- The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
- Vol. 13, No. 3
- Summer 2003
- * Bacteriophage:
Poultry's Welcome Virus
- * Cull Sows Tip
the Scales but Stay Clean
- * Food Safety
Caucus Forms in Congress
- * Prevention Strategies
Vital to Counter Bioterror Threats
- * Report From
- * UN Official
Declares Food Safety a Right
- * Consumers Finding
Safety in Irradiated Foods
- * Taking the 'High
Ground' to Improve Public Health
- * Papers and Presentations
- * Food Safety
- Bacteriophage: Poultry's Welcome Virus
- University of Arkansas graduate student
Chris Pixley takes time-lapsed micrographs to see how bacteriophages
kill a colony of Salmonella.
- To knock out the bacteria, bring on the
It's an idea that might alarm people who are conditioned to
believe that viruses have no redeeming qualities. But Billy Hargis
and his Food Safety Consortium research team at the University
of Arkansas would remind them that these particular viruses can
make poultry a safer commodity for consumers.
The credit goes to bacteriophages, a specific kingdom of viruses
that only infects bacteria and that cannot infect plants, animals
"If you lick your lips, you're probably eating several
hundred bacteriophages that are on your skin right now. They're
pretty ubiquitous," said Hargis, director of the UA Poultry
Health Research Laboratory.
Bacteriophages, which are obtained from natural sources and
cloned for use against bacteria, have been used in experiments
to kill Salmonella bacteria in poultry. Hargis' team used
a couple of approaches. One was to rinse broiler and turkey carcasses
with bacteriophage isolates. Two bacteriophage isolates were
found to destroy eight Salmonella isolates on poultry.
Hargis' group also developed another method. They administered
bacteriophages orally to poults to use the poults as a biological
filter. They recovered the bacteriophages from the poults' feces,
then the recovered bacteriophages were administered to a second
group of poults, a procedure which reduced the levels of Salmonella
that the poults were carrying.
"We found in our early experiments that most of the bacteriophages,
when we administered them to baby poultry, died or disappeared
as they passed through the part of the gastrointestinal tract
that's similar to the human stomach - it's called the proventriculus,"
Hargis said. Its low acidity was killing most of the bacteriophages.
But some bacteriophages were surviving, so the answer seemed
to be in overwhelming the gastrointestinal tract with numbers.
Hargis' group took the bacteriophage populations, grew their
numbers and administered them to baby poultry to see what would
The plan worked. The large numbers of bacteriophage were passed
through the poultry, separated and re-amplified to pass through
them again. The mutations of bacteriophage managed to survive
conditions in the poultry's guts well enough to be effective
in reducing Salmonella by significant numbers.
"As the bacteriophage travels down the gut, when it gets
to an appropriate point in the gut where that organism can grow,
it actually amplifies the phage," Hargis explained. "And
then you can achieve incredibly high numbers of bacteriophage
in the lower part of the gut. Once you've got the phage there
you just feed them the bacteria so that the bacteriophage population
is constantly being fed new hosts. Any bad guys that happen to
be in the environment are in trouble."
Pending further development of the patent pending technology
jointly owned by the university and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
the research has positive implications for a poultry industry
in search of reliable ways of fighting Salmonella contamination.
Poultry producers have long used antibiotics against pathogens,
but many bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics. The
use of naturally occurring bacteriophages could be a more potent
and reliable weapon for producers seeking to maintain healthy
- Cull Sows Tip the Scales but Stay Clean
- Cull sows produce baby hogs before
moving onto processing in two or three years.
- Want pepperoni on your pizza? Or how
about some bratwurst off the grill? If you enjoy either of them,
thank the cull sow.
Cull sows provide pork processors the meat for pepperoni, bratwurst
and other specialty sausages. They are also big - an average
market weight hog is 275 pounds, but the cull sow weighs 400
Cull sows are processed in separate plants because of their
size, and that process has brought up a food safety question
in recent years: does the slower process of slaughtering cull
sows foster contamination of the cull sows by Listeria monocytogenes?
