Tag Archives: USDA

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USDA Makes Stronger Moves to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses from Poultry Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Today the USDA announced an initiative to help reduce the incidence of Salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products. In an effort to reach the national target of a 25% reduction in these illnesses, the agency will be looking for feedback on strategies related to Salmonella control and management in poultry slaughter and processing facilities. This includes pilot projects, the data from which the agency will use to determine whether different methods could be implemented to reduce Salmonella illnesses.

“The effort will leverage USDA’s strong research capabilities and strengthen FSIS’ partnership with the Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area to address data gaps and develop new laboratory methods to guide future Salmonella policy. Meanwhile, the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria in Foods, an independent federal advisory committee, will be asked to advise on how FSIS can build on the latest science to improve its approach to Salmonella control. Since it is not just the presence or absence of Salmonella, but the quantity of bacteria that can impact the likelihood of illness, FSIS will examine how quantification can be incorporated into this approach. Moreover, with emerging science suggesting that not all Salmonella are equally likely to cause human illness, FSIS will focus on the Salmonella serotypes and the virulence factors that pose the greatest public health risk.” – USDA Press Release

Watch On Demand

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.

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine
In the Food Lab

Will a New Method of Freezing Foods Improve Food Quality and Food Processing?

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

As the world veers on the edge of serious climate trouble, it makes sense for companies to collectively start looking into greener and more efficient alternatives. While research is ongoing, every so often, there’s a win that can make a huge difference if and when it is implemented. That’s precisely what’s happening with cutting-edge frozen food and processing technologies, thanks to scientists from the University of California-Berkeley who conducted a study on the concept with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

It came at just the right time, too, as both freezing foods and standard food processing technologies have a rather large energy footprint, with extensive carbon emissions. Globally, those levels have to come down or the results will be disastrous. This new method, proposed by researchers, could reduce the global energy consumption of the frozen foods industry by up to 6.5 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Just to put that into perspective, it is the equivalent of removing one million cars from the road, and keeping them out of regular operation.

Called isochoric freezing, the method essentially involves placing foods in a sealed and rigid container. The storage container, made of hard plastic or metal, is then filled with liquid—like water—and frozen. The catch is that not all of the liquid in the container is frozen, so the food does not turn to solid ice. Only about 10% of the volume freezes during the process, and as long as the food remains within the hardened ice, crystallization will not happen. In addition, pressure that builds up inside the container naturally prevents the ice from expanding.

Isochoric freezing also has implications for fresh foods that are significantly affected by standard freezing techniques, such as small fruits, vegetables (i.e., tomatoes and potatoes), and even some meats.

The best part is that this method can be deployed “without requiring any significant changes in current frozen food manufacturing equipment and infrastructure,” according to USDA food technologist Cristina Bilbao-Sainz.

Why Is Icochoric Freezing Better?

Freezing foods may be a quick and relatively accessible way to preserve them, but many chemical changes happen during the freezing process as well as when those items thaw. Some foods deteriorate when frozen, just at slower rates. What’s more, depending on when and how you freeze or store those items, the composition may change during the entire process.

Some frozen products may develop a rancid smell or taste, after being oxidized or exposed to air. Others may see texture or size changes, and moisture loss at any time (or poor packaging) can result in freezer burn.

A lot of these same problems do not occur with isochoric freezing because the items are not frozen solid. Even more promising is that the new method also improves the quality of frozen foods, boosts safety, and reduces energy use. And during processing it actually kills microbial contaminants.

“The entire food production chain could use isochoric freezing—everyone from growers to food processors, product producers to wholesalers, to retailers. The process will even work in a person’s freezer at home after they purchase a product—all without requiring any major investments in new equipment,” said said Tara McHugh, co-lead on the study and director of the Western Regional Research Center in a USDA press release. “With all of the many potential benefits, if this innovative concept catches on, it could be the next revolution in freezing foods.”

Making the Discovery

Boris Rubinsky, a UC-Berkeley biomedical engineer and co-leader of the project, developed the freezing method while trying to cryopreserve tissues and organs that were designated for use during transplants. The goal was to better preserve these items, under more optimized conditions, with a minimal quality loss after thawing.

While this certainly does have major implications for the frozen foods, cold storage, and food processing industries, it can also be used elsewhere. For example, areas like medicine, science, or space travel can all benefit.

It may be some time before the technology is ready, but the research team is now working on developing commercially viable options, to match modern industry needs.

Will It Lower Carbon Emissions?

If the technology, and method, are adopted on a wide scale, it could vastly lower carbon emissions across many fields, and it may even lower emissions of consumer applications, too. Imagine applying isochoric freezing on a smaller scale, at home, to better preserve leftovers, frozen meals, and much more.

Of course, it will be interesting to see major organizations adopt this method, if and when the resources are available. The food processing industry could see revolutionary reductions in carbon emissions and energy consumption in the years ahead.

Recall

Q2 Food Recalls Increase 20%, Undeclared Allergens and Quality Top Cause

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

For the 23rd quarter in a row, undeclared allergens were the top cause of food recalls and accounted for 45% of them in Q3 2021, according to Sedgwick’s latest Recall Index report. Within allergens, undeclared milk was the leading cause and prepared foods remained the leading category.

