Government Agencies – Food Safety Website Breaking news for everyone's consumption Sat, 22 Aug 2020 01:24:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Government Agencies – Food Safety Website 32 32 Sept. 22 set for virtual public meeting on Salmonella Sat, 22 Aug 2020 04:03:29 +0000 Continue Reading]]> The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Food Safety (OFS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are hosting a virtual public meeting on Salmonella with participation from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The FSIS staff will discuss the agency’s commitment to reduce pathogen contamination by leading with science, building relationships, and influencing behavior change to decrease Salmonella infections associated with FSIS-regulated products and save lives.

The week prior to the public meeting, the OFS will release the “Roadmap to Reducing Salmonella: Driving Change through Science-Based Policy,” which outlines how OFS and FSIS will advance programs and policies that are science-based, data-driven, and promote innovation to reduce Salmonella in meat, poultry, and egg products.

Salmonella is an important foodborne pathogen of concern in multiple FSIS-regulated food products. To address foodborne sources of Salmonella, FSIS is committed to aggressively targeting Salmonella in regulated meat, poultry, and processed egg products through various strategies and initiatives. The public meeting is part of FSIS’ efforts to be transparent and share data with stakeholders, including regulated establishments, other government agencies, industry groups, and the public.

FSIS is announcing that it will hold a virtual public meeting through a Federal Register notice and the agency is seeking comments on the Salmonella initiatives addressed at the public meeting. Industry, interested individuals, organizations, and other stakeholders are invited to participate in the public meeting and to comment on the Roadmap data and science that drive FSIS’ Salmonella reduction efforts. Interested parties should submit comments on or before September 25, 2020 at

The virtual public meeting is set for Sept. 22 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. EDT. Questions must be submitted by Sept. 10 to Stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide oral comments during the public meeting. Stakeholders must notify FSIS during registration of their wish to speak at the meeting. The meeting is virtual and will be viewed via the Webex link provided by email when you register for the meeting. There is no fee to register for the public meeting, but pre-registration is mandatory for participants attending. All attendees must register online at

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Fruit and veg most non-compliant category in import checks Wed, 19 Aug 2020 04:02:42 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Imported fruit and vegetables remained the foodstuff with the most non-compliances in the latest round of testing by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).

Food safety statistics from January to June showed that 396 of 3,177 consignments of fruits and vegetables failed. A total of 87.5 percent of consignments passed SFA’s standards while all other categories had pass rates higher than 95 percent.

In the previous report, 3,825 consignments of fruit and vegetables were sampled from April to December 2019 with 491 failing. Sample failures were because of microbiological, chemical or pesticide residues exceeding allowable limits.

Of 4,239 meat and meat products tested in the first six months of 2020 only 39 failed and from 790 seafood products sampled only 33 were non-compliant. Out of 515 processed eggs analyzed 21 breached the regulations. From 271 chicken and quail eggs just one sample failed. Of 1,239 processed food tests, 59 violated the regulations.

SFA adopts a risk-based approach and is guided by science-based risk assessment and management. This means food of higher risks are subject to more stringent checks at the point of import. The country imports more than 90 percent of its food.

For products that fail tests, SFA rejects the consignments and requires importers to solve the issue with suppliers from overseas. Offenders who illegally import food are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of SGD $50,000 (U.S. $35,900) and/or imprisonment for up to two years.

Businesses, outbreaks and recalls
For food produced, manufactured, and sold locally, SFA licenses and inspects the premises to ensure compliance with food safety regulations.

Retail had the most inspections and percentage of non-compliances. More than 26,600 inspections found almost 1,300 non-compliances. Of 1,431 inspections of farms only two detected non-compliances. From 2,890 checks at non-retail 54 violations were found. They included poor housekeeping and upkeep of the premises, poor maintenance of equipment and pest infestation.

There were five gastroenteritis outbreaks in the first half of 2020 and 16 recalls, mostly due to allergens and chemicals. The amount of recalls was the same as the second half of 2019 but the number of outbreaks was down from 22  in April through December.

SFA has also established maximum limits for mercury, bromate, and mycotoxins in various foods effective beginning September 2020. These limits are in-line with relevant Codex or regulatory standards of developed countries, according to the agency.