Food Safety Consortium researchers at Iowa State University
and the National Animal Disease Center found out that the system
has been working because cull sow processors have been following
the necessary precautions. The tests show that cull sows have
even less contamination than their market weight counterparts.
"We felt that since the cull sow is around for a longer
period of time that she had a greater chance of becoming contaminated,
so we went ahead and did the survey," said Irene Wesley,
the NADC microbiologist who was a member of the research team.
Cull sows are around longer than market weight hogs because
the sows' job is to produce baby hogs before moving on to be
processed after two or three years. Market weight hogs are generally
slaughtered at about one year old and account for about 95 percent
of all pork slaughtered each year.
The difference in processing procedures made the scientists
wonder if the cull sows might be at further risk of contamination.
Most pork processing plants slaughter market weight hogs at the
rate of 1,000 an hour. Cull sows, owing to their bulk, move through
processing at the much slower rate of 500 a day.
The research showed that the lesser amounts of water used on
the cull sows apparently contributed to their lower contamination
rate. "You have a difference in line speeds and things are
moving through a bit more slowly for cull sows," Wesley
said. "In market weight hogs' plants, there is more water
Cull sows at the abattoir are also kept in pens in smaller numbers
than their market-weight counterparts, which helps prevent potential
Results from the study showed that compared with the younger
market weight hogs, cull sows overall had a less frequent rate
of contamination from Listeria monocytogenes. Findings
of the pathogen in the pork product suggested that any significant
contamination was happening during processing.
"We wanted to figure out if the cull sow had Listeria
monocytogenes, compare the recovery from the cull sow and
then see," Wesley said. "If there had been more, then
we would say there was a problem. So we concluded that these
cull sows were clean."
- Food Safety Caucus Forms in Congress
- A bipartisan Congressional Food Safety
Caucus formed in the House of Representiatves in April. Nineteen
representatives organized the caucus, including four members
of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Those four
are Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Tom Latham,
R-Iowa, and Jo Emerson, R-Mo.
The caucus will hold regular educational briefings on topics
such as bio-engineered foods, risk-based management of food
safety, the contamination of foods and protecting the food supply
"My hope for this caucus is that we take the action needed
to bring common sense, uniformity and consistency to food safety
inspections so that we can better protect consumers and our nation's
agricultural economy," said Latham. "I look forward
to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to advance
proposals that guarantee America's consumers the safest possible
food products for their families."
The goals of the caucus are to:
- Educate the public and Congress on current
and emerging food safety issues;
- Communicate to start a productive dialogue
about the ability of the current system so secure the food supply;
- Coordinate and facilitate communication
between members of Congress, consumers, food safety agencies
and the private sector, and
- Enhance the various legislative efforts
toward improving the safety of the food supply.
- "Food safety is not an issue of the
past, and it is not a partisan issue," said DeLauro. "It
is about protecting families. We need to do all we can to reduce
the incidence of foodborne illness, and more than ever, we need
to be ever-vigilant in protecting our food supply from a bioterrorist
attack. This caucus is about ensuring the safety of our families
Latham has previously worked with DeLauro to sponsor legislation
that would consolidate the nation's food safety responsibilities
under one federal agency. The bill, more commonly referred to
as the Safe Food Act, is expected to be re-introduced into the
House of Representatives in the near future.
- Prevention Strategies Vital to Counter Bioterror
The devastating impacts on other nations' farming economies
brought by infectious animal and plant diseases provides a glimpse
of what effects a bioterrorist attack on the U.S. food chain
Norman Steele, a senior biologist with Science Applications
International Corp., said it was vital to recognize that there
could be no single overreaching approach. "The issues important
to New Hampshire livestock agriculture are not important in New
Mexico," he said.
Steele delivered his remarks in July in Phoenix at a symposium
on animal agriculture issues coordinated by the Federation of
Animal Science Societies.
Steele listed some consequences of a bioterrorist attack on agricultural
production and the food chain. These include massive trade disruption,
the closure of international markets, the collapse of consumer
confidence, business closures and the loss of jobs.
