FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: EHEC update, food-safety funding, antibiotic resistance in produce

Jun 17, 2011

EHEC outbreak numbers see higher uptick
The number of infections and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) complications in an Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreak linked to sprouts ticked higher, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today. Over the past few days the number of new enterohemorrhagic E coli (EHEC) cases had slowed to just a few dozen cases each day, with only a few new HUS cases. However, since yesterday the EHEC cases without HUS grew by 92, to 2,670, and HUS cases grew by 14, to 837. No new deaths were reported.
Jun 17 ECDC update
In other developments, China's Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) announced yesterday that it and their collaborators at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf have released the first complete map of the German outbreak strain. It said the findings confirm that the strain belongs to an enteroaggregative lineage but has acquired the ability to produce Shiga toxin by the integration of a phage genome. "Therefore, the deadly German E coli is not a completely new bacteria and can be considered a 'hybrid' strain, now temporarily termed Shiga toxin-producing enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (STpEAEC)," BGI said in a statement.
Jun 16 BGI statement

House ag bill cuts FDA and USDA food safety funds
The US House yesterday passed an agricultural appropriations bill that sharply cuts food safety funds for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and takes a smaller swipe at food safety spending by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to Food Safety News. The bill, which covers fiscal year 2012, reduces the FDA's discretionary spending by $285 million, with $87 million of that coming out of food safety, the story said. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services takes a $35 million reduction, about 4%, under the bill. Passage followed 25 hours of debate in which the lawmakers argued over food safety funding, the story said. Democrats argued that cutting FDA funding would undermine implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed in January, which increases the agency's food safety authority and responsibilities. In defending the cuts, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said the US food supply "is about 99.9% safe" and praised the private sector for its food safety efforts. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a longtime advocate for food safety regulation, pointed to Germany's major E coli outbreak as a reason to bolster the FDA's budget. The House legislation drew criticism today from the nonprofit advocacy group Trust for America's Health (TFAH), which said the bill will impair the ability of the FDA and USDA to protect the food supply. The Democratic-controlled Senate has not begun work on major 2012 appropriations bills, and the House bill ultimately will have to be reconciled with whatever the Senate approves.
Jun 17 FSN story
Jun 17 TFAH statement

Study tracks antibiotic-resistant pathogens in produce
A German study on antibiotic resistance in bacteria from a produce setting found contamination on the vegetables, though at levels no higher than in humans and animals. However, researchers said the most striking pattern they saw was that levels of resistant bacteria were higher on items from farms than on those from retail stores. Using samples from 1,001 produce items, the group used the microdilution method to test for resistance of six different pathogens to 30 antibiotics. Resistance to beta-lactams was most commonly expressed by Pantoea agglomerans and Enterobacter gergoviae, which showed 41% and 29% resistance rates, respectively, against cefaclor. Relatively high rates were also detected against doxycycline, erythromycin, and rifampicin in Enterococcus faecalis, for spectinomycin and mezlocillin in Enterobacter cloacae, and streptomycin in Pseudomonas putida. The group concluded that produce can be a source for the spread of antibiotic resistance, even if the bacteria can't grow on the items. They theorized that the higher levels of antibiotic-resistant organisms on farm produce might suggest that additional processing steps might inactivate them or that the organisms might lose fitness during storage. They said the findings underscore the importance of peeling and washing produce to remove pathogens.
Jun 14 Int J Food Microbiol abstract

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