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FDA: Produce Safety rule, Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule and rule on Accredited Third-Party Certification

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today took major steps to prevent foodborne illness by finalizing rules implementing the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act that, for the first time, establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards. The Agency also issued a rule establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities. These final rules will help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur.

An estimated 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year. Over the past few years, high-profile outbreaks related to various foods, from spinach to peanut products, have underscored the need to make continuous improvements in food safety.

The new rules released today – referred to as the Produce Safety rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule, and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule – are key elements of the comprehensive food safety overhaul envisioned in the 2011 bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FSMA directs the FDA and food producers to prevent problems across the entire food system, rather than waiting to act until illness occurs. The new rules formalize industry accountability and best practices for food importers and the produce community.

“The recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella in imported cucumbers that has killed four Americans, hospitalized 157 and sickened hundreds more, is exactly the kind of outbreak these rules can help prevent,” said Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The FDA is working with partners across the government and industry to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The rules will help better protect consumers from foodborne illness and strengthen their confidence that modern preventive practices are in place, no matter where in the world the food is produced.”

The Produce Safety rule establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce that are designed to work effectively for food safety across the wide diversity of produce farms. The standards in the final rule include requirements for water quality, employee health and hygiene, wild and domesticated animals, biological soil amendments of animal origin (such as compost and manure), and equipment, tools, and buildings. When followed, the standards are designed to help minimize the risk of serious illness or death from consumption of contaminated produce. Public comments and input received during hundreds of farm visits, meetings and listening sessions have shaped the rule into one that will reduce the risk of harmful contamination while also allowing appropriate flexibility for farmers and producers.

The Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule requires food importers to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards and that they are achieving the same level of food safety as domestic farms and food facilities. In 2013, USDA estimated that imported food accounted for about 19 percent of the U.S. food supply, including about 52 percent of the fresh fruits and 22 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans. The final rule ensures that importers conduct verification activities (such as audits of a supplier’s facility, sampling and testing of food, or a review of the supplier’s relevant food safety records) based on risks linked to the imported food and the performance of the foreign supplier.

The FDA has also finalized a rule on Accredited Third-Party Certification, which is part of FSMA’s new food import safety system. This rule establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies (auditors) to conduct food safety audits and to certify that foreign food facilities and food produced by such facilities meet applicable FDA food safety requirements. To prevent potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers, the FDA can require in specific circumstances that a food offered for import be accompanied by a certification from an accredited third-party certification body.

“The ultimate success of FSMA depends on full funding of the President’s FY 2016 budget request,” Taylor said. “This will help us train FDA and state food safety staff on the new system, fund our state partners to work with farmers on produce safety, provide technical assistance to small farms and food businesses, and successfully implement the new import system that U.S. consumers deserve and Congress envisioned.”

The FDA has finalized five of the seven major rules that implement the core of FSMA. Today’s historic rules build on the preventive controls rules the FDA finalized in September 2015, which mandate modern preventive practices in food processing and storage facilities. These rules work together to systematically strengthen the food safety system and better protect public health.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Salmonella Lawsuits in Cucumber and Chipotle Outbreaks and New Food Safety Rules

At Marler Clark it was a busy week taking care of consumers sickened by Salmonella-tainted cucumbers nationwide, sickened with Salmonella at Minnesota Chipotle restaurants and Norovirus at a Simi Valley Chipotle.  In between we had the opportunity to weigh in with the press nationwide on some of the new food safety rules.

Cucumber recall: 285 sickened, 1 dead, 1 lawsuit after multistate salmonella outbreak

Attorney Bill Marler, who is representing the victim from Minnesota, said the recall didn’t come soon enough.

“One person has died eating what is usually a healthy food and hundreds have been sickened so far. As these cucumbers were sold to restaurants and home cooks, it’s possible the number of illnesses will rise,” said Marler, known nationwide as a food safety advocate.

Maricopa County residents sue tainted cucumber firm

Marler, whose Seattle-based law firm specializes in food contamination cases, said that there have been  large outbreaks tied to cucumbers each of the past three years. The source of the outbreak in the other two cases was contaminated water used to rinse the cucumbers.

Marler said he suspects that federal investigators likely will find tainted water as the contamination source of this outbreak, too. The Food and Drug Administration will conduct an investigation to identify the source of the contamination, though it could take several months before that is completed.

