E. coli’s deadly genes may date back to 2001

Source: ECDC.

German bean sprouts cause E. coli outbreak

As of June 13, 2011, the E. coli O104:H4 outbreak in Germany has been responsible for the deaths of 34 in Germany and one in Sweden, according to numbers from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). So far, more than 700 people have contracted hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney problems and is potentially fatal. 

Though cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables have been ruled out as causing the disease, German bean sprouts have been-off-and-on again-considered to be the culprit. SPIEGEL ONLINE reported 18 local people and three workers at a bean sprouts farm in Lower Saxony fell ill. Originally, cucumbers from Spain were blamed for the infections.

A June 10 report on Deutsche Welle states “bean sprouts are the likely source of an E. coli outbreak in Germany that has killed 31 people and made nearly 3,000 ill since May.” This information was attributed to Reinhard Burger, president of Germany’s federal infectious disease laboratory, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

According to ECDC, most cases are from, or have a history of travel to, the North of Germany (mainly Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, North-Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg). In the EU, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom have reported cases of HUS, while six other Member States have reported only non-HUS STEC cases.

Spain’s fruit and vegetable exporters association estimated on June 6 that the industry was losing $330 million per week as a result of the false cucumber accusation, with producer prices declining 35 percent since May 27, according to a report from Deutsche Welle.

Germany has received criticism about the lack of organization in this outbreak-from blaming the wrong products to not having a detailed plan in place for such an event.

According to Deutsche Welle, a team of German and Chinese scientists says it sequenced the genome of the bacteria, finding it contained elements from two other previously known strains, E. coli O104:H4 and EAEC 55989. The first is a bloody, diarrhea-inducing strain that has only been documented once previously-in 2005 with a 29-year-old Korean woman who was hospitalized and survived. The bacteria also had a 93 percent sequence similarity with EAEC 55989, another form of E. coli that is known to have an advanced ability to colonize in the human stomach.

David Studholme, a British scientist interviewed by Deutsche Welle, suggests this current strain is very similar to an outbreak strain that occurred in Germany some time in the past, and is corroborated by information on BGI’s (formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute) website. He says BGI speculates the current outbreak is derived from the previous outbreak.

“The relevance of this data is we are now tracing the history of the bacteria, as this latest analysis indicates that the two German strains (01-09591 originally isolated in 2001 and TY2482 from the 2011 outbreak) have identical profiles for all 12 virulence/fitness genes and 7 MLST housekeeping genes,” according to the BGI website. However, at some point over this 10-year period the new 2011 outbreak strain seems to have developed the ability to resist many additional types of antibiotics, according to BGI.

“This latest evidence [shows] that the previous 2001 German strain is the most likely ancestor of the 2011 outbreak strain. This may imply that fast evolution resulted in the gain of more genes during the last 10 years,” according to BGI.

Soy feeds fish in US, pigs in China

US soybean crops not only feed cattle and other livestock, they also provide the basis for edible oils, biofuels and a host of other uses. Today, soybeans are used as a primary ingredient in fish feed for aquaculture applications and as an export to help China feed its pigs.

Although aquaculture has become more eco-friendly due to the advances in fish biology and operational technology, environmental concerns remain about the inclusion of fishmeal and fish oil from wild-caught resources (anchovies and menhaden) in aquafeeds, according to the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC).

With a commitment from the US soy industry to research, develop and promote specially formulated soy-based feeds, it is now possible to replace up to one-half of the fishmeal in feeds for many marine-farmed species, and all of the fishmeal in many freshwater-farmed species. According to USSEC, soy in aquafeed much more efficiently produces fish and seafood than other types of livestock, with 1 to 1.5 lbs of feed producing 1 lb. of fish. In comparison, it takes up to 1.9 lbs of feed to produce one pound of poultry and 2.5 lbs of feed to produce 1 lb. of pork.

Soybean meal has a significantly lower cost than fishmeal and fish oil, as well as consistent quality and availability and, therefore, can reduce the cost of farmed seafood while reducing the demand on caught wild fish as a feedstock, according to USSEC.

China produces 50 million metric tons of pork each year, most of it for internal consumption, says the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Soybean imports (mostly from the US and Brazil) are keeping the swine industry in China afloat, says IATP report, Feeding China’s Pigs. To overcome the limitations of domestic production for feeding millions of pigs, authorities enacted a series of measures to liberalize China’s soy trade, including those required by the World Trade Organization (WTO) accession protocols, starting in the early 1990s.

Chinese soy imports quickly overtook both soy exports and domestic production, and today, China is the world’s leading soybean importer. In 2010, more than 50 million metric tons of soybeans came into China. These imported beans accounted for 73 percent of soy consumption in China, and were used exclusively in the production of soybean meal for livestock feed and soy oil for cooking (meal and oil are co-products in the crushing process), according to IATP.

Soy is particularly important in commercial pig feed mixes, but for the smallholder and specialized household farmers (one or two pigs), corn is the most used feedstuff. Corn, however, is protected as a “strategic crop for food security,” primarily because of its role as a staple food for human consumption.

For more information on the Chinese use of soybeans, visit IATP’s website or download the study, Feeding China’s Pigs: Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Farmers and Food Security.

For more information on soy products as fish feed:

REPLACEMENT OF MENHADEN FISHMEAL BY SOYBEAN MEAL FOR THE DIET OF JUVENILE BLACK SEA BASS (Centropristis striata) CULTURE;  Md. Shah Alam, Wade O. Watanabe and Katherine B. Sullivan; University of North Carolina Wilmington; Center for Marine Science, Aquaculture Program, 7205 Wrightsville Ave, Wilmington, NC, 28403; alamm@uncw.edu

Fish meal replacement with solvent extracted soybean meal or soy protein isolate in a practical diet formulation for Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus, L.) reared in low salinity;  Riche, Marty; Williams, Tehera; USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Substituting fish meal with soybean meal in diets of juvenile cobia Rachycentron canadum; R.L. Choua, B.Y. Hera, M.S. Sua, G. Hwangb, Y.H. Wub, H.Y. Chen; Elsevier Aquaculture.