The Defense Department defines the threat to the food chain as
asymmetric, Steele said, which means it is "a vulnerability
not appreciated by the target." Terrorists could capitalize
on the nation's limited preparation against such threats, he
The biotechnology revolution has provided terrorists a new set
of tools to facilitate their activities. Meanwhile, the emergence
of health threats such as SARS has shown that contagious diseases
are difficult to control in an internationalized society.
The emergence of infectious diseases is "an example of nature
behaving like a bioterrorist," Steele said.
Pointing to the emergence of foot-and-mouth disease in the United
Kingdom in the spring of 2001, Steele explained that the greater
cost to the economy was not in agriculture but in tourism. In
the U.S., it is a matter of when, not if, something similar happens.
"I don't for a second believe that this is outside the realm
of possibility," Steele said. "Through USDA we have
surveillance measures in place, but we were also lucky we didn't
get it when it struck U.K."
Steele called for a robust series of vulnerability assessments
and threat analyses. Effective deterrent strategies, prevention
strategies, domestic presentation drills and further research
need to be put in place. He said this would require open discussion,
debate and planning in the private agribusiness sector and in
state agricultural experiment stations. The topic should not
be restricted only to USDA, he said.
- Report From the Coordinator
- By Gregory J. Weidemann
- Science triumphs again for food safety.
We speak in those terms frequently in university research circles
and it's always good to hear our government counterparts in food
safety on the same line of thinking.
The latest example is a report from the National Academy of
Sciences that concluded performance standards are useful for
food processors in measuring their process control. The NAS suggested
the development of a comprehensive plan to harmonize disease
surveillance data and microbial prevalence data. It also called
for adopting science-based strategies for development of food
Congress commissioned the NAS report more than two years ago
and mandated it to provide recommendations for the government's
two agencies involved in food safety, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Health
and Human Services Department's Food and Drug Administration.
FSIS, whose regulatory authority over meat and poultry processing
dovetails with the Food Safety Consortium's areas of research
focus, is enthusiastic about the NAS report. Elsa Murano, the
USDA undersecretary for food safety, said FSIS agrees with NAS
"that development of food safety criteria, including performance
standards, must be based on science and linked to public health
The NAS urges USDA to conduct baseline studies of Salmonella,
E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens. The Salmonella
study would help FSIS determine whether current Salmonella
standards should be revised. Other NAS recommendations include
expanding E. coli O157:H7 testing to include beef trim,
conducting additional research into the ecology of E. coli
O157:H7 and reviewing the FSIS approval process for intervention
at appropriate control points in meat and poultry processing.
Food safety scientists in university settings will follow these
developments with interest and will study any new findings from
FSIS. The triad of food safety research groups exists so that
different perspectives will be available. Government researchers
explore questions to find evidence that is useful in rulemaking
and safeguarding national interests. Industry researchers seek
information that will be of proprietary use in their product
development. University researchers examine basic questions that
may take longer to resolve but that will be useful to government
and industry researchers over the long term.
Each phase of the system works as part of the bigger picture,
which is designed to work for all of us. That's why those of
us in one part of this research triad are vitally interested
in the work of our fellow scientists in another section.
- UN Official Declares Food Safety a Right
- Food safety is not a luxury of the rich,
but a right of all people, a top United Nations official told
representatives in June from 169 countries gathered in Rome to
consider the adoption of new standards to safeguard the health
of consumers worldwide, while improving global agricultural trade
Jacques Diouf , UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director-general,
in remarks delivered by his deputy, David Harcharik, said the
increase in volume and variety of foods inevitably creates a
demand for standards that ensure fair trade practices across
all countries and regions of the world.
"Increased foreign investment in food manufacturing industries
and food distribution and retail industries also creates situations
where harmonized food standards are desired among the regions
in the world," he added.
Harcharik delivered his remarks at the opening of the 26th
session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
FAO and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) established the
Commission in 1962 to set safety standards and ensure fair practices
in food trade.