Lawsuit Filed Following Rare Salmonella Outbreak

Foodborne illness attorney, Bill Marler says while the cucumbers carried the bacteria in from Mexico the outbreak of sickness was first spotted in Montana.

“You know was it dirty wash water, was there a problem in the cleaning of the cucumbers in Mexico, was it in the storage of the cucumbers when they made it into the United States but in many respects it is trying to figure out why these things happen becomes a big focus of the lawsuit,” said Marler.

Twice-Hospitalized Salmonella Victim Sues Chipotle in Minnesota

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Beck sued Chipotle in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Represented by attorneys Joseph Flynn in St. Paul, MN, and William D. Marler in Seattle, Beck has filed a four-count federal lawsuit against the restaurant chain (Marler is also publisher of Food Safety News.). She is suing based on strict liability, breach of warranty, negligence and negligence per se.

Listeria outbreak in Colorado cantaloupe helped prompt new food safety guidelines

Food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler feels the rules are game changing. Marler led a lawsuit against Jensen Farms, the grower of the cantaloupes.

“These rules really are sort of the guts behind the enforcement mechanism of getting companies to pay attention to make food safer,” said Marler.

4-year-old girl sickened by E. coli remains hospitalized

Since the Jack In The Box outbreak, Marler says E. coli cases involving undercooked meat have declined. He says about 10 years ago there were issues with spinach and lettuce.

“In the last couple of years, the spinach and lettuce industry got it under control, now we are seeing is mishandling in restaurants where most of E. coli cases are coming from now,” said Marler.

He says the outbreaks have been smaller, between five and 15 people, rather than hundreds as in years past.

“The real problem is now convincing restaurants that there is still risk,” he said.

New FDA rules tighten requirements for food manufacturers

William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has represented victims of foodborne illness, said the new rules are, in many respects, modeled after preventative measures in the fish industry, as well as those for leafy greens, developed after the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach.

“I think the preventative controls go a long way to making manufactured food safer,” he told USA TODAY. “The good news for the public and business is that there will likely be fewer illnesses and fewer lawsuits — which is a good thing.”

FDA Moves On Food Safety A Mere Three Years Behind Schedule

“The real question is how do you enforce it,” said famed food safety lawyer William Marler. “We’re asking companies to implement the rules with very little oversight. Is that ultimately going to be sufficient to make our food supply safer? The jury is still out.”

Marler also noted that the FDA has become far more willing to harshly prosecute food safety violations since Obama came to office. This summer, executives of the Peanut Corporation of America were found guilty of knowingly selling salmonella-tainted peanut butter that sparked a food poisoning outbreak that killed at least nine people. The plant’s former owner now faces life imprisonment, which is unprecedented in the history of American food safety. Marler speculated that the looming threat of personal punishment for infractions could spur executives to take the rules seriously, even if the chance of inspection is low.

Who pays for the new FDA food safety rules?

This may be money well spent for food producers, if only because it may leave their customers feeling more confident about the food they eat. Many companies already have these rules in place, and they’re doing the trick, says attorney Bill Marler.

“In the ’90s, 90 percent of my law firm’s revenue was E. coli cases linked to hamburger. That’s now zero,” he says.

Marler says safer food means companies don’t have to worry about $100 million recalls and class action lawsuits. The question now is whether Congress will give the FDA what it needs to enforce the new rules. The Senate and House are proposing less than half of what the regulators have requested to improve food safety.

Norovirus to blame for illness outbreak at Chipotle

Marler told the Simi Valley Acorn that he filed a complaint Wednesday in federal court against Chipotle, which is headquartered in Denver, on behalf of two clients alleging negligence for serving contaminated food. The attorney said he’ll most likely add other clients to the complaint once he has the necessary evidence.

“Norovirus is something no one would wish on their worst enemy and . . . (my clients) were sick for three to seven days before recovering,” the attorney told the Acorn. “They . . . are entitled their medical expenses, any wages lost and any inconvenience and suffering during the time they were sick.”

Marler opened his firm in 1994 after working on the 1993 Jack in the Box case that left hundreds sick with e. Coli, including more than 100 people who were hospitalized for acute kidney failure and four children who died. He has also worked on some of the largest salmonella, E. coli and Listeria cases across the nation, including the spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006 and the Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe that killed 33 people in 2011.

