lunes, 30 de mayo de 2011

Austria retira del mercado pepinos, tomates y berenjenas con origen español

Austria ha iniciado una operación para retirar de la venta al público pepinos, tomates y berenjenas
Los productos se encontraban en 33 tiendas que adquirieron productos a dos mayoristas de verduras alemanes, quienes a su vez habían comprado productos españoles en los cuales, al parecer, se detectó la bacteria "E. coli Enterohemorrágica". El anuncio lo hizo la directora general de Salud Pública, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, ante el temor de un contagio de la epidemia desatada en Alemania por el brote de una variante de la citada bacteria, que en ese país ha causado ya 10 muertos y cerca de un millar de afectados.

El Ministerio de Sanidad austríaco ha instado a los consumidores a destruir los pepinos, tomates y berenjenas procedentes de España que adquirieron en las citadas tiendas, todas especializadas en productos orgánicos y cuya lista se ha publicado por la Agencia para la Salud y la Seguridad Alimenticia. En Austria solo se han registrado tres casos de infectados, todos ellos de personas procedentes de Alemania.

Las autoridades alemanas informaron ayer de la detección de otros tres pepinos contaminados con la bacteria. El ministro de Protección del Consumidor del Estado federado de Mecklenburgo-Antepomerania, Till Backhaus, explicó que las verduras proceden de una toma de muestras aleatoria, llevada a cabo en tiendas de alimentación y restaurantes. El ministro no hizo mención en ningún momento al país de origen, pese a la polémica que ha suscitado esta cuestión después de que Alemania señalara a España.

Aporte: Fernanda Sepúlveda

Commission requests urgent safety review of aspartame from EFSA

The European Commission has asked EFSA to conduct a full re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame by July 2012, due to MEPs’ concerns and EFSA’s decision to look more closely at two recent studies on carcinogenicity and pregnancy effects.

EFSA spokesperson Lucia de Luca told that the agency has received a mandate for a complete re-evaluation of aspartame, and that the scientists are “looking at it and verifying what the risk manager is looking for”.
While EFSA has not yet completed the administrative work to accept the request, a full review of aspartame was already planned for 2020; EFSA has been reviewing the safety of all food additives previously approved for use in the EU, and having made its way through colours and flavourings, sweeteners were the last category to be looked at.

A spokesperson for John Dalli, Commissioner for Health and Consumers, said there are several reasons for bringing forward the review with a 13-month deadline.

Firstly, he said “there have been concerns lately and questions from MEPs”. At the second reading of the proposed food information regulation last month MEPs voted for a mandatory warning label on products about aspartame consumption in pregnancy.

In addition, he said EFSA said earlier this year that two recent studies on aspartame, a mouse study on carcinogenicity and an epidemiological study in sweeteners and pre-term delivery, did not give reason to reconsider safety of aspartame and over approved sweeteners – but subsequently decided to do an in-depth study.
EFSA’s scientific opinion on interpretation of the results of the carcinogenicity study, as well as suggested implications of methanol reported in both studies, is due by the end of this year.

Fuente: food quality news
Aporte: Esteban Gardilcic

Food Safety Modernization Act: What the New Law Means for Importers

With 15 percent of the U.S. food supply being imported each year from other countries, the globalization of today’s food supply was the driving factor of the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 4.The new law aims to better regulation, specially for importers.

Under the new law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has more power to monitor and regulate the food industry by creating a foreign supplier verification program, imposing an inspection frequency mandate at foreign food facilities, and claiming higher access to records.

It also has instituted new safety standards to detect and prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, including mandatory recall authority when necessary to swiftly remove contaminated foods from the market if the responsible party refuses to issue a voluntary recall and cease distribution.

What does this mean for importers? Specifically, the law improves the FDA’s capacity to detect and respond to food safety problems for imported food, and requires the allocation of resources to inspect facilities and food products coming into the U.S. based on risk profiles. This means the FDA will conduct more inspections in foreign countries to ensure compliance with U.S. standards. Currently, the FDA is only able to complete around 1% of total food inspections, leaving a vast opportunity for third-party certifiers to fill.

The agency will also have expanded access to records and additional administrative enforcement capabilities should they believe that an article of food is potentially harmful. Additionally, the act charges the FDA with establishing a system for accrediting third-party auditors of foreign food facilities, ensuring that importers have the means to verify that their suppliers have systems in place to produce safe food, and collaborating more with foreign governments on food safety.

At its core, the law recognizes the Global Food Safety Initiative and FDA’s roles in improving food safety on a global scale, and places the primary responsibility for food safety on food producers and processors.


Aporte: Alejandra Avendaño.

domingo, 29 de mayo de 2011

Public Meeting on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): Inspection/Compliance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have announced an advance notice of Registration to attend the Public Meeting entitled, “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act: Focus on Inspection and Compliance Provisions.”

