Today FSIS and FDA announced a formal agreement regarding the regulatory oversight of human food products derived from the cell lines of livestock and poultry. The agencies will jointly oversee regulation of these cell-cultured products to ensure both safe production as well as accurate labeling.
The agreement involves a joint regulatory framework in which the FDA will manage cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. During the cell harvest stage, FDA will transition oversight to FSIS and from there, FSIS will oversee production and labeling of the human food products that are derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.
“We recognize that our stakeholders want clarity on how we will move forward with a regulatory regime to ensure the safety and proper labeling of these cell-cultured human food products while continuing to encourage innovation,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas in a USDA press release.
The report states that a sediment sample coming from an on-farm water reservoir in Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County, California) tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Although this particular farm was identified in several legs of the Fall 2018 traceback investigations that occurred in the United States and Canada, as well as being a possible supplier of romaine lettuce in the 2017 traceback investigations, the FDA said that the farm is not the single source of the outbreak, as there is “insufficient evidence”. The traceback suggests that the contaminated lettuce could have come from several farms, because not all tracebacks led to the farm on which the contaminated sediment was found.
“The finding of the outbreak strain in the sediment of the water reservoir is significant, as studies have shown that generic E. coli can survive in sediments much longer than in the overlying water. It’s possible that the outbreak strain may have been present in the on-farm water reservoir for some months or even years before the investigation team collected the positive sample. It is also possible that the outbreak strain may have been repeatedly introduced into the reservoir from an unknown source,” stated FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas in a press announcement.
Although the exact route of contamination cannot be confirmed, the FDA hypothesizes that it could have occurred through the use of agricultural water from an open reservoir, which has increased potential for contamination.
The investigation teams also found evidence of “extensive” wild animal activity and animal burrows near the contaminated reservoir, as well as adjacent land use for animal grazing, all of which could have contributed to the contamination.
Considering the significant effect that the past two E.coli outbreaks involving romaine lettuce have had on both the public as well as the produce industry, FDA made several recommendations on preventive measures that leafy greens growers and industry can take to avoid such pathogenic contamination, including:
Assessing growing operations to ensure they are in line with compliance to FSMA and good agricultural practices
Making sure that any agricultural water that comes into direct contact with the harvestable portion of the crop, food contact surfaces and harvest equipment is safe and sanitary
Address and mitigate risks associated with agricultural water contamination that can occur as a result of intrusion by wild animals
Address and mitigate risks associated with the use of land near or adjacent to agricultural water sources that can lead to contamination
Conduct root cause analysis whenever a foodborne pathogen is identified in the growing environment, agricultural inputs like water or soil, raw agricultural commodities, or “fresh-cut” ready-to-eat produce
For the broader industry:
The development of real-time procedures that enable rapid examination of the potential scope, source and route of contamination
All leafy green products should have the ability to be traced back to the source in real time, and information include harvest date. In November, FDA requested voluntary labeling [https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/cdc-alert-do-not-eat-romaine-lettuce-throw-it-out/] to help consumers identify products affected during an outbreak
The adoption of best practices in supply chain traceability
FDA has issued a final guidance that reviews the situations in which a company should warn the public about a voluntary food recall. This includes the appropriate timeframe for issuing the warning and what information a company should include in the warning. The guidance, “Public Warning and Notification of Recalls”, also discusses when the FDA may decide to take action to issue a public warning, should one that a company issues is not sufficient.
In an agency statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD., also addresses the buzz around folks feeling that there have been more recalls. “In actuality, for fiscal year 2018, there were a total of 7,420 recalls with 831 that were classified as the highest risk. That figure represents a five-year low in recalls. However, the reason why recall notices might seem to have increased is that our publicizing of these events has become more prominent,” said Gottlieb. “We’re routinely providing more information on recalls and other safety issues that have happened.” He added that the ability to detect, track and trace product issues has improved with the help of technology, including whole genome sequencing.
“Our labs are currently testing cutting-edge technology that can screen for multiple allergens simultaneously and even technology that shrinks the genetic testing of pathogens from machines that were once the size of an entire room to a device that’s smaller than many smart phones. We’ll also be working to improve product traceability by tapping into modern approaches, such as blockchain technology, to further advance our mission of protecting public health.” – Scott Gottlieb, M.D., FDA
In addition, the agency is looking at how new technologies can be used notify consumers about whether a product they purchased has been recalled.
EDGARTOWN, MA, Feb. 8, 2019 – Innovative Publishing Co., publisher of Food Safety Tech, has announced that Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response at FDA, will serve as the keynote speaker to kick off the 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo on October 1. The Consortium is the industry’s leading food safety event for networking and educational opportunities, and takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL (just outside Chicago).
What’s all the buzz about food safety culture? Watch the videoYiannas recently took the reins in FDA’s lead food safety role following the retirement of Stephen Ostroff, M.D. He was previously the vice president of food safety at Walmart and has been a strong proponent of elevating food safety standards within organizations and implementing a food safety culture.
Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability. We also offer educational, career advancement and networking opportunities to the global food industry. This information exchange is facilitated through ePublishing, digital and live events.
About the Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo
The Food Safety Consortium Conference and Expo is a premier educational and networking event for food safety solutions. Attracting the most influential minds in food safety, the Consortium enables attendees to engage conversations that are critical for advancing careers and organizations alike. Visit with exhibitors to learn about cutting edge solutions, explore diverse educational tracks for learning valuable industry trends, and network with industry executives to find solutions to improve quality, efficiency and cost effectiveness in an ever-changing, global food safety market. This year’s event takes place October 1–3 in Schaumburg, IL.
Although FDA is continuing its investigation into the source of the E.coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce grown in California, the CDC has declared the outbreak over. Contaminated romaine that caused illnesses should no longer be available, FDA stated in an outbreak update. Consumers will not need to avoid romaine lettuce, and retailers and restaurants do not need to avoid selling or serving the product, according to the agency. Suppliers and distributors need not avoid shipping or selling any romaine that is on the market either.
FDA has recommended that romaine lettuce is labeled with the harvest location and date, as well as whether it has been grown hydroponically or in a greenhouse. “ In case of future product withdrawals or recalls of romaine lettuce, this will help to limit the amount of product to be removed from the market and it will help consumers, restaurants and retailers determine that the romaine lettuce they are buying is from an unaffected growing region,” stated FDA. In addition, the detailed labeling should be available in stores, the agency states.
–UPDATE —January 9, 2019 – Today FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. gave an update about food inspections in the context of the government shutdown. He chose Twitter to deliver his statement. He said FDA is expanding the scope of food safety surveillance inspections that are occurring during the shutdown to ensure that high-risk food facilities are address (31% of domestic inspections are high risk). He added that the agency continues to conduct all foreign food inspections.
“We assess risk based on an overall, cross-cutting risk profile. The primary factors contributing to a facility’s risk profile include: the type of food, the manufacturing process, and the compliance history of the facility. Commodities deemed high risk include, but aren’t limited to: modified atmosphere packaged products; acidified and low acid canned foods; seafood; custard filled bakery products; dairy products including soft, semi-soft, soft ripened cheese and cheese products, unpasteurized juices; sprouts ready-to-eat; fresh fruits and vegetables and processed fruits and vegetables; spices; shell eggs; sandwiches; prepared salads; infant formula; and medical foods.” – Scott Gottlieb, M.D., FDA
As the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues, businesses across industries are concerned about what resources are available.
At FDA, “All our work is important, but only some of our work is permitted to continue during a lapse in funding,” according to an agency statement. This work includes any activities that are considered “mission critical”:
Maintaining core functions that handle and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks
High-risk food recalls
Screening foods imported into the United States
The pursuit of civil and/or criminal investigations when the agency believes that the public health is at risk
At USDA, FSIS will continue much of its food safety activities Field inspection of meat, poultry and egg products will continue, as well as regulatory enforcement and product testing in labs. The agency will also continue its enforcement and food safety surveillance and investigations, which includes recall initiation, traceback/traceforward investigations.
“The agency must ensure adequate senior level management and coordination of the agency’s public health responsibilities during a shutdown. Excepted activities include responding to intentional and unintentional food safety events. A small number of individuals will support these activities for the duration of the shutdown, while others will be available on call if such an event occurs, including recall staff, scientists; recall communication specialists, significant incident specialists.” – USDA
In addition USDA/FSIS personnel at the agency’s three field labs are considered “excepted” during the shutdown. A full breakdown of FSIS activities that will continue are available on the USDA’s website.
Today AOAC International announced its appointment of Palmer Orlandi, Jr., Ph.D. to deputy executive director and chief science officer of the organization. Orlandi is Rear Admiral and U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, and formerly the senior science officer and research director at FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. He is also and on Food Safety Tech’s Editorial Advisory Board.
“We are eager to work with Dr. Orlandi to help drive the development and execution of our science strategy to capitalize on the opportunities in front of us,” said AOAC Executive Director David B. Schmidt in a press release. “He will strengthen our ability to solve public health dilemmas and make an impact in the analytical communities. With Palmer’s impressive background and extensive knowledge in global food safety, we are confident that he will help lead and advance AOAC’s mission further as we enter our next chapter.”
Orlandi’s appointment is effective next Monday, December 17. His responsibilities will include overseeing the AOAC Research Institute, standards development and proficiency testing. He will also engage in business development and strategic partnerships to advance voluntary consensus standards and international relations.
Orlandi has 20 years of experience at FDA, with his work beginning at a research lab at CFSAN. There he developed rapid and molecular detection methods for Cyclospora and Cryptosporidia and the Microsporidia (emerging food-and waterborne protozoan parasites). In 2008 he became the science coordinator in the Division of Field Science in FDA’s ORA where he oversaw collaborative analytical methods programs for ORA and the Food Emergency Response Network. In 2012 he took on the role of senior science advisor to the chief scientist officer at the Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine. He played an active role in integrating science and research efforts across the agency’s foods program, and working to align research and lab programs to regulatory field lab needs. He earned the rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General in 2017.