"We have to recognize that food can never be defined as
completely safe," WHO Director General Gro Brundtland said
in video-taped remarks to the meeting. "The risks can be
reduced through routine food safety work that must be carried
out every day. This means countless men and women working diligently
to protect human health throughout the food chain."
- Consumers Finding Safety in Irradiated
- The introduction of beef treated with
irradiation into Kansas supermarkets last fall is another sign
that consumers want the added safety in their food, a Kansas
State University food scientist said.
Irradiated beef "seems to be permeating much more of the
country," said Karen Penner, a food safety specialist at
KSU. "It's an industry decision saying, 'We want to provide
consumers with the safest ground beef product possible.'"
In October, Hy-Vee, Inc., began stocking supermarkets in Kansas
City and Lawrence with irradiated beef, alongside non-irradiated
products. Company spokesperson Ruth Mitchell believes this is
the first time any Kansas supermarket retailer has carried fresh
ground beef that has been irradiated. Hy-Vee --- listed among
the country's top 15 supermarket retailers --- is now offering
irradiated fresh ground beef at 188 stores in seven Midwest states.
Hy-Vee's move in Kansas is part of a trend developing across
the country. Sean Fox, a KSU agricultural economist with the
Food Safety Consortium who studies consumer perceptions of new
products, said that such national chains as Price Chopper, Lowe's,
Wegman's and others are now offering fresh, irradiated beef and
chicken in many states.
As a food safety step, irradiation has been approved by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration for poultry, beef and other
foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has approved the
treatment for fresh meats and poultry.
The meat being sold at Hy-Vee stores is treated with electron-beam
irradiation, a process that produces energy similar to that from
a home electrical outlet. Another approach available to the industry
now uses low levels of Cobalt 60, a radioactive isotope. The
FDA says both processes are safe.
Irradiation is widely used to sterilize many non-food products,
including toothbrushes, home-use adhesive bandage strips, surgical
tools and more --- although at doses much higher than used for
food. Irradiation has been eliminating insects in wheat and wheat
flour since 1963 and increasing the safety of common kitchen
spices since 1983.
"When the treatment is used on products available in retail
markets, each package must be labeled to indicate that [it has
been treated with irradiation]," Penner said. "On the
other hand, food items that are irradiated and then used as ingredients
in other products do not need to be labeled."
When buying beef in grocery stores, consumers "still have
an option," Penner said. "They can choose to buy the
irradiated or the non-irradiated product."
In sensory tests, consumers who compared irradiated with non-irradiated
grilled ground beef could not tell the difference between the
"They didn't prefer one over the other," KSU graduate
student Lori Hamilton said. Irradiation at the low level used
did not cause any significant change in the color, texture or
nutritional quality of the beef.
In Minnesota, Dairy Queen is banking on studies such as Hamilton's.
The fast-food chain sells only irradiated hamburgers in more
than 60 restaurants in that state and is actively promoting them
with tray liners, table "tents" and numerous signs
in each store.
Another national chain, Schwann's Foods, has been selling irradiated
frozen beef patties since May 2000.
"[The food industry] is doing so much more than was being
done even five or 10 years ago to prevent outbreaks of foodborne
illness," said Penner, who has worked in food science for
more than 30 years. "Some foodborne organisms are very harmful
and can cause long-term debilitation or death. I think the meat
industry has been very proactive in trying to provide safe products."
Article courtesy of KSU Research and Extension News.
- Taking the 'High Ground' to Improve Public
- These are excerpts of remarks prepared
for delivery by Dr. Garry McKee, Administrator, Food Safety and
Inspection Service, before the Association of Public Health Laboratories
(APHL) and CDC's Annual PulseNet Update Meeting, San Antonio,
Texas, April 30, 2003.
- ... In the days long before satellites,
GPS, and CNN, a scout on reconnaissance would benefit his army's
headquarters if he took the high ground. From the high ground,
he could quickly detect movements by the opposing force, and
even if this force was so far off in the distance he could still
determine its size and whether it was cavalry, infantry, or a
supply train by the color it emitted in the horizon. This first
detection gave his army the ability to respond quickly.
