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Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain

Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain
Like Other Countries Do

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Mad Cow Case Reported in Poland

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Sat 28 Mar 2009
Source: Pandemic Information News [edited]

Czech state veterinarians said on Friday [27 Mar 2009] they had found
a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a 6-year-old
cow on a farm near the northern border with Poland.

Also known as mad cow disease, BSE first emerged in Britain in the
1980s and has been found in herds in several European and other

[Posted by Treyfish]

Communicated by:
ProMED-mail Rapporteur Susan Baekeland

[Checking OIE WAHID (World Animal Health Information Database), the
Czech Republic reported 8 cases without clinical signs in 2005, 3
cases in 2006, 2 cases in 2007, none in 2008.

This 6-year-old cow was probably infected via contaminated calf feed
in 2002-2003. According to OIE's HandiSTATUS the reported incidence in
the Czech Republic from 1996 to 2000 was 0, 2 cases in 2001, 2 in
2002, 4 in 2003, and 7
in 2004. So unless they were importing contaminated meat and bone
meals in 2002-3, there were unrecognised cases being recycled at the
beginning of the decade in the Czech Republic. Readers are encouraged
to check the moderator's insightful and very informative comments in
ProMED archive 20021006.5480. - Mod.MHJ]

[The HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of the Czech Republic is
available at
. - CopyEd.MJ]

[see also:
BSE, fourth case - Czech Republic: suspected 20021006.5480
BSE - Czech Republic (02) 20010903.2106
BSE - Czech Republic: OIE confirmed 20010616.1160
BSE - Czech Republic 20010609.1127]

S.C. Co. recalls Beef, Chicken, Goat, and Lamb

Beef, Chicken, Goat, and Lamb Products Recalled

Halal International Processing, a York, S.C., establishment, is recalling approximately 2,925 pounds of beef, chicken, goat, and lamb products that were mislabeled. Poultry products labeled with the USDA mark of inspection for meat were identified in commerce.

Additionally, it was determined that the establishment was operating at times without the opportunity of federal inspection, which is prohibited, the U.S., Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

All frozen meat and poultry products produced from April 3, 2008, through March 7, 2009, bearing the establishment number "EST. 19825" inside the USDA mark of inspection, are subject to recall.

MARCH-30-09: South Carolina Firm Recalls Frozen Meat and Poultry Products [USDA: SOUTH CAROLINA FIRM RECALS FROZEN MEAT]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

USDA Misappropriates Over a Billion of Your Taxpayer Dollars!

Click title above to see (and hopefully sign) the petition to get our money back;



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brain disease cases investigated in Roane County, TN

By Bob Fowler (Contact)
Originally published 06:36 p.m., March 23, 2009
Updated 06:36 p.m., March 23, 2009

The Department of Health is investigating a confirmed case in Roane County of an always fatal, very rare brain disease and a second suspected case.

Only four cases of the baffling Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or CJD were recorded in Tennessee last year.

Relatives of the recent victims say the odds of two cases within the same county diagnosed at about the same time are astronomical.

They are questioning whether their loved ones died of a variant of CJD linked to eating cattle infected with “mad cow disease.”

But Health Department officials in a news release Monday state that no one in the U.S. has ever contracted the variant of CJD.

And Dr. Jiri Safar, an expert in the disease, called the chances of the deaths being linked to mad cow disease “extremely remote or nil.”

Kingston resident Mary Lee McGill, 69, died of classic CJD on Feb. 4.

A Rockwood man, Brad Smith, 54, died March 18, also of suspected CJD.

It takes extensive autopsies and weeks of tests to obtain final diagnoses, according to the Health Department.

“The best we can determine, Brad and my mom started getting sick around August,” said McGill’s daughter, Teresa Melton.

“As rare as it is, it just seems too much of a coincidence,” said Smith’s widow, Carol Smith, who said she is a registered nurse.

“I’m very concerned there’s some bad meat around here somewhere,” Melton said.

CJD is a degenerative disease that strikes the nervous system.

Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker said the classic form of the ailment occurs sporadically and is not contagious.

Walker said there is also an inherited form of the disease, but it only affects a small percentage of patients.

There are about six to eight cases a year of CJD in Tennessee, according to the state Department of Health.

Classic CJD develops randomly, said Safar, associate director of the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center.

The disease largely remains a mystery, he said. “We don’t understand exactly how it’s triggered in patients,” he said.

Almost all those cases who contracted the variant of CJD linked to mad cow disease involved people from 13 to 40 years of age who lived for a significant amount of time in Europe or the United Kingdom, Safar said.

The outbreak of mad cow disease was far more widespread overseas than in the U.S. or Canada, Safar said.

Still, all it would have taken was one sickened cow to slip through inspection in the U.S., Carol Smith said.

“They’re trying to prevent people from panicking, which is what we want to avoid,” she said. “Still, a possibility exists, however rare it might be.”

More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.

Deer harvesting may cause mad cow disease

Last updated on 03/23/2009 at 7:00 p.m.

Freshman undecided major Danielle Benoy first heard about deer harvesting after her family received a letter about Chronic Wasting Disease at their home in Belvidere.

“At first, I was shocked and didn’t quite believe it,” Benoy said. “I thought maybe it was a joke. I had never heard of deer harvesting before.”

The letter was not a joke. Like Belvidere, DeKalb’s deer are hunted from late fall to winter each year in order to regulate population and reduce the amount of deer infected with CWD, said Stacey Solano, Illinois Department of Natural Resources communication manager.

Paul Shelton, DNR forest and wildlife program manager, said CWD is part of a group of diseases that includes mad cow disease.

“CWD is a contagious, neurological disease that has been found in the deer family,” Shelton said. “It is caused by infected prions, proteins that [humans] and other animals have in their bodies.”

The disease progresses very slowly and causes brain cells to die over time. Although it may take a couple years for the disease to reach its full potential, an infected deer cannot recover.
“There’s no cure,” Shelton said. “No treatment. Once a deer gets it, it is fatal. It’s kind of a sure, slow, certain death.”

Shelton added that deer with the disease have symptoms including a loss of fear of humans, a malnourished appearance and a lack of control over bodily functions.

According to the DNR’s official Web site, hunters are allowed to harvest deer during the CWD season with handguns, shotguns and muzzleloaders.

Andrew Page, senior director of the Wildlife Abuse Campaign with the Humane Society of the United States, said hunting is the problem not the solution.

“The spread of this disease is fueled by game hunting,” Page said.