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.”
This year’s multistate outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce affected 210 people, killing five. Although the outbreak was officially declared over by the end of June, questions still remain as to the exact source. Given the widespread nature of the outbreak and the speed with which illnesses occurred, there are many lessons to be learned from the case.
During last week’s annual Food Safety Consortium, industry stakeholders from the FDA, CDC and produce associations gathered to discuss agency action upon learning of the outbreak and where there is room for improvement.
The investigation began in April 2018 when the New Jersey Department of Health contacted the CDC about a cluster of E.coli O157:H7 illnesses from people who said they ate salads at various locations of the same restaurant chain. Three days later, the agency was able to confirm eight O157 isolates from six states with the same patterns using PulseNet. And five days after that, the CDC posted a notice on its website about the investigation of 17 cases across seven states.
“We knew right away that this was going to get bad and that it would get bad quickly,” said Matthew Wise, deputy branch chief for outbreak response at the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch of the CDC. “We saw illnesses ramp up quickly.” He added that the agency saw a lot of illness subclusters, all with romaine lettuce as the common ingredient.
The epidemiological evidence clearly indicated chopped romaine lettuce, and it appeared that all the affected romaine was coming from the Yuma, Arizona growing region, noted Stic Harris, director of the Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation Network at FDA. But then things got even more confusing, as an Alaskan correctional facility was also investigating a cluster of cases. This allowed the agency to trace the source directly back to Harrison Farms as the sole supplier to the correctional facility. However, as the multi-agency investigation continued, they uncovered that the source was not just one farm. “There were three dozen farms in the Yuma region that supplied romaine lettuce,” said Harris, adding that we may never know which exact farm, and even if it was one farm, that was the source of the outbreak.
During June, July and August, the FDA sent a multidisciplinary team of 16-18 people to conduct an environmental assessment of the affected area. Upon taking 111 samples, they found 13 different Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains, but only three matched the strain of the outbreak. Water from 14 locations, including discharge, reservoir and canal water, was also tested. The environmental assessment found pervasive contamination in the water. But here was the big problem, said Harris: “There was no smoking gun. We don’t know how the E.coli got into the water, and we don’t know how the water got onto the lettuce.” He added that additional research is needed, and that government and non-government work must continue to identify the source.
There are several challenges associated with the complexity of this type of produce outbreak, said Harris and Wise:
The production lot information disappears at the point of service
Having a commingled product hinders traceback
Records present a challenge because agencies try to look at each company and their individual records, and every company has their own way of doing things—this takes time
The breadth of the impacted area—trying to do an environmental assessment for that area was staggering work
People who eat lettuce eat it often
Many people don’t remember what type of lettuce they ate
The product has a short shelf life
Communication: The packaging isn’t transparent on where it’s grown
Scott Horsfall, CEO, California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement, chimed in on the challenges posed by the complexity of the outbreak. “If you compare these numbers with the 2016 spinach outbreak…they’re very similar [in the] total number of illnesses [and] number of states involved. But in [the spinach outbreak], it led to a specific farm. What we saw this time was very different.”
When it comes to food safety compliance, learning lessons the hard way is never a good practice. Violations, non-compliance and documentation mishaps put a major damper on your business. From delays in production to the dreaded recall, these mistakes can cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way. See our Case Studies and learn how companies are avoiding these costly mistakes with TraceGains.
One of the large successes in dealing with the outbreak is that the agencies issued public warnings quickly, said Wise. The produce industry also came together to form the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force. In addition, FDA is expanding its sampling for the coming harvests, according to Harris. “I think that in terms of the speed of the environmental assessment, we need to be quicker with that. We apparently hadn’t done one in quite a long time at FDA,” he said.
Harris and Wise also stressed that for industry to work more effectively together, they need to work with the FDA and CDC before there is an outbreak.
“This outbreak was a frustrating experience for all of us,” said Horsfall. “We have to communicate more and better when we can. And as an industry, stop these outbreaks from happening.”
Yesterday FDA released the initial phase of its findings of a 10-year nationwide study that looks at the relationship between food safety management systems, certified food protection managers, and the occurrence of risk factors and food safety behaviors/practices, and how this contributes to foodborne illness outbreaks in retail establishments. This first phase collected data from 2013–2014; subsequent data collection will be from 2017 and 2021. The entire span of the study is 2013–2023.
Restaurants had the most effective control over ensuring there is no bare hand contact with RTE foods as well as cooking raw animal foods (including meat, poultry and eggs) to the required temperature
Unsafe food behaviors in fast food and full-service restaurants. Improvement needed in:
Employee hand washing (knowing when and how to do it)
Proper temperature control of foods that require refrigeration to limit pathogen growth
Study results will be used to help advise retail food safety initiative and policies, industry partnerships and specific intervention strategies that target foodborne illness risk factors. It will also aid in providing technical assistance to state, local and other regulatory professionals. FDA put together a factsheet with highlights of the study.
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