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OSHA’s agreement with Meat Institute may be one toke over the line Mon, 17 Aug 2020 04:05:59 +0000 Continue Reading]]> The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last month signed a two-year alliance to provide Meat Institute members, the public, and other stakeholders with information, guidance, and access to training resources that will help employee protections..

But since it became public knowledge, some are questioning the propriety of OSHA being in an exclusive agreement with the meat lobby.  The Meat Institute and OSHA might be getting too chummy under the agreement.

“This announcement is very troubling because, while it’s appropriate for an agency to provide information and guidance to the industry it inspects and regulates, a formal alliance like this gives the impression that OSHA intends to exercise enforcement discretion for participating companies,” says Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy for Consumer Reports. “OSHA has been dismissive of the safety concerns expressed by meat and poultry workers, and this announcement seems to indicate the agency will continue to abdicate their enforcement responsibilities and give companies a free pass.”

Ronholm is a former USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety.

The agreement he is questioning is not all that unusual.   The agreement was signed on July 29 and made public on Aug.12.

OSHA and the Meat Institute agree ” to work together to achieve the following objectives:

  • Share information among OSHA personnel and industry safety and health professionals (e.g., via regular teleconferences and online communication tools) regarding potential exposure to COVID-19 and the challenges for exposure control in meatpacking and processing facilities.
  • Develop information on the recognition of COVID-19 transmission risks and best practices on preventing such transmission, and disseminate these resources (e.g., via print and electronic media, electronic assistance tools, and OSHA and the NAMI websites) to employers and workers in the industry.
  • Conduct outreach through joint forums, roundtable discussions, stakeholder meetings, webinars, or other formats on OSHA guidance and NAMI’s good practices or effective approaches for preventing COVID-19 transmission in meat packing and processing facilities.
  • Speak, exhibit, or appear at OSHA and NAMI conferences, local meetings, and other events regarding good practices and available resources for preventing COVID-19 transmission.
  • Encourage NAMI members and other industry stakeholders to build relationships with OSHA’s Regional and Area Offices and State Plans, and to utilize OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program to improve health and safety and prevent COVID-19 transmission in meatpacking and processing facilities.”

“Through this alliance, we look forward to working with OSHA to continue our work to protect the health and safety of the men and women who work in meat and poultry facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter,” said Meat Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Julie Anna Potts. “These workers are essential to making food for our nation and are a critical part of our rural economies.”

“The security of America’s food supply relies on meat processing facilities continuing to operate with a healthy workforce,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Together, OSHA and the North American Meat Institute can help ensure that employers in this critical industry have the tools and information they need to protect workers from the risk of the coronavirus.”

During the two-year alliance, participants will develop information on recognizing coronavirus transmission risks and best practices for preventing transmission, and on challenges for exposure control in meatpacking and processing facilities. Alliance participants will also conduct outreach to small- and medium-sized facilities on available guidance and compliance assistance resources, including the On-Site Consultation Program, and will work together on other outreach activities, including providing information on OSHA’s enforcement policies and procedures relevant to the meatpacking and processing industry.

For the full text of the agreement go here.

The North American Meat Institute is the top lobbying organization for the meat industry.  Its members process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients needed to produce the meat and poultry products.

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Listeria and FSVP violations prompt FDA warning letters Mon, 17 Aug 2020 04:03:49 +0000 Continue Reading]]> As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent. Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

Copoliva Inc.

Van Nuys, CA

An import company in California is on notice from the FDA for not having FSVPs for a number of imported food products.

In a July 16 warning letter, the FDA described March 18, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Copoliva Inc.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in the issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

The firm did not develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP. Specifically, they did not develop an FSVP for each of the following foods:

  • Refined Rice Bran Oil, manufactured by (redacted)., located in (redacted)
  • Grape Seed Oil, manufactured by (redacted), located in (redacted)
  • Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil, manufactured by (redacted), located in the (redacted).

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

Sugiyo USA Inc.

Anacortes, WA

A food firm in California is on notice from the FDA for violations of the seafood HACCP regulation and discovery of Listeria in their facility.

In a July 15 warning letter, the FDA described a February 26-28, 2020 inspection at Sugiyo USA Inc. 

