News Scan for Jun 02, 2014

News brief

USDA action on poultry inspection rule expected in July

Final action on a controversial US Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan to streamline inspections of poultry carcasses is now scheduled for July, having been postponed from April, Food Safety News reported today.

The proposal, called the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule, calls for shifting most carcass inspection duties from USDA inspectors to processing plant workers so that USDA personnel can focus on other food safety variables. The plan allows for an increase in production line speeds in poultry processing plants.

The USDA has estimated that the plan will prevent up to 5,200 illnesses annually and reduce poultry production costs. But it has drawn criticism from a number of health, labor, and consumer groups since it was unveiled in 2012.

The USDA is also pushing back to September a final rule for labeling mechanically tenderized beef, along with a proposed rule on reporting antimicrobial ingredients in food animals.
Jun 2 Food Safety News story
White House Office of Management and Budget information on rule


Canada reports chia seed–linked Salmonella outbreak

Canadian health officials have linked nine Salmonella infections to eating dried sprouted chia seed powder, similar to an outbreak that recently sickened 12 people in the United States.

Though both outbreaks are linked to chia seed powder, the recalled products are from different companies and the Canadian outbreak involves a second Salmonella strain, according to a May 31 announcement from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

The recalled Canadian products are from two brands from Ontario-based Advantage Health Matters: Organic Traditions and Back 2 the Garden. Two strains have been linked to the outbreak: Salmonella Newport, also implicated in the US outbreak, and Salmonella Hartford, according to the PHAC. The Canadian illnesses were in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. One patient was hospitalized.

All seven patients interviewed so far reported eating dried sprouted chia seed powder. Illness onsets among the Canadian cases range from Dec 15 through May 4.
May 31 PHAC statement

In the US outbreak, three products containing organic sprouted chia seed powder distributed by California-based Navitas Naturals have been linked to 12 Salmonella Newport infections reported from 7 states, according to a May 29 announcement from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One patient has been hospitalized.

The CDC said the outbreak strain is rare and has never been seen before on PulseNet, the national subtyping network. The US illness onsets range from Jan 21 through May 5.

Like the Canadian investigation, all seven patients interviewed had eaten sprouted chia powder. It said testing is under way on several samples of powder from sick patients' homes and unopened packages from retail locations.

On May 28 the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said 12 people in the state had been infected with "the same rare strain of Salmonella" and warned consumers not the eat Navitas chia products. The CDC said 2 outbreak patients are from California.
May 29 CDC outbreak announcement
May 29 CIDRAP News scan on CDPH update


NYC man pleads guilty to toxin charges

A pharmacist from New York City on May 29 pled guilty in federal court to attempting to develop, produce, and possess ricin, abrin, and other toxins at his apartments in Jersey City and Manhattan, according to a May 29 Associated Press (AP) report.

The man, 34-year-old Jordan Gonzalez, was initially charged with trying to manufacture a controlled substance using hallucinogen materials he bought online, according to the AP story. He was arrested on Nov 14, and a search of a Jersey City storage unit and the man's two apartments turned up thousands of seeds containing ricin and abrin, materials to extract and administer the toxins, and materials to make explosives.

Authorities also found ammunition rounds and books on social order collapse and steps for surviving in lawless settings. In his court appearance, the man admitted that he had assembled the materials in anticipation of using them in future confrontations with other people.
May 29 AP story

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