FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: Foodborne illness in vulnerable groups, norovirus delays commencement, FDA seeks food warehouse closures

May 12, 2011

Avoiding foodborne infections in high-risk groups
A detailed review of groups who are vulnerable to foodborne illnesses identified several, from transplant recipients to those who have reduced stomach acidity or are using antidiarrhea medications, according to UK researchers writing in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. Their review of the literature found many ways that foodborne disease outbreaks can be prevented in hospitals and other health settings. For example, suppliers of food to hospitals and other care settings should have a food safety management plan in place, and some high-risk populations are recommended to receive a low-microbial diet that is less likely to contain pathogens. Hospital drinking water could be contaminated, so special precautions are warranted for patients who have T-cell deficiencies. In some situations, such as transplant surgery, patients sometimes undergo prophylactic antibiotic therapy to protect against foodborne and other infections.
May 11 Foodborne Pathog Dis abstract

Presumed norovirus outbreak postpones college commencement
A private university in southern Michigan has postponed its commencement exercises by 1 week because of an outbreak of presumed norovirus illness. Spring Arbor University said in a press release yesterday that more than 170 students on its main campus have reported being ill with symptoms consistent with norovirus, which causes gastroenteritis. The school canceled all nonacademic activities from yesterday through May 15, a move that postponed commencement from May 14 to May 21. Officials also canceled alumni events, a baseball tournament, and a baccalaureate service, and closed a fitness room, pool, and other facilities. Spring Arbor President Charles Webb said in the release, "These decisions are preventative and consistent with the medical advice received." About 1,700 students attend the main Spring Arbor campus, according to the Jackson Citizen Patriot, a local newspaper.
May 11 Jackson Citizen Patriot story

FDA seeks to shutter Memphis companies' food warehouses
Citing a failure to address repeat violations, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday requested a permanent injunction against two food companies—American Mercantile Corp. and Ingredients Corp. of America—and the two companies' owner. The complaint, filed by the Department of Justice in a federal court, charges that the Memphis-based companies and owner Damon S. Arney "violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by preparing, packing, and holding food under insanitary conditions where it may have become contaminated with filth," according to an FDA news release. The companies handle a wide variety of food products and ingredients, including spices, herbs, and sauces, the agency said. Previous FDA inspections, including one at each company in 2010, revealed that the companies failed to implement basic food sanitation practices at their warehouse and processing operations. The complaint alleges that FDA investigators found widespread insect and rodent activity, a failure to store raw materials properly, and poorly maintained facilities. Despite warnings and a May 2009 food seizure at American Mercantile, the companies and Arney failed to correct violations, the FDA said.
May 11 FDA news release
May 7, 2009, FDA release on food seizure

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