The FDA’s inspection found serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation and resulted in the issuance of an FDA Form 483. 

The FDA received and reviewed a response to a previous letter on April 3, 2020, and still have serious concerns.

Serious concerns and violations are as follows:


FDA laboratory analysis of environmental samples collected from the pre-pasteurization area during the production of ready-to-eat (RTE) surimi-based seafood analog products determined that (redacted) of (redacted) environmental swabs tested positive for L. monocytogenes. (redacted) of the positive swabs were collected from food-contact surfaces which included the conveyor belts; the red color spray nozzle; (redacted) roller; (redacted) machine; and the surimi paste cart prior to pasteurization. The (redacted) other positive swabs were found on areas (a (redacted) drain and the wheel of a cart) near food contact surfaces in their main processing room.

Additionally, the firm’s environmental testing records show their firm identified Listeria species in (redacted) locations (food-contact surfaces and areas directly adjacent to food-contact surfaces) between Dec. 12, 2019, and Feb. 18, 2020. However, their firm did not take and/or document adequate corrective action in response to these findings.

The FDA’s findings, along with their testing results, indicate that their firm is not implementing effective methods and controls to eliminate L. monocytogenes or minimize its presence on food and food-contact surfaces. 

The firm’s response described the following corrective actions taken in response to FDA findings of L. monocytogenes in their facility: hold all products produced on Feb. 26 and 27, 2020; re-test finished product lots for L. monocytogenes; clean the production area; and re-test their production area. Their response also included testing results and a training record for microbiological testing. However, their response did not indicate that they conducted an investigation to identify the cause of the contamination (e.g., root cause analysis) and did not include a copy of their revised environmental monitoring procedure.

The FDA recommends their environmental monitoring procedure include the following actions:

  • Identify the locations from which samples will be collected and the number of sites to be tested during routine environmental monitoring;
  • Identify the timing and frequency for collecting and testing samples;
  • Identify the laboratory that will be conducting the testing and identify the analytical method(s) that will be used; and
  • Establish corrective action procedures they will implement when Listeria spp. or L. monocytogenes is found.

The firm’s response included its environmental testing results for Feb. 26, 2020, to Mar. 6, 2020, which show (redacted) positive samples for L. monocytogenes. These positive samples were listed as “(redacted),” “(redacted)” and two as “(redacted).” However, their response did not provide sufficient context regarding where these samples were collected, and the corrective actions they took in response.

Note that FDA has issued a Draft Guidance for Industry: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods. When finalized, the draft guidance will represent FDA’s current thinking on this topic.

Seafood HACCP

  1. The firm must monitor sanitation conditions and practices during processing with sufficient frequency to ensure compliance with current good manufacturing practice requirements. However, the firm did not monitor the following areas of sanitation with sufficient frequency to ensure compliance with the current good manufacturing practice requirements:
  2. Prevention of cross-contamination from unsanitary objects to food, food packaging material, and other food contact surfaces as evidenced by:
  3. Water observed dripping from the exterior wall at the entrance of the individually quick frozen (IQF) freezer tunnel directly onto pasteurized, unwrapped, RTE Alaska Snow Leg surimi-based analog products and a conveyor belt which conveys these products. Their response stated that they will (redacted). Their response did not include a timeframe for when they expect to have and implement a (redacted) to address this issue.
  4. As a result of their sanitation activities using a high-pressure hose, (redacted) water was observed throughout the north end of the RTE processing area where pasteurized, unwrapped, RTE Alaska Snow Leg surimi-based analog products are processed. FDA investigators also observed production using equipment on which (redacted) water contacted food-contact surfaces such as conveyor belts, weighing equipment, a (redacted) table, and bagging equipment used to process pasteurized products. High-pressure hoses should not be used in processing areas due to the potential for cross-contamination through the (redacted) of pathogens. Their response did not address this issue.

  iii. The walls of the RTE processing area had peeling paint and accumulation of apparent mold/mildew. Their response did not address this issue.