Budget cuts for FSMA?

The recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act, which gives FDA more power and resources to regulate food safety, was signed into law months ago, but its full impact could be limited by the budget-cutting knife.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over FDA, has scaled back President Obama’s $955 million budget request for food safety to $750 million. That’s about $87 million less than the agency now spends on food safety. FDA says increased funding is necessary to meet its mandate.

“For example, the inspection schedule in the legislation would increase the burden on FDA’s inspection functions. Without additional funding, FDA will be challenged in implementing the legislation fully without compromising other key functions,” the agency says on its website.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act passed with general support from the food industry and was signed into law in January of this year.

Green building: Choose planners and materials wisely

Construction forensics may help show that architectural/engineering firms have done their homework on materials and methods, when it comes to green and sustainable design, says a report from the May 31 issue of The Zweig Letter, published by ZweigWhite, consultants in the architectural/engineering/construction (A&E/C) markets. For processors considering sustainability in building projects, the word is to choose wisely A&E/C firms who have experience in green building materials and methods.

“In green design, the combination of unproven materials and methods, coupled with grandiose, unsubstantiated claims of performance, make for an environment full of risk for the sustainable design professional,” says Bruce Bergman, principal architect with KPA Associates, Inc., who also provides witness testimony and forensic architecture services.

Brian Hill, editor and publisher of AEC Forensics and a forensic technician with KPA, told ZweigWhite’s weekly management publication that testing components and assemblies to the point of failure provides understanding regarding the limitations of those materials. “The old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ still very much applies to the built environment,” Hill says.

Litigation often establishes standards, but to date there has not been enough green building litigation to set precedent. Of the nationally publicized lawsuits KPA is aware of, most claims have not been related to building performance, says the report.

Forensic Consultant Edward Martinet, president of LiMa Solutions, says in the report, “This is a market that is fraught with ‘experts’ who aren’t really experts. The more I get into it, the more I realize there are still a lot of cowboys out there, who never designed anything, and whose credentials are questionable,” he says.

The big picture is: When the innovation envelope is being pushed, problems are inevitable. Martinet feels the lawsuits related to green design will center on whether the buildings meet established performance criteria.

Food safety, economy dictate consumer food choices

Consumer confidence in food safety is the highest it’s been in seven years, according to a study from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).


34th Annual Plant Construction Survey

Projects surge slightly as processors find value to be gained in upgrading existing facilities.   

Food Automation & Manufacturing conference report

Need-to-know manufacturing concepts and professional contacts kept food professionals engaged during the annual Food Engineering conference.

Multifunctionality delivered

Track & trace systems can do more than satisfy regulators; they can improve products, operations and relationships with customers and consumers.

Engineering R&D: The insect management challenge

With chemical fumigants facing an uncertain future, a small group of scientists are investigating fresh approaches to insect management in stored grains.

People, Plant and Industry News

Del Monte Foods Co. appointed David J. West as its new chief executive officer, effective August 15, 2011. He will also join the company’s board of directors. West joins Del Monte from The Hershey Company where he is currently president and CEO.


Cargill completed the acquisition of the assets and business of Schwartauer Werke GmbH & Co. KG Kakao Verarbeitung Berlin, an integrated cocoa and chocolate company.


Sara Lee Corp. completed its acquisition of Aidells Sausage, a San Francisco-based premium meats business.


AdvancePierre Foods acquired Barber Foods, a Portland, ME-based company that manufactures and distributes stuffed chicken breasts and other chicken products.


The Coca-Cola Company announced that Beatriz Perez, currently chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America, will become the company's chief sustainability officer, effective July 1.


The Grocery Manufacturers Association appointed Sean Darragh as its executive vice president, global strategies, a newly created position within the association.


The Food Marketing Institute appointed Dr. Hilary S. Thesmar, PhD, RD, as its vice president of food safety programs. Thesmar previously served as senior director of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Turkey Federation.


LeAnn Chuboff was appointed senior technology director of the Safe Quality Food Institute, where she previously served as the director.


Cargill opened an advanced technology and innovation center in Campinas, state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The facility features multiple laboratories for various food and dairy categories.


Cheese Systems Inc., provider of cheese-making and dairy product equipment, and Saber Controls, a process controls engineering company, agreed to merge their businesses to offer turnkey solutions to the industry.


Sealed Air Corporation and Diversey Holdings, Inc. entered into a definitive agreement under which Sealed Air will acquire Diversey, a solutions provider to the global cleaning and sanitization market, in a transaction valued at $4.3 billion. The transaction is expected to be completed in 2011.


Ross Mixing Inc. completed a 12,000-sq.-ft. plant expansion, the facility’s fifth and largest renovation since opening in 1988. The 45,000-sq.-ft. plant will increase the workforce by 25 percent and is one of five US manufacturing locations of Charles Ross & Son Company.


Rockwell Automation, Inc. purchased Lektronix, an independent industrial automation repairs and service provider in Europe and Asia, headquartered in Cannock, UK.


Schneider Packaging Equipment Co., Inc. appointed Mick Gleason as its director of engineering.


The USDA has approved LISTEX as an antimicrobial processing aid to combat Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteriophage-based agent is produced by Micreos, formerly EBI Food Safety of the Netherlands.


bioMérieux signed an agreement to acquire AES Laboratoire, a French group, specialized in industrial microbiological control, for 183 million euros.