Is USDA to blame for Salmonella outbreak?

CSPI says Salmonella recall points to USDA inaction

Cargill Value Added Meats Retail, a business unit of Wichita-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, announced an immediate Class I voluntary recall of approximately 36 million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products produced at the company’s Springdale, AR facility from February 20, 2011 through August 2, 2011, due to possible contamination from Salmonella Heidelberg. Cargill initiated this recall as a result of its internal investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information that became available on August 1, 2011 and an ongoing USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) investigation into multiple illnesses from Salmonella Heidelberg.

As of August 3, CDC had received reports of 78 cases from 26 states, including one death associated with this outbreak since March 1, 2011, according to Dr. Chris Braden, the director of the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at CDC.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), however, says this recall points to the inaction USDA has taken on listing Salmonella Heidelberg as an adulterant. “The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the US Department of Agriculture in May to declare this and three other strains that have caused outbreaks and recalls as ‘adulterants’ under the law,” says CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein. “This would trigger new testing for those strains and make it less likely that contaminated products reach consumers.”

According to Klein, USDA has a responsibility to move proactively to prevent outbreaks, rather than just responding to them once they occur. “Both a USDA declaration of adulteration and government and industry testing for Salmonella should be utilized to address this problem,” says Klein.

Cargill suspended production of ground turkey products at its Springdale, AR turkey processing facility until it is able to determine the source of the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak and take corrective actions. Other turkey products produced at Springdale are not part of the recall. Cargill owns four turkey processing facilities in the US, and no products from the other three are involved in the recall.

“While facts continue to be gathered, and currently there is no conclusive answer regarding the source of Salmonella Heidelberg contamination, given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the marketplace,” says Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s turkey processing business. “Additionally, we have suspended ground turkey production at our Arkansas facility until the source can be pinpointed and actions to address it are taken.”

What has made this outbreak more difficult is the hospitalization rate. “Among the patients for whom we have information, 22 or 38 percent have been hospitalized, which is higher than the hospitalization rate typically seen with Salmonella infections,” says Braden. “One possible reason is that the outbreak strain is resistant to several antibiotics, including ampicillin, tetracycline and streptomycin. I want to note that the samples do respond to several other common antibiotics that are used in clinical practice, such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone and trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole, otherwise known as bacterium.”

Klein holds the FDA partly to blame for these antibiotic-resistant outbreaks. “The Food and Drug Administration could help by stopping the use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals. That would reduce the growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in human medicine.”

For more information on affected products, visit Cargill’s website.

PACK EXPO 2011 bigger than 2009

With six weeks left before it opens, PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011 is outpacing the 2009 Las Vegas show in every category. More than 1,600 exhibitors will be on site, and exhibit space has grown to more than 600,000 square feet. The trade show, produced by PMMI, will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center Sept. 26-28, 2011. Special exhibit pavilions include The Brand Zone, The Processing Zone, The Pharmaceutical Pavilion and The Reusable Packaging Pavilion.

“We’re excited about the way PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011 is shaping up,” says PMMI President & CEO Charles D. Yuska. “The Las Vegas show has grown considerably over the past 15-plus years, and now it has more to offer than ever. This year, we’re presenting a number of special features, many of them brand new.”

PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011 features:

  • The opportunity to connect with more than 1,600 suppliers and 25,000 colleagues
  • Total systems solutions for precisely integrated production lines
  • Cutting-edge technologies that apply in all vertical markets
  • An enhanced conference program presented by key industry players
  • Dedicated industry pavilions for confectionery, processing, reusable packaging, and pharmaceutical, and an expanded Brand Zone with materials that shape winning brands
  • Market-specific lounges for networking and education on the show floor: The Candy Bar, The Baking/Snack Break and the Rx Lounge
  • The premiere of the PACK EXPO Leadership Lecture series, with Gen. Colin Powell, former US secretary of state, national security advisor and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on “Diplomacy: Persuasion, Trust & Values”
  • The future of retailing and packaging as envisioned by Clemson University
  • Material ConneXion’s display of the newest packaging materials available
  • The Showcase of Packaging Innovations-300 award-winning packages
  • The sixth annual PACK EXPO Selects Competition.
To register for PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011, visit Admission is $30 until September 7, when it increases to $60; conference sessions are $99 and increase to $125 after September 7.

How dairy learned to love third-party auditing

Self-certification to the sanitary design standards of dairy processors’ 3-A program worked well enough for half a century. Once a new millennium began, however, fissures became evident, and the 3A symbol’s relevance was in doubt. To maintain credibility, 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc. (SSI) was created, and an expert in third-party inspection and standards development was recruited to bolster the symbol’s credibility.

As SSI’s executive director, Timothy Rugh developed the certified conformance evaluator (CCE) program that underpins 3-A’s program. Only 16 professionals, including two outside the US, have earned CCE credentials, and they must participate in annual training workshops and periodic teleconferences to maintain their status. They also must decline assignments involving equipment and systems outside their area of expertise, and “we will investigate any incidence” in which a conflict of interest might exist between the CCE and the equipment being validated, says Rugh.