The public meeting will be held on Monday, June 6, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, with registration open at 7:30 a.m. The meeting location is on the FDA White Oak Campus, The Great Room, Building 31, Room 1503, 10903 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20993. This is the third public meeting FDA has held on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The previous meetings, held on March 29 and April 20, 2011, focused on the import and preventive controls provisions under FSMA.

The purpose of this public meeting is to provide interested persons an opportunity to discuss implementation of the inspection and compliance provisions of the recently enacted FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The public will have an opportunity to provide information and share views that will inform the development of guidance and regulations and/or the implementation of: Enforcement Authorities; Frequency and Targeting of Facility Inspections; Manner of Inspection in a Preventive Controls Environment; and Enhancement of the Reportable Food Registry (RFR).

Meeting participants will be able to attend three of four breakout sessions addressing Enforcement Authorities, Frequency and Targeting of Facility Inspections, Manner of Inspection in a Preventive Controls Environment, and Enhancement of the Reportable Food Registry (RFR). Each breakout session will be 75 minutes.

Registration for this meeting is currently available. You can pre-register to participate at the meeting on location or pre-register for the Webcast at:
Seating is limited, please register early.

To keep current on activities to implement the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, please join the email outreach list at:

Salmonella Outbreak from Backyard Poultry

25 people in 11 states have become sick with Salmonella Enterica ser. Altona after handling their backyard chicks and ducklings.

The CDC says a traceback investigation implicates a national mail-order hatchery, Feed Store Chain A, which supplies poultry for people raising flocks at home for fresh eggs, as the source of the birds.

Laboratory testing this month confirmed Salmonella Altona bacteria matching the outbreak strain in three samples collected from a chick and the yard of an ill

person's household in Ohio, as well as from three samples collected from chick and duckling displays at two locations of Feed Store Chain A in North Carolina.

Sixteen of 21 case patients interviewed said they had contact with chicks, chickens, ducks, ducklings, geese, and turkeys prior to becoming ill. Of those who could recall the type poultry, all 16 identified chicks, ducklings, or both, and 14 reported purchasing their chicks and ducklings from multiple locations of Feed Store Chain A.

Illnesses that occurred after April 20 might not yet be reported, the CDC warned, because of the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

The PulseNet system, the national surveillance network of public laboratories coordinated by CDC, is being used to track cases of illness that may be part of the outbreak, and the CDC said it is working with state public health and agriculture officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) to investigate the outbreak.


Aporte: Carmen López

sábado, 28 de mayo de 2011

Germany E. coli O 104 Outbreak One of Largest on Record

Organic cucumbers imported from two provinces of Spain (Almeria and Malaga) have been confirmed as one source of the outbreak.

The current events represent one of the largest described outbreaks of HUS/STEC (hemolytic uremic syndrome/shiga toxin E. coli) worldwide and the largest in Germany, with a very atypical age and sex distribution of the cases.

Official counts are in the hundreds, but many more illnesses are probably going unreported. It's safe to assume the actual count is well into four digits.

Most outbreaks of HUS, a life-threatening complication, in Germany and elsewhere are associated with E. coli O157:H7. This outbreak, however, involves another strain, E. coli 0104, which is rarely encountered.

Authorities are particularly alarmed by the high proportion of German victims hospitalized with HUS. Generally, only 10 percent of E. coli patients develop HUS, which is characterized by acute renal failure, haemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. In Germany, authorities report that more than 200 of the sick have developed HUS, and some reports put the figure at nearly 50 percent of the overall cases. This suggests that the German E. coli may be capable of producing high levels of toxins, making it especially deadly.

The high numbers of people showing up in emergency rooms suggested that "the source of infection is still active." Germany's outbreak has been extraordinary in that it has affected mostly middle-aged women--a group that typically less susceptible to the pathogen, nobody seems to know the reason.

The outbreak is also unusual in that it has developed very rapidly, and high number of cases affect adults (86% are in people aged 18 years or older), particularly women (67%), instead of the normal high-risk groups (infants and elderly people). The serologic test for the E. coli O104 strain is not usually available in the microbiology labs and that may well have delayed the identification process.


Fernando Fuentes Pinochet

Greenhouse tomatoes are not free from microbial contamination

Salmonella and E. coli were found in hydroponic tomatoes.

Produce, including tomatoes, has been implicated in several outbreaks of foodborne illness. A number of the sources of contamination for produce grown in open fields are known. However, as an alternative agricultural system, hydroponic greenhouses are reasonably expected to reduce some of these sources.

The objective of the present study was to determine the microbiological profile of tomatoes grown in greenhouses at a Mexican hydroponic farm with a high technological level and sanitary agricultural practices (SAPs) in place. Tomatoes and other materials associated with the farm were analyzed for the presence of Salmonella Enterica and populations of Escherichia coli, coliforms, and Enterobacteriaceae.

Tomatoes showed median levels of 0.8 log CFU per tomato for Enterobacteriaceae, < 0.5 log CFU per tomato for coliforms, and 0.5 most probable number per tomato for E. coli. Despite the physical barriers that the facilities provide and the implemented SAPs, we found that 2.8% of tomatoes were contaminated with Salmonella and 0.7% with E. coli.