  1. The underside of the conveyor belt after the (redacted) table was heavily soiled. This belt conveys pasteurized, unwrapped, RTE frozen Alaska Snow Leg surimi-based analog products. Their response did not address this issue.
  2. The handle of a water hose nozzle was stored directly on a heavily soiled water pipe. Water from this nozzle was used for sanitation purposes and as a (redacted). Their response did not address this issue.
  3. The underside of a (redacted) water line was heavily soiled near the Alaska Snow Leg (redacted) green horizontal and vertical conveying belts. Their response did not address this issue.
  4. Protection of food from adulteration with sanitizing agents, as evidenced by the following:

FDA investigators measured water drops and detected approximately (redacted) parts per million (ppm) free chlorine dripping directly onto pasteurized, unwrapped, RTE Alaska Snow Leg surimi-based analog products as the product was conveyed and passed through the incline conveyor and (redacted) bagging area. The firm’s Quality Control Assistant Manager informed FDA investigators that (redacted) water sprays are applied to the (redacted) where (redacted) RTE products are conveyed to prevent pathogen introduction after pasteurization. Sanitizing solutions when used on food contact surfaces are not to exceed (redacted) ppm free chlorine and must be adequately drained from food contact surfaces before contact with food. Their response stated (redacted). Their response did not include a timeframe for when they expect to have and implement a (redacted) to prevent sanitizer from directly contacting food.

  1. The firm must have a HACCP plan that at a minimum, lists the critical limits that must be met. A critical limit is defined as “the maximum or minimum value to which a physical, biological, or chemical parameter must be controlled at a critical control point to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of the identified food safety hazard.” However, the firm’s HACCP plan for pasteurized vacuum-packaged RTE surimi-based seafood analog products (sticks and shreds) is not adequate in that it lists a critical limit of “(redacted)’” at their “(redacted)” critical control point (CCP) for the hazard of “C. Botulinum & toxin formation during finished product storage”. Because their HACCP plan uses (redacted) and (redacted) as the control for Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) growth and toxin formation, they must have controls to ensure their products are immediately and rapidly cooled and frozen after vacuum packaging and pasteurization. Nonproteolytic C. botulinum can grow at a minimum temperature of 38°F and will grow rapidly when temperatures exceed 70°F. However, FDA investigators observed their firm holding their pasteurized vacuum-packaged RTE surimi-based seafood analog products in a walk-in cooler observed to be at (redacted)°F for up to (redacted) days before (redacted). Additionally, temperature records for this (redacted) cooler indicated temperatures were (redacted)°C ((redacted)°F) and above for over (redacted) times from Feb. 26, 2020, to Mar. 3, 2020, with some deviations lasting (redacted) hours and a maximum temperature of (redacted)°C ((redacted)°F).

In lieu of a control strategy of (redacted) and (redacted) to control C. botulinum, the firm’s HACCP plan at the pasteurization CCP could list critical limits for the critical factors established by a scientific study necessary to achieve a 6-log reduction of type B nonproteolytic C. botulinum along with a CCP for finished product refrigeration at 40°F or below. Currently, their pasteurization CCP lists the hazard of L. monocytogenes which is less heat resistant than C. botulinum.

The firm’s response stated that they have revised their HACCP plans and included new critical control points and copies of their hazard analysis; however, their revised HACCP plans were not included with their response. Their response also stated (redacted). However, their response did not include monitoring records; therefore, it is not clear if they have implemented these activities.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

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Letter from the Editor: Time to put the branding irons in the museum Sun, 16 Aug 2020 04:23:01 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

Later this week, the ranchers who belong to that group with the long name are holding their annual convention in Deadwood, SD. One major item on their agenda is to decide whether to continue to slow the use of RFID technology to keep track of livestock.

R-CALF USA  represents U.S. cattle producers. Its long-form name is the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America. In the last year, it’s gone to federal court to keep RFID technology at bay.

R-CALF USA is not alone in representing the cattle industry.   State cattlemen’s organizations from major beef producing regions are also involved in the RFID issue.   They’ve helped startup  U.S. Cattle Trace, a new disease traceability initiative.

Its goal is to develop a national infrastructure for disease traceability and encourage private industry’s use of the infrastructure for individualized management practices. Cattle Trace partners include the Kansas Livestock Association, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association.

Maybe the cattle industry is going to put its branding irons away for the last time.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently awarded contracts to purchase up to eight million low-frequency radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags.

