NEWS SCAN: Beef labeling push, cheese plant clean-up, flu vaccine effectiveness, antibiotic prescribing intervention

Apr 10, 2012

Congresswoman pushes for mechanically tenderized beef labeling
Rep Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., yesterday called on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move forward with a labeling requirement for mechanically tenderized beef. In a press release, she cited a USDA study that said about 50 million pounds of mechanically tenderized beef are sold in the United States each month and that consumers must know that the products are nonintact and must be prepared and cooked at higher temperatures than intact cuts of beef. In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, DeLauro said she was encouraged that USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, MD, said in a Mar 8 House subcommittee hearing that the agency was working on the issue but added that the USDA started the process in 2009. DeLauro referred to a 2009 Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to mechanically tenderized beef products that sickened people in 16 states. "It is imperative that the agency act before another grilling season comes and goes, with tens of millions of pounds of mechanically tenderized beef products being sold to unaware consumers who unknowingly place themselves at risk," she said in the letter. In December 2010 when DeLauro called for a similar action, the American Meat Institute voiced opposition to further labeling, saying blade-tenderized steaks had a similar safety profile as intact steaks and that all steak sold in retails stores already carries labeling that details safe handling practices, Meatingplace, a meat industry publication, reported today.
FDA says cheese firm agrees to develop Listeria control plan
A cheese company in Washington state has agreed to keep its products off the market until it has an effective program to eliminate Listeria monocytogenes from its facility and products, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday. The company, Del Bueno of Grandview, Wash., makes a variety of cheeses and distributes them to specialty grocery stores and restaurants, the FDA said. The agency and the Washington State Department of Agriculture has noted numerous deficiencies in the company's facility since 2009, the statement said. In 2010, the FDA found Listeria in one of the firm's products and in the facility, and one listeriosis case was linked to a company product, the FDA reported. Under a consent decree signed with the FDA, Del Bueno must destroy products now in its plant, hire an independent lab to analyze samples for Listeria, and retain an independent sanitation expert, among other steps.
Apr 9 FDA statement

Study finds 60% flu vaccine effectiveness among Canadians
Seasonal flu vaccine effectiveness (VE) in 2007-08 in Canada was 60% overall in protecting against lab-confirmed flu among all age-groups, according to a study yesterday in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. A trans-Canada team of researchers analyzed sentinel surveillance data for 1,425 people aged 6 months and older, 21% of whom were vaccinated against flu and 48% of whom had lab-confirmed flu. The team found that the effectiveness of the trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) for seasonal H1N1 was 69% (95% confidence interval [CI], 44%-83%), that for H3N2 it was 57% (95% CI, 32%-73%), and that for influenza B it was 55% (95% CI, 32%-70%), for an overall VE of 60% (95% CI, 45%-71%). The findings are consistent with an October 2011 meta-analysis, which found 59% VE for TIV in adults aged 18 to 65.
Apr 9 J Infect Dis abstract
Oct 25, 2011, CIDRAP News story on VE meta-analysis

Hospital-generated antibiotic guidelines show promise
Clinical guidelines and educational campaigns can successfully influence antibiotic prescribing patterns, according to a study of a hospital program for treating community-acquired pneumonia in children. The findings, from a research team at the University of Louisville appeared yesterday in Pediatrics. The team measured antibiotic prescribing patterns at a children's hospital from January 2007 through September 2009. The study period allowed the group to assess antibiotic prescribing patterns before the facility created an antimicrobial stewardship task force (ASTF), after the ASTF was formed, and after the ASTF released its guidelines, which advocated for ampicillin instead of ceftriaxone as first-line pneumonia treatment. Based on 1,246 children who met the study criteria, ampicillin use increased from 2% to 6% after the ASTF was formed, rising to 44% when the guidelines were released. Meanwhile, ceftriaxone use rose slightly from 56% to 59% after the ASTF was formed but dropped to 28% after the guidelines were introduced. Researchers found that the change in prescribing patterns remained stable over the following year. They concluded that the inexpensive, low-risk approach is a step in the right direction, especially for centers with limited time and resources.
Apr 9 Pediatrics abstract

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