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Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0: How the United States can learn from the practices and innovations in other countries

November 13, 2014 Comments off

Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0: How the United States can learn from the practices and innovations in other countries
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts/Center for Science in the Public Interest

This food safety report, written by Pew and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), highlights the need to modernize the meat and poultry inspection system in the United States to better protect consumers from the health risks posed by contaminated food.

Salmonella, E. coli, and other foodborne bacteria and viruses are nearly impossible to detect with the naked eye. Yet U.S. inspections still rely on methods developed a century ago, primarily visual examination of animals and carcasses.

Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0 looks at the practices used by five countries and the European Union to better address the microscopic hazards that pose the greatest risks to public health. Pew and CSPI recommend that the United States find opportunities for improving meat and poultry inspection by commissioning comprehensive scientific assessments of its current approach and increasing the collection and analysis of data on food animals and production facilities.

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New From the GAO

October 20, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Food Safety: USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products. GAO-14-744, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-744
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666230.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/666518

2. Changing Crude Oil Markets: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices, and the Size of the Strategic Reserves Should Be Reexamined. GAO-14-807, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-807
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666275.pdf

FDA releases updated proposals to improve food safety and help prevent foodborne illness in response to public comments

September 23, 2014 Comments off

FDA releases updated proposals to improve food safety and help prevent foodborne illness in response to public comments
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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Based on extensive outreach and public comment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today proposed revisions to four proposed rules designed to help prevent food-borne illness. When finalized, the proposed rules will implement portions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to strengthen food safety by shifting the focus to preventing food safety problems rather than responding to problems after the fact.

Since FSMA was signed into law in January 2011, the FDA has proposed seven rules to implement FSMA. The four updated proposed rules include: produce-safety; preventive controls for human food; preventive controls for animal food; and the foreign supplier verification program.

Health Department Use of Social Media to Identify Foodborne Illness — Chicago, Illinois, 2013–2014

September 4, 2014 Comments off

Health Department Use of Social Media to Identify Foodborne Illness — Chicago, Illinois, 2013–2014
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

An estimated 55 million to 105 million persons in the United States experience acute gastroenteritis caused by foodborne illness each year, resulting in costs of $2–$4 billion annually (1). Many persons do not seek treatment, resulting in underreporting of the actual number of cases and cost of the illnesses (2). To prevent foodborne illness, local health departments nationwide license and inspect restaurants (3) and track and respond to foodborne illness complaints. New technology might allow health departments to engage with the public to improve foodborne illness surveillance (4). For example, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene examined restaurant reviews from an online review website to identify foodborne illness complaints (5). On March 23, 2013, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and its civic partners launched FoodBorne Chicago (6), a website (https://www.foodbornechicago.orgExternal Web Site Icon) aimed at improving food safety in Chicago by identifying and responding to complaints on Twitter about possible foodborne illnesses. In 10 months, project staff members responded to 270 Twitter messages (tweets) and provided links to the FoodBorne Chicago complaint form. A total of 193 complaints of possible foodborne illness were submitted through FoodBorne Chicago, and 133 restaurants in the city were inspected. Inspection reports indicated 21 (15.8%) restaurants failed inspection, and 33 (24.8%) passed with conditions indicating critical or serious violations. Eight tweets and 19 complaint forms to FoodBorne Chicago described seeking medical treatment. Collaboration between public health professionals and the public via social media might improve foodborne illness surveillance and response. CDPH is working to disseminate FoodBorne Chicago via freely available open source software.

Using Online Reviews by Restaurant Patrons to Identify Unreported Cases of Foodborne Illness — New York City, 2012–2013

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Using Online Reviews by Restaurant Patrons to Identify Unreported Cases of Foodborne Illness — New York City, 2012–2013
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

While investigating an outbreak of gastrointestinal disease associated with a restaurant, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) noted that patrons had reported illnesses on the business review website Yelp (http://www.yelp.com) that had not been reported to DOHMH. To explore the potential of using Yelp to identify unreported outbreaks, DOHMH worked with Columbia University and Yelp on a pilot project to prospectively identify restaurant reviews on Yelp that referred to foodborne illness. During July 1, 2012–March 31, 2013, approximately 294,000 Yelp restaurant reviews were analyzed by a software program developed for the project. The program identified 893 reviews that required further evaluation by a foodborne disease epidemiologist. Of the 893 reviews, 499 (56%) described an event consistent with foodborne illness (e.g., patrons reported diarrhea or vomiting after their meal), and 468 of those described an illness within 4 weeks of the review or did not provide a period. Only 3% of the illnesses referred to in the 468 reviews had also been reported directly to DOHMH via telephone and online systems during the same period. Closer examination determined that 129 of the 468 reviews required further investigation, resulting in telephone interviews with 27 reviewers. From those 27 interviews, three previously unreported restaurant-related outbreaks linked to 16 illnesses met DOHMH outbreak investigation criteria; environmental investigation of the three restaurants identified multiple food-handling violations. The results suggest that online restaurant reviews might help to identify unreported outbreaks of foodborne illness and restaurants with deficiencies in food handling. However, investigating reports of illness in this manner might require considerable time and resources.

Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks; Food service has a key role

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks; Food service has a key role
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Norovirus often gets attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but those account for only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus is very contagious, and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served. People with norovirus usually vomit and have diarrhea. Some may need to be hospitalized and can even die. Infected people can spread norovirus to others through close contact or by contaminating food and surfaces. Food service workers who have norovirus can contaminate food and make many people sick. In norovirus outbreaks for which investigators reported the source of contamination, 70% are caused by infected food workers.

CRS — The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer (updated)

March 11, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Food Safety System: A Primer (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

Numerous federal, state, and local agencies share responsibilities for regulating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Federal responsibility for food safety rests primarily with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FDA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported food products (except for most meats and poultry). FDA also has oversight of all seafood, fish, and shellfish products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry and some egg products. State and local food safety authorities collaborate with federal agencies for inspection and other food safety functions, and they regulate retail food establishments. Other federal agencies also play a role. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified as many as 15 federal agencies, including FDA and FSIS, as collectively administering at least 30 laws related to food safety. State and local food safety authorities collaborate with federal agencies for inspection and other food safety functions, and they regulate retail food establishments.

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