The contract allows APHIS to purchase additional tags each year for up to five years.

“USDA continues its commitment to protecting our Nation’s animal agriculture by increasing traceability in the cattle and bison sectors, in this case by providing free RFID tags to interested producers,” said Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. “This will not only help offset the costs of switching to RFID tags but also help us more quickly respond to potential disease events.”

In their court case, R-CALF was complaining about how much RFID tags would cost economically strapped cattlemen. Traceability in food safety and managing animal disease would both benefit from the adoption of RFID technology.

APHIS’s job is to keep animal disease away from U.S. shores. It sees RFID as “the best opportunity to rapidly contain the spread of high economic impact diseases.”

It says the use of RFID tags better positions the livestock industry, State and Federal veterinarians to accurately and quickly trace animals exposed or infected with potentially devastating diseases before they can do substantial damage to the U.S. livestock industry.

Its plan is to provide RFID tags through animal health officials for distribution and use in breeding cattle and bison at no cost to the producer. According to APHIS:

  • RFID low-frequency official calf-hood vaccination (OCV) button tags are available for brucellosis-vaccinated animals, and official “840” white button tags are available for non-vaccinated heifers. 
  • Free metal National Uniform Eartagging System tags will remain available as USDA continues to receive comments and evaluate the next steps on its proposed RFID transition timeline. 
  • The proposal is available for review and public comment through October 5, 2020.

Contracts for the RFID tags were awarded to three American tag companies, all compliant with the Buy American Act– Allflex (Dallas, TX), Datamars (Temple, TX), and Y-Tex (Cody, WY). Contracting with all three manufacturers will allow USDA to procure the number of tags needed to meet an industry volume equivalent to the number of replacement heifers in the United States.

As part of its overall effort to increase traceability in cattle and bison, APHIS distributed more than 1.1 million RFID tags to 38 states between January and July 2020. Each state veterinarian distributes the tags in a way that best serves their industry.

In that court dustup, attorney Harriet Hageman of the New Civil Alliance, representing R-CALF, claimed USDA with an attempt to unlawfully mandate the exclusive use of RFID tags. USDA appears more like a salesman giving free samples than an official with mandates.

R-CALF’s reaction will likely come in convention and the organization is not known for rolling over and saying “nevermind.” But for the rest of us, USDA’s strategy may be working out.

Late last year in the Netherlands, I did a slow-walking tour through a large VanDrie veal beef plant. The Dutch know what they are doing in any number of ways. But, the major takeaway for me was the Dutch use of RFID tags.

At the end of the tour, our Dutch guide could pick out a basket of finished veal beef products with a system that could identify the specific contributing animals.

That’s not something we’ve done much in the United States. For too long we’ve accepted a kind of lottery system, allowing a  single hamburger to become the product of 50 animals from four countries. I am thinking of course of the tragic case of the Minnesota dancer. 

All because nobody can answer the question: “where did this come from?

But restaurants crawling back from being shut down during the coronavirus scare, more information is better. Chipolte Mexican Grill, which five years ago was rocked by one food safety outbreak after another, now says it has a from “seed to stomach” traceability plan.

Food safety would benefit if we knew exactly what happens when an animal is processed. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also would benefit during outbreaks of animal disease.

And experts like Derrel Peel, Oklahoma State University ag economist, says that without an ID system, the USDA is hindering market access. “Virtually every other beef exporting country has an ID system in place,” says Peel.

Currently, cattle producers have various options for animal identification. Metal ear tags, backtags, brands, and tattoos are all among them.   It is time to get with the 21st Century.

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Brazil responds to Coronavirus positive chicken claims Sat, 15 Aug 2020 04:04:34 +0000 Continue Reading]]> A government agency, industry association and the affected company in Brazil have responded to Chinese claims that a chicken wing sample has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Health authorities in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, noted the detection of coronavirus nucleic acid on the surface of a frozen chicken wing sample from a batch imported from Brazil. Other samples from this batch were collected, analyzed and results were negative.

Shenzhen officials reported that everyone who handled or came into contact with the material tested negative for COVID-19. China has also found traces of the virus on the packaging of imported shrimp from Ecuador.