“The number of norovirus cases we’re involved in has grown over the last five years primarily because it’s becoming more virulent and it’s more easily tracked to ill workers,” he said.

Senator Durbin: Today’s Aspen Foods recall due to possible salmonella contamination highlights need for increased vigilance

After the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that fell short of providing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the resources it needs to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today vowed to continue working to fully fund the effort. An amendment – offered by Durbin – that would have increased funding for food safety activities by nearly $69 million failed along party lines to receive the votes needed to be included in the final bill.

“The food safety allocation in this bill, falls short of what is needed to reduce foodborne illness in this country,” said Durbin. “I am hopeful that as this funding bill moves through the appropriations process, we can work across the aisle to increase the funding for FDA’s implement the Food Safety Modernization Act – a law that enjoys broad support from a diverse group of stakeholders.”

An announcement this morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Aspen Foods is recalling nearly 2 million pounds of frozen food that may be contaminated with Salmonella highlighted the need for increased vigilance. Every year, infections from deadly pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria lead to an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. – with an annual price tag of $70 billion.

FDA estimates that it needs a total of $276 million in additional funding to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. The President’s budget, which requested an increase of $109.5 million over FY15, would help close this funding gap by enabling FDA to retrain thousands of inspectors in the new prevention-based oversight system; provide technical assistance to more than 300,000 industry stakeholders; and build a new food import oversight system. The spending bill approved today by the Appropriations Committee included only $45 million in additional funding for implementing FSMA.

Senate Legislation To Deem Salmonella An Adulterant

L-0044559In the wake of a devastating investigation aired last night by PBS’ Frontline of the American food safety system and the millions of preventable food-borne illnesses contracted each year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act to finally provide the USDA mandatory recall authority over contaminated meat and poultry. The Frontline report documents the spread of dangerous contaminants through poultry processors and how regulators are failing to prevent the illnesses they cause. An estimated 3 million New Yorkers annually become sick from food they consume, and approximately one in six Americans annual become sick from foodborne disease.

“Our food safety system is failing to protect Americans, leaving thousands of people hospitalized every year with preventable illnesses,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Poultry and meat known to be contaminated should never end up in market fridges and freezers or our kitchens. The USDA must have the authority to recall products that test positive for contaminants, and consumers need to know when food has been recalled.”

“It is time to treat all bacteria and viruses that sicken U.S. consumers the same,” said Bill Marler, the nation’s leading foodborne illness attorney. “They should be banned from both imports and from food produced in the U.S.  Banning these bugs from our food supply would save both consumers and the food industry billions of dollars in medical and recall costs.”

The Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act would improve consumer awareness in the event of a high priority food safety recall of meat, poultry and egg products by:

  • Giving USDA mandatory recall authority.
  • Encouraging retailers’ use of frequent shopper/shopper reward cards that monitor purchases to notify customers who may have purchased recalled products.
  • Creating a 1-page Recall Summary Notice that could be prominently displayed at points of sale in retail outlets that sold a recalled product or on the store shelf where a product was sold.

Gillibrand’s legislation will give the Secretary of Agriculture mandatory recall authority for meat, poultry, and some egg products currently under USDA jurisdiction. Under the proposed bill, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be granted authority to require companies to recall contaminated food and notify all related persons to cease all activities related to the recalled food. FSIS would have the authority to notify consumers and state and local health officials of an ongoing recall.

In the event of food borne illness or the detection of an adulterated or unsafe product, Gillibrand’s proposal would allow the USDA to recommend a voluntary recall of a product to a manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer. If the request is refused, the Secretary can issue a mandatory recall and notify affected processors, packers, retail outlets, and the public. USDA will issue a Recall Summary Notice to all retail outlets that sold a recalled product. This Notice would be displayed at all cash registers or at the shelf location where the recalled product was presented for sale. Those retail outlets that use customer card systems to track customer purchases and demographics could call or email each customer that purchased a recalled food product or make available to each customer a targeted coupon with information about the recalled product. Penalties can be assessed for refusal to comply with a recall.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, nearly a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts are contaminated by Salmonella and another Consumer Reports study found that one third of all chicken breast with Salmonella carry a drug resistant strain of the disease.