Other Salmonella-positive materials were puddles, soil, cleaning cloths, and sponges. Samples from the nursery and greenhouses were positive for E. coli, whereas Salmonella was found only in the latter.

Although hydroponic greenhouses provide physical barriers against some sources of enteric bacterial contamination, these results show that sporadic evidence of fecal contamination and the presence of Salmonella can occur at the studied greenhouse farm.


Maria Jose Rios

viernes, 27 de mayo de 2011

Gobierno ingresa veto a proyecto sobre rotulación de alimentos

Gobierno busca garantizar que los consumidores dispongan de información clara y precisa de los alimentos que ingieren.
El Gobierno ingresó un veto al proyecto de ley sobre composición nutricional de los alimentos y su publicidad, según lo informó el Ministerio Secretaría General de la Presidencia.
La Secretaría de Estado explicó que tras un análisis de las normas que componen la iniciativa, el Ejecutivo decidió presentar una serie de observaciones al proyecto con el fin de fortalecerlo y dar mayor eficacia a la normativa propuesta. Entre las observaciones más relevantes introducidas por el Ejecutivo se encuentra:
- La obligación de consignar la información sobre ingredientes y aditivos en los envases o etiquetas de los alimentos y que se trate de forma específica la situación de aquellos aditivos o ingredientes que, en determinadas concentraciones, causan daños a la salud.
- Se establece que el Ministerio de Salud tendrá la responsabilidad de determinar cuáles son los alimentos que presentan elevados contenidos de calorías, grasas, grasas trans, azúcares agregados u otros ingredientes similares, que aporten porcentajes relevantes de las dosis diarias de referencia de nutrientes.
- El veto precisa que dichos alimentos no se podrán comercializar en establecimientos de educación parvularia, básica y media, excluyendo de manera clara los establecimientos de Educación Superior.
La Segpres (Ministerio Secretaría General de la Presidencia) destaca que con estas modificaciones introducidas vía veto al proyecto, el Gobierno busca garantizar que los chilenos dispongan de información clara y precisa sobre los componentes de los alimentos que ingieren y así puedan tomar decisiones informadas sobre sus hábitos alimenticios.

Aporte: Paula Ponzano Quintanar

Tell FDA What Works, What Doesn't

The food companies have 18 months to devise hazard analysis of their products
Under the new Food Safety Modernization Act, registered food and feed companies must evaluate known safety hazards that could occur as their products are made, processed, packed, transported and stored -- things like the potential for cross-contamination, pest infestation or dirty equipment.

Then they must specify, put in place and monitor whatever steps will help minimize or prevent such hazards -- things like segregating raw and cooked foods, pest controls and regular cleaning.

Given 18 months from the new law's January adoption to devise guidelines for such hazard analysis and preventative controls, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now seeking public comment on what measures are appropriate, and other relevant information and recommendations, including what is workable for small businesses.

On Thursday, in announcing the agency was opening the docket for public opinion, Michael R. Taylor, deputy FDA commissioner for foods, said, "The preventive-controls requirement of FSMA is one of the most important aspects of this historic law on food safety. It's imperative that we get information, data and feedback from industry and other stakeholders. "

According to the FDA news release, this guidance-writing effort is on a fast track. The agency said it expects the proposed rule to be published this fall.

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2011

El modelo BIOTRACER contra Salmonella

La protección del consumidor frente a alimentos contaminados es uno de los objetivos más importantes de la Unión Europea. En esta dirección trabaja el proyecto BIOTRACER, que recibió 11 millones de euros mediante el área temática “Calidad y seguridad de los alimentos” del Sexto Programa Marco (6PM) para comprobar las principales fuentes de contaminación.

BIOTRACER es una herramienta para modelar y predecir el crecimiento de la Salmonella en la cadena de suministro porcina. Esta herramienta se ha presentado en la revista International Journal of Food Microbiology.

El consorcio de BIOTRACER indicó que identificar la fuente de contaminación bacteriana en una fase concreta de la cadena de suministro es una ardua. El problema principal es determinar cómo la bacteria crece en distintas fases y en distintas condiciones medioambientales.

Uno de los socios de BIOTRACER, el Instituto de Investigación Alimentaria del Reino Unido. En colaboración con expertos griegos e italianos crearon un modelo en el que se demuestra cómo afecta cada paso del proceso de producción al crecimiento de la Salmonella.

El crecimiento y supervivencia de la salmonella depende de varios factores como el nivel de pH, la humedad y la temperatura que no permanecen estables durante las distintas fases de procesado de la carne porcina, según los socios. El equipo indicó que la información sobre el crecimiento de la Salmonella en condiciones distintas fue generada por muchos investigadores y recopilada en distintas bases de datos. Combase, desarrollado por el Instituto de Investigación Alimentaria del Reino Unido en colaboración con el Servicio de Investigación Agrícola del Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos (USDA) y el Centro de Seguridad Alimentaria de Australia, es una de esas bases de datos, un repositorio de acceso abierto de datos microbiológicos cuantitativos.