“Companies need to concentrate on the basics through the second half of 2021 and final emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report states. “Amid supply chain pressures, high consumer demand and worker health and safety concerns arising from the coronavirus, food businesses are rightfully focused on their ability to maintain and conduct their core operations in safe manner while delivering quality, safe products to customers.”

FDA Recalls: Notable Numbers (Q2 2021)

  • 106 recalls affecting 7.9 million units
  • 5.8 million units (nearly 69%) impacted by recalls were due to one nut recall
  • 19 recalls were a result of quality issues
  • 18 recalls were a result of foreign material contamination
  • 11 recalls were a result of bacterial contamination—6 from Listeria; 4 Salmonella; and 1 E. coli

USDA Recalls: Notable Numbers (Q2 2021)

  • Recalls increased from 10 (Q1) to 12, but numbers still low compared to 2019 quarterly averages
  • Units impacted dramatically dropped nearly 83% to 207,322 units
  • Undeclared allergens were top cause of recalls, accounting for nearly 42%
    • Soy milk and eggs were main allergens, but first recall of food products due to sesame also occurred
  • Other recall reasons were quality (2), lack of inspection (2), bacterial contamination (2) and foreign material contamination (1)
  • Beef products (93,551 pounds) most impacted category, followed by fish (46,804 pounds)

The report also pointed out that heavy metal regulation will have increased emphasis, as FDA has made it a priority as a result of a report released by Congress earlier this year indicating the presence of dangerous toxic heavy metals found in baby foods.

Salmonella Surveillance

Mid-Year Pathogen Surveillance and Inspection Update

By Nathan Libbey
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Salmonella Surveillance

Food Recalls

The first half of 2021 saw almost a 20% increase in recalls vs. the last 6 months of 2020 (117 vs. 96). According to a recent report by Lathrop GPM, LLC, food producers have seen an increase in food safety incidents since the pandemic began, and expect an ongoing increase over the next year.1 A majority of recalls were due to undeclared allergens or potential for allergen cross contamination. Second to allergens were potential for microbiological contaminants, including Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and Cyclospora.

FDA Recalls Recalls
Figure 1 and 2. The first half of 2021 saw a 26% increase of facility inspections by the FDA. Despite this jump, inspections in the first half of 2020 were 80% higher than this year’s first six months. Source: FDA Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts.

Inspection Results

The first half of 2021 saw a 26% increase of facility inspections by the FDA. Despite this jump, inspections in the first half of 2020 were 80% higher than this year’s first six months. Inspections generally lead to three outcomes; No Action Indicated (continue as you were,) Voluntary Action Indicated (voluntary to make some changes), or Official Action Indicated (OAI) (Regulatory Actions will be recommended by the FDA). A majority of inspections (56%) resulted in NAI this year, compared to 59% and 50% in the first and second halves of 2020, respectively.

Facility Inspections
Figure 3. Facility Inspections. Data from FDA.

Salmonella Surveillance

The FSIS provides ongoing surveillance of Salmonella and Campylobacter presence in poultry, both domestic and imported. Salmonella is reported by facility and each is given a category rating of 1–3. One is exceeding the standard (based on a 52-week moving average), two is meeting the standard, and three is below standard. For the 52-week reporting period ending May 30, 2021, 60% achieved category one, compared to 56% the previous 52 weeks.

Salmonella Surveillance Salmonella Surveillance
Figures 4 & 5. Salmonella surveillance data from FDA.

Listeria and Salmonella Surveillance in RTE Meat and Poultry

USDA FSIS conducts periodic sampling of Ready to Eat (RTE) meat and poultry products and reports quarterly results. Sampling is conducted both in a random fashion as well as based on risk-based sampling. In Q2 2021, 4769 samples were tested for Listeria, compared to 4632 in Q1.

Percent positive rates were .36% for Q2 and .43% for Q1. Neither quarter reported any positives for Listeria in imported RTE Meat and Poultry Products.

Salmonella samples for RTE totaled 3676 in Q2 2021, compared with 3566 in Q1. In both quarters, only 1 positive was found in the samples collected.

Routine Beef Sampling for E. coli 0157:H7 and STEC

The FSIS also conducts ongoing routine sampling of beef products for E. coli. E. coli is further classified into 0157:H7 and non-0157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). In Q2 of 2021, 4467 samples were collected and tested for 0157:H7 versus 4268 in Q1. Of these, three were positive, compared to seven positives the preceding quarter. For STEC, a total of 8 positives were found, compared to 1 positive in Q1. No positives were found in imported goods in Q2, although in Q1 2021, 4 positives for STEC were found.

Conclusion

The first half of 2021 showed an increase in activity, which is on par with food industry survey data. Food recalls have increased, with food allergens remaining the most prevalent reason for recall or withdrawal. While inspections also increased, they have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. The impact of the spread of the Delta variant and increased restrictions is yet to be seen, but inspection activity will likely not rebound entirely by the end of the year. Pathogen tests by FSIS increased quarter over quarter for Salmonella, E. coli, and STEC, with mixed results in prevalence.