USDA Finalizes Rule to Require Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products

New labels and cooking instructions will give consumers information they need  to safely enjoy these products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced new labeling requirements for raw or partially cooked beef products that have been mechanically tenderized. Consumers, restaurants, and other food service facilities will now have more information about the products they are buying, as well as useful cooking instructions so they know how to safely prepare them.

“Labeling mechanically tenderized beef products and including cooking instructions on the package are important steps in helping consumers to safely prepare these products,” said Deputy Under Secretary Al Almanza. “This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses.”

These new requirements will become effective in May 2016, or one year from the date of the rule’s publication in the Federal Register. Because of the public health significance of this change, FSIS is accelerating the effective date instead of waiting until the next Uniform Compliance Date for Food Labeling Regulations, which is January 1, 2018.

Product tenderness is a key selling point for beef products. To increase tenderness, some cuts of beef are tenderized mechanically by piercing them with needles or small blades in order to break up tissue. This process, however, can introduce pathogens from the surface of the cut to the interior, making proper cooking very important.

The potential presence of pathogens in the interior of these products means they should be cooked differently than intact cuts. FSIS is finalizing these new labeling requirements because mechanically tenderized products look no different than intact product, but it is important for consumers to know that they need to handle them differently.

Under this rule, these products must bear labels that state that they have been mechanically, blade or needle tenderized. The labels must also include validated cooking instructions so that consumers know how to safely prepare them. The instructions will have to specify the minimum internal temperatures and any hold or “dwell” times for the products to ensure that they are fully cooked.

Since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of six outbreaks attributable to needle or blade tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes. Failure to thoroughly cook a mechanically tenderized raw or partially cooked beef product was a significant contributing factor in each of these outbreaks. FSIS predicts that the changes brought about by this rule could prevent hundreds of illnesses every year.


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Following one of the most sweeping food recalls in history by Blue Bell Creameries and yesterday’s announcement of a recall of potentially contaminated pasta salad at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest, 7 Senators joined today in urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety activities authorized by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Since it was signed into law in 2011, the FSMA has been underfunded by less than half the amount it needs for full implementation.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) was joined by the following Senators in sending today’s letter: U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

“[The Food Safety Modernization Act] was enacted to bring our nation’s food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred. Prevention is key given that food borne pathogens cause an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually,” the Senators wrote.

“Providing the President’s requested increase of $109.5 million would enable FDA to retrain inspectors in the new prevention-based oversight system; hire technical experts to assist growers and food manufacturers to understand and comply with the new requirements; and build the new comprehensive food import oversight system provided for in the law.”

The FSMA included a provision establishing a “Preventive Controls” rule that was specifically designed to reduce the impact of food borne pathogens. The rule, which has yet to be finalized, would require food manufacturers to identify and implement preventive control measures, such as increased factory testing, to help catch pathogens like Listeria before entering the supply chain. According to the Senators, “Having measures like this in place, and the funding to ensure their understanding and compliance, are absolutely necessary to prevent future life-threatening outbreaks and costly recalls.”

On April 20, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily expanded its recall to include all products due to potential Listeria contamination. The Centers for Disease Control reported that at least ten patients were hospitalizes and three deaths have been linked to the contamination. Late yesterday, news broke that Hy-Vee Inc. was recalling Hy-Vee Summer Fresh Pasta because of a potential Listeria contamination.

Consumer Federation of America Issues Analysis of USDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Program, Recommendations for Improvement

Consumer Federation of America (CFA) today released an in-depth analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) primary meat and poultry food safety regulatory program. The report found that while the program has resulted in benefits to public health, further progress has been hindered by gaps in the program and by a legal challenge which has constrained robust action.

The program, known as the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) regulation, was implemented following the 1993 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses and deaths linked to undercooked hamburgers sold at Jack in the Box restaurants in the northwestern United States. The PR/HACCP regulation, which went into effect in 1998, requires meat and poultry plants to develop food safety systems in which plants take steps to identify and prevent contamination of meat and poultry products.

CFA’s report, titled “The Promise and Problems of HACCP: A Review of USDA’s Approach to Meat and Poultry Safety” traces the history of USDA’s implementation of the PR/HACCP regulation and identifies gaps which have hindered the ability of the regulation to fully protect consumers.

Specifically, the report cites two examples of ongoing problems which have not been adequately addressed in the 17 years since the regulation first took effect:

  • Too often plants have failed to develop effective food safety plans while USDA has failed to adequately identify problems with those plans.
  • Plants are repeatedly cited for reoccurring food safety violations with little consequence.