Likewise, PulseNet offers FSIS and all other participating partners
the "high ground" in our efforts to combat outbreaks.
The key word here is "detect" because PulseNet, with
its DNA fingerprinting on bacteria gives us the ability to detect
and ascertain very quickly the exact strain of bacteria causing
the source of foodborne illness.
This is a great strategic advantage that FSIS appreciates, especially
as we work toward fulfilling the vision that I have laid out
for the agency to evolve into a premier public health agency
that is a model for other public health institutions.
To achieve this vision, we need to implement three functions
that a model public agency uses to protect public health. The
first function is assessment, which simply means identifying
public health problems. The second function is policy development,
which determines what actions and resources are needed to solve
the problems. And the third function is assurance, which means
making sure the job gets done.
I'm sure many of you are aware of these three functions, and
that PulseNet is a vital component of the assessment function.
The fact that laboratories in the PulseNet system use the DNA
"fingerprinting" method, or Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis
(PFGE), to identify strains of bacteria is a significant boost
--- when combined with epidemiology --- to enable us to rapidly
detect and control outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Using the three steps of a model public health agency as a template,
I'll explain the importance of PulseNet's role in the assessment
of the listeriosis outbreak in the Northeast last fall. This
was an unprecedented joint investigation with the CDC and other
federal and state agencies, but the challenging part of our examination
was identifying a food commodity that might have been consumed
weeks or months before outbreak victims were contacted and interviewed.
The epidemiological study implicated sliced turkey deli meat
purchased at a deli counter, but specific brand information was
Then, our traceback efforts established a list of possible manufacturers
of the turkey deli meat possibly associated with the illness.
In the effort to pin down the source of the contaminated turkey
deli meat, we analyzed both product and environmental samples
taken at several turkey deli meat manufacturers. FSIS laboratories
immediately performed the DNA fingerprinting on the isolates
found, and the PulseNet administration promptly assessed the
patterns submitted. The key to determining the most likely source
of the adulterated turkey deli meat was the matching of the food
and environmental isolate patterns with the outbreak's DNA fingerprinting
pattern. This analysis was the key factor in identifying two
manufacturers as the most likely producers of the contaminated
turkey deli meat. Both facilities voluntarily suspended operations
and recalled nearly 28 million pounds of product.
From this investigation, we learned that some establishments
were not adequately addressing the potential for Listeria
contamination of ready-to-eat product. Therefore, for the policy
development stage, we issued an interim Listeria directive
last December, which outlined additional steps to be taken by
our inspectors to ensure that establishments are preventing Listeria
contamination. And finally, for the assurance function, we are
making sure that our testing program, now intensified as a result
of the directive, consists of increased product, food surface
contact testing, and environmental testing inside the plant.
As you see, PulseNet gave us the "high ground" advantage
to detect and respond rapidly in finding the source of the outbreak
from a unique perspective. Thus, we were able to take quick and
immediate action as a model public health agency to develop policy
and assure that the chances of this problem arising again are
How PulseNet Has Benefited FSIS
PulseNet has clearly benefited FSIS in a number of ways. For
example, it helps us to define the magnitude or scope of product
recalls so that we may alert consumers that a specific product
or products may pose a health risk.
Many of you are aware of several large recalls of FSIS-regulated
products in 2002, specifically ground beef and the turkey deli
meat, which I mentioned earlier. The evidence provided by PulseNet
as confirmed "matches" were considered to be key pieces
of evidence when such recall decisions were made. Some were alarmed
at the size of last year's recalls; however, the strength of
the DNA fingerprinting evidence and epidemiological, trace back,
and in-plant investigative findings allowed FSIS and industry
to protect consumers from potentially contaminated or adulterated
Through our assessments of microbiological sampling programs,
we periodically identify establishments that have recurring positive
microbiological findings in product or the processing environment.
