The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter

Vol. 8, No. 1

Winter 1998


Government, Industry Advise FSC at Annual Meeting
* FSIS Official Asks Researchers' Help
* Tyson VP Examines Food Safety Regulations
* ARS Head Cites Food Safety Research Needs
* Executive Urges Creation of 'Reasonable Expectation' for Food Safety Efforts
Report From the Coordinator
FSC Personnel Offer Instruction to Head Start Kids
Marcy on Salmonella: 'One Size Will Not Fit All'
Campylobacter Attracting Attention, Showing Resistance
Papers and Presentations
Food Safety Digest

Government, Industry Advise FSC at Annual Meeting

FSIS Official Asks Researchers' Help

As she explained key points of President Clinton's food safety initiative, U.S. Department of Agriculture official Ann Marie McNamara asked researchers at the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting "to come up with answers to the difficult questions we now have in food safety."

McNamara, the director of the microbiology division of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, delivered the keynote address at the FSC meeting in October in Kansas City.

Yanbin Li of Arkansas discusses issues with a colleague during the Food Safety Consoritum annual meeting in Kansas City.
Her call to the researchers noted that "the easy questions in food safety have been answered." The FSIS research agenda for the 1998 fiscal year follows the requirements of the president's initiative and has a basis in public health.

"We ask a lot of questions about risk assessment," McNamara said. "We ask a lot of questions about virulence factors and pathogens."

The president's $43.2 million program "is based on public health principles that identify preventive measures to reduce illness and also target efforts on hazards that present the greatest risk," she said. The initiative's key premise is that no single measure will insure the safety of all food, but many steps can be taken that will reduce the incidence of many foodborne infections.

McNamara acknowledged the FSC's participation in public meetings earlier in the year that resulted in the formal report to Clinton on what the initiative's details should be. "It behooves the Consortium scientists to be familiar with the goals of the initiative and to determine how your special expertise can be used to further this initiative," she said.

The participating government agencies have recommended that research activity focus on improvement of detection methodology and on developing rapid methods for detecting low levels of pathogens in food and water. The recommendations call for focusing on Campylobacter, Salmonella, Toxoplasma, and E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria and Hepatitis A and Norwalk viruses.

McNamara said scientists need to better understand how pathogens become tolerant to various types of antimicrobials and to traditional food safety barriers. They must also determine how to identify factors that lead to animal-borne pathogens becoming resistant to drugs. She also cited a need to develop new methods of decontaminating the surfaces of fresh foods, vegetables, meat, poultry and eggs.

The federal agencies advised the president that research is needed to support HACCP implementation and to verify that the systems are working. McNamara said tools are also needed for identifying hazards and to target gaps in data that hamper risk assessment.

Food safety research is conducted among 21 federal government agencies but there isn't a formal process for establishing a government-wide research agenda, setting priorities or coordinating activities. McNamara said the agencies recommended that a plan be developed to coordinate such research and to identify priorities, possibly led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Risk assessment is also getting attention in the initiative, which recommends that a risk assessment consortium be established at the University of Maryland. McNamara said that risks to health associated with microbial hazards must be characterized in terms of their nature and their magnitude. "There is a need for risk reduction strategies that are both cost effective and of benefit to public health," she said. "Risk assessment is critical for world trade and World Trade Organization treaty negotiations which call for risk assessment in setting policy."

The government also aims to step up surveillance systems that would enable the early detection of outbreaks of foodborne illness. "Effective active surveillance systems would detect and communicate unusual patterns of illness and lab findings to promote response," McNamara said. A national early-warning system is part of the plan as is the coordination of efforts by federal, state and local health agencies during outbreaks.

McNamara said the federal agencies are proposing that HACCP should be recognized as the best method of controlling and preventing foodborne disease outbreaks. HACCP, which is already scheduled for further implementation in seafood, meat and poultry plants, would be expanded to other commodities such as fruit juices, egg products and fresh produce.

Government officials also want to emphasize food safety education. "Studies indicate that safe food handling messages are not reaching target audiences," McNamara said. "Consumers are unaware that food choices and food handling practices could increase the risk of foodborne disease." To solve the problem, the initiative includes a proposal to form an alliance among industry, consumer and trade groups and with state and local food protection agencies to share educational materials and to conduct educational activities.

