Yesterday FDA issued an update on the E.coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in California. The agency’s traceback investigation continues, and it is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as there is a similar outbreak in Canada.
FDA stated that the contaminated lettuce likely originates from the Central Coast growing regions of northern and Central California (Counties of Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Ventura).
“Traceback information from four restaurants in three different states so far has implicated 10 different distributors, 12 different growers, and 11 different farms as potential sources of rthe contaminated lettuce. The information indicates that the outbreak cannot be explained by a single farm, grower, harvester, or distributor.”
The fast-approaching August 30th deadline for California’s Proposition 65 has food manufacturers of all sizes working to make sure affected labels comply with the new labeling requirements. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), Proposition 65:
“…requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. These chemicals can be in the products that Californians purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. By requiring that this information be provided, Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals.”
Proposition 65, also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, is intended to help better equip Californians to make informed decisions about the products they purchase. The OEHHA is responsible for determining which chemicals meet the legal and scientific requirements for inclusion on the Proposition 65 list, a list which has grown to more than 900 chemicals since it was originally published in 1987.
The new law will be enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office as well as any district attorney or city attorney for cities whose population exceeds 750,000. Individuals acting in the public’s interest may also seek to enforce Proposition 65 by filing a lawsuit against companies alleged to be in violation. Companies that are found to be in violation may be fined as high as $2,500 per violation per day.
To ensure compliance with the new law, food manufacturers must reference the list of included chemicals to determine which of their products, if any, are impacted. Manufacturers must then provide “clear and reasonable warnings” that chemicals used in the production of their goods or products sold in California are known to cause cancer, birth defects and/or other reproductive harm. The ruling impacts goods sold in California as well as those sold via catalog or the internet.
Proposition 65 underscores the importance of an agile labeling environment for food manufacturers, particularly as it relates to their ability to adjust labels prior to compliance deadlines. It also implores manufacturers to look to automation to reduce the room for human error. For example, labeling software can be leveraged to create a table look up so if an impacted ingredient is included in a product and printed on a label, the required warning statement is also automatically included on the label.
Leveraging a database connection to apply such warnings can help businesses mitigate risk, as failing to include a required warning could result in fines, business disruption and lost revenue. It is also important to note that compliance with Proposition 65 will require food manufacturers to stay up to date on changes, as new chemicals may be added and/or revisions to law may continue to occur. Food retailers must also stay abreast of labeling changes required by Proposition 65 to ensure the products they sell are in compliance. Learn more about Proposition 65 at the OEHHA’s official website: https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov.
Last week California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that bans the use of antibiotics in meat production. The legislation, SB-27 Livestock: use of antimicrobial drugs, prohibits the administration of antibiotics in livestock unless ordered by a licensed veterinarian via a prescription or veterinary feed directive. As such, the law bans using drugs to promote weight gain or improve feed efficiency.
Several organizations, including the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), are applauding the legislation. On the NRDC’s blog, senior attorney with the organization’s health program, Avinash Kar, praised the passage of the final bill. “We’ve fought for many years to get the FDA to take genuine action on this issue, but the FDA has basically given the issue lip service and failed to take meaningful action,” wrote Kar.
The legislation, also the most stringent nationwide, goes into effect January 1, 2018. It requires that the Department of Food and Agriculture, in collaboration with the Veterinary Medical Board, the State Department of Health, and other organizations put together antimicrobial stewardship guidelines and best management practices on how to properly use “medically important antimicrobial drugs. The departments would also be required to collect data on the use and sales of these drugs, along with data related to antibiotic resistant bacteria, and livestock management practice data.
Violation in the bill’s provisions will result in a civil penalty of up to $250 for each day the violation occurs, as well as up to $500 in administrative fines for each day the violation occurs.
The use of antibiotics in meat and poultry has been highly controversial for years, as it has been blamed for an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections. In addition, resistant bacteria can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of food. Antibiotic resistance and food safety has been a high priority by the CDC, which estimates that Salmonella and Campylobacter, cause nearly 410,000 antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States annually.
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