We closely monitor these facilities to assure that they are taking
appropriate actions per federal statutes and regulations, since
we are concerned about the possibility that products manufactured
in such settings put consumers at increased risk of foodborne
illness. We periodically query epidemiologists and PulseNet to
see whether there are any existing, unexplained illness clusters
that could potentially be linked to an establishment and its
Another benefit is that PulseNet helps FSIS in its homeland
security efforts. Due to the very nature of PulseNet in giving
us the "high ground" to quickly detect sources of foodborne
illness outbreaks, the system also aids us by enabling FSIS to
rapidly detect and respond to any intentional biological, chemical,
or radiological contamination of the food supply. This is why,
as part of our homeland security efforts, we have recently initiated
construction on a new Biosecurity Level-3 laboratory and completed
an overall security upgrade for all the other laboratories.
We have developed an extensive inventory of biological isolates
housed and maintained in them and have also instituted Evidence
Management procedures to assure proper chain of custody and other
controls on all samples and materials received by the labs. All
of you can appreciate how important proper custody has become.
FSIS' Strategies for Responding to Foodborne Outbreaks and
Whether faced with intentional or unintentional contamination
of the food supply, our strategy for responding to foodborne
outbreaks is proactive. During outbreak investigations, FSIS
places the highest priority in submitting PFGE patterns to PulseNet
for specimens of interest.
Due to this proactive approach, when appropriate, FSIS will
move forward and work with an establishment to remove a product
from the marketplace, even before CDC, state, and local epidemiologists
and lab technicians formally implicate the product. Our reasoning
behind this approach is that we believe that trace-back and trace-forward
activities, product and environmental testing, PFGE analysis,
and in-plant assessments performed early in an outbreak investigation
certainly are decisive factors when ruling in, or ruling out,
a specific food commodity.
The clear and successful identification of a potentially adulterated
product with subsequent alerts to consumers is key to the prevention
of further illnesses. ...
As we pursue fulfilling our vision of becoming a world-class
public health agency, we continue to work closely with our partners
at the federal, state, and local levels to ensure the strongest
food safety net possible.
I look forward to continue working together with you in the
months and years to come on our joint goal of protecting public
health. I know the utilization of PulseNet will take all of us
to the "higher ground" we seek to attain to accomplish
- Papers and Presentations
- Judith Sabah, James Marsden and
Daniel Fung, Kansas State, prepared an abstract for the
Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting on "Evaluation
of the Minimal Inhibitory Level of a Commercial Solution of Sodium
Citrate Buffered at Three pHs (4.4, 5.0, 5.6) on Clostridium
perfringens Growth in Cooked Vacuum Packaged Restructured
Roast Beef During an 18-Hour Alternative Cooling Procedure."
Sabah, V.K. Juneja and Fung also submitted the
abstract "Effect of Spices and Organic Acids on the Growth
of Clostridium perfringens From Spore Inocula During Cooling
of Sous-Vide Cooked Ground Beef Products."
R.J. Danler, Elizabeth Boyle, Curtis Kastner, Harshavardhan
Thippareddi, Daniel Fung and Randall Phebus, Kansas
State, published "Effects of Chilling Rate on Outgrowth
of Clostridium perfringens Spores in Vacuum Packaged Cooked
Beef and Pork" in the Journal of Food Protection,
66 (3): 501-503.
Harshavardhan Thippareddi, V.K. Juneja, Randall Phebus, James
Marsden and Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, published
"Control of Clostridium perfringens Germination and
Outgrowth by Buffered Sodium Citrate During Chilling of Roast
Beef and Injected Pork" in the Journal of Food Protection,
66 (3): 376-381.
D.L. (Hank) Harris, Iowa State, presented a paper on
"Reduction of Human Foodborne Salmonella in Swine"
in May at the Fourth International Symposium on Pig Production
in Mexico City. Harris also received grants for projects from
these organizations: "Salmonella Monitoring and Reduction
Immediately Prior to Slaughter" from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture Integrated Research, Education and Extension Competitive
Grants Program for Food Safety; "Vaccination to Prevent
Acute Infection by Salmonella in Transport and Lairage
Prior to Slaughter" from the National Park Board; and "Gnobiotic
Pig Model for Development of Probiotics" and "Bacteriophage
and Enzybiotic Development for Reduction of Salmonella
in Swine," both from the Biotechnology Research and Development
Matthew Erdman, S.D. Wedel and D. L. (Hank) Harris,
Iowa State, published "Genotypic and Phenotypic Comparison
of Swine Salmonella Isolates From Farm and Abattoir"
in the Journal of Swine Health and Production, 11 (4):
169-172. Erdman and Harris also published "Evaluation
of the 1-2 Test for Detecting Salmonella in Swine Feces"
in the Journal of Food Protection, 66 (3): 518-521.
- Food Safety Digest
By Dave Edmark
- Salmonella testing in raw meat
and poultry products in 2002 shows that the pathogen's presence
has decreased since the previous year and since federally mandated
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems were implemented
in the processing plants a few years ago. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service released results
of its survey this spring.
The baseline year for determining the level of Salmonella
in plants varies according to the size of the plant. The rule
was mandated over time, beginning with large plants in 1998,
extending to small plants in 1999 and finishing with very small
plants in 2000.
During 2002 across processing plants of all sizes, 11.5 percent
of broilers that were sampled tested positive for Salmonella,
down from 11.9 percent in 2001 and down from 20 percent in the
respective plants' baseline year. The level of positive samples
for other commodities were:
- Market hogs - 3.2 percent in 2002, 3.8
percent in 2001 and 8.7 percent in the baseline year.
- Cows and bulls - 1.7 percent in 2002,
2.4 percent in 2001 and 2.7 percent in the baseline year.
- Steers and heifers - 0.3 percent in 2002,
0.6 percent in 2001 and 1.0 percent in the baseline year.
- Ground beef - 2.6 percent in 2002, 2.8
percent in 2001 and 7.5 percent in the baseline year.
- Ground chicken - 29.1 percent in 2002,
19.5 percent in 2001 and 44.6 percent in the baseline year.
- Ground turkey - 17.9 percent in 2002,
26.2 percent in 2001 and 49.9 percent in the baseline year.
- Ground chicken was the only commodity
in which Salmonella prevalence increased from 2001 to
2002. FSIS attributed that rise to an increase in small processing
FSIS said the testing program is designed to track performance
in plants rather than to estimate the nationwide prevalence of
Salmonella in products. Different establishments are sampled
from year to year.
* * *
Research repeatedly has shown the effectiveness of irradiation
in killing pathogens in meat and poultry. Irradiation also kills
pathogens in eggs, but it also leaves quality problems.
Richard G. Hunter, president of Food Technology Services in
Mulberry, Fla., told the Midwest Poultry Federation this spring
that in-shell irradiation damages eggs' quality attributes such
The agribusiness newspaper Feedstuffs reported that Hunter
said some nursing homes and other potential customers had asked
his company about irradiating eggs so they would be able to safely
serve soft-boiled or poached eggs. Tests showed that irradiation
caused changes in the egg white and yolk that would make it difficult
to break the egg and leave the yolk intact. He advised egg producers
to provide consumers information about these changes if they
choose to pursue irradiation. He said large-scale users in food
service and manufacturing would be the best potential market
for irradiated eggs.
- * * *
During a speech in May to the First World Congress on Irradiation,
Undersecretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano told the delegates
"irradiation offers us an important tool in our fight against
foodborne illness. But it is just that another tool, not
the only tool available." Irradiation education programs
must make clear the following points, she said:
- "FSIS inspects all meat and poultry
products, including those that are irradiated, and these plants
cannot use irradiation to substitute for good sanitation and
- "Second, consumers need to know that
while irradiation reduces the level of pathogens, it generally
does not make meat or poultry products sterile. The process does
not replace proper cooking or food handling practices by producers,
retailers, and consumers."
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