Page said the best way to get rid of this disease is to outlaw captive hunting ranches. He said the high concentration of animals in these farms has fueled the spread of CWD. Animals inside and outside the fence of these farms can have nose to nose contact and spread the disease from inside the ranch to the wild.

Research as to whether humans are able to contract the disease is inconclusive at this time.
“At this point in time, we can’t say definitively that humans can get [CWD],” Shelton said.

As for now, Solano said the DNR is working its hardest to keep CWD cases to a minimum.
“It’s something we have our eye on and try to control it as best as we can,” Solano said.

Northern Star City Editor Kevin Kovanich contributed to this article.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Russia Suspends US Chicken Imports

Russia suspends shipments from 3 US poultry plants
Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:59pm EDT

CHICAGO, March 20, (Reuters) - Russia will suspend imports from three U.S. poultry plants beginning March 27, one of which is owned by Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), the largest U.S. chicken producer, USDA said this week.

No reason was given in USDA report for the suspensions and Tyson said on Friday it was looking into the action against its Cumming, Georgia, chicken plant.

The two other plants include Sanderson Farm Inc's (SAFM.O) chicken plant at Hammond, Louisiana, and the Peco Foods Inc poultry plant at Canton, Mississippi.

"We are trying to find out why the Russians want to stop shipments from Cumming plant, which is operating smoothly and continues to produce safe, high quality products," Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an email. "Since we have other U.S. poultry plants that are approved to ship to Russia, the suspension of the Cumming facility should not affect our overall international sales."

Russia is the largest importer of U.S. chicken.

Bovine TB Epidemic / UK

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Thu 19 Mar 2009
Source: Farmers Guardian [edited]

New bovine TB figures show disease is 'out of control'
The number of cattle slaughtered because of bovine TB shot up by 42
percent in 2008, new figures published by The Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) show. A total of 39 247
cattle were culled in Great Britain in 2008, compared with 27 570 in
2007, the provisional figures show. The number of cattle herds
affected by the disease shot up by 19 percent.

The figures were published just ahead of an announcement by DEFRA
Secretary Hilary Benn that a bTB vaccine will be deployed 'in the
field' for the 1st time next year [2010]. However, opposition MPs and
farm leaders branded the announcement 'too little, too late' in the
face of the rapid spread of the disease.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said the figures showed bTB was
'a disease out of control' and that the Government was 'clueless
about how to tackle it.'

"Bovine TB is spreading from county to county at enormous cost to
both farmers and taxpayers who are ultimately footing the bill.
Hilary Benn's desire to wait for a vaccine which is 5 years away is
irresponsible. By then every county could be infected and the number
of cattle slaughtered could easily exceed 50 000 a year," Mr. Paice
said. "Dairy farmers in many parts of the country live in constant
fear that their herds will be the next to test positive. Bloodlines
dating back generations and dairy farms in families for decades are
simply being wiped out."

NFU [National Farmers' Union] TB spokesman Jan Rowe said: "The
figures shows that dealing with this disease in cattle alone patently
isn't working, but to rely on vaccines to solve the problem is simply
stupid. They are not guaranteed to be effective at all and it will be
towards 2020, anyway, before we see any real benefits in terms of
disease control."

In an interview with Farmers Guardian, Mr. Benn said the increase in
bTB incidence was "a matter of great concern to all of us. We can see
the spread but in the end, you have to do things that are effective.
We should leave no stone unturned in terms of the controls we have
got, which is why we are putting so much effort into vaccination."

He stressed that cattle controls were also 'very important' and said
he had asked the TB Eradication Group to advise him on 'whether they
should be tightened.'

On the question of a badger cull, he said: "We culled 11 000 badgers
over 10 years but the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) gave its
advice on the benefits of culling, which I accepted."

The chief veterinary officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: "I
have consistently said that the bovine TB situation is unsustainable.
The cost of bovine TB -- to the farmer both emotionally and
financially, and to the taxpayer -- is unacceptable. The Welsh
Assembly Government is pursuing vigorously a comprehensive BP 27.7
million [USD 40 million] TB Eradication Programme. We are tackling
the disease on all fronts, including a review of the TB compensation
system, testing the entire Welsh herd, stepping up biosecurity, and
addressing any link between the disease in cattle and in wildlife."

[Byline: Alistair Driver]

Communicated by:

[see also:
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK: (Wales) 20090107.0066
Bovine tuberculosis, feline - UK (02) 20081126.3722
Bovine tuberculosis - UK: increased incidence 20081123.3696
Bovine tuberculosis, domestic animals - UK (03): 2005-2006 20081114.3594
Bovine tuberculosis, domestic animals - UK (02) 20081112.3565
Bovine tuberculosis, domestic animals - UK 20081111.3551
Bovine tuberculosis, feline - UK 20081005.3141
Bovine tuberculosis, human, canine - UK: (England) (02) 20080927.3054
Tuberculosis, bovine - Netherlands ex UK: EU consultation 20080909.2813
Bovine tuberculosis, human, canine - UK: (England) 20080903.2751
Bovine tuberculosis, caprine - UK: (Wales) 20080723.2229
Bovine tuberculosis - UK, Ireland, Netherlands ex UK 20080718.2186
Bovine tuberculosis - UK, Ireland 20070731.2473
Bovine tuberculosis, human - UK (England) (02) 20061015.2967
Bovine tuberculosis, human - UK (England) 20061009.2896
Tuberculosis, bovine, badgers - UK (03) 20061014.2945
Tuberculosis, bovine, badgers - UK (02) 20061011.2915
Tuberculosis, bovine, badgers - UK 20061005.2857
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK: badger vaccine trial 20060622.1724
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK (England) 20051209.3549
Bovine tuberculosis, human - UK (Gloucestershire) (02) 20040716.1930
Bovine tuberculosis, human - UK (Gloucestershire) 20040714.1890
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK (England): wildlife 20040717.1941
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK (England) 20040216.0513
Tuberculosis, bovine, badgers - UK 20031105.2745
Tuberculosis, bovine - UK (Scotland) 20031021.2647]

Prion diseases cause iron imbalance

A U.S. study suggests an imbalance of iron homeostasis is a common feature of prion disease-affected human, mouse and hamster brains.

Dr. Neena Singh and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Creighton University said their findings provide insight into the mechanism of neurotoxicity in prion disorders and might lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies.

Unlike other neurodegenerative conditions, prion disorders are sporadic, inherited and infectious, affecting both humans and animals, the scientists said, citing as examples mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The causative agent of all the maladies is a misfolded protein referred to as PrP-scrapie that replicates itself by changing the conformation of neighboring copies of the same protein, namely the prion protein.

