Tag Archives: consumer safety

STOP Foodborne Illness

STOP Foodborne Illness Kicks Off National Food Safety Education Month with STOP3000 Campaign

By Maria Fontanazza
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STOP Foodborne Illness
Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness
Mitzi Baum, CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness, will moderate a panel about STOP’s Recall Modernization Working Group during an episode of the 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series. Join us on Thursday, October 14.

Each year the CDC estimates that more than 3000 people die as a result of contracting a foodborne illness. This month—National Food Safety Education Month—STOP Foodborne Illness is launching a fundraising campaign to educate the broader community about the issue, by encouraging participants to take 3000 steps per day.

STOP3000 begins today and runs through the entire month of September. This fundraiser will help STOP Foodborne Illness in its continued efforts to push food safety initiatives forward while engaging with key industry stakeholders, including federal regulatory agencies, food manufacturers, food retailers and the food service community.

“This is a way for everyone to participate in raising awareness about food safety,” Mitzi Baum, CEO of STOP told Food Safety Tech. “It’s about how you can make small changes in your daily habits to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. People can sign up to walk, ask friends and family to post on their social media, or you can make a donation. Each day we’ll push out food safety facts and information, so you’re getting a little bit of knowledge every day during National Food Safety Education Month.”

If you’re interested in participating in the campaign, you can sign up on the JustGiving website. You can also search for and donate to current participants by typing “STOP3000” into the Search box on the JustGiving site.

EPA logo

EPA Stops Use of Pesticide Deemed Harmful to Children

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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EPA logo

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer permit the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food. The organophosphate insecticide, which is used on fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, row crops and other agriculture, has been linked with neurotoxicity in children.

“Today EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health. Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide,” said Administrator Michael S. Regan in an agency news release. “After the delays and denials of the prior administration, EPA will follow the science and put health and safety first.”

The EPA also issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of the pesticide.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Sergeant Pepper On Duty

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Pepper, food fraud
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

A Northern Ireland-based analytical lab added white pepper to its portfolio of food authenticity tests based on spectroscopy with chemometric analysis. White pepper, the ripe berries of the piper nigrum plant, is undergoing an additional production step, fetches a higher price than black pepper and therefore is a target for fraudsters. Often, bulking substances like skins, flour, husks and spent materials are used, but in some cases of pepper fraud, the substances used were hazardous to human health.

Resource

  1. Taylor, P. (August 24, 2021). “With white pepper fraud on the up, Bia unveils authenticity test”. Securing Industry.
Allergens

Key Trends Reinforce Food Allergen Testing Market Across North America

By Saloni Walimbe
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Allergens

The food allergen testing industry has garnered considerable traction across North America, especially due to the high volume of processed food and beverages consumed daily. Allergens are becoming a significant cause for concern in the present food processing industry worldwide. Food allergies, which refer to abnormal reactions or hypersensitivity produced by the body’s immune system, are considered a major food safety challenge in recent years and are placing an immense burden on both personal and public health.

In 2019, the most common reason behind recalls issued by the USDA FSIS and the FDA was undeclared allergens. In light of this growing pressure, food producers are taking various steps to ensure complete transparency regarding the presence of allergenic ingredients, as well as to mitigate risk from, or possibly even prevent contact with, unintended allergens. One of these steps is food allergen testing.

Allergen detection tests are a key aspect of allergen management systems in food processing plants and are executed at nearly every step of the process. These tests can be carried out on work surfaces, as well as the products, to detect any cross contamination or allergen presence, and to test the effectiveness of a food processing unit’s cleaning measures.
There has been a surge in awareness among consumers about food allergies and tackling the risk of illnesses that may arise from consuming any ingredient. One of the key reasons for a higher awareness is efforts to educate the public. In Canada, for example, May has been designated “Food Allergy Awareness Month”. It is estimated that more than 3 million people in Canada are affected by food allergies.

The size of the global food allergen testing market is anticipated to gain significant momentum over the coming years, with consistent expansion of the dairy, processed food and confectionary segments.

Understanding the Prevailing Trends in Food Allergen Testing Industry

Food allergies risen nearly 50% in the last 10 years, with a staggering 700% increase observed in hospitalizations due to anaphylaxis. Studies also suggest that food allergies are a growing health concern, with more than 250 million people worldwide estimated to be affected.