Los socios de BIOTRACER descubrieron que más de 700 registros en la base de Combase describían el crecimiento de la Salmonella en concreto en la cadena de suministro del cerdo. También combinaron distintos modelos para generar estimaciones sobre las concentraciones de Salmonella en distintas etapas de la cadena de suministro del cerdo que tuvieran en cuenta las condiciones de pH, la humedad y los cambios en la temperatura. Para validar las estimaciones se utilizaron diversos productos.

Una característica única de los modelos reside en que los usuarios pueden introducir sus propias condiciones y obtener una aproximación de las concentraciones de Salmonella en las distintas fases del proceso. Con esta información los usuarios pueden aumentar el control de la Salmonella.


Aporte: Natalia Domínguez

USDA Approves LISTEX as Processing Aid Against Listeria

The USDA has approved LISTEX as an antimicrobial processing aid to combat Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria is considered one of the most important food safety threats, due to its high mortality rate of over 20% and its risk to pregnant women.
Today's USDA's decision will enable food processing companies to deliver safer clean label products to the marketplace, without the need for reformulation or compromise on quality. The approval is in line with Health Canada's decision last September to approve LISTEX as a processing aid.
LISTEX eliminates Listeria, rather than merely inhibiting its outgrowth. As such it can be used as an Alternative-2 or as part of an Alternative-1 compliance under the USDA 2003 final rule for post-lethality exposed RTE meat products. It is certified USDA organic and does not affect the taste, texture or other organoleptic properties of treated food products. It can therefore be used for natural as well as organic foods. LISTEX is highly consistent in eliminating Listeria and easy to apply by topical spraying.
Micreos' CEO Mark Offerhaus: "Consumers and food processors alike will benefit from the USDA's decision. Phages are abundant in our environment and foods, but thanks to today's technology we can harness their power and help prevent unnecessary suffering, economic losses and environmental strain".
The threat from Listeria is real and not to be ignored, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA emphasize. "About one of five patients with listeriosis dies," says Benjamin Silk, with CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. Listeriosis and cold cuts were ranked as the third worst combination of a food and a pathogen in terms of the burden they place on public health, costing $1.1 billion a year in medical costs and lost work days, according to a study published last April by the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogen Institute.
Despite the increased legal and sanitary measures, the trend in Listeriosis cases has not seen a downturn. In the United States, the CDC estimates that 2,500 people become seriously ill with Listeriosis each year, with several hundred deaths each year. Latest information by the CDC reports an increase of 19%. This is consistent with the trend in the EU as reported by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), confirming Listeria as a major public health threat.
MICREOS ( formerly: EBI Food Safety, located in Wageningen ("Food Valley"), The Netherlands, develops and markets phage products against dangerous pathogens and is viewed as product leader in this field. The company collaborates with many independent partners and institutes, including Mississippi State University, the Federal Technology Institute (ETH) Zurich, Danish Meat Research Institute, NIZO Food Research of The Netherlands, Nofima of Norwayand Ghent University in Belgium. Micreos Food Safety recently launched a new product against Salmonella, SALMONELEX.

Aporte: Carola Bernales

Americans willing to pay higher prices for safe-to-eat food

An independent research poll shows Americans surveyed would pay higher food prices to ensure what they eat is safe.
In a Pew-commissioned poll of 1,015 possible voters, 74 percent said they would be willing to pay one to three percent higher prices to help subsidize food safety measures that are now part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
Seventy percent of Americans polled felt food companies should pay a $1000 annual fee to support food safety activities conducted by the FDA.
One quarter of Americans polled worry about food bacteria
In the survey, conducted between April 28 and May 4, 2011, one quarter of Americans said they “worry a great deal” about consuming unsafe food contaminated with bacteria.
The FDA Food Modernization Act was passed in January, giving the government more power over food safety, including mandatory recalls and stronger food inspection guidelines; supported by 71 percent of those polled who feel the FDA has a vital role in making sure food is safe for consumption.
Erik Olson, who directs food programs for the Pew Health Group says, "This poll reflects a strong belief that Americans are willing to pay more to ensure that the FDA is protecting the safety of the food they put on their family's dinner table."
Olson notes for too long the FDA lacked power and resources to protect America’s food supply.
Other findings from the poll show Americans want other countries to certify food exported to the U.S. meets with United States standards. Eighty six percent of Americans support frequent food facility inspections from the FDA.
The results show seventy four percent are willing to pay higher food prices to ensure what they eat is free from bacteria. Additional findings show 70 percent of those polled think food producers should contribute monetarily to support FDA food safety monitoring efforts and activity.
Cristian Garcia
Image credit: Morgue file

Deadly Outbreak in Germany by Escherichia coli O:104

Uncooked vegetables might be the source of an E. coli outbreak that has claimed at least three lives and may have infected 400 or more people, many of them young adult women.
Klaus Stark, group leader of gastrointestinal infections and zoonotic diseases at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) told that E. coli O104 serotype appears to be the cause of an E. coli epidemic sweeping Germany, with at least three dead, over 400 sick including 80 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome. The number of serious cases in such a short time period is very unusual, and the age groups affected are also atypical.