The new research suggests accumulations of PrP-scrapie alter the metabolism of iron in diseased brains. The imbalance of brain iron homeostasis worsens with disease progression and isn't an outcome of end-stage disease. And, the researchers added, since iron is highly toxic when mismanaged, the condition is likely to contribute significantly to prion-disease-associated neurotoxicity.

Singh and her team said they were surprised to find prion disease-affected brains are iron deficient despite a significant increase in their overall iron content.

The findings are reported in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Two Local Cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (Human Mad Cow) Disease

Two cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (Mad Cow?) in Roane
Submitted by eatmorechicken on March 17, 2009 - 7:21pm.

I wonder if many people in our county caught this article on regarding one confirmed case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease CJD (sometimes known as mad cow disease) in our community. The families effected by this monstrous disease are obviously being ignored since this is the only article that has appeared in our news media and they responded to this article explaining how inaccurate their count was. Wonder how such a rare disease has sporadically invaded two of our citizens without the health department knowing? How many more have been missed or not reported because it is so rare our doctors don't look for it as a possibility. All the research indicates there is a one in a million chance you get this disease, yet we have two or maybe more cases effecting our community now. Neither case has been diagnosed as the "classic" case which the article suggests is the case here. You can feel the pain and suffering when you read the comments. My thoughts and prayers are with these families.

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Holy Bleep!!!!

Submitted by WhitesCreek on March 17, 2009 - 7:36pm.

This is of extreme concern to me. I'm stunned, frankly. It appears that there are far more cases of this than just two.

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Add my prayers too

Submitted by RICK on March 17, 2009 - 7:45pm.

This is disturbing news to me. It should be to anyone who reads it. How could the health department not know this? Or could it be that they are tring to just keep it quiet while they "try" to deal with it. I am glad for this site. It makes people so much more aware of critical issues in our community. Thanks for the post. I hope those with more information will share it with us.

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Info on CJD

Submitted by WhitesCreek on March 18, 2009 - 7:53am.


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Submitted by RoaneBooster on March 18, 2009 - 8:54am.

... does the info come from saying MORE than the number specified by the Health Dept have the disease? And where does the information come from saying the Health Department doesn't know about the cases?


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Response to Where...

Submitted by eatmorechicken on March 18, 2009 - 5:50pm.

The info comes from the families of the victims RB. The ones who have lost their loved ones to CJD. The ones who are calling and talking to agencies who are suppose to advise and protect us. They call hoping someone will recognize what is happening to their families and their community. Sadly today, the Rockwood man lost his battle with this disease. I hope and pray there are no other cases reported, but if their are people in our community suffering and don't know what it wrong with them, they deserve information.

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More Info

Submitted by melton on March 18, 2009 - 4:24pm.

My grandmother passed away from this disease on February 4th. She only lived 10 days after she was diagnosed. We received the initial autopsy results last Friday. She was infected by eating tainted meat. She lives in Kingston, TN (Roane County). We have notified the CDC and they are investigating.

Since then we learned of a man in Rockwood, TN (Roane County) that is dying of this same disease right now, a woman in Parkwest from Roane County that is dying of it right now, and a woman passed away at Roane Medical Center (also a Roane County resident)of it right before Christmas.

This disease is VERY uncommon and we are trying to find the link between all parties. I will keep everyone informed of our progress. The CDC did notify the Health Department, but for some reason they aren't telling the truth about the whole situation.

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How are they lying?

Submitted by RoaneBooster on March 18, 2009 - 4:58pm.

What are they doing that is spreading falsehood?


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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Case Finally Closed on "Downers" Loophole

HSUS: March 14, 2009

It’s been a long fight, and today, we closed another chapter on it. Since the mid-1990s, The HSUS has been working hard to stop as a matter of public policy the abuse of downer cattle—animals too sick or injured to walk. And today, President Obama himself announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was officially putting a stop to non-ambulatory cattle being mishandled in order to get them into slaughter plants. He made the announcement along with two top selections for the Food and Drug Administration and a series of other statements about food safety.

We’ve had two major crises that validated The HSUS’s long-standing admonition that the federal government and the cattle industry were reckless and inhumane in allowing sick and crippled cows into the food supply. In December 2003, a downer cow tested positive for mad cow disease in Washington state, and a national and international furor ensued. More than 50 nations in short order closed their markets to U.S. beef, and the federal government tried in vain to recall meat that was linked to the animal with the fatal neurological disease, which is transmissible to people. A recent government report said the economic fall-out of that single finding of a BSE-positive downer cow was $11 billion. So it was not a trifling matter by any means, as a food safety or economic issue.

In the wake of that incident, former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman—President’s Bush first Agriculture Secretary—announced an immediate ban on the slaughter of downer cattle, in order to quell the concern of consumers and trading partners. But USDA, under her successor Mike Johanns, quietly weakened the rule very soon after it was promulgated, allowing some downer cattle to be slaughtered, if they were ambulatory on first inspection and then went down later. That weakened downer policy was made final in mid-2007, though it had been in effect for several years since Veneman announced the no-downer policy. In short, if cattle went down after passing first inspection by USDA personnel, then they could be approved for slaughter on down the line.

Our investigation thrust a global spotlight on abuse of downed cows.

This tremendously damaging loophole provided cover to unscrupulous slaughter plants to keep downer cattle moving into the food system and giving them an incentive to accept downers at slaughter plants in the first place.

And that’s the precise attitude that triggered the second crisis. The HSUS sent one of its investigators into a medium-sized slaughter plant in Chino, Calif., which specialized in the killing of spent dairy cows. At this cull plant, as it was known, our investigator found downer cows—at all stages of the handling and pre-slaughter process—being tormented to get them to stand and then walk toward the kill box. Plant workers—two of them later convicted of animal cruelty charges—were seen on video ramming downer cows with forklifts, applying electric “hot shots” in sensitive body parts like the eyes or genitals, and even using high-pressure water hoses in their mouths, all in order to cause the animals so much distress that they would try to stand and get away from their tormentors. They would torture the cows before the USDA inspectors arrived, in order to show them that the cows were standing. (Click on title above to see vid)

Like the 2003 BSE case, these findings whipped up a storm of protest and angst. The $110 million-a-year plant voluntarily shut down operations, and then USDA officially closed the plant's doors. School lunch programs, which got tens of millions of pounds of meat from this cull slaughter plant (it was the second largest supplier to the National School Lunch Program), then started pulling the meat from their shelves in 47 states, and parents across the nation panicked. USDA then initiated the largest meat recall in American history—143 million pounds—and retailers starting pulling meat from the shelves, too. The first of eight Congressional hearings were launched. And there were international effects. There were riots in the streets of South Korea—which is, with Japan, among the two largest American beef importers—with tens of thousands of people protesting the resumption of imports of American beef. They took to the streets after seeing the Chino footage, and riot police were unable to quell the dissent.