The National Chicken Council reaffirmed the safety of poultry products following reports of chicken wings from Brazil testing positive for coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.

Brazil seeks official clarity
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) in Brazil has been seeking official information to clarify the alleged contamination but said it had not been officially notified by Chinese authorities about the incident.

A Brazilian meat plant owned by Aurora was named as the source of the implicated product. A company statement said it, like MAPA, was awaiting official confirmation by authorities in China.

Faced with unsubstantiated details as to what happened, Aurora said it would wait for the appropriate information from authorities before clarifying the facts and providing details to officials.

The statement added all measures established by public authorities to fight against the pandemic are being followed. It also stressed that its production process complies with all current legal and health requirements.

ABPA, the national association of poultry and pork production and exports in Brazil, said measures to protect workers and guarantee safety of products had been adopted by the sector.

The group said traces of the virus were detected on the packaging but it was not yet clear when this occurred and if it was during the export process.

WHO comments and global developments
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead COVID-19, addressed the topic at a World Health Organization briefing on Thursday.

“What we understand is that China is looking for the virus on packaging and they’ve tested a few hundred thousand samples and have found less than 10 positives. We have issued guidance with FAO on food handlers and working with frozen food to keep people safe in their working environment,” she said.

“We know the virus can remain on surfaces for some time but it can be inactivated if you wash your hands or use an alcohol-based rub. If the virus is actually in food, and we have no examples where this virus has been transmitted as foodborne, where someone has consumed a food product, the virus can be killed if the meat is cooked.”

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said from a COVID perspective food is safe.

“People should not fear food, food packaging, the processing or delivery. I would hate to think that we would create an impression that there is a problem with our food chains, they are under enough pressure as it is already. We will continue to track findings like this but there is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus,” he said.

The Philippines has temporarily stopped poultry imports from Brazil and the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong has suspended the license application for import of poultry meat from the plant concerned.

Preliminary investigations found the concerned batch of chicken wings was not on sale in Hong Kong. As a precaution, the CFS has enhanced sampling of frozen chicken meat from Brazil at import and wholesale levels for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

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EFSA assesses health risk of compound in potatoes Fri, 14 Aug 2020 04:18:56 +0000 Continue Reading]]> The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has advised peeling, boiling, and frying to reduce a compound in potatoes that can cause poisoning.

Glycoalkaloids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants including potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant (aubergines), and contribute to resistance against pests and pathogens. Glycoalkaloid poisoning can cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In severe cases, paralysis, respiratory insufficiency, cardiac failure, coma, and death have been reported. Doses in the range of 3 to 6 milligrams per kilogram of body weight are considered to be potentially lethal.

Experts identified a health concern for infants and toddlers, considering both mean and high consumers. Among adults, there was only an issue for high consumers.

Reduction measures
EFSA set the lowest observed adverse effect level of 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day based on human data from case reports, outbreaks, and studies in volunteers. This is the lowest dose at which undesired effects are observed. No evidence of health problems associated with repeated or long‐term intake has been identified.

For tomato and eggplant glycoalkaloids, the risk to human health could not be characterized due to the lack of occurrence data and limited toxicity data.

Processing of potatoes has been reported to reduce glycoalkaloids in the final product. Peeling reduced the content by 25 to 75 percent, boiling in water and blanching of peeled potatoes by 5 to 65 percent and frying in oil of peeled potatoes by 20 to 90 percent. Microwave and oven baking of unpeeled potatoes may cause a reduction by 3 to 45 percent and 20 to 50 percent, respectively.

Factors such as the duration of storage, temperature, light exposure, as well as tuber damage can affect the glycoalkaloid content during the storage of potato tubers. High concentrations can be found in the sprouts and stem buds or “eyes”. Green parts indicate elevated glycoalkaloid content.

In 2018, and after the intoxication of a family in Baden–Württemberg from potatoes in 2015, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) published an assessment on the acute toxicity of potato glycoalkaloids.

Analytical results showed the potatoes contained 236 milligrams of glycoalkaloids per kilogram. BfR recommended the content of potatoes should not be higher than 100 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of potatoes.

