FDA

FDA’s ‘Closer to Zero’ Action Plan to Reduce Exposure to Toxic Elements in Baby Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Following the report released by Congress in February regarding an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals found in baby food, the FDA has released an action plan that aims to reduce the presence of those dangerous metals to the “lowest possible levels” in common foods consumed by babies and young children. The “Closer to Zero” plan takes research, regulatory and outreach into consideration and will use the following approach:

  • Evaluating the scientific basis for action levels. FDA will evaluate existing data from routine testing of food, research and data on chemical analytical methods, toxicological assays, exposure and risk assessments, and other relevant scientific information.
  • Proposing action levels for specific toxic elements in baby food categories that include cereal, formula, and pureed fruits and vegetables.
  • Working with stakeholders and federal partners on proposed action levels— including collecting data and information from workshops and scientific meetings—and assessing the feasibility of the proposed action levels and timeframes for achieving them. The FDA will use and monitor the information to finalize the action levels.

“Our action plan will start with prioritizing our work on those elements for which we have the most data and information – arsenic and lead – while research continues on other elements, progressing through each element over time across various categories of foods consumed by babies and young children,” stated Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting FDA commissioner and Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of CFSAN. “During the plan’s first year (phase one), we will be proposing action levels for lead in categories of foods consumed by babies and young children, consulting with and gathering data from stakeholders and federal partners on issues such as the feasibility of meeting action levels for lead, and sharing resources with industry on best practices for reducing or preventing lead contamination. We will also complete updated sampling assignments testing toxic element levels in baby foods and evaluate the science related to arsenic exposure from foods beyond infant rice cereal. Phases two, three and beyond are outlined in our plan.” Phase 2 runs from April 2022 until April 2024 and will expand the agency’s work into cadmium and mercury, as well as finalize action levels for lead. Phase three and beyond begins in April 2024 and will finalize action levels for arsenic.

FDA

FDA Publishes Report on Fall 2020 E. Coli Outbreak in Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Today the FDA released a report on its investigation into the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak involving leafy greens during the Fall 2020. The report also identified three reoccurring trends in the contamination of leafy greens grown in the Central Coast of California related to the outbreak strain, region and issues with activities on adjacent land.

In January, FDA released preliminary findings, which linked cattle feces to the outbreak strain—located uphill from where contaminated leafy greens were grown.

“In the investigation, the FDA recommends that growers of leafy greens in the California Central Coast Growing Region consider this reoccurring E. coli strain a reasonably foreseeable hazard, and specifically of concern in the South Monterey County area of the Salinas Valley,” stated Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, in an agency news release. “It is important to note that farms covered by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule are required to implement science and risk-based preventive measures in the rule, which includes practices that prevent the introduction of known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into or onto produce.”

The 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series kicks off on May 6 with a keynote address from Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner of food policy and response at FDA The FDA also recommends that the region’s agricultural community work to determine where the reoccurring strain of the pathogenic E. coli is persisting, along with the probable contamination route(s).

“Although the FDA is keenly focused on taking steps to help mitigate recurring leafy green contamination events, we alone cannot fix this issue. Industry leadership and collaboration among growers, processors, retailers, state partners and the broader agricultural community is critical to reducing foodborne illnesses,” Yiannas stated. “At the FDA, the safety of leafy greens remains a top priority, and we are committed to working with all stakeholders to address this significant public health issue and further protect consumers.”

The Report, “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Leafy Greens Implicated in the Fall 2020 Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7”, can be downloaded from FDA’s website.

MilliporeSigma

Ask the Expert: Best Practice Discussion on Membrane Filtration and How Set Up Can Affect Sample Results

By Michel van Musschenbroek
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MilliporeSigma

Membrane filtration is a key method for determining the microbial load of filterable raw materials, products, and water. It enables the user to remove impurities from their sample that could affect the growth of organisms, while offering an easy to use process for determining bioburden levels. There are many decisions to make when considering your membrane filtration set up (manifold, vacuum source, consumable choice) and we will discuss the potential pros and cons of each choice.

What are the potential consequences of choosing the wrong manifold set up?

Michel van Musschenbroek: During the filtration of water, beverages, and other liquids, residual amounts of sample can get trapped in areas that are difficult to clean. This can eventually lead to Biofilm formation, where clusters of contaminating microorganisms become protected by a slime-like extracellular matrix. Once formed, biofilms are very difficult to eliminate and can eventually cause false positive results through cross contamination of the membrane. Selecting a manifold which enables effective cleaning and autoclaving of all components (filtration heads, valves, connections, etc.) is essential in the prevention of biofilm. Another way to improve your workflow set up is to use a direct liquid transfer vacuum pump, replacing the need for a vacuum flask (water trap).

Which filtration device type is best for sampling, re-usable or single-use?

Michel van Musschenbroek: There are many different devices available for membrane filtration. Some are re-usable such as glass or stainless-steel funnels and others are single- use (plastic disposable) units. Many believe re-usable funnels save time and are “greener”. However, stainless steel and glass funnels must be sanitized in between each sample adding time to your filtration process. In addition, using an autoclave to sterilize the equipment requires resources which often negate the “greener” theory. Cross contamination is also more likely with re-usable funnels since you are relying on proper sanitation between samples and must manipulate the membrane to perform the test. More specifically with single-use funnels, you do not have to worry about pre-autoclaving the filtration devices before sampling or sanitizing filtration devices in-between samples.