These gaps have continued to occur and have often been identified in the wake of large, nationwide foodborne illness outbreaks, yet the problems have not been adequately addressed. CFA recommends that USDA develop better approaches to reviewing plant food safety plans, including requiring that plants be required to prevent specific pathogens; and that USDA establish clear procedures to address reoccurring violations and when to take increased enforcement action.

The report also identifies how a court case brought against USDA by meat processor Supreme Beef in 1999 has hindered how USDA enforces its food safety regulations. In particular, the court case (Supreme Beef v USDA) limited the ability of USDA to enforce its regulations, effectively barring the government from shutting down a plant which fails to meet safety standards for Salmonella. Consumer groups have argued since that Congress should provide USDA with explicit authority to set and enforce food safety performance standards.
“USDA needs to provide better assurance that plants are reducing contamination of meat and poultry products and that the agency is effectively enforcing its regulations,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “Enforceable standards would allow the agency to take decisive action when a problem is first identified rather than after an outbreak has already occurred.”

The report is available at www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/150424_CFA-HACCP_report.pdf.

12 with E. coli in Canada – Who made the salad?

Canada’s Public Health Agency is investigating an outbreak of E. col O157:H7 possibly linked to leafy greens (lettuces, kale, spinach, arugula or chard).

According to a statement released by the agency on Wednesday, there are currently 12 people sickened in four provinces (Alberta, 9; Saskatchewan, 1; Ontario, 1, and Newfoundland and Labrador, 1). Illness onset dates range from March 13-31, 2015.

The agency indicated that no specific food product had yet been identified as the source and that the investigation is continuing in collaboration with federal and provincial public health officials. When and if the source is identified, the agency will inform the public and make sure that the contaminated product is promptly removed from the marketplace.

It does leave you with the question of who made the salad?  Was it grown in the United Sates or Canada?

What’s up with Eggs, Salmonella and Jail?

B9316966527Z.1_20150413221312_000_G5LAGF96P.1-0-300x300I spent some time this last week explaining Salmonella and Eggs – and Jail Time – to the media.

  • Bill Marler, an acclaimed food safety lawyer whose firm represented a group of more than 100 people who were sickened in the salmonella outbreak, said before the sentence was announced that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the DeCosters didn’t get any jail time.
  • Marler, who also represented the plaintiffs in the cantaloupe case, believes this shift toward punishing executives more harshly “wakes people up” to the issues at stake, and may even help prevent future fraudulence in the food industry.
  • “Knowing CEOs can go to jail has more impact on behavior than a lawsuit that ends up being paid off by an insurance company,” he said in June, after the DeCosters pleaded guilty. This week, he told the Associated Press that recent prosecutions in this area have definitely made an impression on the food producers he meets.
  • “The sentence sends an extremely strong message to food producers that the U.S. Attorney is going to look very hard at these kinds of outbreaks,” Marler said in a phone interview Monday.
  • “I wouldn’t be surprised if the judge didn’t sentence them to jail, but I’d be disappointed,” food safety lawyer Bill Marler, whose firm represented more than 100 people sickened in the outbreak, said ahead of sentencing.
  • Even if the DeCosters hadn’t received jail sentences, Marler said he believes the case along with several other high-profile prosecutions in food cases has made an impression on food producers he meets at conferences or in courtrooms.
  • “These criminal prosecutions send a message to the industry that the kind of behaviors that the DeCosters were into are not going to be tolerated,” said Bill Marler, a managing partner with Seattle-based Marler Clark, who represented nearly 100 victims of the salmonella outbreak linked to the DeCosters. “The fact that these criminal investigations and indictments are happening may well be the thing that makes our food supply safer.”
  • Bill Marler, dubbed “the most powerful food safety attorney” by The New Yorker, attributes the outbreaks to two main factors. One: It is “unclear as to who is responsible for oversight.” And two: The bacteria is simply endemic to poultry. Marler’s firm represents more than a hundred people sickened in the Quality Egg outbreak, which the CDC says caused 1,939 known illnesses, but could have actually hit as many as 56,000 people. The company’s “litany of shameful conduct,” as US District Judge Mark Bennett called it, included knowingly shipping eggs with falsified processing and expiration dates and at least two instances of bribing a USDA inspector. In addition to the three-month sentences for the DeCosters, each paid $100,000 in fines and the company paid $6.8 million as part of a plea agreement.
  • The lack of clarity around regulation is in part to blame, Marler says, a problem highlighted in The New Yorker profile:  In the U.S., responsibility for food safety is divided among fifteen federal agencies. The most important, in addition to the F.S.I.S., is the Food and Drug Administration, in the Department of Health and Human Services. In theory, the line between these two should be simple: the F.S.I.S. inspects meat and poultry; the F.D.A. covers everything else. In practice, that line is hopelessly blurred. Fish are the province of the F.D.A.—except catfish, which falls under the F.S.I.S. Frozen cheese pizza is regulated by the F.D.A., but frozen pizza with slices of pepperoni is monitored by the F.S.I.S. Bagel dogs are F.D.A.; corn dogs, F.S.I.S. The skin of a link sausage is F.D.A., but the meat inside is F.S.I.S.
  • Eggs, Marler says, are like the pepperoni pizza—they fall in a gray area between multiple agencies. Plus, when it comes to chickens, salmonella is just very common, and not confined to factory farms. Marler says even his own backyard chickens might have it.

