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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

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“Food Safety Now!”

Who wouldn’t rally behind such a cause?

This has been the battle cry of those in the uppermost echelons of our food regulatory bodies and public health departments for years now. With each widely-publicized food-borne disease outbreak comes more proposed controls on who, where, when, why and how we can put food on our tables. With such names as The Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s hard to argue against the proposals…at least until you peel away the layers.

The vast majority of these bills are simply means to control the food supply; and thereby control the citizenry. Sure there are some well-intentioned, pure-hearted advocates of food safety out there. You’ll always see some grieving mother who’s child fell victim to a tainted chicken finger but the legislation seldom addresses the source of the problem. The majority of the food-related regulations that are proposed (these bills are chock…

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July 6, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables

7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables - (JPG)
From the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site

FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home. In addition, follow these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  • Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  • Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

One Quarter Of U.S. Poultry And Meat Tainted With Resistant Bacteria

A schematic representation of how antibiotic r...

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From a 15 April 2011 Medical News Today article

7% of poultry and meat samples were found to be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and half of those with bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute wrote in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases[full text].

Strains of drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as S. aureus, are bacteria associated with several human diseases and appear to be widespread in the poultry and meat sold in American retail outlets. The researchers were surprised the contamination rate was so high.

The authors explain that theirs is the first nationwide assessment of contamination of the U.S. food supply with antibiotic resistant S. aureus.

According to the results of genetic (DNA) tests that were carried out, it appears that the major source of contamination is from livestock (farm animals).

Proper cooking of S. aureus tainted poultry and meats should kill off all bacteria. However, there is a risk of human infection if the food is not handled properly during the preparation of meals….

…Senior author, Lance B. Price, Ph.D., said:

“For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial.

The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today.”

The authors explained that highly industrialized farming, where animals are densely packed together and fed steady low doses of antibiotic, are perfect breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria to thrive, and then make their way into humans.

Dr. Price said:

“Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics – like we saw in this study – that leaves physicians few options.”

Paul S. Keim, Ph.D., co-author, said:

“The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – including Staph – remains a major challenge in clinical medicine.

This study shows that much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with multidrug-resistant Staph. Now we need to determine what this means in terms of risk to the consumer.”…

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

From a March 30, 2011 Health News item

Scientists have reported development of bacteria that serve as mobile pharmaceutical factories, both producing disease-fighting substances and delivering the potentially life-saving cargo to diseased areas of the body. They reported on this new candidate for treating diseases ranging from food poisoning to cancer – termed “bacterial dirigibles” – at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, being held here. “We’re building a platform that could allow bacterial dirigibles to be the next-generation disease fighters,” said study leader William E. Bentley, Ph.D…

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Five food safety myths — debunked!

Five food safety myths — debunked!

From the Daily Need

By Anastacia Marx de Salcedo February 8, 2011

 

 

 

1. Food safety is worse than it used to be.

Food safety has actually improved since the mid-1990s when the Centers for Disease Control first began its national monitoring program, with net incidence of the major illnesses falling by 20 percent. On a disease-by-disease basis, that means 30 percent less campylobacter, 41 percent less toxin-producing E. coli and 10 percent less salmonella. In fact, the only increase — by 85 percent — has been in vibrio, contracted by eating raw shellfish. (You heard it, people, shuck and slurp and you’re on your own.) And even though the CDC recently tripled the number of major foodborne pathogens it monitors from 9 to 31, it reduced its estimate of annual illnesses from 76 to 48 million.

2. The biggest danger to your health comes from livestock feeding practices, food industry negligence and the terrorist threat to our food supply.

