NEWS SCAN: E coli cookie dough mismatch, FDA taps food safety expert, Salmonella recalls, anthrax antitoxin

Jul 9, 2009

Cookie dough samples don't match E coli outbreak strain
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today confirmed that the Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain found in an unopened package of cookie dough at Nestle's Danville, Va., plant does not match the genetic fingerprint in the multistate outbreak, ABC News reported today. Sources also said that an E coli O157:H7 strain found in Nestle Toll House cookie dough from a patient's home does not genetically match either of the two strains. David Acheson, MD, the FDA's associate commissioner for foods, said the investigation is wrapping up, but so far authorities have found no clues to suggest how the product may have become contaminated. He added that no evidence of product tampering has been found in the outbreak that has sickened 72 people from 30 states.
[Jul 9 ABC News story]

FDA taps food safety expert Taylor as senior advisor
Michael R. Taylor, a nationally recognized food safety expert, has been named as senior advisor to the commissioner at the FDA, the agency announced in a press release Jul 7. Taylor is a research professor at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, in the release welcomed Taylor back to the FDA, where he worked as an attorney starting in 1976 and as a policy commissioner between 1991 and 1994. "His expertise and leadership on food safety issues will help the agency to develop and implement the prevention based strategy we need to ensure the safety of the food we eat," she said. Taylor will help FDA administrators assess food program challenges, target capacity and regulatory needs, develop allocation plans and budget requests, and coordinate the implementation of new food safety legislation.
[Jul 7 FDA news release]

More Salmonella recalls: Anaheim peppers, sprouts, granola clusters
Food companies and retailers recently issued a range of voluntary product recalls, though none have so far been linked to illnesses. Wegmans supermarkets announced in Jul 2 that it was pulling some of its Anaheim peppers sold since Jun 11 because of potential Salmonella contamination, and that the FDA is investigating the situation. A company spokeswoman told the Rochester, NY, Democrat and Chronicle that random sampling conducted by the state of New York detected the contamination and that the recall involved 40 cases of domestically grown peppers. Meanwhile, General Mills announced yesterday that it was recalling a limited amount of Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters that contain pecans. The company said the pecans it received from a supplier and used in the product may be tainted with Salmonella. In other developments, Kowalke Family Sprouts, based in Los Angeles, on Jul 6 recalled all of its sprout products with sell-by dates from Jun 18 through Jun 30 because a surveillance sample from a retail location suggested they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
[Jul 8 General Mills recall]
[Jul 6 FDA sprout recall]

Anthrax antitoxin shows promise in animal trials
As prophylaxis and treatment for inhalational anthrax, a single dose of the human monoclonal antibody raxibacumab (ABthrax)  improved survival in rabbits and monkeys, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) today. The animals were exposed to 100 and 200 times the median lethal dose of Bacillus anthracis. Those who had detectable levels of protective antigen or a rise in temperature received two different doses of the drug or placebo. Survival rates were highest in the rabbits and monkeys that received the highest dose of the raxibacumab. A safety study in humans, which involved 438 subjects at six sites, showed that the dose recommended for licensure, 40 mg per kilogram of body weight, produce only mild-to-moderate and transient effects that were similar to those from a placebo. In Jun 2006 the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would buy 20,000 treatment courses of the experimental drug, made by Human Genome Sciences, Inc., for $165 million. HHS wanted to add to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) an agent to block the anthrax toxin, because antibiotics are only effective if given early in the illness course. The company said in a press release today that it delivered the first doses to the SNS in April.
[Jul 9 NEJM study]
[Jun 20, 2006, CIDRAP News story]

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