Food Safety Scan for Sep 27, 2013

Cantaloupe farmers arrested
Animal antibiotics data
Cholera in Mexico, Caribbean

Colorado cantaloupe farmers from 2011 Listeria outbreak face trial

The owners of Colorado's Jensen Farms, source of contaminated cantaloupes blamed for a widespread Listeria outbreak in 2011, have been arrested on misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, according to an Associated Press (AP) story yesterday.

The two Jensen brothers, who pleaded not guilty, face trial on Dec 2 and could get up to 6 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines if convicted.

During investigation at the time of the outbreak, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that the melons were not adequately cleaned; they cited pooled, dirty water on the floor of the packing house and use of old, hard-to-clean equipment as the culprits, says the story.

The outbreak sickened 146 people in 28 states, killing 30 and causing 1 miscarriage, according to the final CDC update on the outbreak from late 2011.

The misdemeanor charge was pursued by federal prosecutors because of the number of people affected and because it was the "best, most serious charge" they could find that did not imply that the contamination was intentional, the AP story said. Civil lawsuits have been filed by a number of people (or the families of people) who were sickened or died in the outbreak.
Sep 26 AP article
Dec 8, 2011, CDC final update on outbreak


FDA offers to supply more data on antibiotics used in animals

The FDA unveiled a proposal this week to provide more information in its annual reports on the volume of antimicrobials sold for use in food animals, including whether the drugs are used to promote growth or treat illness.

Under a 2008 law, drug companies must report to the FDA each year the amount of antimicrobials they sell for use in food animals, and the agency must publish summaries of the data by antimicrobial class, the FDA noted in a news release. The requirements are based on the concern that antibiotic use in animals promotes drug-resistant pathogens.

Last July the agency asked for public comments on ways to enhance the existing requirements on collection of sales data and on how to make its annual reports to the public more clear and detailed. Many commenters suggested that the FDA separate sales data by route of drug administration, dispensing status, and whether drugs are used for treatment or growth promotion, the agency said.

The FDA said it is now proposing to expand the current sales data by drug class to include information on the importance of the drug in human medicine. In addition, it will provide aggregate data on how medications are administered, whether they are sold over the counter or require veterinary oversight, and whether they are used as treatments, growth promoters, or both.

Plans also call for updating reports from previous years to include the new data tables.

The public comment period ends Nov 25. Comments can be submitted at (docket number FDA-2012-N-0447).
Sep 25 FDA press release


Mexico reports cholera outbreak

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) yesterday urged member countries to boost their cholera surveillance and implement their response actions, based on a new outbreak in Mexico as well as ongoing disease activity in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

Mexican health officials have reported 10 confirmed cases, 2 from the Federal district and 8 from Hildago state. Five patients were hospitalized, and one death was reported. Illness-onset dates range from Aug 17 to Sep 17, PAHO said in an epidemiologic alert. The outbreak involves toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O:1 Ogawa, the same serotype seen in Haiti's ongoing outbreak.

In Cuba, where some provinces have been reporting outbreaks since 2012, illnesses in Havana have been linked to two food service centers where two food handlers with asymptomatic cholera infections were found. PAHO noted the facilities have since adopted appropriate sanitary measures.

Twelve cases in travelers to other countries have been reported, according to PAHO. Last month the US State Department issued a notice to travelers warning about the cases in Havana.

In the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the pace of cholera infections in the first part of 2013 were above the same period for 2012, but infections have since leveled off. Over the last few weeks, however, the Dominican Republic has reported a rise in suspected cases in four provinces.
Sep 26 PAHO update
Aug 22 CIDRAP News scan "US warns travelers of cholera risk in Havana"

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