FOOD SAFETY SCAN: FDA nod for New Zealand food safety, US gastroenteritis spread, MRSA in UK milk

Dec 13, 2012

FDA says New Zealand's food safety system is comparable to US's
New Zealand has become the first country formally recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as having a food safety system comparable with the US system. The FDA announced today that it signed a "systems recognition" agreement with New Zealand on Dec 10. Working with New Zealand, the FDA conducted a comprehensive review of the country's relevant laws and regulations, inspection programs, foodborne illness response, compliance and enforcement, and laboratory support, the FDA statement said. It said "systems recognition" can be used to make risk-based decisions about foreign inspections, admitting products into the United States, and follow-up actions when food safety problems occur. The agency said systems recognition is not required for a country to export food to the United States. It is currently working on a systems recognition process with Canada. In an interview with Food Safety News (FSN), FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor described the agreement as the first step in what will become an important part of the FDA's import safety system under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The agency believes that determining which countries have US-comparable food safety systems will help stretch scarce resources as it implements the law, the story said. Such countries will almost certainly get fewer FDA inspections of their food facilities than other countries.
Dec 13 FDA "Constituent Update" statement
Dec 13 FSN story
Related Dec 13 blog post by FDA officials

Norovirus implicated in 89% of person-to-person gastroenteritis outbreaks
Of more than 2,000 acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in 2009 and 2010 that were spread by person-to-person contact, norovirus was implicated in 89%, and 80% involved nursing homes, according to a report today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The 2,259 outbreaks reported to the National Outbreak Reporting System (NORS) caused 81,491 confirmed illnesses, 1,339 hospitalizations, and 136 deaths, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 1,419 outbreaks with a known cause, 1,270 (89%) were either suspected or confirmed to be caused solely by norovirus. Other leading pathogens caused far fewer outbreaks: Shigella, 86; Salmonella, 16; Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, 11; and rotavirus, 10. Of the 1,187 outbreaks that were linked to a specific setting, 80% were in long-term–care facilities, followed by childcare centers (6%), hospitals (5%), and schools (5%). The authors say the United States sees about 179 million acute gastroenteritis cases each year, and NORS outbreak data can help focus prevention and control efforts.
Dec 14 MMWR report

MRSA detected in milk from UK dairy cows
Livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) has been isolated from bulk milk tanks from five geographically dispersed UK farms, suggesting it may be established in British livestock, according to a study today in Eurosurveillance. Researchers used polymerase chain reaction to test about 300 potential MRSA colonies among 1,500 samples from bulk milk tanks. Seven tested positive for LA-MRSA, three of which were from the same farm, marking the first instance of the CC398 strain in UK dairy cattle. The authors conclude, "Although pasteurisation of milk should ensure that CC398 MRSA will not enter the food chain, our finding of LA-MRSA CC398 in dairy cattle has clear public health implications for the UK. Workers on dairy farms, or individuals with regular contact with dairy cows, are likely to have a higher risk of colonisation or infection with LA-MRSA CC398 compared to the general population."
Dec 13 Eursurveill report

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