The initiative itself will be revised as conditions require with all interested parties involved. "This is a living program and will be modified to incorporate new data and new direction over the years," McNamara said. "The Food Safety Consortium scientists can certainly lend their special expertise to this coordination effort."

At FSC Annual Meeting

Tyson VP Examines Food Safety Regulations

The new federal regulation defining fresh poultry could turn into a negative development for food safety, Tyson Foods official Ellis Brunton said at the Food Safety Consortium's annual meeting. Brunton, Tyson vice president for research and quality assurance and a member of the FSC steering committee, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had wasted too much time on the regulation, which became effective Dec. 17.

The rule allows poultry to be labeled as fresh only if it has never been chilled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Before the rule went into effect, poultry companies could label their products as fresh if frozen below 26 degrees. Brunton said the result of the rule could be that "food handlers in the retail and distribution channels will be setting meat and poultry coolers at higher than normal temperatures in order not violate this regulation." Those who would normally err on the side of food safety know they will be punished if they allow their product to fall below 26 degrees in pursuit of the "fresh" label, Brunton said. "They're going to have their product impounded. They're going to have to relabel."

Brunton also expressed concern over the possibility that a new federal regulation for poultry could be forthcoming that would govern the amount of incidental moisture that poultry carcasses would be allowed to pick up during rapid chilling in a water system. "This appears to be a political issue that should be objectively evaluated on the merits of food safety only," Brunton said. "The reality is that rapid chilling in a water system that inhibits microbial growth is a more effective system than air chilling."

Brunton praised the new regulations that are phasing in the implementation of mandatory HACCP plans as a means of promoting food safety in processing. He said the program will be successful as long as its scientific approach is maintained and reliance on "the old subjective manned control approach" is eliminated.

A HACCP &emdash; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points &emdash; system requires processing plants to identify points in its procedures where a chemical, physical or microbiological hazard can occur. Each plant's plan must establish controls to prevent or reduce the hazards and maintain records to show the controls are working.

"The basic premise of prevention is valid," Brunton said. "If patience and flexibility is tolerated during the transition period, by both the inspectors and inspectees, I feel very confident we'll have a superior inspection program."

Brunton said some news media coverage during the recall of Hudson Foods' ground beef unfairly prejudged the new inspection system with quotations from inspectors who said the new system won't work. Such comments are unfair and "paint a picture of overexpectation and probable failure of the new inspection system," he said. "It may not be perfect, but give it a chance."

Brunton cited surveys that showed public awareness of irradiation has increased along with support for the process as a means of enhancing food safety. He noted that the Food and Drug Administration was still considering a petition seeking approval of irradiation of red meat but predicted that approval would be forthcoming. The petition was submitted in 1994. (A few weeks after Brunton's speech, the FDA approved the petition.) Irradiation of poultry was approved in 1990 but has not been used widely by the industry.

Brunton said he would like to see the permissible level of irradiation for poultry match the level that frozen beef is seeking. Irradiation dosages are measured in kiloGrays and poultry may be irradiated at a maximum of 3 kiloGrays. Brunton called for raising that to 7 kiloGrays, the level being sought for beef. The World Health Organization considers any food irradiated up to a dose of 10 kiloGrays to be wholesome and safe for consumption.

"I'd like to see that the Food Safety and Inspection Service allow irradiation package labeling to use more positive phrases," Brunton said. "Something that attests to the fact that this is virtually free of pathogens, not necessarily totally pathogen free."

Brunton also advocated classifying food irradiation as a process. The FDA has classified it as a food additive, which Brunton said it is not.

The Food Net program, initiated in 1995 as a cooperative effort among federal agencies, identifies and helps control bacterial pathogens that cause common foodborne illnesses, Brunton said. Its five sentinel sites, which will be expanded to seven, can provide a more realistic estimate of the prevalence of foodborne illnesses than has been available, he said.

"My hope is that this new system will give us a more factual view of foodborne illness," he said.

Brunton said Food Net's first report showed that in 1996 there were 33 foodborne illness related deaths confirmed through the sentinel sites, which cover five densely populated urban areas in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota and Oregon. He said that figure, if extrapolated nationwide, would indicate there were 660 such deaths across the entire country that year.

"That's quite different from the figure we see, usually in every first sentence concerning food safety that says there are 7,000, 8,000 or 9,000 deaths annually," Brunton said. "I don't believe that (larger) figure. I'm anxious to see the real figures come out."

At FSC Annual Meeting

ARS Head Cites Food Safety Research Needs

The USDA Agricultural Research Service's food safety efforts are guided in part by listening to the scientific community to determine what problems are most in need of research, what data are needed the most and what industries are most seriously affected by the problems. Floyd Horn, the acting director of ARS, told the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting that the agency's research activities "can result in fewer pathogens and toxins in the production environment that contaminate food products of both animal and plant origin."

Food safety research in ARS, Horn said, "decreases the potential hazards of both introduced and naturally occurring toxicants in food and feed." It focuses on the farm-to-table sweep of the food production and processing chain. Research on activities that take place before food is processed "is needed to design effective control programs for bacteria and parasites carried by animals," he said.

The infection of animals by these pathogenic bacteria, partly due to the increasing density of livestock operations, is a major source of contamination in meats. In some instances, Horn said, the pathogens have carried over to contaminate fruits and vegetables because those products have come into contact with livestock production.

Slaughter and processing of animals can be a source of further pathogen contamination of meat and poultry products but the procedures can also be a stopping place for contamination. "These operations provide an opportunity to remove or inactivate pathogens that have previously been acquired, thus preventing their growth and the formation of toxins," Horn said.

Horn listed several research needs for pre-harvest activities. They include new disinfection methods and systems for improved sanitation of production facilities, techniques for manipulating microbials in animals' digestion tract to prevent resistance to antibiotics, reducing stress in live animals during transportation, increasing research on preventing toxins and algae from contaminating food, and developing new techniques for detecting viruses.

Research related to slaughtering and processing should include examinations of these topics, Horn said: methods to assure and verify the safety of cooked and non-cooked products, alternatives to traditional heat-based preservation technologies that preserve freshness in fruits and vegetables and the development of data on behavior of microbes in various foods.

Horn also called for the development of sensors to alert processors if food products are not stored safely. New technologies are also needed to maintain the safety of meat, fruits and vegetables, he added, such as irradiation, pressure treatments and pasteurization. New handling systems and methods of decontamination are needed for use in conjunction with packaging, storage and processing fruits and vegetables.

The objectives of these research goals are to reduce microbial pathogens in food, to reduce the risk from chemical residues in food, to control mycotoxins, and to minimize the exposure of animals and humans to toxic plants, Horn said.

At FSC Annual Meeting

Executive Urges Creation of 'Reasonable Expectation' for Food Safety Efforts

Implementation of the new HACCP regulations in meat processing plants is a major step forward, but people in the food safety community must be careful that they are not creating unrealistic expectations among the public, a food safety executive told the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting.

"I'm a little concerned because I think we may be creating a false impression of what may be achievable under the HACCP rule," said Tari Kindred, director of food safety for the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. "I strongly support the use of HACCP, but we need to present a realistic view of what can occur in the area of food safety."

With the current high awareness of food safety these days, Kindred said she was concerned that consumers might begin to believe mistakenly that food products can always be made 100 percent safe without regard for proper handling, storage and preparation. "This is the time that we need scientific leadership in food safety," she said. "More scientists need to come forward and present a really reasonable and achievable expectation in the public mind in terms of what we can achieve in food safety."

Once the new HACCP regulations are fully implemented in the nation's meat processing plants, Kindred said, it is likely that foodborne illness will still exist. "If we don't present the realistic perspective that we're doing the best we can to continue to reduce pathogens and foodborne illness &emdash; but that there's no magic answer and there's no magic time frame in which 100 percent safety can be assured &emdash; all of us in the scientific community dealing with food safety issues could appear foolish in the public eye."

Kindred predicted that the new regulations will lead to the production of higher quality products and increased shelf life. Overall, she said, the HACCP system is still a costly program and "an untested experiment for raw meats." However, she expects HACCP to have some positive results.

The scientific community should work to educate the public more about food safety, she said. "We've need to improve the way consumers handle their products from the moment they take them out of the case in the store. We need to address the challenges from the huge change in consumption habits. An increasing number of meals are prepared by the food service industry. Some of their employees have minimal education and training in the preparation and handling of food. We need to assist with these challenges."

Research scientists need to study the wide range of pathogenic organisms, "not just the 'in' ones of 1997," Kindred said. Researchers need to generate more information on a broad variety of zoonotic pathogenic organisms in food animals. They should not restrict themselves to focusing on just a few widely publicized pathogens, she said. Scientists must also study the prevalence of pathogens and their numbers on food products. In addition, more information is needed on the occurrence and prevention of chemical and physical hazards that may be associated with food products.

Report From the Coordinator

By Charles J. Scifres

Gatherings such as the Food Safety Consortium's annual meeting during the fall in Kansas City provide ample evidence of the value of such conferences. Our most recent meeting enabled Consortium personnel to exchange topical information with industry and government officials, giving all concerned a better perspective.

Our researchers received important advice from Ann Marie McNamara, the director of the Food Safety and Inspection Service microbiology division. As she explained the main points of President Clinton's food safety initiative, McNamara suggested that the more familiar our scientists become with the initiative's goals, the better they will be able to determine how their expertise can advance those goals. She told us that the government agencies participating in the president's initiative have recommended

that research activity emphasize detection methodology and the development of rapid methods for detecting low levels of pathogens in food and water.

Our Consortium is accountable to the public we serve. Hearing this type of information first-hand from an important government official gives our personnel the big-picture view of the realities of research and funding in today's competitive environment.

The representatives of private industry who spoke to our meeting also made clear what they see as the various research needs for food safety. Among their common themes was the need for greater efforts by the research community to educate the public about issues such as consumers' handling of food products and industry's potential use of irradiation.

Our conference attracted more participants than ever before and featured the Consortium's largest poster session to date, giving researchers and visitors opportunities to learn from each other through their presentations. Personnel from our three universities who collaborate by long distance during the year welcome the chance to share ideas at this two-day event.

Our researchers are by now well into their current fiscal year of funded projects. Insight they have gained from interaction at professional conferences such as the Consortium's annual meeting serves them well as they pursue their work. Their awareness of current trends and needs in science and society keeps the Consortium's work relevant to the public that supports it.

FSC Personnel Offer Instruction to Head Start Kids

Children at Willow Heights Head Start in Fayetteville, Ark., learned the importanceof proper hand washing during a puppet show and fajita luncheon presented by Drs. John Marcy and Amy Waldroup, principal investigators with the Food safety Consortium and University of Arkansas poultry science faculty members.

The annual visit to Willow Heights allowed Waldroup and her puppets to show the children how to wash their hands while their parents cooked fajitas with all the trimmings under the direction of Marcy.

"We are showing children correct hand-washing techniques, and parents get to learn how to prepare a healthy meal they can make at home," Marcy said.

Barbara Stout, center director of Willow Heights Head Start, said the hand-washing puppet show is effective because children learn through play. "The children look at the puppets as real people."

The fajita luncheon was part of Willow Heights' family day, one day each month that allows parents to spend time with their children and receive training on practical issues such as nutrition, safety, literacy, substance abuse and kindergarten transition.

Stout said head start programs encourage community collaboration, and she is always glad to have Marcy and Waldroup during family day. "The returning parents look forward to this each year."

Marcy and Waldroup give approximately 10 similar presentations each year to head start programs and public schools in Northwest Arkansas.

Marcy on Salmonella: 'One Size Will Not Fit All'

Salmonella, the bacterium that has attracted the attention of scientists who research the causes of foodborne illness, is not particularly difficult to kill. The catch is that only a few cells of some strains of Salmonella are enough to make someone sick.

Within the Salmonella genus, there are about 2,000 strains, some pathogenic and some non-pathogenic.A person who consumes a dose of as few as five or 100 cells of some strains can become sick.

"When you're at that low a dose, you're going to get illness," said John Marcy, a principal investigator for the Food Safety Consortium. "Others may take up into the millions to make someone sick. So we have a wide range. When we say Salmonella, one size will not fit all."

Salmonella does not produce a toxin in the food itself. The food provides a resting place for the organism. A person becomes sick only after a live organism is ingested and finds a place inside the gut to colonize and grow, said Marcy, an extension food scientist at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science.

Salmonella begins growing in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range and will continue to grow inside the human body's temperature of around 100 degrees. Refrigeration will prevent its growth and cooking will kill it.

"It will probably stop growing in the area of 110 or 115 degrees," Marcy said. "It's relatively easily killed by cooking. If you cook rare roast beef for two hours, you'll kill it. It's not terribly heat resistant."

The heat resistance does vary, Marcy warned. Most of the research is being conducted on strains that are more heat resistant. "We've tried to identify the hardest ones to kill."

Salmonella is more of a target of regulation than Campylobacter because it is "an all-meat species," Marcy said. "Salmonella is really across the board and that's an organism the consumers have some appreciation for. ... It was consumer pressure that brought about the Salmonella standard when USDA was looking at creating a new performance standard."

Undercooking of meat and poultry can allow Salmonella to thrive, but undercooking isn't the main problem that keeps Salmonella active. Cross-contamination is the bigger problem. "Poultry is the only meat that is sold with the skin on and that's where most of the Salmonella is on poultry," Marcy explained. "That skin brings Salmonella into the work environment where it can cross-contaminate cooked products."

Salmonella can be found throughout nature. It doesn't make chickens ill and there are many people who do not become ill from it, Marcy said. Salmonella enteritidis was first identified in rats. The connection to rats has been shown to be a source of some of its resistance to antibiotics.

"One of the more interesting research studies done was to look at rats around cities and isolate the Salmonella from them and see what the antibiotic resistance was," Marcy said. "The rats isolated from the trash dumps were much more likely to be antibiotic resistant than the ones taken off dairy farms." Why? A professor who taught Marcy at Iowa State University had a theory: disposable diapers.

"Start thinking about what happens to that load of antibiotics in disposable diapers when it is accessed by rats," Marcy said. The Salmonella in the rats develop the strength to withstand the antibiotic contact there and on down the line.

"We are not going to isolate poultry houses from wild birds, rats, rodents, or beetles," Marcy said. "Anywhere you look, there are too many vectors for Salmonella to get into poultry houses and you cannot eliminate them all. There are many apsects of Salmonella control on farms."

Marcy said the federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that 45 percent of foodborne illnesses can be traced to salmonellosis.

Campylobacter Attracting Attention, Showing Resistance

The Campylobacter bacterium is attracting more attention these days. Scientists have known since 1972 that the Campylobacter jejuni species causes illness in humans. More recently, the scientific community has been taking note of illnesses caused by the bacterium and its resistance to some anitbiotics.

If the government plans to focus on another poultry-borne pathogen as it does now with Salmonella, then Campylobacter might be the logical choice, said Amy Waldroup, a poultry science professor at the University of Arkansas. However, there is presently no way to eliminate this organism on raw poultry, short of irradiation.

"If we start having more news media attention on Campylobacter, and especially on Guillain-Barre Syndrome, I suspect the government and consumer advocacy groups will jump on it," said Waldroup, a principal investigator with the Food Safety Consortium.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an illness preceded in many individuals by Campylobacter jejuni. Affecting 2,600 to 9,600 victims a year, GBS is a disease of the nervous system marked by various degrees of pain, numbness and progressive weakness or paralysis. The onset of the disease is rapid and lasts four to eight weeks. Most people who contract it are hospitalized and about 2 percent of them die.

Many Campylobacter cases have been traced to sewer line breaks that contaminate water systems. There is little evidence of transmission of GBS from human to human. Waldroup cited physicians who said that the best way to reduce cases of GBS is to reduce the prevalence of Campylobacter jejuni, which commonly infects poultry.

The Navy has developed a vaccine for Campylobacter jejuni, but the bacterium's O19 antibody, the root cause of GBS, is apparently becoming resistant to serums in the vaccine, Waldroup said.

Campylobacteriosis, a less serious disease caused by Campylobacter jejuni, is marked by diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache, muscle pain, vomiting and malaise. Health authorities estimate about 4 million cases occur each year, with half of them traceable to consumption of chicken, mostly undercooked.

Waldroup said campylobacteriosis cases are mostly sporadic, unlike the large outbreaks commonly associated with other organisms. The sporadic cases are often the result of consuming improperly cooked poultry or through handling raw poultry. Patients who were interviewed about their illness said they had eaten chicken raw or had eaten undercooked chicken that was still bloody and pink near the bone. Some patients had failed to wash cutting boards or knives that had come into contact with raw poultry and then used the utensils with other foods, Waldroup said.

When large outbreaks occur, they are usually caused by contaminated water sources or unpasteurized milk, she said. Case studies have shown that some outbreaks have occurred after school children have been taken to dairies on field trips. "They're given samples of raw milk and a high percentage become ill," Waldroup said. "This is very common. This has not happened just one time. It seems like this happens every year."

In a large outbreak, she explained, 32 of 172 students at an elementary school showed symptoms of campylobacteriosis with milk as the common source. The pasteurization process in that case did not heat the milk to a sufficiently high temperature.

A group of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones has been used to treat campylobacteriosis in chickens, but some scientists say that is causing some strains of Campylobacter to become drug resistant. A report in The New York Times quoted Dr. Michael Osterholm, epidemiologist for the Minnesota Health Department, as saying that the trend has been noticed since 1995, when fluoroquinolones was licensed for use in chickens. A survey of Minnesota supermarkets in September showed that 79 percent of the chickens were contaminated with Campylobacter, with 20 percent of the contaminated chickens resistant to antibiotics. A study of the supermarket turkeys showed 58 percent were contaminated and that 84 percent of the contaminated turkeys had drug resistant strains of Campylobacter.

Waldroup noted that the National Broiler Council has pointed out that the use of fluoroquinolones is limited at this point. The NBC said "speculation about its impact is not based on extensive experience in actual use."

Papers and Presentations

Amy Waldroup, Arkansas, presented a lecture in November on Campylobacter at the Arkansas Poultry Processors Workshop in Fayetteville. In October, Waldroup lectured on "Approved Antimicrobial Treatments for Poultry" at the Delmarva Poultry Health and processing meeting in Ocean City, Md. Waldroup was also interviewed by Meat and Poultry magazine on new microbial specifications for raw poultry. Waldroup's food safety education puppet show, "Squeaky and Clean," was videotaped at the Fayetteville Head Start Child Care Center for a news broadcast on KFSM-TV in Fayetteville.

An article entitled "Steam Pasteurization of Commercially Slaughtered Beef Carcasses: Evaluation of Bacterial Populations at Five Anatomical Locations" by Randy Phebus, Kansas State, has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Food Protection. Phebus was also interviewed in October about steam pasteurization by Channel Earth, a Direct TV affiliate of WGN TV in Chicago.

Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, was a planner of the Beef Safety Symposium in December in Chicago co-sponsored by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the American Meat Science Association. He is also a member of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council's subcommittee for science and research. Kastner presented "Current Safety Research for Red Meat" at the Western Regional Research Meeting in January in Salt Lake City.

James Denton, Arkansas, represented the Food Safety Consortium and the Poultry Science Association at a meeting of the International Meat and Poultry HACCP Alliance in October in Dallas.

Daniel Fung, Kansas State, conducted a three-day workshop in November in Santiago, Chile on rapid methods in microbiology at Foundation Chile with about 45 participants. Fung also presented a seminar in November in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for about 80 people on rapid methods in microbiology at the Pan American Institute for Food Protection and Zoonoses. In December, Fung delivered a presentation on rapid methods in food microbiology at the International Fresh-cut Produce Association's Food Safety Solution Conference in Newport Beach, Calif. Fung also spoke on rapid detection methods for foodborne microorganisms in January at the ILSI annual meeting.

James Kliebenstein, Iowa State, presented a paper in July entitled "Toxoplasma gondii in United States Swine Operations: An Assessment of Management Factors" at the VIII International Symposium on Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics in Paris. Collaborators on the paper were S. Patton, J. Zimmerman, X. Hu, A. Hallam, T. Roberts and E. Bush.

James Kliebenstein, Iowa State, received a grant funded by the National Pork Producers Council for the project "Toxoplasma gondii in Swine Populations: A Comparison of the Percentage of Sows and Market-weight Pigs Infected From the National Animal Health Monitoring System, Farm Management Practice Relationships, and Economic Costs." Co-investigators are Jefferey Zimmerman, Iowa State; Sharon Patton, University of Tennessee, and Tanya Roberts, USDA Economic Research Service.

Ted Kramer, Iowa State, delivered an invited presentation on "Safety and Avirulence of a Heterophil-Adapted Avian Strain of Salmonella enteritidis (SE)." at the 11th International Congress of the World Veterinary Poultry Association in August in Budapest, Hungary. Kramer also delivered poster presentations at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease in November in Chicago. The posters were "Comparison of Heterophil Phagocytosis for Heterophil-Adapted Salmonella enteritidis (HASE), Wild Type Salmonella enteritidis (SE), and Salmonella choleraesuis (SCS)" with C.B. Andreasen and M.A. James, and "Safety and Avirulence of a Heterophil-Adapted Avian Strain of Salmonella enteritidis (SE)."

Kramer also received the R&D 100 award for the development of SC-54 vaccine for the prevention of swine salmonellosis. The vaccine was selected by R&D magazine as one of the 100 most technologically significant new products of the year. Kramer also obtained a patent for the SC-54 vaccine, Patent No. 5,436,001. He also has obtained Provisional Patent No. 08/801,722 for the Heterophil-adapted poultry vaccine for the prevention of eggborne salmonellosis. His article on "Effects of Heterophil Adaptation on Salmonella enteritidis Fecal Shedding and Egg Contamination" has been published in Avian Diseases, 41: 235-242, 1997.

Food Safety Digest

By Dave Edmark

As noted in John Marcy's discussion of Salmonella elsewhere in this issue, the government's concern over the bacterium as a cause of foodborne illness has driven much of the research emphasis supported by federal dollars. Salmonella has been a prime focus of much of the Food Safety Consortium's research at each of its three universities.

So it was not a major surprise to see that the bacterium was the subject of an in-depth cover article in the Nov. 24, 1997, edition of U.S. News and World Report. The article, "O is for Outbreak," told the story of a Vermont family whose cows were struck by Salmonella in May. Then several family members became ill after drinking the cows' raw milk. Tests at research labs confirmed the sickest person among them had Salmonella typhimurium DT 104, a new strain resistant to several antibiotics and already the source of an epidemic in England that had killed numerous cattle and hospitalized large numbers of people. Other DT 104 outbreaks were being reported that month in Washington state and California.

Frederick Angulo, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control, is quoted in the article as saying, "What DT 104 is calling for is a more comprehensive understanding that foodborne illness starts on the farm. Stopping it will require a paradigm shift, a re-evaluation of everything from the massive use of antibiotics in animal feed to the practice of giving calves milk from cows who are sick or that have just given birth. These are very common practices which no one had to worry about until DT 104."

The Campylobacter bacterium has not been the object of as much popular or government focus as has Salmonella, as Amy Waldroup explains elsewhere in this issue, but its time may be coming. A front-page article in The New York Times on Oct. 20, 1997, declared that the nation's health authorities are becoming increasingly concerned about Campylobacter because it infects a larger percentage of chickens than Salmonella and that some antibiotics are becoming less effective in treating people who have become sick from it.

* * *

Irradiation of meat products continues to be a major topic in food safety as well as an object of Food Safety Consortium research. The FSC's work in this area was profiled last fall in articles in major newspapers in two of the Consortium's home states. The articles were published a few weeks before the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation on red meat.

The Des Moines Register featured a front-page article on Oct. 12 on usage of the linear accelerator irradiation system at Iowa State University and the future of the process pending federal approval of its use for red meat. Dennis Olson and James Dickson, FSC principal investigators at Iowa State, explained how irradiation is used and what effects it could have on the American meat industry.

"The technology isn't one whose time has come," Dickson told the Register. "The time came 10 years ago. Like the pasteurization of milk, it is not a substitute for good production practices ... but it is an additional safety factor that is added to good manufacturing and handling practices."

Research on irradiation at Arkansas, Iowa State and Kansas State was the cover story Nov. 2 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Sunday business news tabloid. The article noted that although irradiation is already authorized by the federal government for use on poultry, the industry has held back from using it until the public seems to be ready for it. "The poultry companies would accept irradiation today," Arkansas' Amy Waldroup told the Democrat-Gazette. "The concern is over whether the consumer will accept irradiated products."

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