Former Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, who succeeded Johanns and took office the day before we released the Chino footage, initially handled the situation in a decisive way by launching an investigation and urging the recall. But he hedged on making a decision to ban all downer cattle in the food supply. Then, more than three months after the Chino facts came to light—and after several meat industry groups announced they’d support a no-downer policy—he announced USDA would take action. But we waited and waited for final action, with the rule being held up in the bureaucracy of the USDA and perhaps also at the White House's Office of Management and Budget. The Bush team left Washington eight months after Schafer announced a change in policy would be forthcoming, and the rule was still not instituted.

The Obama team, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, did not dither. With Obama’s radio address today, they’ve announced the implementation of a no-downer policy within the first 50 days of taking office. I say it’s about darn time that the federal government took action. No sensible policy like this should have ever taken this long to enact—more than 15 years. And there is a long line of lawmakers and other federal officials and industry actors who share the blame in allowing this economically disastrous policy to have persisted. It was bad for animals, but it was also terrible for industry. It was a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy, and the Hallmark investigation probably cost the industry billions of dollars as well.

But today, we celebrate the news. And we hope it is a harbinger of a far more serious attitude toward food safety and animal welfare from the new Administration. I am personally looking forward to working with Secretary Vilsack—a man of great integrity—on a wide range of issues. And I express my gratitude to him and his team today for his decisive action.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Will consumers have a beef with test-tube meat?

Scientists can grow frog and mouse meat in the lab, and are now working on pork, beef and chicken. Their goal is to develop an industrial version of the process in five years.
If they succeed, cultured or in vitro meat could be coming to a supermarket near you. Consumers could buy hamburger patties and chicken nuggets made from meat cultivated from muscle cells in a giant incubator rather than cut from a farm animal.

Home chefs could make meat in a countertop device the size of a coffee maker. Before bed, throw starter cells and a package of growth medium into the meat maker and wake up to harvest fresh sausage for breakfast.

You could feel good about eating a healthy breakfast; the meat would have the fat profile of salmon, not pork. One day, the truly adventurous may be able to grow ostrich, wild boar, or other game.

First, however, meat researchers in the United States and the Netherlands must find a way to replicate on an industrial scale a process that works in a petri dish. The price will have to be right. It is hard to imagine consumers paying more for an in vitro burger than they pay for a regular one.

They will also have to overcome the "ick" reaction. Many find the idea of cultured meat unappealing or downright disgusting. How would it taste?

"I don't find it hard to believe that in vitro meat can be produced that tastes like hamburger or chicken nuggets," said Jason Matheny, one of the founders of Vive Research, a U.S. form working on growing meat for the global market. Most of the flavour in burgers and nuggets now sold in grocery stores or restaurants comes from seasoning or filler, he said.

Researchers have succeeded in growing bits of meat, the type that could be used in burgers or spaghetti sauce.

Growing a test-tube steak or pork roast will be more challenging, said Henk Haagsman, professor of meat sciences at the University of Utrecht. He is part of a team of Dutch researchers who are leading the world in the meat-making field.

He and his colleagues grew mouse meat in their lab because the stem cells they could turn into muscle fibres were easily available. Now they are working on pork.

Australian researchers have grown muscle tissue from a frog, which they served with Calvados sauce at an exhibition in France in 2003. The frog steaks, they said, tasted like jelly on fabric.

In 2001, U.S. researchers, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, grew muscle tissue from a goldfish -- a kind of carp -- as part of an experiment on whether it is possible to grow fish for astronauts on long space journeys. Morris Benjaminson and his colleagues at Touro College in New York bathed pieces of goldfish muscle in fetal bovine serum -- which contains growth factors that spur muscle growth.

The fish muscle grew nearly 14 per cent over a few weeks. It smelled normal, the researchers reported. But they didn't taste it.

NASA, however, has decided against space burgers -- fish or beef -- for astronauts on long missions.

This has cut off an important funding source for U.S. researchers interested in cultured meat, said Vladimir Mironov, a tissue engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina.

He said mass production of cultivated meat will be difficult, and expensive, at the least in the short term. But smaller, countertop bioreactors, or incubators, could more easily mimic the meat-making experiments scientists have done in petri dishes.

"It would look like a coffee maker -- this is my dream," he said wistfully. "No one wants to fund it."

One group, which he would not name, did offer him money, but they wanted him to grow meat from human cells, so they could grow pieces of themselves to eat.

"I don't want to participate in high-tech human cannibalism," he said he told them.

Theoretically, he said, it would be possible. Researchers have harvested human myoblasts, cells that can grow into muscle fibre.

Even without the stomach-turning notion of a human burger, cultured meat is not an appetizing idea for many people.

"There is no demand," said Mr. Mironov, who came to the United States from Russia. During the Cold War, he said, Soviet scientists developed bacteria that could produce protein. But no one wanted to eat the final product, because it smelled revolting.

Cultured meat burgers will probably taste and smell no different from conventional products, Mr. Mironov said. Eventually, he said, the world will need it.

"I believe it is inescapable."

A public educated about the benefits of in vitro meat might come around to the idea, said Mr. Matheny, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland.

Last year, he and other researchers published a paper on how to grow affordable meat for the modern dinner table.

The health and environmental benefits could be significant, they reported.

Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are associated with the overconsumption of animal fats. Cultivated meats could be engineered to be healthier.

"Using this technology, you could grow ground beef or pork or chicken that had the fat profile of salmon. That would have an enormous public health impact."

Cultured meat could also reduce the risk of diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalitis -- or mad cow disease -- and avian flu.

Growing meat in an incubator would cut down on the cropland, water, fertilizer, pesticides and energy now required to produce animals for slaughter. It would also reduce the millions of tonnes of manure and other waste produced every year in North America.

Demand for meat is growing in the developing countries, and alternative animal farming might help meet that need, Mr. Matheny said.

He and his fellow researchers established a non-profit, New Harvest, as a clearinghouse for information on cultivated meat. Last month, they set up Vive Research, which Mr. Matheny said is backed by angel investors. It involves numerous skeletal muscle tissue engineers in the United States, who plan to collaborate with the Dutch scientists. They want to develop a technology to produce ground meat in vitro in five years.

