NEWS SCAN: Listeria assessment, Salmonella outbreak update, terror-alert system change, measles in Europe

Apr 20, 2011

Feds seek input on Listeria risk assessment
US food safety agencies are getting ready to update their assessment of the health risk from Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, and they're asking the public to weigh in on how they should approach the task. For example, they're seeing input on changes in industry practices that might have an impact on risk assessment. In a constituent notice, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said agencies will be incorporating data and information on the risk that have emerged since 2003, when the last such assessment was conducted. The agency said it is seeking new information on Listeria contamination in various foods, survival and growth in foods, the relationship between infectious dose and illness frequency, changes in food consumption and production practices, storage and transport conditions that affect the pathogen's growth, and other food categories that should be added. The FDA has posted a Federal Register notice describing how to submit comments, which are due by Jul 6, 2011.
Apr 15 FDA constituent update
Apr 7 Federal Register notice

Labs confirm Salmonella outbreak strain at frog facility
The outbreak strain in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to contact with African dwarf water frogs has been identified in environmental samples collected from the California frog breeder who was at the center of an investigation, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday. In addition, the CDC said the New York State Department of Health has identified the Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium outbreak strain in water collected in March from the home of a sick infant. The CDC said 216 people have been sickened with the outbreak strain, one fewer than it listed in the initial report on Apr 7. The number of states reporting illnesses related to the outbreak remained at 41. The illnesses began in April 2009, but the link to the California frog breeder wasn't identified until January 2010. About two-thirds of the patients reported contact with frogs the week before they became ill.
Apr 19 CDC update

DHS launches new terror alert system
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the implementation of a new two-level Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terrorism advisory system that replaces the four-level, color-coded system which has been in use since 2001. In January she had announced a 90-day transition period to allow states, local government, law enforcement, and other partners to phase in the new system, DHS said today in a press release. The new alerts are defined as either an "elevated threat" that signals a credible threat against the United States, or an "imminent threat" that indicates a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat. In both cases, the alerts will provide a concise description, the target, and the steps individuals and groups can take to protect themselves or mitigate the threat. The advisories will be issued for a specific time, after which they automatically expire. The launch of the new system is the result of a bipartisan task force, formed in July 2009, to review the effectiveness of the color-coded system.
Apr 20 DHS press release

WHO reports sharp increase in European measles cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that its European region is seeing a marked increase in measles cases, with 30 countries now reporting outbreaks, an increase of six since the WHO's last measles update on Apr 12. So far 6,500 cases have been reported this year, with investigations confirming virus exportations among several European countries and to other regions of the world, according to a WHO press release. It said international travel during the Easter holidays poses a further risk of spreading of the disease. France has been the hardest hit country, reporting 4,937 cases so far this year, which almost surpasses its total for 2010. The WHO said other significant outbreaks are occurring in Serbia, Spain's Andalusia region, Macedonia, and Turkey. Zsuzsanna Jakab, regional director for the WHO's European regional office, said in the press release that the outbreaks provide a compelling reason for countries to participate in European Immunization Week, which runs from Apr 23 to Apr 30.
Apr 20 WHO press release

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