National rules
Hungary has rules of 100 mg/kg as the maximum limit of solanine equivalents of raw, unpeeled potatoes. In Finland, a max level for glycoalkaloids in potatoes of 200 mg/kg exists. Denmark has a guideline of 200 mg GAs/kg for known potatoes varieties and 100 mg/kg for new potatoes types. The maximum acceptable content of potato tubers of 20 to 25 mg per 100-gram of fresh potato (equivalent to 200–250 mg/kg) has been set in the United States.

The mean UB occurrence for main‐crop and new potatoes was 51.2 mg/kg and the P95 occurrence was 116.8 mg/kg. The minimum and maximum concentrations were 1.1 mg/kg and 276.6 mg/kg, respectively, according to the risk assessment.

Experts calculated the mean percentage of days with potato consumption across surveys per age group on which the potato glycoalkaloids intake may be below the MOE of 10. A MOE higher than 10 indicates that there is no health concern.

The highest number of survey days was estimated for toddlers followed by children. For other age groups, the estimated intake was below the MOE of 10 in up to 22 to 40 percent of the survey days.

A public consultation received nine comments from national authorities such as the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment, Panel on Contaminants and National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in the Netherlands and industry groups European Potato Processors’ Association and Starch Europe.

Experts recommended measures to improve the risk assessment and reduce uncertainties such as occurrence data on glycoalkaloids and their aglycones in potato processed products, including foods for infants and in tomato and eggplant products.

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Campylobacter chicken connection still common in Sweden Fri, 14 Aug 2020 04:17:07 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Campylobacter types found in fresh chicken often matched those from ill people showing poultry is still a common source of infection in Sweden.

Researchers studied the genetic similarity between Campylobacter from retail chicken meat and in infected people. It is the third year the Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) and Swedish Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) have done such a survey and results are largely in line with 2017 and 2018.

The study showed the same varieties of Campylobacter in fresh chicken meat at the end of summer 2019 were also found in many of those who became ill with Campylobacter at the same time. Although one-third of cases could be linked to chicken, no ongoing outbreak was detected.

Product testing
A total of 100 chicken meat samples were analyzed from 40 different stores in the Stockholm and Uppsala region and Campylobacter was detected in 51 of them. Two isolates from foreign chicken could not be typed but of the remaining 49, all were Campylobacter jejuni except one Campylobacter coli isolate.

A majority of cases related to chicken were associated with Swedish conventionally bred chicken (88 percent) and especially to products from Sweden’s largest slaughterhouse. The organic chicken was linked to a few cases, while imported poultry was not associated with any infection. This finding is probably due to the fact Swedish products dominate the market.

A total of 8,132 cases of campylobacteriosis were reported in 2018 compared to 10,608 in 2017. Most cases are considered sporadic but in the past few years, several large outbreaks linked to domestically produced chicken have occurred.

Prevalence in chicken flocks has decreased in recent years, which also reduces the risk of people becoming infected, according to the Swedish Food Agency.

The human factor
Infection is most common during August, which coincides with an increase in Campylobacter positive chicken flocks. Typing with whole-genome sequencing showed that 20 percent of the human isolates clustered with one or more other isolates during low season in March.

In the low season, Campylobacter isolates were obtained from 14 of Sweden’s 21 regions. A total of 25 isolates were typed from cases infected in Sweden. All of them were Campylobacter jejuni.

From the collection for week 34, Campylobacter isolates came from 18 of 21 regions. A total of 112 isolates were typed for cases infected in Sweden. One isolate was Campylobacter coli while all the others were Campylobacter jejuni.

In 2019, all human clusters included isolates from different regions, which indicates a common source of infection with a wide geographical distribution.

Researchers said the comparison of human and retail chicken isolates indicates that if a reduction of Campylobacter in chicken production is achieved this will have a direct impact on the number of people who become infected.

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Coronavirus meat shortages were avoided as production slips but didn’t fall all that much Wed, 12 Aug 2020 04:08:11 +0000 Continue Reading]]> Livestock and poultry production in the United States held up after the Defense Production Act put USDA in charge of making sure meat processors kept operating but in compliance with CDC and OSHA guidelines.

Livestock production for the April to June quarter reached 85.5 percent in comparison with the previous three month period.  And poultry production was 96.29 percent of the previous quarter.