Most attempts to grow meat require cells cultured from an animal. They can be stem cells, originally taken from an embryo, which can develop into any kind of cell -- skin, bone or muscle fibre, for example. The trick is coaxing them into muscle fibre with special growth factors.

Cells known as myoblasts, which are on their way to becoming muscle fibre, are also being used.

The Dutch researchers have embarked on a five-year state-funded project to cost-effectively produce pig meat.

They face challenges. The first is to isolate the best starter cells for meat production.

They also need to develop a culture medium that doesn't require fetal bovine serum, a blood product extracted from embryonic calves that has a seemingly magical power to make muscle cells grow.

Calf serum is expensive, costing $10,000 (U.S.) per kilogram of cultured meat, according to one estimate. Using it doesn't make sense, Dr. Haagsman said.

"It is ridiculous to make meat using meat products," he said. The whole idea is to reduce the resources that now go into producing the 240 billion kilograms of meat humans around the world eat every year.

The scientists, from three universities in the Netherlands, are also figuring out the best way to exercise muscle fibres to get them to grow. Electrical stimulation works, but so does stretching, then shrinking the fibres.

Taste is another issue. Scientists don't know whether lamb meat tastes like lamb meat because of characteristics of its muscle cells. Perhaps the flavour comes from the grass an animal grazes on, or the food it is given to eat.

They should know in five years whether growing meat on an industrial scale can be done, Dr. Haagsman said. He said he believes consumers are open-minded enough to try cultured meat.

Modern farm factories, he said, have essentially turned animals into meat-producing machines. And avian influenza and other diseases may drive consumers away from conventional sources.

He is hopeful that vegetarians, or partial vegetarians, would give cultivated meat a try.

Charles Miller, part-owner of the Green Door Vegetarian Restaurant in Ottawa, said he wouldn't try a bite.

"It is still an animal product," he said. "I wouldn't touch it. I wouldn't eat it.''

Churchill predicted it

An idea whose time has finally come? In 1932, Winston Churchill predicted that in five decades, people would be eating cultured meat.

"Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."

Researchers say he might have been inspired by Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel, who put a hunk of heart muscle cut from a chicken embryo in a bowl of nutrients and kept it alive for more than 30 years.

In the past few years, scientists have grown more than meat in their labs. In 2002, researchers in Japan reported they had grown tadpole eyeballs from scratch. In 2003, scientists in the United States announced that they had successfully grown a rabbit penis in the lab.

Anne McIlroy

How to make your own meat

Vladimir Mironov, a tissue engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina, wants to build a device the size of a coffee maker that would allow people to grow meat in their kitchens.

Here is how it might work.

1. Myoblasts, immature cells that develop into muscle fibre, would be harvested from a pig, cow, chicken or turkey and cultured.

2. Cooks could buy these starter cells, and add them to a growth medium, which would contain water, sugar, salt vitamins, amino acids and growth factors that would stimulate them to reproduce. (Scientists now use fetal bovine serum, but say they would have to come up with a product that was more affordable).

3. The mixture would be put into a counter top incubator, where it would be warmed to encourage growth.

4. The cells would develop into muscle fibre.

5. Hours later, small pieces of meat could be harvested, washed and cooked, either in a patty or a sauce.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Meat eaters face ban on 'clean' transfusions amid new CJD fears

In the UK;

By Beezy Marsh and Jo Macfarlane
Last updated at 10:00 PM on 07th March 2009

Patients who eat meat could be banned from receiving the safest blood supplies to halt the spread of the human form of mad cow disease.

Only vegetarians and children under the age of 16 who need transfusions would get imported blood, which is thought to be free of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), under proposals by Government advisers.

The suggestion by the Government's advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (Sabto) comes amid growing concern that contaminated blood from UK donors could lead to a second wave of infection.

Minutes of Sabto meetings held last year reveal experts are considering limiting the 'risk reduction option' to those least likely to have been exposed to BSE in the Nineties, if the measures 'could not be applied to all recipients on grounds of feasibility or cost-effectiveness'.

The blood would be sourced from countries where there has not been an outbreak to reduce the risk of supplies being infected.

However, there is no guarantee that imported blood is free of vCJD because there is no screening test.

The proposals have angered campaigners, who say everyone should be guaranteed safe blood.

Gill Turner, national co-ordinator of the CJD Support Network, said: 'I have concerns about the segmentation of clean blood.

'There's never any proof that someone is completely free from exposure to vCJD. People should not be discriminated against.'

Of the 2.5million transfusions in British hospitals every year, up to 438 may expose patients to the disease, according to official Government estimates.

Four people have died after being infected in this way.

Key advisory committees on vCJD suggest thousands more patients may be 'carrying' the fatal condition without developing symptoms, which means if they donate blood they are putting other patients at risk.

Plasma, the liquid in blood that helps it to clot, has been sourced from the US since 1998 because of fears it could transmit the disease. Blood tests to screen for vCJD in donations are said to be about a year away.

Retired nurse Judy Kenny, 61, whose husband Deryck was the first person to die in the UK after contracting vCJD from contaminated blood, said: 'I cannot understand why they ever thought blood was safe.

'The key thing should be protecting the whole blood supply. Knowing what I know, if I need an operation I'll donate my own blood.'

The NHS Blood and Transplant authority is carrying out a feasibility study that will report back next month.

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Every reasonable step has been taken to minimise any risks during blood transfusion.'

Click on title above for full article;

Saturday, March 7, 2009

FDA rule poses problem for handling dead Mo. cows

FDA rule poses problem for handling dead Mo. cows
By CHRIS BLANK Associated Press Writer
The trucks blocking the driveway to the Halfway Packing Co. describe the firm's operations with the slogan: "Our business is dead."

Never has that been more true.

The company that collected cattle and horse corpses for disposal now is dead itself, the victim of a new federal regulation on cattle renderers that is designed to prevent mad-cow disease.

The federal regulation, which takes effect in April, has led to uncertainty in the cattle industry about how to dispose of dead animals. Consequently, the Halfway Packing Co. has shut down, leaving ranchers in one of the nation's largest beef cattle states without any company willing to travel from farm to farm picking up dead livestock.

"It's a hardship, and from a potential disease and public health standpoint, it's a critical issue," said Jeff Windett, executive vice president for the Missouri Cattlemen's Association. "If dead animals are not disposed of properly, they could present a health problem and a disease problem."