Single-use funnels and associated packaging can also be recycled in accordance with our recommended decontamination and waste sorting guidance (and pending related company policies). Most importantly, when the membrane is integrated into the device it will reduce the risk of false-positives by limiting membrane manipulation. The reasons above show why the EZ Fit family is great choice for your membrane filtration testing.

EZ-FIT, Millipore

Content Sponsored by MilliporeSigma. For more information, visit SigmaAldrich.com/ez-fit

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Reimagining Food Safety Through Transparency and Open Dialogue

By Maria Fontanazza
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GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Last year’s annual GFSI Conference was held in Seattle just weeks before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This year’s event looked very different, as it joined the virtual event circuit—with hundreds of attendees gathering from across the globe, but from the comfort of their homes and offices. The 2021 GFSI Conference reflected on lessons learned over the past year, the fundamentals of building a better food system, and the idea that food safety is a collaborative effort that also encompasses training programs, effectively leveraging data and capacity building.

The pandemic provided the opportunity to reimagine safer, more resilient and sustainable food systems, said Dr. Naoki Yamamoto, universal health coverage, assistant director-general, UHC, Healthier populations at WHO. She also offered three clear messages that came out of the pandemic:

  • Food safety is a public health priority and a basic human right. Safe food is not a luxury.
  • Food safety is a shared responsibility. Everyone in the food chain must understand this responsibility and work towards a common goal.
  • Good public private partnership can bring new opportunities and innovative solutions for food safety. We need to seek more collaborative approaches when working across sectors to achieve foods safety.

During the session “Ready for Anything: How Resiliency and Technology Will Build Consumer Trust and Help Us Mitigate Disruption in the 21st Century”, industry leaders discussed how the pandemic reminded us that a crisis can come in many forms, and how applying the right strategy and technology can help us remain resilient and equipped to address the challenges, said Erica Sheward, GFSI director.

“When you think about business resiliency—it’s about our own, but most importantly, it’s about helping our customers become more resilient to those disruptions,” said Christophe Beck, president and CEO of Ecolab. He added that being able to predict disruptions, help customers respond to those disruptions, and provide real-time control to learn and prepare for the next pandemic or serious crisis is critical. Companies need to ensure their technology systems and contingency plans are ready to go, advised David Maclennan, chairman and CEO of Cargill. The key to a resilient food supply chain system is access and the ability to keep food moving across borders. And above all, whether dealing with a health crisis or a food safety crisis, consumers must always be front and center, said Natasa Matyasova, head of quality management at Nestle. “In short term, [it’s] first people, then business contingency, and then help the community as needed,” she said.

Recall

Sabra Recalls Hummus After Salmonella Discovered During FDA Routine Screening

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

On Monday Sabra Dipping Company, LLC and the FDA announced a voluntary recall of the company’s Classic Hummus due to potential Salmonella contamination. The discovery was made when the FDA conducted a routine screen of one tub. Sabra has recalled about 2100 cases of its 10 oz Classic Hummus (1 SKU), which was produced on February 10 and has a “Best Before” date of April 26. The product was distributed to 16 states, but according to the company announcement posted on FDA’s website, since the hummus is more than halfway through its shelf life, “it’s unlikely you’ll find this product on the shelf.”

Thus far no illnesses have been reported in connection with this recall.

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Trust, Transparency and Collaboration Are Highlights of 2021 GFSI Conference

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

The second and third days of this year’s virtual 2021 GFSI Conference (see GFSI Day 1 Wrap) took the opportunity to recognize the impact of COVID-19 on the industry but more importantly, addressed the future of providing safe food to a global population. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an exceptional challenge to public health and food systems and everyone in the world, but it has also been an opportunity to reimagine safer, more resilient and sustainable food systems,” said Naoko Yamamoto, M.D., a physician and epidemiologist at the World Health Organization. “We need to seek more collaborative approaches to be inclusive and innovative when working across sectors to achieve food safety.”

Speakers discussed the importance trust and transparency related to food safety and sustainability. With the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals deadline set at 2030, GFSI developed a new code of ethical conduct in its new Governance rules. “We need strong engagement from the private sector for our agrifood systems to become more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

In addition to networking breaks during the event, concurrent special sessions targeted auditing, chemical hazards, pest management and technology solutions. Day three also featured Ask GFSI sessions, which were conducted in Zoom, and allowed speakers to field questions from the live attendees.

Read GFSI’s full update of Day Two of the conference.

Read GFSI’s full update of Day Three of the conference.

 

GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

Day 1 of 2021 GFSI Conference Reflects on Leadership and Resilience

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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GFSI, The Consumer Goods Forum

The 20th annual GFSI Conference convened yesterday, but instead of bringing together an international group of food industry stakeholders in one central location, the event was held online, streamed throughout offices and homes across the globe.

