FDA Releases Two Long-Awaited Food Safety Rules

After a year-long delay, two sweeping new food safety rules that will for the first time mandate produce safety standards and preventive controls nationwide will be released today and published to the Federal Register on Monday, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s a big deal that these two are coming out because it’s the central framework for prevention,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Comissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with Food Safety News. “We’re eager to get to the next phase of the process.” Read more

Consumer Reports Finds Most Pork Contaminated With Yersinia

In a new study of raw pork chops and ground pork, Consumer Reports found 69 percent samples were contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, according to a report published by the group today. A lesser-known foodborne pathogen, Yersinia enterocolitica can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, lasting one to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is approximately one confirmed infection per 100,000 people reported each year, but since these cases are severely under-reported, CDC estimates there are actually around 100,000 infections in the United States annually.

Consumer Reports tested 198 samples and found that while the vast majority were positive for Yersinia, only 3 to 7 percent were positive for more the more common foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria monocytogenes.

According to the report, several of the isolates found were resistant to one or more antibiotics: Six of the eight Salmonella samples, 13 of the 14 Staphylococcus samples and 121 of the 132 Yersinia samples. The study also found MRSA on one sample.

The group points to the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture as a key contributor to the resistance problem. Read more

ARS Highlights Alternatives to Antibiotics for Animal Agriculture

As concerns grow about antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our food, environment, and hospitals, the Agricultural Research Service is trying to figure out the best alternatives for food animal producers, who have long relied on these miracle drugs for combating diseases and boosting feed efficiency.

Though antibiotic resistance is a known consequence of antibiotic use in both humans and animals, agricultural use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as more consumers take an interest in how their food is produced. According to the most recent estimates, around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States each year are used in food animal production. Read more

FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.

Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.

The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more

USDA Offers School Districts Choice on ‘Pink Slime’

In response to nationwide concern among parents and school service providers about ‘pink slime’ being purchased by the national school lunch program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last Thursday that next year it will give school districts the ability to choose whether they will serve the ammoniated beef product.

The USDA said that while it believes all products it buys for the school lunch program, including Lean Finely Textured Beef, are “safe and nutritious” it would respond to customer demand to give schools additional options, so they can opt out of purchasing LFTB if they wish. Read more

Cargill Recalls 36 Million Pounds of Ground Turkey

Cargill announced Wednesday it is recalling almost 36 million pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, a pathogen linked to at least 76 illnesses across the United States and one death in California.

The recalled meat came from a single processing facility in Springdale, Arkansas, but ended up in dozens of different ground turkey products sold nationwide under a variety of brand names including Honeysuckle White, Shady Brook Farms, Riverside, Aldi’s Fit and Active Fresh, Spartan, Giant Eagle, Kroger and Safeway. Read more

Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed

A bipartisan group of senators re-introduced a bill late last week aimed at preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by limiting their use in food animal feed. In the face of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, public health experts and activists have pushed for regulation to limit the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Recent estimates indicate around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to food animals.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, otherwise known as PAMTA, reintroduced the measure to address “the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings.” Read more