When Rugh began the reclamation project in 2002, “I thought the equipment fabricators would be the tough sell,” he recalls. Instead, those suppliers were supportive. “They wanted to do the right thing,” but they suspected some fabricators were deliberately lax in their self-certifications. Rigorous audits by certified inspectors restored credibility and raised the level of trust in 3-A among end-users, says Rugh.

“With the Food Safety Modernization Act, the kind of third-party verification we do is going to become more common,” he predicts. “Our program isn’t perfect, but it absolutely did return the 3-A symbol to the integrity it had.”

For more information, contact Timothy Rugh, 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc., 703-790-0295,

FDA, federal partners develop tools for food-emergency readiness

The US Food and Drug Administration and federal partners released the Food Related Emergency Exercise Boxed (FREE-B) set, a Web-based collection of scenarios that will help government regulators, public health organizations and the food industry test their readiness for food-related emergencies, such as a human health emergency caused by an unintentional contamination of produce with E. coli O157:H7.

FREE-B is a compilation of five scenarios designed to help test and develop food emergency response plans, protocols and procedures. It will help food and agriculture stakeholders and emergency-preparedness planners collaborate better with each other, neighboring jurisdictions, the food industry and federal agencies during food emergencies.

The FDA worked with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop FREE-B.

FREE-B is consistent with the Food Safety Modernization Act’s call for coordination among federal food safety agencies and the development of resources to help local and state agencies involved in helping to ensure the safety of our nation’s food supply.

Through participation in any of the scenarios, stakeholders will:

  • Cultivate professional skills by learning how to work with dynamic, ad-hoc teams facing critical food emergency incidents that threaten the safety of the public
  • Assess readiness to effectively address a food contamination incident
  • Define roles and interactions with partners
  • Understand the purpose and objectives of federal, state, local and industry organizations and how each provides resources to address different aspects of food contamination scenarios
  • Take appropriate, timely and effective steps to remediate emergency situations that are caused by intentional or unintentional acts

FREE-B takes a “whole-community” approach to preparedness. The term “whole-community” refers to the need for cross-discipline preparedness training for large-scale incidents through regular exercise and training, evaluation and plan revision.

For more information, visit FREE-B or Food Defense and Emergency Response.

Kids, junk food and media-the debate continues

We’ve created a perfect storm for childhood obesity-media, advertising and inactivity, says a pediatrician. In fact, American society couldn’t do a worse job at the moment of keeping children fit and healthy, he states. Food makers disagree.


Third-party audits: Adopting an open door policy

Bigger welcome mats are being laid out for third-party auditors as the food industry reconciles itself to customer and public demands for greater transparency.

Options abound in high-speed door technology

Processors have special needs when it comes to staff and materials entering and leaving, as well as separating critical operations and zones in the plant.

Tech Update: Filling equipment

Faster fill times are nice, but a host of other considerations also are part of manufacturers’ value calculations. Those needs are evident in the systems being developed.

Accurate test sieve calls for quality screen

As processor/packager verifies incoming powder products have the right granularity, it relies on air-jet test sieve to deliver results.

People, Plant and Industry News

United Natural Foods, Inc. signed a three-year distribution agreement with Safeway Inc.


TÜV SÜD America Inc. appointed John Petie to the position of food safety program manager in its management services division.


The Food Marketing Institute named Terry Levee as its director of food safety programs.


Toyota Industrial Equipment Mfg., Inc. (TIEM), appointed Tom DePalma as its vice president of quality assurance, as well as vice president of quality assurance for Toyota Material Handling North America. Tim Barker was named vice president of corporate services for TIEM and vice president of corporate services for Toyota Industries North America, Inc.


Reily Foods Company received the British Retail Consortium Global Food Safety Initiative Certification across its manufacturing facilities.


Sidel inaugurated its new Beijing Technical Training Center within the Sidel Beijing plant.


Invensys Operations Management was named Microsoft Global Enterprise Partner of the Year in the Alliance ISV Industry category.


Engage Technologies Corporation announced the acquisition of Eastey Enterprises, Inc., a manufacturer of shrink packaging and heat sealing equipment.


Edward F. Lange, Jr. joined Americold as its chief financial officer and member of the board of directors. He succeeds Ron Hutchinson, who has assumed the role of chief integration officer.


Pentair Technical Products, Hoffman announced a new warehouse and distribution center in Reynosa, Mexico.


Huntsman Gay Global Capital completed the acquisition of MaMa Rosa’s Pizza, LLC, a producer of refrigerated pizzas.


Smart Balance, Inc. acquired 100 percent of the equity interest of Importations DE-RO-MA, which owns Glutino Food Group, from Claridge, a Montréal-based investment firm.


The industrial automation group of Advantech and Industrial Video and Control announced their partnership to provide state-of-the-art video surveillance solutions.


Air Liquide UK has completed a significant investment of more than €3 million in the redevelopment of its filling and production. The newly developed site will deliver increased capacity to the UK and Irish markets.
Covance entered into a definitive agreement to acquire TRAC Microbiology, Inc., a Madison, Wisconsin-based food microbiology and chemistry laboratory.