More than 90 percent* of foodborne illnesses occur within a vast, loosely organized network of rogue microbe breeders: restaurants! (about half of all outbreaks) and a motley assortment of workplaces, banquet facilities, caterers, churches, nursing homes, schools and others. Almost 60 percent of these — 5.5 million illnesses — are caused by norovirus, about which the CDC observes, “In many of these cases, sick food handlers were involved in the spread of the virus.” A 2004 study by the FDA found that 56 percent of fast food and 72 percent of full-service restaurant personnel did not wash their hands often or well enough. Ten viral particles with your soup, sir? (Or fork or menu or credit card?)

3. OMG! I’ve got salmonella! I’m going to DIE!

Just calm down, get plenty of rest and keep hydrated. Your risk of death isextremely small — half of one percent for salmonella, one tenth of one percent for campylobacter and half of one percent for even the most virulent variety of E. coli. In fact, the total annual number of deaths from foodborne illnesses is about 3,000, or the number killed by the flu in a very, very good year. (In a bad year, flu can kill up to 50,000 people.) As with influenza, most food-pathogen-related deaths are among the very old, the very young and the immunologically compromised. That guy whotestified before Congress that his mother died from eating contaminated peanut butter? Shirley Almer may have had a lot of sisu, Finnish for spunk, but she also had lung cancer and a brain tumor and was far more susceptible to infections, including the UTI she was hospitalized for when she contracted salmonella.

4. From now on, I’m scouring every tomato! Pressure-washing every pepper!

Go right ahead if it makes you feel in control — and to remove some pesticides and grit. But unless you’re plunging your produce in boiling water or immersing it in a 10 percent bleach solution, those little salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli bacteria are going to go right on doing the things organisms like to do — ingesting, reproducing, excreting. Speaking of which, most major foodborne illnesses are transmitted through feces — campylobacter: chickens; E. coli: cows; salmonella: the whole barnyard; norovirus: us — and some are perfectly normal residents of animal guts. They only cause mayhem when we insert them — via dirty food or hands — in places they shouldn’t be, e.g. our mouths.

5. Anyway, now that the Food Safety Modernization Act’s been signed into law, I don’t have to worry about this stuff, right?

Of course not! Faster recalls, more frequent inspection of food processing facilities, greater importer accountability and high-tech food-chain tracking are going to eradicate all foodborne illnesses…. Except for those 58% that come from norovirus and the other unknown percent — probably substantial — that are caused or exacerbated by risky food service practices such as cross-contamination through utensils, work surfaces and equipment; storage at improper temperatures; commingling of foodstuffs; and, of course, poor hygiene. What with 42% of our food budget spent on meals outside the home, you know what would have really made sense? A national safety-training program for food service workers.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

The Costs of Food Born Illness and Related Information

From the Web page of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE)

Foodborne illness is much more than the “stomach flu”, and it is a serious health issue and economic burden for consumers. According to the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA, each year $6.9 billion in costs are associated with five bacterial pathogens, CampylobacterSalmonellaListeria monocytogenesE. coli O157:H7, and E. coli non-O157:H7 STEC (2000). These costs are associated with medical expenses, lost productivity, and even death.The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of salmonellosis—the illness caused by the Salmonella bacterium—is $2.65 billion (2009). This estimate is for all cases of salmonellosis, not just foodborne cases. The estimate includes medical costs due to illness, the cost (value) of time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and the cost (value) of premature death.

The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of illness caused by shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC O157) is $478 million (2009). This estimate is for all cases of STEC O157 disease, not just foodborne cases. The estimate includes medical costs due to illness, kidney dialysis and transplant costs, and the cost (value) of time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and the cost (value) of premature death.

The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of illness caused by Campylobacter, the most frequently isolated cause of foodborne diarrhea, is $1.2 billion. The estimate includes medical costs, lost productivity, and death due tocampylobacteriosis from food sources and costs associated Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a form of paralysis.

Estimates for the cost of foodborne illness do not include other significant costs to both industry and government.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education is a collaboration of the US Depts of Health and Human Services, Education as well as leaders of food trade associations, consumer and public health organizations and the Association of Food and Drug Officials.

The PFSE  Web page includes links to

 

 

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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