According to USDA’s Quarterly Enforcement Report for the federal government’s third quarter, which runs from April 1 to June 30, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel inspected 36.67 million livestock carcasses, down from the second quarter’s 42.90 million.

The drop off for livestock was 14.5 percent. Poultry production hit 2.362 billion birds during the quarter, off just 3.71% from 2.453 billion in the previous quarter.

USDA was empowered to use the Defense Production Act on April 28 after beef, hog, and poultry production facilities were all having difficulties operating because employees were becoming infected with the coronavirus. Facility shutdowns were occurring and media forecasters were predicting shortages of meat and poultry would be occurring just as had occurred with toilet paper a month earlier.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said at the time that the goal was to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency while maintaining the health and safety of “these heroic employees.”

Food industry employees were deemed “essential” and could not be forced off the job as was done with “nonessential” employees. Nor were could any “essential” employees be forced to work. Before and after the Defense Production Act was triggered, companies used offers of higher pay and bonuses to keep production shifts filled.

While meat and poultry shortages did not develop as so many predicted, production facilities did have to close temporarily or hold back on production. And keeping plants operating with sufficient employees did come with a price.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says reports from 23 states show 16,200 meat and poultry employees were infected with the virus and 86 died.

Another sign that U.S. production kept up during the quarter is that meat and poultry productions imported to the country were up only about 5 percent at 1.1 billion pounds.

The quarterly report also includes information about specific administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement actions undertaken by FSIS.

The USDA agency riled two administrative complaints, one against Mullen, NE-based Sandhill’s Beef, and the other against Milton, WV-based Nelson’s Meat Processing.

Against Nelson’s, FSIS wants to suspend and permanently withdraw federal inspection services because of repetitive failures to comply with regulations including humane handling and slaughter of livestock.

With Sandhill’s, FSIS’s complaint is for lack of either a HACCP or SSOP. Administrative Law Judge Tiemey Carlos issued an order for the parties to conclude the proceeding.

The quarter’s sole seizure acton was a familiar one. The federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued warrants for the seizure of meat and poultry items from Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, PA.
The items were not federally inspected.

Also in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District, the firm of Chui Xun Liu entered into a consent decree, enjoining them from the sale or transportation of misbranded meat.

FSIS filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey for a permanent injunction against Little Falls, NJ-based Rainbow Foods Inc, and Robert Kalkan, its president. It seeks an end to violations and a promise to adhere to meat and poultry regulations.

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APHIS lists pests, diseases that pose high risk to U.S. agriculture Mon, 10 Aug 2020 04:05:45 +0000 Continue Reading]]> The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking feedback on its proposed list of pests and diseases of concern that are likely to pose a high risk to U.S. agricultural and natural resources.

Section 12203 of the 2018 Farm Bill requires pest- and disease-planning activities that mirror the extensive planning efforts APHIS already performs. Specifically, it requires APHIS to develop a uniform list of pests and diseases that represent the gravest threat to the United States and to develop comprehensive response plans to ensure Federal and State governments are prepared to respond to them.

APHIS is publishing the list on its website.  The agency will review comments from the public about the list, including suggestions of pests or diseases that should be added or removed.  In providing comments, individuals should keep in mind that the Farm Bill definition of a pest or disease of concern limits this list to those that are “likely to pose a significant risk to the food and agricultural critical infrastructure sector” and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible pests or diseases. Comments may be submitted to

After reviewing feedback and potentially revising the list, APHIS will ensure it has fully developed comprehensive response plans to address the pests and diseases on the list. Additionally, it will continue to work with its State partners on response plans they wish to create. The agency will also continue to periodically test those plans to ensure awareness of each organization’s roles and responsibilities.

APHIS continues to practice its thorough planning to prevent the introduction of potential pests and diseases into the United States. The presence or absence of a pest or disease on this list does not preclude APHIS from taking appropriate actions to protect plant or animal health. If a threat emerges that is not on the list, APHIS will respond appropriately, according to the agency.

APHIS promises to keep the United States free of foreign animal and plant pests and diseases, which the agency says benefits American producers and consumers by maintaining the value of U.S. agricultural and food resources and upholding and expanding export markets abroad.

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