Tag Archives: USDA

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Secretary of Agriculture Perdue Names Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has named Mindy Brashears, Ph.D. as deputy undersecretary for food safety, a position that does not require confirmation by the Senate. She has also been re-nominated for the role of under secretary for food safety, a more senior role that requires Senate confirmation, by President Trump. The President’s initial nomination of Brashears expired in early January and was resubmitted to the Senate in the 116th Congress.

“I want to thank these three for their patience, as their professional lives have been placed on hold for months during their nomination process. Now, they will get to work right away on behalf of the American people,” stated Perdue in a USDA news release. The other folks Perdue is referring to are Naomi Earp, nominated as deputy assistant secretary for civil rights and Scott Hutchins, nominated for deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics—both of whom were also nominated for higher roles that require Senate confirmation. “I urge the Senate to act on their new nominations as quickly as possible, so we can have them in the positions for which they were intended in the first place.”

Brashears is a professor of food safety and public health, as well as the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University. Her research program aims to improve food safety standards that enhance public health. Some of her work has resulted in the commercialization of a pre-harvest feed additive that can reduce E. coli and Salmonella in cattle. Other credentials include leading international research teams in Mexico and Central and South America with the goal of improving food safety and security, along with establishing sustainable agriculture in impoverished regions.

Alert

How the Government Shutdown Affects Food Safety

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Alert

–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

–END UPDATE–

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.

Alert

Drug-Resistant Salmonella in Raw Turkey Products: 90 Ill

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Alert

Today USDA’s FSIS issued an update about a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Reading illnesses that have been linked to raw turkey products. Thus far 90 people in 26 states have been infected with the strain. Forty people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

A single source of the outbreak has yet to be identified. However, the CDC states that this strain of Salmonella is present in live turkeys and many types of raw turkey products, so “it might be widespread in the turkey industry”.

“33 isolates from ill people and 49 isolates from food and animal samples contained genes for resistance to all or some of the following antibiotics: ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, gentamicin, and kanamycin. Testing of four outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory confirmed these results. This resistance likely will not affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat most people since these antibiotics are not normally used to treat Salmonella infections.” – CDC

The illnesses began on November 20, 2017 to June 29, 2018. Officials are using PulseNet to identify illnesses that might be part of the outbreak.

3M Molecular detection system

USDA FSIS Awards 3M Food Safety with Contract for Pathogen Testing

3M Molecular detection system
3M Molecular detection system
3M Molecular detection system

USDA FSIS has awarded a contract to 3M Food Safety for its pathogen detection instruments and kits. 3M’s molecular detection system will be the primary method used by the agency to detect Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157. The technology combines isothermal DNA amplification and bioluminescence detection for a fast, accurate and simple solution that also tackles some of the constraints of PCR methods. Users can concurrently run up to 96 different tests for many organisms across food and environmental samples.

Recall

Johnsonville Recalls Nearly 110,000 Pounds of Smoked Pork Sausage

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Recall

Yesterday the USDA announced a Class I recall of Johnsonville’s smoked pork sausage products due to contamination with extraneous materials. The company received three consumer complaints of pieces of hard, green plastic in the sausage. The 14-oz plastic packages contain six pieces of Jalapeno Cheddar Smoked Sausage and were produced on January 4 and shipped to locations nationwide.

The recall affects about 109,603 pounds of product.

Thus far there have been no reports of adverse reactions or illnesses as a result of the contamination. Consumers who have purchased the products are urged to throw away the sausages or to return them to the place of purchase.

Recall

FDA Food Recalls Up Nearly 93% Since 2012

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

Over the past five years, the food and beverage industry has seen a big increase in the units recalled—a 92.7% spike in FDA recalls and an 83.4% increase in recalled pounds by USDA since 2012, according to Stericycle’s quarterly recall index. The firm cites technological advances in food testing, factory farming and more automation in food production as the main contributors to the high numbers.

During Q4 2017, bacterial contamination and undeclared allergens led the pack in food recall causes. According to Stericycle, back in 2012, about 28% of FDA food recalls were a result of bacterial contamination, while undeclared allergens accounted for 35% of pounds of food recalled by USDA. During Q4 2017, 44% of food recalls (based on units) were from bacterial contamination, followed by undeclared allergens (31%), mislabeling (13%), and quality (10%). Among the top categories for recalls were prepared foods (20%, nuts and seeds (16%), produce (15%) and baked goods (12%). In addition, nearly 50% of the USDA recalled pounds were a result of lack of inspection.

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USDA PDP Report: Farmers Doing a Good Job Complying with Regulations

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Fruit and vegetable farmers are doing an “impressive” job of complying with the laws and regulations related to pesticide use in production, according to the USDA’s annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) report. Based on data from 2016, the report found that more than 99% of samples had pesticide residues that were “well below” the EPA’s established tolerances, and more than 23% had no detectable residues. Less than half-a-percent of samples (0.46%) had residues that exceeded the EPA established tolerance.

To compile the PDP report, surveys were conducted in 2016 on several foods, including eggs, milk, and fresh and processed fruit and vegetables. The report contains data from more than 10,000 samples collected throughout the United States.

A release from the Alliance for Food and Farming states that the U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world, yet: “Activists groups often manipulate the findings from the USDA PDP report taking the very positive results and somehow turning them into something negative. This tactic has been used routinely for 20-plus years to create a so-called ‘dirty dozen’ list, which has been repeatedly discredited by scientists.”

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Thousands of Pounds of Meatballs Recalled Over Listeria Worry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Rich Products Corp. recalled 3.420 pounds of ready-to-eat beef meatball products over concerns that they may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled products, which were produced on December 17, 2017, include 36-lb cases that contain six bags of “Member’s Mark Casa Di Bertacchi Italian Style Beef Meatballs with a “best by” date of December 17, 2018. The meatballs were shipped to distributors in the South, including Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The issue was discovered on January 24 when FSIS was notified by Rich Products that it shipped adulterated products into commerce. More information about the meatball recall is available on USDA’s website.

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What USDA Will Do During Government Shutdown

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Despite the government shutdown, certain aspects of the USDA will continue to operate. On Friday, USDA issued a release in which U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue outlined the services that will continue to be available, including the following:

  • Ensuring meat, poultry and egg products are safe
  • Inspect before and after bird and animal slaughter for food intended for humans
  • Apply foreign government inspection requirements and procedures
  • Conduct emergency operations related to voluntary meat and poultry products
  • Conduct epidemiological investigations related to foodborne health hazards and disease outbreaks, and provide pathological, microbiological, and chemical examination of USDA regulated products for disease, infection, contamination and adulteration
  • Prevent movement of adulterated product

A full outline of the government shutdown plan is available on the USDA website.

Eggs

USDA Proposes Rule to Make Egg Products Safer

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Eggs

Earlier this week the USDA’s FSIS proposed to amend inspection regulations, modernizing food safety inspection systems, in an effort to make egg products safer. It would require official plants that process egg products to develop HACCP systems, sanitation standard operating procedures and meet sanitation requirements consistent with meat and poultry regulations.

“FSIS is proposing that official plants will be required to produce egg products in such a way that the finished product is free of detectable pathogens,” according to a USDA news release. “The regulatory amendment also uses agency’s resources more efficiently and removes unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation.”

FSIS will also be taking over jurisdiction of egg substitutes.

According to the agency, the financial impact of the proposed rule could be minimal, as it states 93% of egg products plants already have a written HACCP plan that deals with at least one production step in the process.

Once published in the Federal Register, a 120-comment period will go into effect.