USDA Awards 36 Food Safety Grants, Including $6.7 Million for Antimicrobial Resistance, to Protect Consumers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced funding awards totaling nearly $19 million, including more than $6.7 million for antimicrobial resistance strategies, to 36 grantees to ensure a safe and nutritious food supply and while maintaining American agricultural competitiveness. NIFA made the awards through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Increasing food safety continues to be a major focus for USDA, as it directly impacts the health and well-being of all Americans,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “Funding provided to universities supports discoveries of new ways that we can prevent foodborne illnesses and increase the safety of our food production industry.”

NIFA made the awards through the AFRI Food Safety program to protect consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants that may occur in the food chain, from production to consumption. This year, AFRI’s Food Safety program is comprised of five sub-programs. The following projects have been selected for awards in each sub-program:

Enhancing Food Safety through Improved Processing Technologies

  • University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Ark. $149,000
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn., $500,000
  • University of Maine, Orono, Maine, $900,000
  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $751,000
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $700,000

Effective Mitigation Strategies for Antimicrobial Resistance

  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $749,838
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $2,193,556
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $2,250,000
  • Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., $15,000
  • Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, $16,500
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va., $750,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Wash., $749,993

Identifying and Targeting Food Safety Needs

  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Ill., $50,000

Improving Food Safety

  • University of Connecticut, Mansfield, Conn., $49,744
  • University of South Florida, Tampa, Fl., $499,972
  • Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., $499,968
  • University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, $499,516
  • University of Maine, Orono, Maine, $150,000
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., $499,567
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., $500,000
  • University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, Nev., $150,000
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $979,761
  • North Dakota State University, Fargo, N.D., $172,339
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $50,000
  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $499,812

Improving Food Quality

  • University of California, Davis, Calif., $498,356
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $499,652
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $248,408
  • University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill., $861,714
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $465,694
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $420,685
  • University of Maine, Orono, Maine, $46,293
  • University of Maryland, Princess Anne, Md., $149,998
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., $499,977
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $489,528
  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V., $435,353

This year’s projects include Washington State University’s efforts to discover causes and solutions for AMR impact on dairy farms and calf-rearing ranches by researching the effects of different antibiotics on AMR prevalence, the existence of AMR reservoirs and niches, and the maintenance and spread of AMR throughout the farms and ranches. Tennessee State University researchers will focus on implementing a holistic roadmap for accelerating the innovation process in irradiation research, guiding technology development for contaminant treatment. West Virginia University researchers aim to develop innovative protein sources for the growing population by repurposing protein from underutilized resources, specifically the water-soluble proteins from fish processing byproducts that contain mineral, amino acid, and fatty acid profiles. A complete list of this year’s project descriptions is available on the NIFA website.

Successful projects funded in previous years include a project at the University of Nebraska to reduce the occurrence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) along the entire beef production pathway, a development of microwave pasteurization technology at Washington State University to reduce pathogens and extend shelf-life of processed foods, efforts at the University of California-Davis to understand how pathogens survive on and infect fresh produce, and a project at Georgia Tech looking at new methods of Salmonella detection.

The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture. AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) bioenergy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.