There are four main options for disposing of dead livestock: burning, composting, burying and rendering. Rendering companies turn animal waste such as eyes, hooves and intestines into a variety of products such as biofuels, gelatin, animal feed and various industrial chemicals.

The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require renderers and animal feed manufacturers to remove the brain and spinal cord from cows 30 months and older. The rule is intended to prevent central nervous system tissue of dead cattle from getting into animal feed, because it can cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

But the health safeguards also carry a cost for rendering companies and farmers.

Until this year, the trucks at Halfway Packing Co. traveled more than 1,000 miles a day picking up carcasses in 20 counties through the heart of Missouri's cattle country.

Richard Spinning, the company's owner, charged about $20 per cow and used the meat to make canned pet food and sold the hides. So unlike renderers that can use waste from the animals, Spinning could only use the well-preserved carcasses that were picked up. He estimated that to stay in business under the federal rule, he would have had to charge more than $100 per animal.

Spinning said he understands the problem farmers face in disposing of their dead livestock, but he couldn't continue losing money and staying in business as the last holdout.

"Our credit cards went further and now they're maxed out. We was dumb, we should have shut down a long time ago," he said.

Missouri State Veterinarian Taylor Woods said there aren't many good options for farmers to dispose of carcasses on their own.

"There's not much of a way that the average producer can burn a cow. They can put one on a big bale of hay or put it on brush, but it takes a lot of brush to burn a cow," Woods said. "To compost a cow, you have to cut her up and that's not a job most of us like to do. And right now, you can't hardly dig a hole in the winter months."

A spokeswoman for FDA said the agency acknowledges the new rule could pose a hardship and has been working with farmers and renderers. But spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said the tougher rule is necessary, because mad cow disease has been linked to more than 200 human deaths worldwide, none of which involved U.S. beef.

"The FDA has an obligation to put control measures in place that will prevent the threats to public and animal health that occurred in other countries," DeLancey said.

Nationwide, 54 billion pounds of animal parts are rendered each year. But only a small portion of that — several billion pounds — comes from animals that die on farms.

Tom Cook, who leads an Alexandria, Va.,-based trade group for renderers, said it's unlikely many companies are willing to deal with cows that are more than 30 months old, unless they receive them in large quantities.

Disposing of dead animals is a key part of the agriculture business, and the change has farmers searching for solutions. Someone recently dropped off a dead young cow at the Halfway Packing Co., even though the driveway had been blockaded with the company's trucks.

Some in the cattle industry fear dead cattle could be left rotting on farms or dragged into creeks, or that even properly buried animals will eventually become so concentrated that wells and groundwater could become contaminated.

Lyle Caselman, who runs a sale barn eight miles from the Halfway Packing Co., said there usually is at least one death at each of his five cattle sales per month. Without the packing company, he now collects the dead cattle, covers them with a tarp and hauls them at night to avoid attracting attention. He buries the cattle in his pastures.

"It's been a nightmare for us so far, and it's yet really to come, because in the summer is when we lose the most of them," said Caselman, who auctions about 60,000 cattle each year at the Buffalo Livestock Market in Buffalo, Mo. "It can get really stinky."

Salmonellosis Sprouts in Nebraska, Iowa, Sicken Some

1] Iowa
Date: Fri 6 Mar 2009
Source: Des Moines (IA) Register [edited]

Lab tests have confirmed that several more people were sickened by
salmonellosis, possibly linked to tainted alfalfa sprouts, health
officials said Thursday [5 Mar 2009].

The Iowa Department of Public Health said 15 Iowans had confirmed or
suspected infections from the bacterium. The Nebraska health
department said 30 residents there had confirmed or suspected cases.
A few hospitalizations have been reported, although most people have
recovered at home.

The outbreak began last week [week of 23 Feb 2009], and investigators
suspect it was linked to alfalfa sprouts grown by an Omaha company,
CW Sprouts. Investigators were trying to determine if the
contamination happened at the plant or somewhere else in the supply
chain. The company has voluntarily recalled alfalfa sprouts, onion
sprouts and gourmet sprouts, which were sold under the brand name
SunSprouts. The products were mostly sold in 4-ounce plastic
containers, and they were distributed to grocery stores and
restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa. Alfalfa sprouts also were sold in
larger packages to restaurants.

Iowa officials have suggested that people avoid all such sprouts
until the exact cause of the outbreak has been determined.

[Byline: Tony Leys]

Communicated by:

[2] Nebraska
Date: Fri 6 Mar 2009
Source: EmaxHealth, Nebraska Department of Health report [edited]

The number of salmonellosis cases in eastern Nebraska initially
detected last week [week of 23 Feb 2009] has increased, according to
the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. So far, there
are approximately 14 lab-confirmed cases, with 4 considered probable
ones and an additional 8 to 10 suspect cases identified on the basis
of reported symptoms.

The outbreak preliminarily has been linked to a source -- alfalfa
sprouts from a local grower, CW Sprouts of Omaha. Last week and
over the weekend [28 Feb-1 Mar 2009], public health workers have been
interviewing individuals involved in the outbreak, as well as people
in a control group that helps interviewers determine the food source.
The interviews led epidemiologists to conclude that sprouts were
reported in a high number of food histories of ill people, thus there
was a strong association with sprouts.

The FDA and CDC are involved. FDA is doing an investigation at the
company to determine conditions that may have lead to the
contamination as well as determine distribution of the product.

Nebraska health officials from the Department of Health and Human
Services will work with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture
Laboratory to try to isolate salmonella from existing alfalfa seeds
and sprouts to determine how the contamination occurred.

The serotype of _Salmonella_ in these cases is called Saintpaul, a
relatively rare kind. Samples have been sent to the Minnesota Public
Health Laboratory to determine if they share a DNA fingerprint. This
evaluation will conclusively show if all the cases are linked.

Meanwhile, DHHS [United States Department of Health and Human
Services] and local health departments -- the Douglas County Health
Department, the Lancaster County Health Department, the Sarpy/Cass
Department of Health and Wellness -- are continuing to conduct
interviews. So far, 2 people have been hospitalized and released.

Communicated by:

[3] Recall
Date: Fri 6 Mar 2009
Source: Fresh Plaza [edited]

SunSprout Enterprises, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska, is initiating a
voluntary recall of Alfalfa Sprouts, Onion Sprouts, and Gourmet
Sprouts based on communications it has had with Nebraska State
officials regarding several cases of _Salmonella_ Saintpaul reported
in Nebraska and Iowa.