Although more than 170 foods have been identified as causing food allergies in sensitive consumers, the USDA and the FDA have identified eight major allergenic foods, based on the 2004 FALCPA (the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act). These include eggs, milk, shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, soybean, and wheat, which are responsible for 90% of allergic reactions caused due to food consumption. In April 2021, the FASTER (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research) Act was signed into law, which categorized sesame as the ninth major food allergen.

This ever-increasing prevalence of allergy-inducing foods has presented lucrative opportunities for the food allergen testing industry in recent years since food processing business operators are placing a strong emphasis on ensuring transparency in their products’ ingredient lists. By testing for allergens in food products, organizations can accurately mention each ingredient, and thereby allow people with specific food allergies to avoid consuming them.

Several allergen detection methods are used in the food processing industry, including mass spectrometry, DNA-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as well as ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), to name a few. The FDA, for instance, created a food allergen detection assay, called xMAP, designed to simultaneously identify 16 allergens, including sesame, within a single analysis, along with the ability to expand for the targeting of additional food allergens. Such industry advancements are improving the monitoring process for undeclared allergen presence in the food supply chain and enabling timely intervention upon detection.

Furthermore, initiatives, such as the Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL), created and managed by the Allergen Bureau, are also shedding light on the importance of allergen testing in food production. The VITAL program is designed to support allergen management with the help of a scientific process for risk assessment, in order to comply with food safety systems like the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), with allergen analysis playing a key role in its application.

ELISA Gains Prominence as Ideal Tool for Food Allergen Testing

In life sciences, the detection and quantification of various antibodies or antigens in a cost-effective and timely manner is of utmost importance. Detection of select protein expression on a cell surface, identification of immune responses in individuals, or execution of quality control testing—all these assessments require a dedicated tool.

ELISA is one such tool proving to be instrumental for both diagnostics as well as research). Described as an immunological assay, ELISA is used commonly for the measurement of antibodies or antigens in biological samples, including glycoproteins or proteins.

While its utility continues to grow, ELISA-based testing has historically demonstrated excellent sensitivity in food allergen testing applications, in some cases down to ppm (parts per million). It has a distinct advantage over other allergen detection methods like PCR, owing to the ability to adapt to certain foods like milk and oils, where its counterparts tend to struggle. The FDA is one of the major promoters of ELISA for allergen testing in food production, involving the testing of food samples using two different ELISA kits, prior to confirming results.

Many major entities are also taking heed of the growing interest in the use of ELISA for food allergen diagnostics. A notable example of this is laboratory analyses test kits and systems supplier, Eurofins, which introduced its SENSISpec Soy Total protein ELISA kit in September 2020. The enzyme immunoassay, designed for quantitative identification of soy protein in swab and food samples, has been developed by Eurofins Immunolab to measure residues of processed protein in various food products, including instant meals, chocolate, baby food, ice cream, cereals, sausage, and cookies, among others.

In essence, food allergens continue to prevail as high-risk factors for the food production industry. Unlike other pathogens like bacteria, allergenic proteins are heat resistant and stable, and cannot easily be removed once present in the food supply chain. In this situation, diagnostic allergen testing, complete segregation of allergenic substances, and accurate food allergen labeling are emerging as the ideal courses of action for allergen management in the modern food production ecosystem, with advanced technologies like molecular-based food allergy diagnostics expected to take up a prominent role over the years ahead.

Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall

FDA, CDC Investigate Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Linked to BrightFarms Salad Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall
Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall
A sample image of one of the recalled products. A full list is available on FDA’s website.

The FDA, CDC, and state and local agencies are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections that have been linked to BrightFarms packaged salad greens. Last week BrightFarms recalled packaged salad greens produced in its Rochelle, IL greenhouse farm over concern of Salmonella contamination. The products, which have “best by” dates through 7/29/2021, were sold in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana.

Thus far 9 illnesses and one hospitalization have been linked to the Salmonella outbreak.

The FDA is advising that consumers, restaurants, retailers and distributors throw away any of the affected products, and clean and sanitize any surfaces that may have come into contact with the product.