Reference

1. Lathrop GPM, LLC. (2021). Food Processing Trends, Outlook and Guidance Report. Retrieved from https://www.lathropgpm.com/report-agribusiness.html

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FSIS Revises Guidelines for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Register to attend Food Safety Hazards: Salmonella Detection, Mitigation, Control & Regulation | Thursday, July 15, 11:45 am ETFSIS has announced revised guidelines to help poultry facilities control Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw poultry. The changes are a result of new scientific and technical information, public comments, and FSIS’s decision to separate the guidelines into one on controlling Salmonella and one on controlling Campylobacter. The guidelines, “Availability of Revised Compliance Guidelines for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry”, also provide best practices for poultry establishments.

“FSIS has updated the guideline contents to reflect the most recent best practices, supported by current peer-reviewed literature and analyses of FSIS data,” the agency stated in a news release. “Updates include information on using neutralizing agents in sampling to prevent carryover of antimicrobial substances and a current list of antimicrobials for establishment use. Also included are improvements in the information on pre-harvest practices, with a comprehensive revision of the litter/bedding section.”

A copy of the docket is available on the Federal Register.

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.

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FSIS Changes Mask, Social Distancing Requirements Effective Immediately

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Following CDC’s latest guidance announcing that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or social distancing, FSIS issued new guidance for agency personnel in plants, laboratories and in-commerce.

Effective immediately, personnel fully vaccinate (at least two weeks past the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) are not required to wear a face mask, face shield or practice physical distancing in federal establishments, facilities that request voluntary inspection, labs or where in-commerce work is conducted. However, fully vaccinated personnel can continue to wear face masks or shields if they so desire.

Personnel that is not fully vaccinated must continue to wear a face mask or shield and maintain social distancing requirements as mandated by the agency.

Recall

JBS Recalls Nearly 5000 Pounds of Imported Australian Boneless Beef Due to Potential E. Coli Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall
JBS Boneless Beef product
Label of recalled JBS Australia beef product. (Image from FSIS)

JBS USA Food Company is recalling about 4,860 pounds of imported raw and frozen boneless beef products over concern of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The products were imported on or around November 10, 2020 and shipped to distributors and processors in New York and Pennsylvania.

The issue was uncovered during routine product sampling collected by FSIS, which confirmed positive for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, according to an FSIS announcement. “FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in cold storage at distributor or further processor locations,” the announcement stated. “Distributors and further processors who received these products are urged not to utilize them.”

No illnesses or adverse reactions have been reported.

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USDA Names Sandra Eskin Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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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

Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Our Petition to USDA: The Time for Change Is Now

By Mitzi Baum
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Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness

On January 25, 2021 Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP), in collaboration with Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America and five STOP constituent advocates filed a petition with USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to reform and modernize poultry inspections. The goal of these reforms is to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination in raw poultry thus drastically decreasing foodborne illnesses due to these pathogens.

According to the CDC, in 2019, these two pathogens combined were responsible for more than 70% of foodborne illnesses in the United States. As Mike Taylor, former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, shares in his
Op-Ed, the time for change is now as the current regulatory framework is inadequate and has not delivered the desired results of reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks.

Today, the USDA’s mark of inspection is stamped on poultry, although birds may exceed the performance standards; there are no clear consequences for establishments that do not meet the current guidelines. Without science-based standards or penalties for non-compliance, the burden of this problem falls upon consumers.

At STOP, we share the voices of consumers whose lives have been altered due to preventable problems such as this. Our constituent advocates share their journeys through severe foodborne illness to share the WHY of food safety. Real people, real lives are impacted when we do not demand action. STOP board member, Amanda Craten, shares her son Noah’s story:

“My toddler suddenly came down with a fever and diarrhea, but it wasn’t until weeks later that I learned that his symptoms, which nearly killed him, were caused by a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella.

After being admitted to the hospital, his doctors found abscesses in the front of his brain caused by infection and they were creating pressure on his brain. He underwent surgery and weeks of antibiotic treatments.

My 18-month son was seriously injured and permanently disabled as a result of Salmonella-contaminated chicken.” – Amanda Craten.

Unfortunately, Noah’s story is not rare, which is why Amanda supports this petition for change and has provided a powerful video about Noah’s foodborne disease journey and his life now.

Because there are too many stories like Noah’s, STOP and its partner consumer advocacy organizations want to work with FSIS and industry to:

  1. Develop real benchmarks that focus on reduction of known, harmful pathogens in poultry
  2. Modernize standards to reflect current science
  3. Implement on-farm control measures
  4. Re-envision the standards to focus on the risk to public health

As a new administration begins, capitalizing on this opportunity to modernize poultry inspection that can benefit consumers and the food industry makes sense. STOP and its partners are hopeful that leadership at USDA/FSIS will take this opportunity to create consequential and relevant change. Ultimately, this transformation will reduce the incidence of foodborne illness due to contamination of poultry and increase consumer confidence in the USDA’s mark of inspection. Please comment on this petition.

Have you been impacted by foodborne illness? Tell STOP Foodborne Illness about it.