NEWS SCAN: Slowdown on oyster safety, food tracing recommendations, avian flu in France

Nov 16, 2009

FDA backs off on Gulf Coast oyster safety plan
In response to protests from the oyster industry and politicians, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the suspension, pending further study, of a plan to prevent the summertime contamination of Gulf Coast oysters by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. Several weeks ago the agency said it wanted new safety steps in place by the summer of 2011. But on Nov 13 the FDA promised to hold off on the plan while studying how new processing controls can be adopted in the "fastest, safest, and most economical way." Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., called the FDA decision "a major win for our oyster industry and all of Louisiana." But David Plunkett, senior staff attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said, "Public health lost out to the politics of special interests." The FDA said V vulnificus infections can cause skin loss, kidney failure, amputations, and death. Landrieu's statement said 15 people with preexisting conditions died from eating raw oysters last year.
Nov 13 FDA release
CSPI statement

Science advisory group issues food traceability report
The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition on Nov 13 released a report on food tracing guidelines that it commissioned in 2008 from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific group. The report recommends that clear objectives be established for all users of a streamlined, globally accepted food supply chain. The FDA said in a press release that it sponsored the report to support its ongoing efforts to explore ways to trace potentially risky food products. It said experience with foodborne disease outbreaks suggests that better tracing methods might help identify contaminated products more quickly, get them off the market faster, and reduce the number of illnesses. The report consists of a 160-page technical report and a 38-page economics report. Both of the reports, plus supporting materials, are available on the IFT's Web site.
Nov 13 FDA press release

France finds low-path avian flu at duck farm
Veterinary authorities in France today reported a low-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in ducks, according to a notification from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Test results to identify the outbreak strain are pending. The virus was found through routine surveillance, and the ducks on a 9,000-bird commercial farm did not show signs of illness. The farm is in Deux-Sevres department in western France. The ducks will be culled and the premises will be cleaned and disinfected. So far the epidemiologic investigation shows no evidence that the virus has spread to other nearby farms. The source of the outbreak has not been determined.
Nov 16 OIE report

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