From lettuce to cookies, avocados to cheesecake, the last few years have seen a number of high-profile food recalls. According to the CDC, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick each year from foodborne illnesses. But the question of whether such outbreaks are getting worse is complicated, due to a combination of improved detection technology, a looser approach to regulation, and growing consolidation in the food industry, as Leah Douglas reports in FERN's latest story, published as part of Time magazine's special issue on the Science of Nutrition.(No paywall)
Following an outbreak of foodborne illness that sickened 40 people in 16 states, the FDA urged consumers to "not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California." Romaine from other regions is not implicated but if there is any doubt about the origin of lettuce, "throw it away or return it to the place of purchase," said the agency on Friday.
In a look back at last November’s recall of romaine lettuce, the FDA says that although “one farm cannot explain the entire outbreak,” it is now able to identify potential sources of E. coli contamination by using technology that can track foods from field to consumer.
Chicken is America'a favorite meat, with per capita consumption approaching 110 pounds per person this year, roughly twice as much as beef. Five CDC scientists who analyzed U.S. outbreaks of food-borne illness in recent years say chicken caused the largest number of illnesses when outbreaks were ranked by food category.
Bacteria containing a gene that confers resistance to a crucial class of antibiotics have been found in buildings on a pig farm in the midwestern United States, a troubling and mysterious discovery that should ring a warning bell over farm antibiotic use.
Federal health officials closed their investigation into foodborne illnesses linked to wheat flour milled by General Mills with a renewed warning to consumers to look for, and discard, packages of flour covered by the recall. "Consumers unaware of the recall could continue to use these recalled flour products and potentially get sick," said FDA.
The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will grant poultry processors more time to comply with the agency’s new salmonella and campylobacter standards, giving fowl farmers until July 1 to implement the stricter guidelines.
New federal standards are in effect to reduce illnesses caused by campylobacter and salmonella bacteria in ground chicken and turkey meat, said the USDA.
State health officials report at least 22 people became ill and eight were hospitalized by an outbreak of foodborne illness linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants in Oregon and Washington State, said the FDA. The majority of the cases were in Washington.
The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest re-filed a petition that calls for USDA to classify four strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella bacteria as a food adulterant.
The Agriculture Department proposed a regulation to allow import of pork and pork products from "a low-risk classical swine fever region in Mexico" and set a 60-day comment period on it. Swine fever, also called hog cholera, is a highly contagious viral disease among pig but does not cause foodborne illness among humans. It was eradicated in the United States in 1978, says a USDA fact sheet
"(F)ood and beverage companies have been a particularly hot target" for activists on social media, says Politico in a review of activities since the uproar over lean finely textured beef AKA pink slime. "Three of the top seven most popular petitions of all time on Change.org are about animal welfare in meat production, and more than two dozen food-related petitions have each earned tens of thousands of signatures, many of them hundreds of thousands."