According to Dr. Alex Friedrich, chair of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control, University Hospital Groningen, the Netherlands, the serotype involved in some of the cases is E. coli O:104. Most laboratories would not be equipped to routinely screen for such a rare shiga-toxin producing E. coli.  

 News reports described victims' infections as severe, with as many as 80 developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication.

The RKI said more than 80 cases of haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) had been reported in the past two weeks, a life-threatening disease caused by infection with the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) strain.

In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein alone, there were some 200 suspected cases of people suffering from bloody diarrhoea, while in Lower Saxony there were 96 and in Hamburg 42

Many of those affected are being treated in hospitals, according to one report, and some have had to be placed on mechanical respirators. The epidemiological investigation has been hampered because many of the case patients have been too sick to give detailed information about what they have eaten.


Aporte: Fernando Fuentes Pinochet

martes, 24 de mayo de 2011

Comisión Europea envía Sudáfrica un equipo veterinario para controlar un brote de gripe Aviar.

El brote está causando importantes daños en la población animal.

La Comisión Europea ha enviado a Sudáfrica un equipo veterinario de emergencia para ayudar a las autoridades locales a controlar un grave brote de gripe aviar detectado el pasado 9 de abril en varias granjas de avestruces de la provincia del Cabo Occidental. El brote se ha propagado por la zona poniendo en peligro la población de ese animal, que se destina a la producción de carne. Aunque el brote no ha tenido ningún impacto desde el punto de vista de la salud pública, está causando importantes daños económicos y en la población animal. La exportación de carne de avestruz en la zona, destinada principalmente al mercado europeo, ha sido suspendida para evitar la propagación de la enfermedad.

El equipo veterinario europeo, que llegó a la zona, ayudará a controlar la enfermedad, limitando el riesgo de contagio a otras aves de granja. Además, podría eventualmente rebajar las restricciones al comercio de esa carne. Sudáfrica ya sufrió brotes de gripe aviar en 2004 y 2006, que al igual que en este caso no fueron causados por la variante "asiática" H5N1. La UE dispone desde 2007 de un marco legislativo que permite el despliegue de equipos veterinarios de emergencia para asistir a Estados miembros y terceros países cuando se producen brotes graves de enfermedades en animales. Esos equipos facilitan asistencia científica, técnica y de gestión para ayudar a controlar, supervisar y erradicar los brotes. En cuatro años el equipo veterinario europeo ha llevado a cabo doce misiones en siete Estados miembros y en cinco países ajenos a la UE. La última misión tuvo lugar en Bulgaria, después de registrarse varios brotes de fiebre aftosa.
Aporte: Lilian Rojas

Nuevo sensor para analizar la cantidad de mercurio en el agua

El nuevo sensor detecta una concentración mil veces más pequeña que la cantidad máxima de mercurio en agua permitida en la Union Europea.
Científicos alemanes desarrollaron un nuevo sensor que determina el nivel de mercurio en el agua, éste permite elaborar sistemas portátiles de detección mucho más precisos que los actuales.
El nuevo sistema se basa en un chip sensor óptico capaz de detectar iones de mercurio en agua de manera selectiva y con una gran sensibilidad. Los métodos actuales con alta sensibilidad a la detección precisan de instrumentos de laboratorio para analizarlo, además de personal calificado, un aspecto que dificulta su detección o la retrasa. Además, los sistemas portátiles actuales no disponen de tan alta sensibilidad a la detección de mercurio.
El agua de la tierra es vulnerable a la contaminación por mercurio y, por ende, pasa de forma directa a la cadena alimentaria. Los últimos datos de su detección en aguas revelan que en ríos y lagos la cifra no supera el 0,1 microgramos por litro, pero en zonas cercanas a concentraciones de fuentes minerales de mercurio, la cifra aumenta hasta 80 microgramos por litro. Destaca el aumento de este metal detectado en el agua, debido a los residuos urbanos e industriales que no se han tratado de forma adecuada, al uso excesivo de fertilizantes y pesticidas o a la geología de cada parte del mundo. En el agua del mar, el mercurio se halla en los sedimentos y, por consiguiente, en los alimentos marinos.


