- The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
- Vol. 10, No. 4
- Fall 2000
- * U.S. Scientists
Must Spread the Word of Biotech
- * FSC Looks to
2001 Meeting at ISU
- * Education a
Never-Ending Process at the Plants
- * Report From
- * Limited Application
Hinders HACCP Benefits
- * Cooked Pork
Quality Is Color Blind
- * Steps Cited
Toward Food Safety Goals
- * Food on the
Move: ISU Helps the Schools
- * Papers and Presentations
- * Food Safety
U.S. Scientists Must Spread the Word of Biotech
- A trip around the world left no doubt
in Lester Crawford's mind that the U.S. system of regulating
food is the best. The trip also left Crawford with the idea that
American scientists in industry and academia must make their
voices heard overseas on the topic of biotechnology.
Crawford, the director of the Georgetown University Center for
Food and Nutrition Policy, shared his experiences as the keynote
speaker at the Food Safety Consortium's annual meeting in September
at the University of Arkansas.
Crawford spent six weeks visiting 15 nations in a tour sponsored
by the State Department to present programs about American efforts
in biotechnology. With much skepticism on other continents, the
American group aimed to persuade its hosts of biotechnology's
"We have a formidable adversary in the consumer organizations
that is well intentioned in many cases and is so vastly opposed
to biotechnology and to the American drug and chemical development
system and to American- and European-based multinational corporations,"
Crawford said. "It is a worldwide movement. It is a very
serious assault on our system and it is likely to stymie virtually
anything we develop in the next few years until we get it reconciled."
Crawford provided several examples of foreign governments' receptiveness
to hostile attitudes toward biotechnology. Australia, he said,
has appointed a gene technology regulator who does not answer
to the prime minister's government or anyone else. "The
law says that this person, when it comes to bioengineered foods,
will report to no one."
Australia's policy has pleased Singapore, which is committed
to building biotechnology industries and seeks to be East Asia's
leader in the field. Australia's policy, Crawford said, means
"not only will you not be able to get a biotech food product
approved. You also won't be able to sell them and you won't be
able to start a research program."
Crawford's touring group found in Hong Kong that the organization
Greenpeace had alleged that two American fast food restaurants
were selling french fried potatoes containing genetically modified
"It fed into the standard Greenpeace line that it will take
30 years of experience with bioengineered food to know for sure
that they're safe," he said. "What they mean is 30
years of we Americans eating bioengineered foods before they
know it is safe. I don't know why it's 30 years."
These developments are a serious challenge to the U.S. because
of their potential impact on international trade, Crawford said.
For American businesses to compete successfully, the U.S. needs
to export ideas as well as goods, and Crawford had one particular
idea in mind.
"The strongest thing we have going for us is the regulatory
decision process in the U.S.," Crawford said. "It is
basically without parallel. It has served us well and has become
part of our culture. We need to continue to modify and improve
Crawford cited three key elements of the regulatory process as
reasons for its success: science-based decision making, public
participation and the separation of powers.
The U.S. is unique with regard to science-based decision making,
he said. After scientific data are evaluated by the Food and
Drug Administration, "they render a judgment of reasonable
assurance of no harm. It tells us there is no absolute safety.
When FDA lets it on the market, it has a reasonable conviction
that this isn't going to harm anybody. But you will never know
that for sure, even after 30 years."
The public participation phase provides nine steps between the
patenting of a product and its release on the market, including
five steps that require public input. "FDA is not required
to conduct this as an election," Crawford said. "They
read the comments, take them seriously and respond to each one
The American separation of powers places responsibility for food
regulation in well defined locations, Crawford noted, in contrast
to European systems. The FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
have authority to make the final decisions.
"They don't have to ask Congress if this is all right,"
he said. "They don't have a committee to say if this is
all right. They are in charge. And if they don't do it right
we just remove them."
Crawford urged scientists to speak out on these issues so other
nations will have the benefit of their viewpoints.
"I think what they really need to hear are not so much academic
scientists as they need to hear from the whole spectrum of scientists
in the U.S., he said. "Unfortunately, in this particularly
incendiary time, they will not listen to industrial scientists
in the biotechnology area. That will come a little later. But
we have got to do more in that respect."
FSC Looks to 2001 Meeting at ISU
- After completing the 2000 annual meeting
hosted by the University of Arkansas, the Food Safety Consortium
Steering Committee decided to meet in 2001 at Iowa State University.
The meeting will be held Sept. 16-18 (Sunday through Tuesday).
Kansas State University will host the meeting in 2002, completing
the first round of the three-campus rotation of FSC annual meetings
that began this year.
About 90 people attended the meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., which
included a poster session and presentations by researchers on
risk assessment, education, consumer issues, control and intervention
strategies and sampling protocols and methodology. The meeting
also included tours of UA facilities in poultry science and food
Plans for the 2001 meeting will take shape gradually, but consideration
is being given to devoting the Tuesday morning session to a mini-conference
featuring prominent speakers from the outside. A major topic
in food safety would highlight the mini-conference as well as
the main meeting. Other ideas being explored include keeping
posters on display during the entire conference instead of for
only the first evening and moving the keynote speaker's address
from the Monday luncheon to the Monday dinner.
In other business, the Steering Committee appointed a subcommittee
to form a policy regarding the FSC's relations with other nations
in food safety exchange efforts. Subcommittee members are James
Dickson and Colin Scanes, both of Iowa State, and James Denton
Education a Never-Ending Process at the Plants
- Food processors view food safety education
as a continuing effort that must be made available to all levels
of employees. When representatives of three meat industry processors
discussed their experiences during the Food Safety Consortium
annual meeting in September in Fayetteville, Ark., they agreed
that turnover in the plants makes the task a challenge.
"You'll spend all this time and effort training 500 employees
and you're going to have to do it again in three to six months
because a large percentage of them will have turned over,"
said Billy Lloyd, regulatory liaison for Foodbrands America in
The responsibility does not apply only to hourly employees in
the packing and production facilities. "Turnover is an extreme
problem, not just with the hourly folks but with the management
folks as well," said Rick Roop, vice president for food
safety and quality assurance at Tyson Foods in Springdale, Ark.
"There are a lot of opportunities in today's economy. The
training has to be continuous."
The numbers begin to add up when someone tries to tally the various
categories of employees in the industry who need to be educated
in food safety. "To educate all the different levels that
we've got to get to - the line worker, the food service worker,
the high school kid who's working at McDonald's - there's just
so much education," said Mike Windisch, corporate technical
services manager for the Excel Corp. pork division in Wichita,
Windisch advised the FSC researchers that industry needs scientific
data to help ensure that executives are making the right decisions.
Industry must stick to the premise that food safety is science,
"We've got to stay science-based," Windisch said. "If
I go strictly to a food safety program based on regulatory or
consumer groups or whatever pressures there might be that day,
I can't look at myself in the mirror."
Supervisory and management personnel are the people who should
be involved in teaching the principles of Hazard Analysis and
Critical Control Points systems to plant employees, Lloyd said.
HACCP systems, the science-based food safety procedures that
each plant is required to devise and implement, exist not just
to accommodate regulations but to accomplish a purpose.
Roop said it is up to the companies to involve people at other
firms, such as distributors and customers, in the aspects of
HACCP and the ability to trace products. "It's incumbent
on us to educate our customers that the type of things that we're
doing in our operations is critical for their operations and
the entire effort to protect the consumer."
Roop also noted that video-tape presentations are most effective
for training employees at the line worker level. "You bring
in a group of folks during the workday and have a short training
session." The Internet is being used more often by management
and may become more widely used by all levels of employees as
training centers are established by companies.
From the Coordinator
- By Charles J. Scifres
- As reported elsewhere in this edition,
we wrapped up another annual meeting of the Food Safety Consortium
this fall. For those of you who were able to join us here at
the University of Arkansas, which hosted the event, we thank
you for coming and hope you found the experience worthwhile.
Our annual meeting is a gathering that continues to evolve and
we're already considering ways to improve it and make next year's
meeting the best yet.
Our meeting at the UA in Fayetteville was the first time the
Consortium has met on one of its three member university campuses.
After several years of meeting in centrally located Kansas City,
the FSC steering committee decided it was time for these meetings
to be more than just presentations in hotel conference rooms.
The research we perform at each campus is unique, which is a
key reason that Congress supports this consortium's work. So
the FSC has begun rotating its annual meeting sites among the
three campuses, enabling researchers to view the work that is
done on site.
With Arkansas hosting the first campus meeting, we provided in-depth
tours of our food safety research facilities. At our pilot poultry
processing plant, our fellow researchers from Iowa State and
Kansas State were able to see a scaled version of modern poultry
industry procedures. In our food science labs, our visitors were
shown examples of our work on Listeria monocytogenes and
bacteriocins. An evening tour group took an after-hours look
at several laboratories in our five year-old poultry science
The opportunities for on-the-spot questioning and demonstrations
of current projects provided a new dimension to our annual meeting.
We're looking forward to a repeat performance at Iowa State in
2001 and at Kansas State in 2002.
We are also looking at ways to enhance the meeting by supplementing
our own researchers' presentations with lectures or discussions
from prominent figures in the world food safety community. Details
will need to be worked out over the next few months, but we hope
that by the time the agenda is set for the meeting in Ames, Iowa,
we will have a conference that will attract people across the
country with a strong interest in food safety.
Our meetings are designed to be educational experiences and have
been just that for the benefit of fellow FSC researchers. As
we share the results of research with the world around us, future
meetings should enable us to share discussion of current issues
with others as well.
Limited Application Hinders HACCP Benefits
- By Les Crawford
Georgetown University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has
revised its fact sheet on food safety to reflect worsening conditions
in much of the world. Describing food borne disease as a "widespread
and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing
countries," the Agency estimated 30 percent of the developed
world suffers from food borne disease every year.
- The U.S. was cited as having 76 million
cases of foodborne disease each year, 5000 deaths from these
diseases and 325,000 food related hospitalizations per annum.
The financial cost to the U.S. was estimated at $37 billion.
- There are 1.8 million children plus 400,000
adults who die worldwide from these diseases. While global morbidity
figures are elusive, two major epidemics were mentioned: the
1988 hepatitis A outbreak in China with 300,000 illnesses due
to bad clams; the 1994 US salmonellosis outbreak with 224,000
- WHO obviously believes that the key to
managing the food safety crisis is information. Monitoring pathogens
in food, laboratory-based surveillance of "priority foodborne
diseases" and erecting international networks for the reporting
of microbiological and toxicological contamination of foods are
just part of the massive intelligence campaign envisioned by
- The diseases mentioned most prominently
in the report include Campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, E.
coli 0157:H7, Listeriosis, BSE, and dioxins. Alarmingly,
WHO is in the same context "weighing up the potential risks
and benefits of biotechnology." Another categorical area
of concern is animal feeding practices especially the addition
of meat and bone meal and antibiotics to feedstuffs.
- How ironic it is that with all the attention
given food safety over the last 18 years, the problem has only
gotten worse on a worldwide basis. We are no doubt only a short
time away from the long-awaited day of reckoning on HACCP when
some board of inquiry, perhaps Congress or the EU Parliament,
will ask, "Has it helped or hindered?" And, oh yes,
what proof do you have that it directly affects human disease.
- It may well be too soon to say how efficacious
regulatory HACCP truly is. It is not, however, too soon to say
that the HACCP concept is ripe for appraisal and, perhaps, continuing
- One suspects that the present, limited
use of HACCP at certain points in the food production continuum
is inadequate. One also wonders whether the overselling of HACCP
coupled with its limited application did not set the system up
for failure or, at the least, modest success.
- In a stunning chapter in the new book,
HACCP in the Meat Industry, J-L Jouve of France probably
has set much of the future tone for food safety and food inspection.
Titled "Moving on From HACCP", Dr. Jouve explains,
"Going beyond HACCP towards a risk-based food safety management
program will be crucial for companies wishing to move from a
regional or national scale to an international one. It is likely
that only companies that recognize this need will be successful
on the international marketplace during the 21st century."
More details can be found on the web at: www.woodhead-publishing.com.
The book is edited by Martyn Brown and is distributed in the
U.S. by CRC Press.
Cooked Pork Quality Is Color Blind
- The food industry, government agencies,
scientists and consumer advocates agree wholeheartedly on at
least one thing: only a meat thermometer can accurately determine
if meat has been thoroughly cooked to the internal temperature
of 160 degrees Fahrenheit necessary to kill harmful bacteria.
Despite such advice and the publicity efforts to spread the word,
many consumers are still relying on the old-fashioned and unreliable
method of visually examining cooked meat to see if the internal
color appears sufficiently brown.
That procedure can be deceptive because of potential "premature
browning" - the appearance of ground meat turning brown
inside before it is sufficiently cooked.
The appearance of color can also be deceiving for whole muscle
pork. "Some appeared more pink than expected and others
appeared more well done at lower endpoint temperatures than expected,"
said Melvin Hunt, a Food Safety Consortium faculty researcher
in the animal sciences department at Kansas State University.
Kansas State researchers conducted experiments to determine how
cooked pork with different varieties of muscle quality would
appear after being cooked to safe levels. Pork chops with normal
or enhanced quality muscle that were cooked to medium doneness
(160 degrees Fahrenheit) appeared moderately pink to slightly
pink. Only those chops cooked to the higher temperatures of doneness
appeared tan, gray or white inside.
Among cooked pork samples of pale, soft and exudative (PSE) muscle
quality, the chops were less pink than those of normal muscle
quality. Among dark, firm and dry muscle quality pork, the chops
appeared to be less well done.
The studies by Kansas State show that PSE pork chops are more
susceptible to color variation than normal quality chops, Hunt
said. PSE muscle occurs in 10 to 30 percent of all pork. Overseas
markets generally don't want PSE pork so it is usually sold in
Just as pork can appear to be done when it really isn't, the
reverse can be true also, especially with PSE pork. "One
piece can look done and another can look less done, even though
both are really equally done," Hunt said. Slightly pink
pork can be safe, as KSU tests have shown.
The dry, firm and dark muscle quality of pork (DFD) is characterized
by its "persistent pinking." Even a well-done pork
chop of DFD variety would still appear pink.
All of the above reinforces the notion that appearances can be
deceiving. Hunt joins professional colleagues in urging consumers
to use the various types of disposable thermometers on the market.
"Consumers historically overcook pork because of concerns
for safety, yet they want tender, juicy products," Hunt
said. "Consumers believe that cooked pork that has a pink
color is unsafe."
Steps Cited Toward Food Safety Goals
- Here is an excerpt from remarks prepared
for delivery by Dr. Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Food
Safety, before the National Conference on Animal Production Food
Safety, Sept. 6, 2000, in St. Louis.
I believe there are four major challenges for the future.
First, we must continue progress in all areas of research and
risk assessment along the entire farm-to-table chain. For example,
in animal production arena, we need to identify cost effective
practices that can be carried out on the farm to reduce food
safety hazards. These practices can then be incorporated into
quality control and production control programs used by producers.
In addition, government agencies need more experience in using
risk assessments to guide risk management strategies. I believe
this will naturally occur as more risk assessments are conducted.
Second, we must recognize the links between the segments of the
farm-to-table chain so that the jump from one segment to the
other is not so abrupt. There's still too much shirking of responsibility
and assigning blame to others. Attitudes have changed among large
segments of producers, slaughters and processors, and retailers,
but still some of this occurs. One approach is to recognize and
accept the interdependency among the segments in terms of both
industry and government activities. For example, FSIS is pilot
testing a project whereby inspectors can move more freely between
in-plant and in-distribution locations in order to ensure the
integrity of the marks of inspection on meat and poultry products.
This also requires that federal, state and local government officials
better coordinate their activities related to food safety.
Third, I encourage the animal production community to continue
to look beyond its own immediate sphere of interest and expertise
and participate in food safety issues at a broad level. The adage
"think globally, act locally" applies here. For example,
I encourage industry representatives at all levels of the farm-to-table
chain to participate in the activities of the Codex Alimentarius
Commission. The animal health and food safety standards set by
the Commission have broad ranging implications for animal production
practices, for public health improvement and for the economy.
And fourth, we must continue to strengthen partnerships between
government and industry in order to continue progress. I believe
we've seen progress already made in the animal production food
safety area, and much of that is attributable to the voluntary
quality assurance programs discussed in this morning's session.
How can we achieve our food safety
goals? The answer is to keep focused on farm-to table, cost-effective
There are many obstacles that will be encountered. But as Henry
Ford once said, "Obstacles are those frightful things you
see when you take your eyes off your goal." I am confident
that is we remain focused on our goal of improving food safety,
we can indeed succeed. Your recommendations on research and education
will be important to moving forward.
Food on the Move: ISU Helps the Schools
- Transporting food can increase its susceptibility
to contamination, a situation understood by managers of "satellite"
food operations. Food Safety Consortium faculty at Iowa State
University are helping the state's school food service personnel
improve the food safety and quality of satellite-delivered meals
by offering courses such as ServSafe.
"School systems that prepare their food in a central kitchen
and then transport the food to individual schools for last-minute
finishing and service (satelliting) must deal with the problem
of keeping the food safe to eat and appealing to the students,"
said Jim Huss, an ISU Extension Specialist.
ServSafe is a sanitation certification program developed by the
National Restaurant Association. In addition to learning about
foodborne pathogens and disease transmission, ServSafe helps
the cook/managers target and implement food safety practices
that will reduce the potential for foodborne illness in their
Satelliting has been demonstrated to improve productivity and
lower costs in a school food service operation, so school districts
with multiple food service outlets ("lunchrooms") are
increasingly turning to satelliting instead of building multiple
free-standing kitchens. The additional steps of transporting
prepared food, and reheating it to serving temperature increases
the potential for a foodborne disease outbreak, which could affect
Food service preparation and delivery personnel must be concerned
about prepared food being kept in trucks for relatively long
periods of time, Huss said. "A focus is maintained on keeping
the food at safe temperatures when entering the pre-heated food
carrier and the maintenance of the food at a temperature above
140 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the delivery process."
There are many such critical control points in food service,
so ISU Food Safety Consortium faculty in Hotel, Restaurant and
Institution Management and Food Science and Human Nutrition also
offered a one-day course on Hazard Analysis Critical Control
- During the one-day course, managers identified
the hazards in their food service operations and then started
thinking about how to implement measures to control and reduce
the potential of each hazard resulting in a foodborne disease
For example, Huss explained, "a hazard analysis of the food
transport system can provide documentation to local school boards
of the need to purchase or repair equipment used in the satelliting
process. HACCP implementation will be supplemented by a web site
to assist the managers in writing their HACCP plans."
Distance education has helped bring the ServSafe curriculum to
people across Iowa. The state's fiber optic system with two-way
audio-visual capability links all Iowa schools. "Last year,
160 managers and lead employees enrolled in the ServSafe course
at nine different sites," Huss said. "They did not
come to the Iowa State campus - we had seating room for 20 in
our room here. The other 140 were scattered around the state."
