NEWS SCAN: FSIS's foreign meat inspections, more fungal infections, severe Staph pneumonia, antibacterial bath benefits

Jan 28, 2013

FSIS goes on record about reduced meat-exporter inspections
About 3 years after its launch, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has formally announced its revised approach to monitoring the food safety systems of countries that export meat to the United States, which includes on-site inspections as seldom as once every 3 years instead of annually. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) went on the record about the new approach in a Jan 25 Federal Register notice. The agency says it has moved to a performance-based approach in which it reviews documents and assesses countries' performance to determine the scope and frequency of on-site audits and port-of-entry inspections. Food Safety News (FSN) reported the change in an investigative story in November, saying the FSIS had quietly reduced its in-country audits by 60% since 2008. In the official notice, the FSIS said it had modified its approach to monitoring food regulatory systems in 2009, but it "took FSIS some time to work through the mechanics of this transition" and to prepare the notice. "Now that the transition is fully in place, FSIS is announcing it to the public," the agency said. Some consumer groups and a cattlemen's group have criticized the change, but the American Meat Institute voiced support for it, according to an FSN story today.
Jan 25 FSIS Federal Register notice
Jan 28 FSN story
Related Nov 1 CIDRAP News item

Fungal infections linked to contaminated steroids approach 700
Cases of fungal infection linked to contaminated injectable steroids have reached 693, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today, 15 more than listed in the agency's last report 2 weeks ago. The death toll increased by 1 to 45, and the number of affected states remained at 19. Of the cases, 249 were meningitis, 128 involved spinal or paraspinal infections with meningitis, 6 involved stroke without lumbar puncture, 278 were paraspinal or spinal infections only, 31 were peripheral joint infections only, and 1 involved a paraspinal or spinal infection along with a peripheral joint injection. Michigan by far had the most cases, with 243, followed by Tennessee with 147. The cases have been linked to contaminated methylprednisolone acetate from New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
Jan 28 CDC updated case count

UK cautions about severe Staph pneumonia
A virulent form of Staphylococcus aureus pneumonia has struck 18 UK patients in recent weeks, killing 4, the UK-based Telegraph reported today. The disease's pathogen, Panton-Valentine Leukocidin-positive S aureus, typically resides on skin and causes boils and skin infections, but it occasionally infects the lung. The patients, who contracted the disease from Dec 6 through Jan 7, range in age from 4 to 63 years, with a median age of 41. Several have required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, which is used for severe lung infections, and most had flu-like symptoms before being found to have the deadly pneumonia. Several cases involved household transmission. The UK Health Protection Agency issued an alert about the disease, saying, "Healthcare personnel should remain vigilant for such cases, especially during the influenza/respiratory virus season," according to the article. The country typically sees 30 to 40 such cases in an entire year, the story said.
Jan 28 Telegraph story

Study: Antibacterial baths cut bloodstream infections in kids
Daily baths with a common antibacterial cleanser can be a powerful tool for preventing bloodstream infections in critically ill children, according to the results of a large study conducted at 10 pediatric intensive care units (ICUs). The study, led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and published today in the The Lancet, compared bedside baths with soap and water with baths using sponges soaked in diluted chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), a common cleanser that kills viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The trial, conducted from February 2008 through September 2010, involved more than 4,000 children at five hospitals. Halfway through the study the units switched bathing routines. Children bathed in the CHG solution had a 36% lower risk of bloodstream infections compared with the soap-and-water group. Researchers found that the CHG baths reduced the risk of bloodstream infections from any source, not just central venous catheters. The CHG baths appeared to be safe—12 children had mild reactions to the solution. In 2011 the Johns Hopkins Children's Center adopted the baths as an ICU infection-control measure, according to a Johns Hopkins press release. The study was mostly funded by Sage Products, Inc., which makes prepackaged, presoaked washcloths containing CHG, a product made by many manufacturers. The National Institutes of Health also supported the study.
Jan 28 Lancet abstract
Jan 28 Lancet editorial extract
Jan 25 Johns Hopkins press release

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