Aporte: Pabla Morales Muñoz
APEC’s Food Safety Cooperation Forum and the World Bank have signed a memorandum of understanding in Big Sky, Montana this week intended to strengthen food safety collaboration in the Asia-Pacific region.
APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), a forum of 21 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the region. Member economies account for nearly 50 percent of the world’s food production, and over 40 percent of its population.
Signing the MOU with APEC, World Bank vice president for sustainable development Inger Andersen said: "Food safety is an increasingly significant part of the World Bank’s lending and technical assistance programs in East Asia and the Pacific, as well as in other regions. We are extremely pleased to be working with APEC to bring more attention to this critical issue.
“This new agreement will strengthen our joint efforts to mobilize resources and promote and support capacity building to better ensure food safety concerns.”
‘Capacity building’ refers to creating more laboratory capacity in member countries for foodborne pathogen testing. The APEC forum has previously put this forward as one of the most critical food safety training needs in the region, alongside risk assessment, incident management, and supply chain management.
APEC secretariat executive director Ambassador Muhamad Noor said: “Food trade is increasingly becoming a global issue with complex and inter-related supply chains, which raises the need to address the question of food safety.”
In the United States, an increasingly global food network has led to greater concern among consumers about the safety checks in place for both domestic and imported food. Concern in the US tends to spike following high-profile recalls, such as the 2008 melamine-tainted milk scandal in China, and peanut butter products contaminated with salmonella in the US in 2009.
A Deloitte survey released earlier this month found that 73 percent of Americans are now more concerned about food safety than they were five years ago – and imported food was among their top areas of concern.
Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) president and CEO Pamela Bailey, who was also present at the signing, applauded the move.
She said: “Although the US has one of the safest food supplies in the world, there is still more work to be done, especially as food supply chains become more global. Our operating model on food safety has been and continues to be very clear – industry must take the initiative to improve food safety in its own operations and through a genuine partnership with key stakeholders, including governments.”
Imports account for about 15 percent of the total US food supply, including 60 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables and 80 percent of seafood. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are about 189,000 registered foreign sites where food is made for sale in the United States, but the FDA only inspects a tiny fraction of them – just 153 in 2008.
The APEC sub-committee on standards and conformance’s food safety cooperation forum and the World Bank have agreed to work together closely on training programs to improve food safety standards and practices in the region, as well as to facilitate trade.

The Future of Meat Production Might Be in a Laboratory

Researchers have been experimenting with lab-grown meat for 10 years. Different progresses have been made in developing the in vitro meat.

Currently tissue scientists are taking stem cells from pigs and putting them in nutrient broth-filled petri dishes, where they rapidly grow. The biggest slab of meat grown so far is about the size of a contact lens and contains millions of cells. The next step is trying to take these cells and turn them into muscle tissue, using biodegradable scaffolding platforms.

The goal is to eventually produce meat in the lab in quantities large enough to sell in grocery stores and feed an ever-growing population.

At first blush, the concept seems bizarre. One of the scientists that participate in the project says “There is something creepy about growing meat in labs. But there is something more creepy about the way we deal with the animals that we eat. They live a horrible life, and they often die quite cruelly”

In addition to having a positive impact on animal welfare, there are several other advantages to lab-grown meat, by replacing animal meat with in vitro meat, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease significantly since livestock are large producers of methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. In addition, scientists would be able to precisely control the fat content of meat, creating a benefit to consumers who want a leaner product.

Perhaps most significant, however, is the effect that lab-produced could potentially have on food safety. Scientists point out that producing meat in a secure and sterile environment, such as a laboratory, would dramatically reduce the possibility of bacterial contamination.

Aporte: Andrea Cuellar

lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

If Bacteria Do it why we can not

Learning community skills from microbial populations: can we follow their example
Numerically and by biomass, bacteria are the most successful organisms on Earth. Much of this success is due to their small size and relative simplicity, which allows for fast reproduction and correspondingly rapid evolution. But the price of small size and rapid growth is having a small genome, which constrains the diversity of metabolic functions that a single microbe can have. Thus, bacteria tend to be specialized for using just a few substrates. So how can simple bacteria thrive in a complex environment? By cooperating—a cooperation driven by need.

Bacteria rarely live in a given ecological niche by themselves. Instead, they exist in communities in which one bacterial species generates as waste the substrates another species needs to survive. Their waste products are used, in turn, by other bacterial species in a complex food chain. Survival requires balancing the needs of the individual with the well-being of the group, both within and across species. How this balancing act is orchestrated can be fascinating to explore as the relative roles of cooperation, opportunism, parasitism and competition change with alterations in available resources.

The dynamics of microbial behavior are not just a great demonstration of how the laws of natural selection work and how they depend on the nature of both selective pressures and environmental constraints. Microbial communities also demonstrate important nongenetic principles of cooperation. And herein lie lessons that scientists can emulate.

To be successful, scientists must be able to compete not only for funding, but for important research topics that will give them visibility and attract good students. In the earlier days of biology, questions were more general, making it easier to keep up with broad fields and to exploit novel research findings as they arose. As the nature of our work has become more complex and the amount of biological information has exploded, we have necessarily become more specialized. There is only so much information each of us can handle.

With specialization has come an increasing dependence on other specialized biologists to provide us with needed data and to support our submitted papers and grants. At the same time, resources have become scarcer, and we find ourselves competing with the same scientists on whom we are becoming dependent. Thus, it is necessary to find a balance between cooperation and competition in order to survive, and perhaps even to thrive.

