Thursday, April 7, 2011

Radiation and the Food Supply

In light of the leakage from Japan’s nuclear facilities following the tsunami, questions have been raised regarding the safety of the US food supply.   Based upon the government reports, there is currently no risk to the US food supply.  This includes fallout here in the US from radiation released into the atmosphere and foods imported from areas with the potential for higher exposure.

EPA has only detected miniscule amounts of radiation in milk that can be attributed to the Japanese disaster, but these were so small that they pose no threat to human health.  The levels found were 5000 times lower than the level set by FDA.  Considering that and having a half-life of 8 days, there are currently no reasons to avoid drinking milk.

Radioactive material gets into milk when those materials drop from the atmosphere onto grasses which are then eaten by cow.  The EPA and FDA have increased the level of monitoring food, drinking water, and rainwater.  There have been a number of monitoring stations throughout the US that have detected some levels, but this was expected.  However, the levels seen must be put in perspective.
According to the EPA “Drinking water samples from two locations, Boise, Idaho and Richland, Washington, showed trace amounts of Iodine-131 – about 0.2 picocuries per liter in each case. Even an infant would have to drink almost 7,000 liters of this water to receive a radiation dose equivalent to a day's worth of the natural background radiation exposure we experience continuously from natural sources of radioactivity in our environment.”
FDA has said that no food is being exported from the affected area, and they are monitoring imported products from other areas of Japan, and at this point, there has not been any radiation detected.  In addition, the US imports very little food from Japan.  It is estimated that only 4% of our imported food comes from Japan.

There is specific concern with seafood with higher levels of radioactive materials making its way into the US.  Besides blocking seafood from the infected areas, FDA has increased its monitoring seafood coming into the US and state that there is no risk related to seafood.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recalls - April 5, 2011

Industry News – PM
Turkey burger recall due to antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strain -
By Chris Scott on 4/5/2011 Meatingplace

The recall of Jennie-O frozen raw turkey burger products is due to the presence of Salmonella Hadar, a strain of the bacteria that is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control is working with USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to identify any other illnesses that may be related to the recall, but have not yet been connected with it, according to documents posted on the CDC website.

Authorities are using DNA analysis to identify cases of illness linked to the outbreak, which has affected 12 people ranging in age from 1 year to 86 years old in 10 states. Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Minn., has recalled nearly 55,000 pounds of frozen raw turkey burger products mainly sold in Sam’s Club stores (See “Turkey burgers recalled on salmonella concerns related to illnesses,” on Meatingplace, April 4, 2011.)

Because the specific strain of Salmonella is resistant to antibiotics, the risk of hospitalization or being unable to treat the resulting illnesses is higher than instances of other outbreaks. The FSIS may also recall additional turkey products as it continues its investigation with the CDC and public health officials in all 10 states, according to the documents

For more information

MB - This is a raw product that that is labeled to be cooked by the consumer before consumption. In the cases where illness has occurred, there would need to be a breakdown in consumer handling and preparation practices, either cross-contamination or undercooking. Since this Salmonella strain is resistant to antibiotics, it poses a bigger risk to those who become infected.

As seen with earlier outbreaks, people tend to undercook patties, especially frozen patties where it takes longer for heat penetration to occur into the center of the patty. And as is often done, there are many who rely on color rather than a thermometer for the end-point of the cooking process.


Related alerts: 2011-04-04 | 2011-04-03

OTTAWA, April 3, 2011 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Amira Enterprises Inc. are warning the public not to consume certain bulk and prepackaged raw shelled walnut products described below because these products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

All raw shelled walnuts sold from bulk bins, all package sizes and all lot codes / Best Before dates of the following raw shelled walnuts and products containing walnuts are affected by this alert. The affected products were available for purchase from January 1, 2011, up to and including April 4, 2011. The raw shelled walnuts are imported from the USA.

MB - The Canadian consumer advisory advises to cook the walnuts. Surely this opens the opportunity for cross contamination with a highly pathogenic organism. It may have better to advise individuals to throw-out all suspect product.

Salmonella numbers tied to RI bakery rise to 56

Associated Press - April 1, 2011 5:15 PM ET

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Fifty-six people have reportedly fallen ill with suspected cases of salmonella amid an outbreak that may be linked to a Rhode Island bakery.

That's up from 39 people as of 3 days ago. The Rhode Island Department of Health said Friday that 26 of those who have reported illness have been hospitalized and 24 have laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonella.

A man in his 80s who had tested positive for salmonella died on March 23.

Officials say many of the affected people ate doughnut-like pastries called zeppoles (ZAY'-puh-luhz) made by DeFusco's Bakery in Johnston.

The pastries also were sold at other stores around the state and have been recalled. The bakery has voluntarily shut down until further notice.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MB - There must have been some heavy contamination in this bakery since this product is not one that would should allow for growth.

The Smokehouse LLC Recalls One Batch Of Portier Fine Foods Norwegian Smoked Salmon Because Of Possible Health Risk
FDA Release
The Smokehouse

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 29, 2011 -The Smokehouse LLC of Mamaroneck, New York, is conducting a voluntary recall of PORTIER FINE FOODS Norwegian Smoked Salmon of various size packages including 4 oz., 8 oz., 16 oz. and random weight sizes, Batch Code 066 only, due to potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

PORTIER FINE FOODS Norwegian Smoked Salmon with code 066 was distributed and sold on March 7, 2011 to retailers in NY, NJ, CT.

Batch Code 066 (represents Julian date of March 7, 2011) is located on a white label on the rear of gold boards, which are in clear, vacuum packed packages. This is the only batch code affected. The product was also labeled with an “EXPIRES ON” date of 3/21 (3/21/11). Since the product may be stored frozen, the likelihood exists that the affected code (066) may still be available in consumers’ homes.

Thomas Produce Recalls Jalapeno Peppers Because of Possible Health Risk

Thomas Produce of Boca Raton, FL, is recalling 320 boxes of Jalapeno Peppers because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
Product: Jalapeno peppers from Thomas Produce
Distributed: Sold to distributors in Florida, New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania from 2/15/2011 to 2/18/2011.
Why: Possble Salmonella contamination
Illnesses reported: None
For more information: Contact Richard Wilson of Thomas Produce Company at 1-561-482-1111 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST.