The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter

Vol. 9, No. 1

Winter 1999


Index

  • USDA Official Lauds FSC Model
  • NAFS Hosts Reception -- 'We're Open for Business'
  • Industry Executive Points to Research Benefits
  • FSC Efforts Bring Sampling to Forefront
  • Report From the Coordinator
  • KSU Keeps the Red in Meat
  • ISU Examines Presence of Pathogens on Farm
  • KSU Plans Rapid Methods Workshop
  • Papers and Presentations
  • Food Safety Digest


    USDA Official Lauds FSC Model

    Cooperative efforts among federal agencies is the primary theme of the government's food safety efforts, and the Food Safety Consortium serves as a model of that philosophy, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official told FSC personnel during the organization's annual meeting in October.

     

    Eileen Kennedy, USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics, addresses the Food Safety Consortium meeting in Kansas City.

    Eileen Kennedy, USDA deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics, spoke to the FSC in Kansas City.

    "I think the model of this Consortium is attractive," Kennedy said. "We've got diverse institutions together around some common goals."

    Kennedy explained that President Clinton, in a directive to USDA, the Departmentof Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency, ordered the creation of the Joint Institute on Food Safety Research. The Joint Institute will develop a plan for conducting and coordinating all food safety research activities. A detailed proposal for the Joint Institute's workings will be developed this spring and operations should begin soon after that.

    "Communication and links with other food safety agencies is critical," Kennedy said. "Through participation in the Institute, all food safety research agencies will have an opportunity to participate, complement and bolster activities."

    More than a dozen federal agencies currently are involved in food safety research, Kennedy said. Their research agendas will benefit if the agencies are at the same table and are listening to stakeholders' suggestions as to what should be on those agendas.

    "We see the Institute as a focal point of communications between our academic partners, our industry partners, consumers and other stakeholders," she said. The Institute is proposing that an advisory board be established consisting of stakeholder representatives. The board would assist the government in setting research priorities.

    Kennedy warned the FSC researchers that the allocation of food safety research money is still brought into question. She said the questions come from those who prefer that research dollars be used for such areas as biotechnology projects. Questions are also raised from those who argue that inadequate resources make it necessary to closely examine the need for food safety research or other areas of agricultural research.

    The struggle to maintain support for agricultural research is a result partly of the success of such research, Kennedy said.

    "Look at what was written about China and India. In the 1950s and early 1960s, they were written off. On the given rates of population growth, it was predicted that agricultural research was not going to do it. That prediction was wrong. When you look at why, you see the investments in agricultural research led to the green revolution technologies. ... The whole gloom and doom scenario was turned around."

    A similar perception persists about U.S. agriculture, she said. Because the U.S. has the world's most wholesome and nutritious food supply, the research that brought the nation to this point is credited with the success. So the perception arises that "we no longer need to invest in agricultural research," Kennedy said.

    But advocates of decreased support for agricultural research do not realize that the future scenarios for continuing the current level of food production and food safety are based on a continued investment in agricultural research, she said.

    Coordinators of food safety research should respond by using their programs in new ways. "Here is our opportunity to say, 'What are the bold new innovative directions we want to take our research agenda that meet the food safety needs of the population?'"

    Kennedy called on researchers to be sure they are accountable in their work. The federal agencies are concentrating on joint research planning in response to any questions that may be asked about possible duplication of effort. "Given a resource-constrained environment, we'd better be sure we're using those resources the best way possible."


    NAFS Hosts Reception -- 'We're Open for Business'

    The National Alliance for Food Safety &emdash; an idea in formation for the past several months &emdash; came to life Nov. 12 when it hosted a gathering of the nation's food safety leaders and declared itself ready to go to work.

    Executives of the National Alliance for Food Safety examine the memorandum of understanding that established the organization. From left are Charles J. Scifres, University of Arkansas; Floyd Horn, Agricultural Research Service, and Lonnie King, Michigan State University.

    "We're hanging our shingle and we're open for business," said Lonnie King, co-chair of the NAFS Operations Committee.

    King, dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and co-chair Charles J. Scifres, dean of the University of Arkansas Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, presented the NAFS memorandum of understanding to Floyd Horn, administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

    The memorandum had been circulated among the NAFS' 20 member universities for their endorsements to create the alliance in partnership with the ARS. Horn said that Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and other USDA officials "are very supportive of this effort."

    Horn, who assisted the university representatives throughout the year in their drive to establish the NAFS, said, "I commend those who had this idea and those who rallied to its support."

    The NAFS sponsored a reception during the USDA's National Conference on Food Safety Research in Alexandria, Va., which attracted nearly 200 participants from universities, industry and consumer groups. Explaining the concepts supporting the NAFS, King told the assembled crowd at the reception that the "changing landscape in food safety demanded a different way of working."

    King acknowledged the wide array of disciplines represented among the NAFS' member institutions. "The Alliance will allow us to build an unprecedented portfolio to assure a safer food supply," he said. "Participating institutions will form a synergy and align our resources."

    In addition to accommodating various stakeholders through the creation of an advisory council, the NAFS members themselves bring strength in their geographical diversity, King said. Also, he noted, "Alliance members support competitiveness in research and education."

    According to the memorandum of understanding, the Alliance will conduct research and education programs "which bring the strongest expertise and talent to bear on priority food safety problems and issues." NAFS Operations Committee members discussed strategies for funding and research priorities at its meeting Dec. 10-11 in Chicago.


    Industry Executive Points to Research Benefits

    Research by the Food Safety Consortium's scientists has resulted in major practical benefits for industry, Jim Riemann said at the FSC's annual meeting in Kansas City.

    Riemann, a member of the FSC Steering Committee, is director of beef product development for Excel Corp. in Wichita, Kan. He delivered his remarks to emphasize what industry needs from food safety research.

    Riemann cited the research at Kansas State University on premature browning of burgers as having affected development of U.S. Department of Agriculture policy. Research by FSC investigators Don Kropf and Melvin Hunt showed that visual evidence that a burger is brown does not necessarily mean that it is fully cooked. Kropf and Hunt concluded that the only way to be sure a burger is fully cooked is to determine if the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a standard that was later adopted by USDA.

    "That is a huge success that touches every ground beef consumer in this country and probably other countries as well," Riemann said.

    Consumers also benefit from the Operation Food Safety education project that FSC investigator Amy Waldroup is developing at the University of Arkansas, Riemann said. Waldroup's project promotes food safety education in elementary schools around the state.

    "This is not a Fight BAC program that has had a huge number of dollars invested in it," Riemann said in reference to the national food safety education campaign consisting of industry, government and consumer groups. "It's a small project. But I bet the impact is going to be as good as Fight BAC if we can get it spread around to other states."

    Riemann noted that steam pasteurization research at Kansas State has had impact on the beef processing industry. "I can assure you from my experience working with customers around the United States as well as a lot of our international customers that they are very focused on the intervention technologies that have been developed and that have come out of this Food Safety Consortium."

    In addition to praising university researchers for their work, Riemann advised them of areas in which industry needs their help. He cited the problems that industry faces in implementing the new federal regulations governing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point systems in processing plants.

    "There still remains a huge need for support from the academic world," he said. "We're at that point where we need to focus on getting processors educated on how to develop HACCP programs, how to train people within the plants and how to implement the program."

    Riemann noted that he had spoken in the autumn with a processing plant executive who had not yet begun to write the HACCP program that federal law would require to be implemented at his plant in January. "I'm sure he is representative of a lot of processors and slaughterers around the nation. The need for a good solid education program and hands-on work with processors is very real."

    Riemann suggested other areas in which researchers' efforts could help industry:

    * Detection of foreign objects that get into meat products during processing. "This is becoming a big issue in the industry," he said. Industry has been testing for several years but has been unable to find a suitable technology to get rid of such contaminants. "We need help in addressing this issue to help us eliminate foreign objects from our products."

    * Establishing acceptable levels of Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter bacteria in meats. "We need to be doing everything we can to essentially eliminate it," Riemann said. "Meanwhile, what is acceptable and what isn't?" The answers must be determined and passed along to policymakers, he said.

    * Development of faster analytical methods. "The one thing that plagues us is the time lag that it takes for getting results from our testing. There's still a huge need for something that is going to give us accurate results much faster."

    * More influence on government policy decisions. "We need to be providing a lot more input into policy and regulatory decisions. I am very concerned about how many policy and regulatory decisions are made that are driven by emotion rather than by science. I think it's going to take very strong input from the science community."


    FSC Efforts Bring Sampling Issue to Forefront

    Kansas State University is working on standards for sampling that will guide beef producers as they trim beef from carcasses and test those trimmings for possible contamination by E. coli 0157:H7.

    "The largest producers of beef trim in the country came to us and said they want to have some uniformity that would allow them to sample in a logical manner," said Randall Phebus, a Food Safety Consortium principal investigator at KSU.

    KSU agreed to take on the project. "We wanted to do it under the auspices of the Food Safety Consortium to put integrity into it and to have more thorough scientific review of what we generate," Phebus said. "It is an opportunity for the Consortium to have input into the science that is going to become national policy, I foresee. It's also a way for us to become publicly perceived as the experts in this area in helping industry with a substantial issue."

    Phebus, in discussing the sampling project during the FSC annual meeting in Kansas City, explained that the trim producers were trying to fulfill from three to five different sampling plans each day, depending on how many companies wanted to buy trim from them. The buyers were also dictating what sampling plans should be used.

    "They actually brought us seven plans and they were all fairly similar but they had significant differences in them," Phebus said. "We looked at them and found that none of them worked very well from a statistical assurance standpoint. They ranged from 72 to 90 percent probability of not finding a positive combination that you know, in fact, was positive."

    Statistical analysis showed that if one animal was positive for E. coli 0157:H7, there was still a 96 percent chance that sampling procedures would not reveal trimming combinations to be positive. If 15 animals were positive, there was still only a 50-50 chance that the trimmings would be found positive through sampling, Phebus said.

    Running the figures further showed that to get a 90 percent assurance that a combination of trimmings was positive, it would be necessary to sample 175 pounds out of the 2,000 pounds of animal. To obtain a 99 percent confidence level, a sampling would have to cover 335 pounds.

    That's not a likely prospect, Phebus said. Instead, the KSU researchers are trying to produce a more practical plan for sampling.

    "This tells us that E. coli 0157:H7 sampling of combinations in, of and by itself is not going to be a very good answer," he said. "But how can we use it as a tool to work in conjunction with the other things we are doing in terms of microbiological sampling and process intervention?"

    The researchers are approaching the problem with certain facts in the forefront. One is that prevention or elimination of pathogenic bacteria in the slaughter process &emdash; through validated sanitation and intervention technologies &emdash; is the most effective way to prevent contamination in the product.

    "For E. coli testing to be most effective, sampling protocols should be standardized across the industry for both carcasses and trimming," Phebus said. "If we can come up with the best and most useful way to present it to the industry &emdash; the buyers and the producers &emdash; then I think we've done a service to the industry."


    Report From the Coordinator

    Charles J. Scifres

    It has been two years since the first of the new federal regulations went into effect that have changed the way that the nation's meat processing plants check the safety of their products. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system (HACCP) is the science-based procedure that makes each plant responsible for developing its own government-approved plan for assuring quality from the beginning to the end of processing.

    The work of researchers in the Food Safety Consortium's member institutions and scientists at other universities and in government research agencies has contributed much to the body of knowledge that has enabled industry to implement and refine HACCP. As a new and evolving system, HACCP is constantly under review by the industry, government and researchers. Continual attention to the issue is critical enough that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recently sponsored a conference to take a closer look at it. The FSIS is working with five slaughter plants that have volunteered to participate in the collection of data that analyzes the relative success of HACCP procedures using microbiological analysis and of the more traditional organoleptic visual inspection methods. FSIS is also developing a model to address food safety procedures during the storage, transportation and retail sale stages of the food production chain.

    There is considerable debate among members of the food safety community as to the best way to proceed on certain issues. For example, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report commissioned by Congress in which it expressed skepticism about carcass inspection, which FSIS maintains should be maintained as a part of the current inspection system.

    The research community will often be asked to lend its voice to the resolution of questions such as these. The presentation of data obtained through scientifically valid procedures is the best evidence that can be made available to policymakers and industry personnel as they struggle through these problems. Researchers in the Food Safety Consortium are among those scientists who regularly monitor these matters. Much of their research is inspired by the day-to-day questions that arise from nation's pursuit of a safe food supply.


    KSU Keepts the Red in Meat

    Someday consumers may buy red meat at the grocery store that has already gone through a microwave &emdash; not for cooking but to kill pathogenic bacteria on the meat before it reaches the consumer.

    A Food Safety Consortium research team at Kansas State University is experimenting with 2 percent lactic acid, hot water treatments, vacuum packaging and microwave to determine the best combination of treatments to get rid of pathogens. The goal, after these treatments and overnight storage at 4 degrees Celsius, is to maintain the bright red color on the meat that shoppers want to see in their grocery display cases.

    "Killing the organisms is not the problem," said Daniel Fung, a KSU animal sciences professor and Food Safety Consortium principal investigator. "This phase is aimed at trying to make sure the meat is OK for consumers' eye appeal."

    Beef carcasses can already be decontaminated during processing by using organic acids, hot water, chemicals and steam pasteurization. But once the carcasses are decontaminated, there still remains the possibility of recontamination during cutting and trimming.

    Fung's team has found that a 2 percent lactic acid (80 degrees Celsisus) solution, vacuum packaging and microwave treatments can reduce the population of microbes on meat cuts and protect them from further contamination until they reach the retail stores, the last hurdle before they go to the consumer.

    The catch in treating the vacuum-packaged meat with hot water or microwave oven heat is that the treatments can change the meat from its natural red to a cooked color. So the researchers have experimented to determine what should be the maximum time in the microwave and the maximum temerpature of the water. After the treatments at certain levels, the meat samples regain their red color after overnight chilling.

    The researchers are trying to find the right combination of microwave time and water temperature that will cause the greatest possible level of pathogen reduction.

    "We can always increase the length of hot water treatment or microwave treatment and kill more organisms," Fung said. "But the meat would not be a good color. We are now studying all kinds of combinations of microwave and water temperature to make sure the meat is a good color. We don't have the definitive answer yet."

    Researchers hope to find the best possible combination of hot water and microwave settings to reduce the largest possible levels of pathogenic bacteria while still maintaining the red color upon chilling. Processors could then ship the meat to retail stores for direct sale or for further processing to ground beef or other cuts.

    A potential problem remains if stores open the treated meat for cutting or further processing, causing a risk of recontamination. "After you cut it up, a number of organisms will pop back out," Fung said. "So the whole idea of this research is whether at the end we can do something so that after treatment we don't have to open the bag until the consumer opens the bag."

    Meat processing plants of all sizes could use this procedure regardless of whether they already use other procedures such as steam pasteurization earlier in the process to decontaminate carcasses.

    "It would be very adaptable to small plants and large plants," Fung said. "All you have to do is have a vacuum-packaging system and a microwave. The hot water is always there. We hope this last step will make meat safer with fewer microorganisms on the meat surface."


    ISU Examines Presence of Pathogens on Farm

    It's no secret to hog farmers that Salmonella can be an ever-present danger within their herds. The question has been how prevalent is Salmonella bacteria on a farm and what is the likelihood that the pathogen will be present on the carcass that the pork processor receives.

    The subject hadn't been studied much until recently when Food Safety Consortium researchers at Iowa State University took up the matter. Now it's possible to use blood tests to evaluate the presence of Salmonella, said George Beran, a Consortium principal investigator at ISU.

    "We're following several foodborne bacteria starting at the nursery and going all the way to where the animals are butchered, processed and cut up," Beran said. The individual hogs are identified from the start so the researchers know what the level of Salmonella is in each one's digestive tract and what different types of Salmonella they have.

    The research team is performing tests on 60 pigs each on four swine farms, through two production cycles. These pigs are tagged at birth and monitored through slaughter. No cases of clinical salmonellosis have been detected among them, but several species of Salmonella bacteria have been causing infections among the swine.

    At the packing and processing stage, the researchers examine the loin and compare the Salmonella level there with an individual hog's Salmonella level when it entered the production process. It may be that live animals have one or more types of Salmonella but different types may turn up on the meat product.

    "Does the animal really make a difference in what's going to be on the meat at the end or is it that once they get into the processing plant they get all stirred up?" Beran asked. "We don't know yet."

    Transmission of Salmonella is believed to occur at any of several points: when animals carrying the bacteria are introduced into a herd, through contaminated feed, by exposure to infected rodents or by exposure to infected farm personnel.

    Data collected by the research team has indicated that Salmonella bacteria's life cycle on the farm fluctuates over time. On one farm, by the ninth week of age, 15 percent were positive for Salmonella. By the time they reached slaughter, the figure rose to 52 percent.

    The reason is still a mystery, but Beran sees the situation as evidence that the cycle hasn't been broken yet. "We didn't succeed in keeping Salmonella from getting out of the breeding herd or we didn't succeed in keeping it out of the facilities where we finish the swine."

    Beran pointed out that there is still an overall shortage of information about the prevalence and incidence of those species of Salmonella associated with foodborne disease. "We still need to know more about the exact modes of transmission and maintenance of the disease in swine herds," he said. The Consortium's studies could determine whether those species of Salmonella most often recovered from swine are still present in the finished product.


    KSU Plans Rapid Methods Workshop

    Kansas State University will present the 19th annual Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology International Workshop July 9-16. Daniel Fung, a Food Safety Consortium principal investigator and a KSU food science professor, is the workshop director. Randall Phebus, also an FSC principal investigator and a KSU associate professor of food science, is assistant director of the workshop.

    Participants will receive eight days of intensive theoretical and hands-on training in microbiological automation. The workshop has previously attracted scientists from 45 states and more than 45 nations.

    Information about registration and fees is available by calling the program coordinator at 1 800-432-8222 within the U.S. or 785-532-5575 from outside the U.S. A brochure with complete registration materials is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.dce.ksu.edu/dce/conf/microbiology.


    Papers and Presentations

    Richard Forsythe, Arkansas, has been awarded the Citation of Merit by Iowa State University for outstanding accomplishments in his profession. Forsythe, a founder and former coordinator of the Food Safety Consortium, is an alumnus of Iowa State. He joined the ISU faculty as an assistant professor in poultry food products and later headed its poultry science department. In 1973, he became vice president in charge of basic research at Campbell Soup Co. After retiring from the company in 1988, he helped create the poultry science department at the University of Arkansas. He is currently at distinguished professor emeritus of poultry science at Arkansas.

    Amy Waldroup, Arkansas, was a speaker and exhibitor at the Arkansas Elementary Principals Association meeting in October at which she focused on Operation Food Safety. In November, she conducted a training workshop on Operation Food Safety at the Arkansas Department of Education Nutrition Health Conference in Little Rock. She also represented Operation Food Safety at the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Initiative in December in Washington.

    Waldroup was interviewed by Meat and Poultry magazine regarding HACCP implementation in small plants. She was also interviewed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock regarding food safety and the Christmas holidays.

    Gordon E. Schutze, James D. Sikes, Rossina Stefanova, and M. Donald Cave, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, published an article entitled "The Home Environment and Salmonellosis in Children" in the January edition of Pediatrics. The Associated Press and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette also published news articles about the research project.

    Several FSC investigators from Iowa State University and the National Animal Disease Center recently presented papers in October at the Second International Rushmore Conference on Mechanisms in the Pathogenesis of Enteric Diseases in Rapid City, S.D. Evelyn Dean Nystrom and B.T. Bosworth, both of NADC, and Harley W. Moon, Iowa State, presented a paper on "Pathogenesis of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in Weaned Calves." N.A. Cornick, Ilze Matise and Moon, all of Iowa State; J.B. Samuel of Texas A&M University, and Bosworth of NADC presented a paper on "Edema Disease as a Model for Systemic Disease Induced by Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli." Matise and Moon, both of Iowa State, presented a paper on "Ultrastructural Characterization of Vascular Lesion Caused by Shiga Toxin Producing E. coli in Swine."

    Moon presented a paper in December at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Quality Assurance Committee in Denver on "The Problem of Infection with E. coli 0157:H7 and Its Relatives."

    An article by Dean-Nystrom, Bosworth and Moon entitled "Escherichia coli 0157:H7 Requires Intimin for Enteropathogenicity in Calves" was published in Infection and Immunology, Vol. 66 (9):4560-4563, 1998.

    Moon, who was a member of the National Research Council panel that produced the report "Ensuring Safe Food From Production to Consumption," was interviewed about the report by Food Chemical News, Fox News On-Line and WHO Radio in Des Moines.

    Randall Phebus, Kansas State, presented a paper entitled "Gate to Plate Meat Safety: Putting Science to Work in Production, Processing and Inspection" in November at the University of Tennessee Beef Conference in Martin, Tenn.

    Richard D. Oberst, M.P. Hays, Lalit Bohra, Randall Phebus, C.T. Yamashiro, G. Paszko-Kolva, J.M. Sargeant and J.R. Gillespie, Kansas State, published the article "PCR-Based Amplification and Detection of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 Utilizing an Internal Fluorogenic Probe and the 5' Nuclease (TaqMan) Assay" in Applied Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 64: 3389-3396.

    Daniel Fung, Kansas State, delivered presentations at several forums in recent months. In September he chaired the AOAC international meeting in Montreal and presented papers on "Practical Applications of Rapid Methods Symposium" and "Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology: A Review." At the 20th year celebration of the National Food and Drug Laboratory in Taipei, Taiwan, in September, he presented papers on "Research in Food Microbiology" and "Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology." In Singapore, he presented papers in September on rapid methods at the Veterinary Public Health Service and was director and keynote speaker for four lectures. Fung was also keynote speaker on "Food Safety: Impact of Food Microbiology to the Industry" at the Singapore Institute of Food Science and Technology. Fung closed September with four lectures and a paper on rapid methods and automation at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Bangkok, Thailand.

    In October, Fung presented an update on microbiological research methods at the FSC annual meeting in Kansas City and attended the Institute of Food Technologists Committee in Chicago.

    Fung presented papers in November at Auburn University on "Novel Methods for Detection of Food Pathogens," "Professional Development of Food Scientists &emdash; Nationally and Internationally" and "Rapid Methods for Detection of Pathogens." Also in November, he was the Institute of Food Technologists Fellows Visitation Program speaker at North Carolina State University. He presented a paper in November on rapid methods at the Binational (U.S.-Israel) Agricultural Research Fund in Kearneyville, W. Va. He was also the chief demonstrator of omelet and Chinese cooking at the 4-H Great Food Getaway Program in Rock Springs, Kan., and presented an update on rapid methods and research in spices at Gilroy Roods in Gilroy, Calif.

    Fung discussed professionalism in food science as the Institute of Food Technologists Fellows Visitation Program speaker in November at the University of Arkansas. In December, he delivered a presentation on rapid detection methods at the European Microbiology Standard and Research Group in Nice, France.


    Food Safety Digest

    By Dave Edmark

    Industry should adopt a "chain mentality" to assure a safer food supply. Paul Sundberg, director of veterinary programs for the National Pork Producers Council, said so in remarks published in Feedstuffs, the weekly agribusiness newspaper.

    Sundberg said a chain mentality provides for packers, distributors and retailers to pass "the baton of a safe product" to the next link in the chain. "If any member of the chain drops the baton, the industry may never recover," Sundberg said.

    Sundberg pointed to the NPPC's food safety task force as an example of the chain mentality at work. The task force consists of representatives from throughout the industry. He said food safety breakdowns are avoidable if all members of the chain know "how to carry and pass the baton."

    * * *

    Irradiation of poultry products, although legal since 1992, has not taken off and it's not clear when it might. "There is virtually no public demand for it," said Richard Lobb of the National Broiler Council told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. And Archie Schaffer III, spokesman for Tyson Foods, told the newspaper that while his company views irradiation as a safe alternative,m "it is not something we're going to move toward until our customers tell us they want it."

    John Eichberger, a spokesman for the American Meat Institute, said industry did not view irradiation as a silver bullet. "It's not the cure-all and it's not the replacement for clean food handling in the plant."

    * * *

    The Fight BAC campaign, launched in the fall of 1997 by a coalition of government, industry and educational groups, has been getting some feedback about its effectiveness.

    The Partnership for Food Safety Education distributed its materials throughout the country with tips on ways to keep food safe from bacteria. Since then, Fight BAC magnets have been produced and given to children touring grocery stores, grocery bags have been imprinted with illustrations of four food safety steps, and the Fight BAC logo has started to appear on flyers, milk cartons and store aisles.

    "As we move into the second year of the campaign," said Douglas Farr of the Food Marketing Institute, "we'll be analyzing the effectiveness of this first year and looking for ways to improve the educational portion of the campaign. More than likely, we'll do a program for children in schools."

    Food safety action kits with materials available for local distribution can be downloaded from the Fight BAC web site at http://www.fightbac.org.


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