In addition to the food safety courses, each summer Iowa State
University Extension and the Iowa Bureau of Food and Nutrition
enroll from 500 to 700 school food service managers and employees
in courses on management, food production, nutrition, menu planning
and computerized nutrient standards menu planning.
Papers and Presentations
- Harley W. Moon,
Iowa State, was installed inthe USDA Agricultural Research Service
Hall of Fame for research on enterotoxigenic and enterohemorrhagic
E. coli infections.
Moon also published, with I.M. Pruimboom-Brees, T. M. Morgan,
M.R. Ackerman, Evelyn D. Nystrom, J.E. Samuel and N.A.
Cornick, "Cattle lack vascular receptors for Escherichia
coli O157:H7 Shiga toxins" in PNAS, 97 (19):10325-10329,
Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, received the Advanced Degree
of Distinction Award in April from Oklahoma State University.
Kastner also received the Gamma Sigma Delta Award of Merit in
April at Kansas State.
Food Safety Digest
By Dave Edmark
- The "archaic" requirements of
the Meat Inspection Act of 1909 are hindering the government
from responding to the hazards of microbiological contamination
in the food supply, a representative of the Council for Agricultural
Science and Technology told a U.S. Senate hearing in September.
Mike Doyle of CAST and the University of Georgia Center for Food
Safety and Quality Enhancement, testified to the Senate Agriculture
Committee that major changes are needed in food safety programs
implemented by federal agencies, the agribusiness newspaper Feedstuffs
Doyle criticized federal laws that still link the Food Safety
and Inspection Service to the pre-HACCP organoleptic inspection
system. He said the old system directs the agency to secondary
Also, Dane Bernard, vice president of the National Food Processors
Association, told the committee that FSIS' required tests for
salmonella "do not measure whether a product is safe or
whether the operation that produced the product is sanitary."
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman responded that industry opposition
to the tests would "undermine our performance standards."
* * *
As irradiation becomes more of a potential factor in food processing,
more questions about the topic arise. The Food Safety and Inspection
Service has launched a question-and-answer web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/topics/irrmenu.htm
to accommodate the public.
The questions cover subjects such as labeling, ingredients, packaging
materials and procedural issues.
More basic information aimed at consumers is available on a Food
and Drug Administration web site at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/catalog/irradbro.html
which reproduces the text of a recently released brochure.
* * *
The Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing to share
some proprietary information with state and other federal government
agencies when a recall of meat or poultry products is being conducted.
Under this proposed
rule, FSIS would share some confidential proprietary information
with other government agencies in connection with the recalls
of meat, poultry and egg products. The federal government is
permitted to withhold certain categories of information from
public disclosure. Agencies receiving the information would provide
written agreements not to disclose proprietary information without
the company's written permission or written confirmation from
Recalls are voluntary actions by plants or distributors in cooperation
with federal and state agencies. FSIS said it will continue to
issue a news release for all meat and poultry recalls.
- * * *
We've already extensively quoted Les Crawford of Georgetown University
in this edition of the newsletter. Dr. Crawford has been busy
with numerous well-crafted speeches the past few months, so here's
an excerpt from one more that he delivered at the National Conference
on Animal Production Food Safety in St. Louis:
- "In short, when it comes to human
food safety, we are not there yet. Having fun in the plant with
HACCP is useless if the food is contaminated upstream and even
HACCP cannot systematize safety into all the food all the time
when it is employed at only one discrete point. Unless we construct
a system that inextricably links all the steps in food production
to a thoroughgoing food safety plan that concentrates on reducing
human disease rather than just counting pathogens, I think we
will be back here in 5 years wondering what went wrong. I firmly
believe the system that will take us beyond HACCP will turn out
to be Food Safety Objectives. It is the only one I know that
focuses on the real problem-human disease incidence-as well as
being the one system that embraces all aspects of food production
and involves all health and food professionals in the effort."
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