The composition of microbial communities is driven by both the interaction of different species and external environmental factors that determine resource availability. Scientists want to learn the rules governing these complex relationships so they can reengineer bacterial communities for the production of useful substances, or for bioremediation. Perhaps as we learn the optimal strategies that microbial communities use to work together effectively, we will gain insights into how we can better work together as a community of scientists.

Source: H. Steven Wiley, lead biologist for the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Report Faults FDA over Risks from Imported Seafood

About half of the seafood the U.S. imports comes from foreign fish farms, and the fish grown there are prone to bacterial infections that are often treated with antibiotics.

The Food and Drug Administration is doing a poor job ensuring that imported seafood doesn't pose health risks to Americans, failing to properly assess foreign producers and inspect the products they ship to the U.S., according to a congressional research report released Monday.

Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said in a statement Monday that a new food-safety law passed this year by Congress will improve the agency's ability monitor the safety of imported seafood.

About half of the seafood the U.S. imports comes from foreign fish farms, and the fish grown there are prone to bacterial infections that are often treated with antibiotics and other drugs not approved in the U.S., the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, said in the report.

"The residues of some drugs can cause cancer and antibiotic resistance," the GAO said.

The U.S. imported about $14.7 billion of seafood last year, up from $13.1 billion in 2009, according to data maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The FDA's efforts to evaluate seafood imports generally consist of the agency reviewing records of importers and processors in the U.S.

"The [FDA] inspectors generally do not visit the farms to evaluate drug use or the capabilities, competence, and quality control of laboratories that analyze the seafood," according to the report.

The FDA has "conducted foreign country assessments in five countries to gather information about those countries' aquaculture programs," the GAO said, but the U.S. agency is limited by its lack of "procedures, criteria, and standards" to make those assessments.

The FDA and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service reached an agreement in 2009 to improve how imported seafood is monitored, but the agencies have only made "limited progress," the GAO concluded.

The FDA, in 2009, tested only about 0.1% of all the seafood imported in the U.S. for drug residues, and the agency relies on just seven of its 13 laboratories to do the testing, the GAO said.

The FDA's Mr. Taylor said the agency has done a good job overseeing the safety of imported seafood, given the "outdated 70-year old food safety laws" it has been working with up until Congress approved the Food Safety Modernization Act this year.

With the "new tools for strengthening the assurance that every shipment of seafood meets high U.S. food safety standards" that the FDA was given in the new law, he said, the agency will build "a new system for oversight of all imported food that better protects American consumers."

Sandias Explosivas en China por posible exceso de agroquimicos

En la provincia de Jiangsui, China, agricultores se sorprendieron al encontrar que las sandias cultivadas explotaban, al parecer las enormes sandías no pudieron con su tamaño y explotaron.

La intensa lluvia y el exceso de forclorfenurón, un fertilizante que acelera el crecimiento, provocaron que plantíos de sandías volaran en pedazos, otra posibilidad sugiere que los agricultores eran inexperimentados y un boom en las ventas de sandías hizo que muchos agricultores empezaran a sembrar sandías por primera vez el año pasado sin tener un conocimiento adecuado sobre el manejo de estas, provocando este incidente.
Una explicación racional sería que los ambiciosos agricultores inyectaron en los frutos un exceso del citado químico para el crecimiento, desafortunada decisión que en combinación con el clima húmedo, convirtió los campos de sandías en campos de minas.
De todas formas también se supo que este químico es usado en Estados Unidos para hacer crecer kiwis y uvas sin efectos similares, según revistas , este químico cuenta con una gran popularidad desde la década de 1980 y puede aumentar el tamaño de la fruta en más de 20 por ciento.
Las sandías que han estallado han sido declaradas no aptas para el consumo humano y desviadas a la alimentación de cerdos y peces, decisión que no se considera objetiva por que finalmente serán alimento de los humanos, por lo tanto algo del forclorfenurón acabaremos comiendo.


Aporte: Jairo Alonso Torres Garcia

El pesticida "endosulfan" se retirará del mercado en 2012 por sus graves efectos en la salud

A pesar de ser muy peligroso para el ser humano, su uso está generalizado en la agricultura.
Un pesticida muy utilizado en la agricultura, el endosulfan, se retirará del mercado en 2012 por sus graves efectos en la salud de los agricultores y comunidades rurales próximas a los campos donde se utiliza ese producto. A pesar de ser muy peligroso para el ser humano, el uso del endosulfan está generalizado en la agricultura y se utiliza en cultivos como algodón, café, té, tabaco, tomate, cebolla, patata, manzana, mango, entre otros.

El Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) ha comunicado que la decisión se adoptó por representantes de 127 países reunidos en Ginebra, que acordaron incorporar el endosulfan a una lista que por ahora incluye 21 contaminantes orgánicos persistentes que están prohibidos. A partir de esa decisión y en el plazo de un año, ese pesticida tendrá que quedar fuera de circulación, después de que varios estudios demostraran su extrema toxicidad al contacto dérmico o al ser inhalado.Los países donde más se ha utilizado el pesticida en cuestión son Australia, China, India, México, Pakistán, Argentina, Brasil y Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, estos últimos tres países lo prohibieron hace poco a través de disposiciones internas.
La utilización de este pesticida es extensa debido a que es un pesticida efectivo y barato. No obstante, se ha constatado que su pulverización está asociada con desórdenes congénitos en recién nacidos y casos de retraso mental. En caso de que los trabajadores que manipulan el pesticida no estén protegidos de manera adecuada, con ropa y equipos especiales, como ocurre con frecuencia en los países en desarrollo, se exponen a un envenenamiento agudo. El impacto del pesticida en los consumidores, a través de la ingesta de alimentos pulverizados, aún no está documentado.


Aporte: Maria Josefa Henríquez

Health Hazard Alert/CFIA: Cheese may contain Listeria moncytogenes

A recall of King James brand Blue Stilton Cheese has been announced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the food’s importer, because it may be contaminated.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and The Tree of Life Canada are warning the public not to consume the King James brand Blue Stilton Cheese, product of England, described below because the product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The affected product, King James brand Blue Stilton Cheese, was sold to retailers in 2 kg bulk round packages bearing Lot/Batch numbers between 019 and 034 inclusive. However, this cheese may have been cut and sold at retail/deli counters in random weight packages starting April 14, 2011 up to and including May 19, 2011. The brand name and lot code information of the original bulk cheese may not appear on the individual cut pieces of the cheese. Consumers are advised to contact the retailer to determine if they have the affected cheese.

This product has been distributed in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland. However, it may have been distributed nationally. There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled. Consumption of food contaminated with these bacteria may cause listeriosis, a foodborne illness. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness, however, infections during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

The importer, Tree of Life Canada, Surrey, BC is voluntarily recalling the affected product from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

Fernando Fuentes
Manuel Urrutia

sábado, 21 de mayo de 2011

U.S. Senator Wants FDA to Regulate Food with Melatonin

Generally each brownie and cookie almost doubles the upper limit of a typical dose.
Products are marketed as dietary supplements that claim to provide a harmless way to promote relaxation, alleviate stress, and ease sleep deprivation. These products appear to be promoting themselves as therapeutic alternatives to medications.
The relaxing effect promoted by these products is due to the ingredient melatonin. According to scientific research there is no recommended dose for melatonin supplements, but according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database the typical dose should be between 0.3 and 5 milligrams. Generally each brownie and cookie contains roughly 8 milligrams of melatonin -- almost double the upper limit of a typical dose.

The inclusion of melatonin in baked goods raises numerous health concerns. For instance, the sweet, chocolaty taste may encourage consumers to eat well over a recommended quantity of melatonin. Furthermore, consumers eating these baked goods may not recognize they are consuming a neurohormone, that they should consult a doctor before eating it, and that it may not be appropriate for children, people with auto-immune diseases, or women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements in the National Institutes of Health, after taking melatonin people should not drive or use machinery for four to five hours, and melatonin may interact with contraceptive drugs, diabetes medications, and depressants.
These products are currently marketed as dietary supplements, therefore they do not need to establish evidence of their products' safety and effectiveness or require pre-market approval. The FDA has not approved melatonin as an additive in foods.

Ari Wortzman M.

Bacteria in the gut may influence brain development

There is a critical period early in life when gut microorganisms affect the brain and change the behavior in later life.

A team of scientists from around the globe have found that gut bacteria may influence mammalian brain development and adult behavior. The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS.

The research team compared behavior and gene expression in two groups of mice -- those raised with normal microorganisms, and those raised in the absence of microorganisms (or germ-free mice). The scientists observed that adult germ-free mice displayed different behavior from mice with normal microbiota, suggesting that gut bacteria may have a significant effect on the development of the brain in mammals.

The adult germ-free mice were observed to be more active and engaged in more 'risky' behavior than mice raised with normal microorganisms. When germ-free mice were exposed to normal microorganisms very early in life, as adults they developed the behavioral characteristics of those exposed to microorganisms from birth. In contrast, colonizing adult germ-free mice with bacteria did not influence their behavior.

Subsequent gene profiling in the brain identified genes and signaling pathways involved in learning, memory and motor control that were affected by the absence of gut bacteria, highlighting the profound changes in the mice that developed in the absence of microorganisms. This suggests that, over the course of evolution, colonization of the gut by microorganisms (in total 1.5 kilograms) in early infancy became integrated into early brain development.

"The data suggests that there is a critical period early in life when gut microorganisms affect the brain and change the behavior in later life," says Dr. Rochellys Diaz Heijtz, first author of the study.

"Not only are signal substances like serotonin and dopamine subject to regulation by bacteria, synapse function also appears to be regulated by colonizing bacteria," continues Prof. Sven Pettersson, coordinator of the study. "However, it is important to note that this new knowledge can be applied only to mice, and that it is too early to say anything about the effect of gut bacteria on the human brain."

The findings presented are a result of a long-standing and ongoing collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and the GIS in Singapore aimed at exploring host-microbe interactions in a systematic manner.

Source: ScienceDaily