Attend the On-Demand Virtual Event:Food Safety Hazards Series: Salmonella Detection, Mitigation, Control and Regulation

Food safety experts will discuss challenges and tangible best practices in Salmonella detection, mitigation and control, along with critical issues that the food industry faces with regards to the pathogen. This includes the journey and progress of petition to USDA on reforming and modernizing poultry inspections to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter; Salmonella detection, mitigation and control; and a case study on the pathogen involving crisis management.

Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

A Sad Event With A Devastating Ending

By Susanne Kuehne
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Susanne Kuehne, Decernis
Rice field, Cambodia
Find records of fraud such as those discussed in this column and more in the Food Fraud Database, owned and operated by Decernis, a Food Safety Tech advertiser. Image credit: Susanne Kuehne

Adulterated rice wine served at a funeral is suspected to have caused the hospitalization of 76 and the death of eight people in the Pursat Province of Cambodia. The cause of the poisoning is still under investigation by local authorities. Samples of the suspected rice wine and other beverages are being analyzed in a lab. This year, adulterated rice wine was responsible for a multitude of deaths in several Cambodian provinces.

Resource

  1. Chanvireak, M. (June 3, 2021). “8 dead and 76 in hospital for suspected rice wine poisoning”. Khmer Times.
Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria

Tyson Foods Recalls More Than 8 Million Pounds of RTE Chicken Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria
Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria
One of the recalled RTE chicken products from Tyson Foods. Labels of recalled products are available on the FSIS website.

Tyson Foods, Inc. is recalling 8,492,832 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products over concerns that the product may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Class I recall affects frozen, fully cooked chicken products that were produced between December 26, 2020 and April 13, 2021, and shipped nationwide to retailers and facilities that include hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, schools and Department of Defense locations. The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. P-7089” on the product bag or inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Thus far three people have been sickened with Listeriosis, and one death has been reported, according to the CDC investigation.

The FSIS website lists all products affected by the recall—which includes diced chicken, frozen, fully cooked chicken strips, diced chicken, chicken used for fajitas chicken wing sections, and pizza with fully cooked chicken.

The CDC is advising that businesses do not serve or sell recalled products, and that any refrigerators, containers or surfaces that may have touched the recalled products be thoroughly cleaned.

Cybersecurity

As Cyber Threats Evolve, Can Food Companies Keep Up?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Cybersecurity

The recent cyberattack that shut down meat supplier JBS should be a wakeup call to the food industry. These attacks are on the rise across industries, and food operations both large and small need to be prepared. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Brent Johnson, partner at Holland & Hart, breaks down key areas of vulnerability and how companies in the food industry can take proactive steps to protect their operations and ultimately, the consumer.

Food Safety Tech: Given the recent cyberattack on JBS, how vulnerable are U.S. food companies, in general, to this type of attack? How prepared are companies right now?

Brent Johnson, Holland & Hart
Brent Johnson, partner, Holland & Hart

Brent Johnson: Food companies are in the same boat as other manufacturers. Cyber threats are constantly evolving and hackers are developing increasingly sophisticated delivery systems for ransomware. Food companies are obviously focused on making and delivering safe and compliant products and getting paid for them. Cybersecurity is important, but it’s difficult for manufacturers to devote the resources necessary to make their systems bulletproof when it’s an ancillary part of their overall operations and a cost driver. Unfortunately, hackers only have one job.

We tend to think of big tech and financial services companies as the prime targets for ransomware attacks because of the critical nature of their technology and data, but food companies are really no different. Plus, unlike tech companies and the financial services industry, food companies haven’t, as a general matter, developed the robust defenses necessary to thwart attacks, so they’re easier targets.

Food Safety Tech: What is the overall impact of a cyberattack on a food company, from both a business as well as a consumer safety perspective?

Johnson: It may come as a bit of a surprise to those who don’t work in the food industry, but food production (from slaughterhouses to finished products) is highly automated and data driven. That’s one of the lessons of the JBS ransomware attack. The attack shut down meat processing facilities across the United States and elsewhere. I work in Utah and the JBS Beef Plant in Hyrum was temporarily shut down. JBS cancelled two shifts at its meatpacking operation in Greeley, Colorado where my firm has a large presence as well, because of the ransomware attack. So, the impact on a food company’s business from a successful ransomware attack is dramatic.