Day one kicked off with a welcome from Wai-Chan Chan, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum, Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, who addressed the humanitarian and consumer perspective of food safety. “We need a strong engagement of the private sector for our agrifood systems to become more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” Chan stated. The conversation about the global importance of sustainability continued with a conversation led by Erica Sheward, GFSI Director, and Howard Popoola, vice president, corporate food technology and regulatory compliance for The Kroger Company and Roy Kirby, global director, microbiology, food safety and toxicology for Mondelez International. They talked about GFSI’s program, Race to the Top, and the /global Markets Programme capability tool, which was established more than 10 years ago to help companies implement continuous improvement to develop an effective food safety management system, and its potential in developing markets. “Think about what this could do for farmers, think about what it could do for families in Africa, in those places described as countries of opportunity, producing niche products, who just need an opportunity to be able to sell their products into the world stage,” said Popoola, who is also a GFSI steering committee member.

During the course of the day, stakeholders also discussed pandemic-specific issues including supply chain disruptions, and the role of crisis communications and messaging to consumers related to the safety of the food supply.

More exclusive updates will be available from Food Safety Tech. Read GFSI’s full update on Day One of the conference.

HorizonScan, Salmonella

HorizonScan Hazard Challenge: Quiz 8

HorizonScan, Salmonella

So … a guy walks into a bar and says, “What sort of quality and safety issues do I need to worry about in all the beer I’m about to drink?” Will you have the answer?

Hazard Question #8 – What have been the most common safety/quality issues reported in beer over the past 10 years?

Hint: The answer to the guy’s question is NOT “If you drink enough beer you won’t have any more worries.” But it’s super easy to find the correct answers in HorizonScan by whipping out your phone, logging into HorizonScan, doing a search on beer, then entering a 10 year date range in the bar graph summary. You’ll have your answer in less than 30 seconds. Sharing the results may be a great way to get that guy to go somewhere else to drink.

HorizonScan also covers wines, spirits and liquors, etc., plus juices, concentrates, soft drinks, mineral water and a host of other beverages, not to mention the peanuts and pretzels on the bar, all the ingredients in the pizza you just ordered, the greens in your salad, the oils and spices in the dressing … you get the idea.

To request updated pricing information or a free demo of HorizonScan, just reply now to this message and we’ll get back to you with answers to all your questions.

Kind regards,
The HorizonScan Team at FoodChain ID

Figure 1. HorizonScan Overview
Figure 1. HorizonScan Overview

Answer to last week’s Quiz – Since 1999 HorizonScan has recorded 194 reports of Salmonella Agona, spread over a wide range of food products. What food group has accounted for 50% of those reports?

For sure, the most alarming occurrences of Salmonella Agona over the past occurred in infant food and formula. But Feedstuff accounted for 97 of the cases reported since 1999, with Poultry meat and products a distant second. The chart below breaks down all 194 reports.

HorizonScan, Salmonella
Figure 2. Salmonella Agona Occurrences since 1999.
Recall

FDA and CDC Investigating Non-Viral Hepatitis Potentially Linked to ‘Real Water’ Brand Alkaline Water

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

The FDA and CDC are investigating reports of acute non-viral hepatitis in consumers that has a common link to “Real Water” brand alkaline water. The agency is in the beginning stages of the investigation and notes that more products could be connected to the outbreak. The acute non-viral hepatitis cases affected infants and children, resulted in acute liver failure and occurred in November 2020, but FDA was alerted to the cases on March 13, 2021.

The manufacturer, Arizona-based Real Water, Inc., stated that the issue occurred in Las Vegas and is recalling the product. FDA pulled information from the company’s website stating that the five-gallon containers are delivered to homes in Honolulu; Orange County, Ventura and Santa Barbara, California; St. George, Utah; and Tucson, Arizona. The agency also states that Real Water is packaged and sold in various sizes including 1 gallon, 1 liter and 1.5 liter plastic bottles.

FDA is urging consumers, restaurants and retailers against drinking, cooking with, selling or serving the “Real Water” alkaline water until more information is revealed about the illnesses.

USDA Logo

USDA Names Sandra Eskin Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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USDA Logo

USDA has announced its new Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Sandra Eskin, who previously served as the Project Director for Food Safety at The Pew Charitable Trust. Eskin has experience in strategic public policy issues related to consumer protection, food safety, dietary supplement safety, and food and drug labeling and advertising. She has also served as a federal government staff attorney and legislative representative for the Consumer Federation of America as well as the deputy director of the Produce Safety Project.

“Sandra’s deep experience in food safety will strengthen USDA’s dedication to ensuring a safe, secure food supply for consumers and help to protect the safety of federal meat inspectors and workers throughout the food chain,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a USDA press release.

“Eskin will go to the USDA at a particularly challenging time for the agency. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened inequities and worsened nearly every problem with our food supply, and employees at meat processing facilities are some of the hardest hit workers of any industry. Even setting the pandemic aside, the USDA has much more it could be doing to protect Americans from foodborne pathogens, such as the more dangerous strains of Salmonella that contaminate poultry. Eskin, who knows that sound science is key to sound food safety policies, can help steer the ship in the right direction.”  – Peter Lurie, M.D., president of Center for Science in the Public Interest