In an interesting article published online today, the author discusses the growing threat to the public health posed by the presence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in our food supply. See Stephanie Woodard, Concerns Over Superbugs in our Food Supply, available at Although this threat is not new, nor are the warnings be raised about it, I thought it was worth raising the issue here in light of the article posted yesterday about Legislative efforts to restrict the widespread use of antibiotics in food animals. (To read that article, see here: ) I think that one passage in particular is worth paying attention to, because it shows just how far we need to go to both understand this growing risk, but to stop it.

   Until recently, the CDC has acknowledged the presence of MRSA in meat but downplayed the danger. In 2008, then CDC director Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH, wrote that foodborne transmission of MRSA is "possible" but, if it happens, "likely accounts for a very small proportion of human infections in the US." Liz Wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, agrees, saying that this kind of transmission would be extremely rare. Neither group could provide an estimate when queried by Prevention, but considering the high numbers of MRSA infections, even a tiny percentage could be a lot of people.

One reason the CDC and the National Pork Board must guess about transmission rates — and why we don’t know exactly how many MRSA-related infections occur — is that the federal government doesn’t collect data on MRSA outbreaks, says Karen Steuer, director of government operations for the Pew Environment Group. According to the US Government Accountability Office, there’s no testing for MRSA on farms. And the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System tests just 400 retail cuts of meat each month for four drug-resistant bacteria — which don’t include MRSA.

To read more, please click on the Continue Reading link.Continue Reading The Next Foodborne Threat? MRSA infections from contaminated meat

There has for a long time been valid criticism of food recalls, both with regard to how agencies like the FDA implement them, and whether recalls really work to prevent foodborne illness.  In my view, most recalls are best described as closing the barn-doors after the horses have escaped.  But that said, when a food product is determined to be contaminated, there is no avoiding the need to try to remove the product from the market.  That means recalls are necessary.  It also means that recalls need to be effective as possible at limiting the spread of foodborne disease. According to a great and interesting new study out of Rutgers’ Food Policy Institute, it appears that recalls are anything but effective in prompting necessary public action.  For example, in a survey of over 1,100, the study found that only about 60 percent of the studied sample reported ever having looked for recalled food in their homes, and only 10 percent said they had ever found a recalled food product.

This is a disturbing finding, because, unless we can reliably count on the public to take the actions necessary to prevent the spread of foodborne disease, we may be assuming that recalls work when, in fact, they do not.  This study thus deserves to be read carefully by public health officials, and additional research definitely seems to be needed.

The full study can be found here:

To read the full press release announcing the study, please hit the Continued Reading link.

Continue Reading Recalls Found to be Even Less Effective Than Expected

E. coliSalinas-based Fresh Express is investing up to $2 million to research the potentially fatal bacterium that has brought the leafy-green industry under scrutiny since last year’s E. coli scare.

The company, whose products have never been shown to cause a foodborne illness outbreak, will share the results of the research with the public.

"We are

A team of researchers working at the University of Bristol has found a potential new treatment for listeriosis, a deadly form of food poisoning. Their work is reported in Nature Medicine.
The group, led by Professor Jose Vazquez-Boland, has shown that one particular antibiotic — fosfomycin — can treat Listeria in the body, despite it being ineffective in laboratory conditions.
Because it was not effective in the laboratory, this drug has never been considered for the treatment of listeriosis, in spite of it reaching the infection sites more effectively than other antibiotics.Continue Reading New treatment for food poisoning

Per yesterday’s University of Arkansas Food Safety Consortium Media Release, ozone was good, but adding ionization appears to be better when it comes to getting rid of foodborne pathogens.
And what is ionization? Jim Marsden of a Food Safety Consortium research team at Kansas State University likens a new process using ionization to a ‘miniature sun’ of ultraviolet energy interacting with oxygen and drawing particles out of the air, thus producing an antimicrobial effect.
‘When Mount St. Helens went off, you had all these particles floating around,’ Marsden said. ‘The reason they’re not still floating around is that ionization from the sun caused them to fall out of the air.’
Marsden’s KSU team worked with EcoQuest International, a Greeneville, Tenn.-based company, to determine the potential use of its ionization generator for food safety in processing plants. The researchers wanted to find out its effectiveness in reducing several pathogens including E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus auerus.Continue Reading KSU, EcoQuest team to advance ionization for food safety

Does media such as and others overly hype food safety issues to the public?
Ahmed ElAmin of Food Production Daily for Decision News Media SAS reports that in a survey consumers say they are indifferent to media influences, a depressing finding to those who work in the industry.
Recent food safety incidents and the introduction of genetically modified foods in Europe have resulted in public concern over the safety of the European food supply.Continue Reading Public skeptical of food safety measures, survey finds

Paul Elias of the Associated Press reports that Max Rothschild has been trying to “build” a better pig for almost 30 years, since he took a job cleaning up after the hogs at his alma mater, the University of California, Davis.
He’s now a renowned swine scientist who has traded the dirty pigpens of his undergraduate days for a glistening Iowa State University laboratory dedicated to producing tastier chops, safer pork and healthier pigs.Continue Reading Bringing human genome technology to the dinner table

Acting on research data that indicates two-thirds of adults turn to the Internet for basic safe food handling information, the Partnership for Food Safety Education today introduces a new evolution of its popular website
Building on the national Fight BAC!(R) campaign, the new site contains a wealth of newly designed food safety information to help reduce risk of foodborne illness.
Despite recent declines in outbreaks of several bacterial foodborne diseases, foodborne illness continues to afflict millions of people each year. Experts agree that education is vital to reducing incidence. The Partnership’s national consumer study reveals that much progress has been made increasing awareness of safe food handling practices, but more work remains to be done.Continue Reading Take a fresh look at food safety: Partnership For Food Safety Education unveils new evolution of popular Website

According to the American Society for Microbiology, Americans are eating safer. The number of people who reported eating one or more foods associated with an increased risk of foodborne disease declined by a third from 1998 to 2002, according to survey results released today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“Overall we are seeing a decline in risky food consumption and that may be attributable to published media reports of foodborne outbreaks and outreach efforts by the public health community,” says Erica Weis of the California Department of Health Services, the lead author on the study.Continue Reading Consumption of risky foods declines