On the consumer safety side, a ransomware attack that impacts automated safety systems would cause significant problems for a food manufacturer. Software controls much of the food industry’s safety systems—from sanitation (equipment washdowns and predictive maintenance) to traceability (possible pathogen contamination and recalls) to ingredient monitoring (including allergen detection). Every part of a food company’s production system is traced, tracked, and verified electronically. A ransomware attack on a food maker would very likely compromise the company’s ability to produce safe products.

Food Safety Tech: What proactive steps should food companies be taking to protect themselves against a cyberattack?

Johnson: I wish there was an easy and foolproof system for food companies to implement to protect against cyber attacks, but there isn’t. The threats are always changing. The Biden Administration’s recent memorandum to corporate executives and business leaders on strengthening cyber defenses is a good starting point, however. The White House’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Tech, Anne Neuberger, reiterated the following “Five Best Practices” from President Biden’s executive order. These practices are multifactor authentication, endpoint detection and response, aggressive monitoring for malicious activities on the company’s networks and blocking them, data encryption, and the creation of a skilled cyber security team with the ability to train employees, detect threats and patch system vulnerabilities.

Food Safety Tech: Are there specific companies within the food industry that are especially susceptible?

Johnson: Not really. Hackers are opportunistic and look for the paths of least resistance. That said, as can be seen from the recent Colonial Pipeline and JBS ransomware attacks, hackers have transitioned from the early days of going after individuals and small businesses to whale hunting. The money is better.

It’s important to observe that the recent attacks have been directed at industries that present national infrastructure concerns (oil, the food supply). There’s no evidence of any involvement by a foreign government in these attacks, but it’s a fair question as to whether the hackers, themselves, expect that the federal government will step in at some point to assist the victims of cyber attacks financially due to their critical importance.

Food Safety Tech: Where do you see the issue of cybersecurity and cyberattacks related to the food industry headed in the future?

Johnson: Other than the certainty that the attacks will increase in both intensity and sophistication, I have no prediction. It’s not a time for complacency.

Recall

Beech-Nut Recalls Infant Single Grain Rice Cereal Due to High Inorganic Arsenic Levels, Pulls Out of Market Segment

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

Today Beech-Nut Nutrition Company announced a voluntary recall of one lot of its Stage 1 Single Grain Rice Cereal following sampling that revealed the product tested above the guidance level for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic set by FDA last summer. The routine sampling was conducted by the State of Alaska. The recalled item has an expiration date of May 1, 2022.

“The safety of infants and children is Beech-Nut’s top priority. We are issuing this voluntary recall, because we learned through routine sampling by the State of Alaska that a limited quantity of Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice Cereal products had levels of naturally-occurring inorganic arsenic above the FDA guidance level, even though the rice flour used to produce these products tested below the FDA guidance level for inorganic arsenic,” said Jason Jacobs, Vice President, Food Safety and Quality, Beech-Nut, in a company announcement published on FDA’s website.

Perhaps even bigger news is Beech-Nut’s announcement that it is exiting the market for its branded Single Grain Rice Cereal. The company is concerned that it will not be able to consistently obtain rice flour that is well-below FDA’s guidance level (as well as Beech-Nut’s specifications) for naturally occurring inorganic arsenic.

Sesame Seeds

President Biden Signs FASTER Act, Requiring Sesame Labeling on Food Packaging

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Sesame Seeds

Last week President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act; H.R. 1202) into law. The bill is a significant victory for food allergy advocates, because it adds sesame to the list of allergens that must be labeled on food packaging. HHS must also report certain information related to food allergy research and data collection.

Sesame is the ninth food allergen that must be labeled on food packaging. According to FARE (Food Allergy & Research Education), a non-government food allergy advocacy group, about 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame. “Sesame is often used when a label reads ‘natural flavors’ or ‘natural spices’, adding another layer of difficulty when consumers review product labels at their local grocery store,” according to a FARE press release about the bill. “This marks the first time since 2004 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).”

Packages must include the updated labeling by January 2023.