug users and local police offices. The number of users spiked between 2011–2012 and 2014–2015, and has remained at a high level since.

“This report will come as no surprise to those working on the frontline, who will have seen firsthand this surge in crack use in their communities,” said Rosanna O’Connor, Director for Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco and Justice at PHE.

Driving the increase

Why have more people begun using crack cocaine now, of all times? [ More … ]

Case study: How a dairy processor improved quality with Neogen’s Soleris system

Neogen’s Soleris system is a rapid optical system for the detection of microbial contamination. It’s based on an innovative application of classic microbiology — the assay measures microbial growth by monitoring pH and other biochemical reactions that generate a color change. The results are monitored by the system, which provides an alert for samples that are out-of-specification.

One quality assurance professional in the dairy processing industry with years of experience offered the following comments after implementing Soleris for rapid microbial testing at a creamery.

Q: What was the reason for purchasing the Soleris instrument?

A: To shorten the time lag between packaging and completion of microbiological testing. We were drawn to Soleris because of its rapid results and the fact that it was based on proven standard microbiological methodology. [ More … ]

Adulteration: DNA project reveals fishy nature of fish labeling

In a restaurant, it’s usually obvious when the server brings out the wrong order. Sometimes, however, it may require advanced DNA testing to even realize the order isn’t what you expected.

Dr. Jennifer McDonald, a biology professor at Fanshaw College in Ontario, Canada, directed her molecular biology students on a homework assignment that would reveal a lot about the food they ate every day.

“Their Super Important Homework Assignment™ was to go out for sushi and take a small sample home in a Ziploc bag,” she said in a series of tweets that have spread rapidly on Twitter. (She also directed students to eat the rest of the meal. “Wasting food is uncool.”)

The students labeled their samples with the species they, and likely the restaurants that served them, believed the fish to be. Back in the campus lab, they extracted the DNA from the fish, and amplified the CO1 gene using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The class nailed it, with every student successfully executing the difficult method.

“So now my class of 16 will have a set of samples to look at real-life prevalence of food fraud in the seafood industry,” McDonald tweeted. [ More … ]

Neogen® Viroxide Super receives DEFRA Approval for Diseases of Poultry Order

ROCHDALE, United Kingdom, 11 April 2019 — Neogen announced today that the Neogen Viroxide Super product has received DEFRA approval for Diseases of Poultry (DoP) Order; and with General Orders also in place, the product also conforms to the disinfectant requirements for the British Lion Quality mark for egg production.

The continued investment in the efficacy testing of Neogen Viroxide Super brings a market-leading broad spectrum disinfectant and emergency disease control solution to poultry farmers globally.

With growing demands for high quality poultry products around the world, increasing flock sizes and the “raised without antibiotics” production movement, diseases of poultry can have devastating consequences for productivity and mortality of flocks, in addition to the severe financial implications for poultry farmers.

Avian influenza and Newcastle disease are both of current concern and are on the OIE list of notifiable diseases. The causative viruses are spread by direct contact with other poultry stock, poultry movements between farms and at markets, fairs and shows, vectors including human, vehicles and equipment, and migrating flocks of birds. [ More … ]

Snow and rain affects Midwest agriculture into spring

Farms in the U.S. Midwest that are already struggling with the effects of monumental flooding have been hit with an early-spring storm this week that certainly isn’t helping matters.

“It’s a terrible, terrible track in terms of its impact on the areas that have already seen terrible flooding back in March,” meteorologist Michael Palmerino told Progressive Farmer, speaking about the storm. “It couldn’t be any worse of a track to those having flooding in the area.”

Much of the Midwest was expected to gain two to three inches of rain, with potentially heavy snow in some areas. Blizzard warnings were issued for much of South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas, as were high wind warnings. [ More … ]

Biosecurity: World Pork Expo 2019 canceled due to African swine fever risks

World Pork Expo is, as you might guess from the name, the world’s largest conference for the pork industry. Each year, it’s visited by about 20,000 swine producers, pork processors, veterinarians, animal researchers, regulatory authorities, bacon lovers and other industry stakeholders. The event is an opportunity for attendees to learn, network and enjoy prestigious swine shows.

The 2019 expo was planned to occur June 5–7 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, in the U.S. The key word is “was.” The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), a U.S.-based trade association that hosts the event, today announced that the event would not be held this year, out of extreme caution against the threat of African swine fever (ASF).

“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” said David Herring, NPPC president. “The health of the U.S. swine herd is paramount; the livelihoods of our producers depend on it.” [ More … ]

Food safety gains increasing clout on social media

The food safety community has spent much of the past few years discussing a perceived increase in foodborne illness outbreaks — and the actual increase in food recalls due to them. We know that the apparent increase is simply attributable to better reporting methods and technologies that make it easier to catch outbreaks and spread the news among the public.

Today, the public is generally aware of a large outbreak soon after the authorities make a statement about it. This is in part thanks to the news media, but also due to a source that spreads information like wildfire: social media.

Not only can consumers share and discuss recall and outbreak notices on an unprecedented vast forum, but they can connect directly with food companies and even regulatory authorities with the click of a button. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (whose final day as commissioner coincides with the publication of this post) has spent his tenure at the FDA very active on Twitter, sharing outbreak news, food safety tips and other health information to an engaged audience. Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas is similarly present on the social media platform.

Not only are individual experts like Gottlieb and Yiannas active on social media, but so too are the agencies people like them represent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety account has more than 142 million followers. [ More … ]

Neogen launches portable version of its Raptor® system

Neogen has introduced a portable version of its innovative Raptor® Integrated Analysis Platform that provides the option of performing mycotoxin testing in the laboratory — or wherever a tester may choose.

Neogen’s new Raptor Solo is a battery-operated portable version of the company’s popular Raptor Integrated Analysis Platform. As with the original benchtop version, the new Raptor is a lateral flow test strip reader with built-in incubation that provides an easy way to objectively analyze and store results of Neogen’s Reveal® Q+ MAX lateral flow tests.

“The addition of Raptor Solo provides the option of performing testing for mycotoxins wherever works best for you, whether that’s in a traditional lab setting, or anywhere else,” said Neogen’s Mary Gadola. “We’ve developed the new Raptor Solo as a single-port unit utilizing the same technology as the larger three-port Raptor system.” [ More … ]