The sprouts were distributed to food distributors located in Iowa and
Nebraska who further sell the product to restaurants and retail
stores. Distribution was also made directly to one retail store in

The sprouts are sold refrigerated under the SunSprouts label in 4-oz.
clear plastic clamshell containers that have the following "Best If
Sold By" dates in the upper right-hand corner on each container,
which may be expressed in 2 different styles: 30209 or MAR 02 2009,
30409 or MAR 04 2009, 30709 or MAR 07 2009, 30909 or MAR 09 2009,
31109 or MAR 11 2009, and 31409 or MAR 14 2009. The lot numbers,
which are printed only on the shipping case, include: 3102, 3202,
3302, 4102, 4202, and 4302.

The bar code for the retail packages of Alfalfa Sprouts is
the bar code for the Onion Sprouts is 815098002054; and
the bar code for the Gourmet Sprouts is 817180000153.

The Alfalfa Sprouts are also packaged in bulk 2.5-lb. and 5-lb. cases
for use in restaurants. The Onion Sprouts and Gourmet Sprouts are not
in bulk form.

Although neither CW Sprouts nor the Nebraska state officials have any
product laboratory test data linking the sprouts to the illnesses or
to the microorganism, the recall is being conducted as a
precautionary measure. State officials continue to review all
available data and information to determine whether sprouts are
reliably implicated in the recent reported cases of _S._ Saintpaul.

Communicated by:

[Enteric pathogens that contaminate produce that is eaten without
cooking (such as sprouts) represent a significant hazard. Similar
postings were submitted by Maria A Christensen from Creighton
University School of Medicine and ProMED-Mail Rapporteur Susan
Baekeland. - Mod.LL]

[Iowa and Nebraska, in the Midwestern United States, can be located
on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at
- CopyEd.MJ]

[see also:
Salmonellosis, serotype Saintpaul - USA: (NE) 20090303.0873
Salmonellosis, serotype Typhimurium - USA (11): peanut butter 20090210.0606
Salmonellosis, serotype Typhimurium - USA: RFI 20090108.0077
Salmonellosis, serotype Saintpaul, tomatoes - USA (17): peppers 20080903.2759
Salmonellosis, serotype Saintpaul, tomatoes - USA (02) 20080605.1800
Salmonellosis, serotype Saintpaul, tomatoes - USA: multistate 20080603.1777]
ProMED-mail makes every effort to verify the reports that
are posted, but the accuracy and completeness of the
information, and of any statements or opinions based
thereon, are not guaranteed. The reader assumes all risks in
using information posted or archived by ProMED-mail. ISID
and its associated service providers shall not be held
responsible for errors or omissions or held liable for any
damages incurred as a result of use or reliance upon posted
or archived material.
Become a ProMED-mail Premium Subscriber at


Inhaling Pig-Brain Mist Sickens Slaughterhouse Workers

A ProMED-mail post

ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Tue 3 Mar 2009
Source: Feedstuffs [edited}

Workers at pork processing plants who developed a rare neurological
disorder 2 years ago [2007] after being exposed to [organic] mist
while removing brains from pigs have improved but still display
symptoms, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minnesota (MN).

The workers at "heads tables" at Quality Pork Processors in Austin,
MN, and at another plant in Indiana had used compressed air to
extract pig brains and developed chronic inflammatory demyelinating
polyneuropathy, which attacks nerves and produces numbness, tingling
and weakness in arms and legs.

An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
found that only 3 USA pork plants used the compressed air process to
remove pig brains: the ones in Indiana and Minnesota and another in
Nebraska. All 3 voluntarily ceased using the process.

The Mayo study found that 16 of 17 of the workers who were treated
with immune therapies such as steroids improved with the treatment,
12 markedly so, according to a report that has been prepared for a
neurology meeting next month [April 2009]; 6 workers who had no
treatment also improved after they were no longer exposed to the pig
brain mist, according to the report.

[Byline: Rod Smith]

Communicated by:

[Although the exact antigenic stimulus is not clear, the
pathophysiology appears to be exposure to a neural antigen such as
myelin via inhalation of the "pig brain mist". - Mod.LL]

[see also:
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA (06) 20080417.1376
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA (05): (NE) 20080307.0941
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA (04): (IN, MN) 20080207.0500
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA (03): (MN) 20080206.0493
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA (02): (IN, MN) 20080205.0470
Progr infl neuropathy, pork plant workers - USA: (IN, MN) 20080201.0405
Undiagnosed neuro. synd., porcine plant workers - USA (02): (IN, MN)
Undiagnosed neuro. synd., porcine plant workers - USA: (IN, MN) 20080118.0226
Undiagnosed neuro. synd., porcine plant workers - USA: (MN), RFI
ProMED-mail makes every effort to verify the reports that
are posted, but the accuracy and completeness of the
information, and of any statements or opinions based
thereon, are not guaranteed. The reader assumes all risks in
using information posted or archived by ProMED-mail. ISID
and its associated service providers shall not be held
responsible for errors or omissions or held liable for any
damages incurred as a result of use or reliance upon posted
or archived material.
Suscribe to proMED -
Become a ProMED-mail Premium Subscriber at


Friday, March 6, 2009

Viral Pandemic H5N1 flu threat: Baxter contaminates European labs by error

Baxter, a USA BigPharm;

It could be a Hollywood Worst Case Thriller, but it is real: According to the scientific network PROMED, Baxter International Inc. in Austria "unintentionally contaminated samples with the bird flu virus that were used in laboratories in 3 neighboring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease". As PROMED reports, the contamination has been discovered when ferrets at a laboratory in the Czech Republic died after being inoculated with vaccine made from the samples early this month. "The material came from Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter, which reported the incident to the Austrian Ministry of Health, Sigrid Rosenberger, a ministry spokeswoman, said today in a telephone interview", the network-alert-system is quoting. "This was infected with a bird flu virus," Rosenberger said. "There were some people from the company who handled it." There are severe signs that the long expected pandemic avian influenza could be on its way to conquer the world - even without Baxter's error driven help. by Vlad Dan Georgescu and Marita Vollborn

First deaths in Asia concern little children, which from virological point of view is a rather new aspect, and could be the evidence for a new spread. While scientists expect this pandemic to happen in the near future, the new President should also stay alert: A coming influenza pandemic would deteriorate the global economy even without financial crisis, recession - or Baxter.

Evidence for the global threat comes from China, where a 2 year old girl has been confirmed to be infected with bird flu in the northern Shanxi Province, as government officials said last Saturday. The child was found ill on 7th of January in the central Hunan province - the little patient still is in critical condition. According to the test result of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the girl had been tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

On the other site of the globe, the Ministry of Health and Population of Egypt announced a new human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection last week, the case being a 21 month old girl Kerdasa District.

“Infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus was diagnosed by PCR at the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory and subsequently confirmed by the U. S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) laboratories”, reports the special wire PROMED. According to PROMED, investigations into the source of her infection indicate a recent history of contact with sick and dead poultry - 23 similar cases in Egypt have been fatal up to date.

Old Europe as leading research power?

Given such facts, Mr. Obama should follow European research policy: European research on vaccine development for pandemic influenza has been financed since 2001 by the European Union. Early projects worked to develop an egg-free vaccine, which is faster and safer to produce, along with innovative application techniques. Research is now underway with the objectives of fighting the disease at the source (infected birds) and protecting human populations through pandemic influenza vaccines. Future EU research will improve vaccine efficiency by adding adjuvants, substances that boost the body’s immune response to vaccine antigen. Additionally, research teams are currently focused on developing a universal flu vaccine that could provide a lifetime of protection from influenza.

Latest surveillance data coming through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) from virologists and clinicians indicates that the influenza A(H3N2) virus is the predominant strain in Europe so far this season (2008/2009). Based on the data published by ECDC the pharmaceutical company Roche confirms that the oral antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is fully active against influenza A(H3N2) and influenza B, which currently comprise 94 percent of circulating viruses in Europe this year. Tamiflu resistance reported in the 2008-2009 influenza seasons is confined to H1N1. No resistance has been seen with other circulating seasonal viruses - H3N2 and influenza B.

"Recent media reporting has elevated awareness of the H1N1 seasonal resistance seen this year in the United States and the Far East. However, in Europe the picture is different with H3N2 being the dominant strain so far. The circulating H3N2 viruses, which often cause a more severe illness than H1N1, are sensitive to oseltamivir, which means that oseltamivir will be active against the vast majority of influenza infections in Europe this season, if current trends continue," comments Prof Albert Osterhaus, Head of Virology, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam. "It is important that doctors understand that oseltamivir remains an effective treatment for patients across Europe."

Flu alert for the new President

However, the situation in the United States is more alerting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A new University of Colorado at Boulder study showed the resistance of the avian flu virus to a major class of antiviral drugs "is increasing through positive evolutionary selection, with researchers documenting the trend in more than 30 percent of the samples tested", as the scientists report. Even if the expected influenza pandemic did not start yet, there is no doubt about the comeback of the lethal virus: The first Pandemic Influenza occurred in three waves in the United States - exactly 90 years ago, between 1918 and 1919.

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USDA / FHA Food Safety gets an "F"

From Sue Thixtons "the Truth About Pet Food" blog;

The last few years have more than proven the current system at the FDA doesn’t work. The Safe Food Act, introduced into Congress in 2007, hopes to establish a new food safety agency, leaving the FDA in control over drugs and supplements alone. However, Congress has been sitting on a Food Safety plan for two years, yet food related illnesses and recalls continue.

The pet food recall of 2007 was the deadliest in history. Already this year we’ve had countless recalls of human foods and pet treats from filthy conditions at a peanut processing facility in Georgia. The Washington Post reported that government regulators were not even aware of a second peanut plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America in Texas, which had never been inspected.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reports that the Safe Food Act, S. 654 and H.R. 1148, was introduced by Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Rosa DeLauro. The review of the Safe Food Act from CSPI emphasizes the consumer confusion over what government agency inspects different foods, and emphasizes the varied regulatory styles of the FDA and the USDA. As example, “a frozen cheese pizza is subject to inspection by the FDA, which usually inspects a factory once every 10 years. A frozen pepperoni pizza falls under the jurisdiction of the USDA, which performs almost daily inspections.” With regards to imported foods, “imported foods are treated differently depending on whether they are regulated by the FDA or the USDA. While USDA approves the foreign meat and poultry plants that want to export to the U.S., FDA cannot even visit the foreign food processors that are linked to outbreaks of illness in this country without the invitation of the foreign government.”

The CSPI website states the Safe Food Act “fixes our broken food safety system by:
• “Establishing the Food Safety Administration, a single agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply;
• “Requiring domestic and foreign food processors to register, be inspected more frequently based on risk, and implement measures to control and reduce harmful contaminants and pathogens in food;
• “Improving the safety of imported foods by requiring imported food to meet the same level of safety as that of food produced domestically;
• “Appointing a Food Safety Administrator with authority to detain and seize any food, food ingredient or animal feed that is believed to be unsafe for consumption, is adulterated, or is misbranded; and
• “Replacing the current voluntary recall system with a procedure for issuing a mandatory recall when unsafe food is found on store shelves.”

Sounds great doesn’t it? However, right up front, there are two big problems for health conscious consumers. As the bill stands now, food supplements such as fish oil are to be left under FDA control. The American Association for Health Freedom, a supporter of natural health supplements, states “the FDA would implicitly class supplements with drugs when they are in fact food supplements, and the FDA’s hostile treatment of supplements would only increase.”

The other initial problem with the Food Safety Act is Congress itself. The bill has been sitting on the desks of our Senators and Representatives since February 2007. details the legislation as “To establish the Food Safety Administration to protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.” The last ‘activity’ on the bill was February 27, 2007 when it was referred to the Subcommittee on Health. The last Congressional Sponsor of the bill was almost nine months ago (per the website).

How many deaths, illnesses, and recalls is it going to take for Congress to do something? If and when the new agency becomes active, we’ll have to wait and see if the Administration of the proposed Food Safety Agency will provide pet food manufacturers loopholes allowing euthanized, diseased, and drugged animals into pet foods (in violation of Federal laws) as the FDA has been doing for years. Time will only tell.

To read the Senate version of the Food Safety Act bill, visit

To read the House version of the Food Safety Act bill, visit

Please contact your Congressional Representative and ask them to get off their duffs regarding the Food Safety Act. To find your Representatives in Congress, visit Enter your zip code for the names of your Representatives and contact information.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Truth about Pet Food
Petsumer Report

To visit Sues wonderful blog about pet-food safety,
click on title above

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Managing Traceability and Public Trust

By Kevin T.Higgins, Senior Editor
Validating the source and condition of raw materials is critical in maintaining public confidence in prepared foods.
Mary and Jim Rickert are suppliers to both the medical industry and hungry carnivores, but what they really sell is quality assurance.

The Rickerts are managing partners of Prather Ranch, a sprawling 34,000-acre spread in California’s Cascade Range. The ranch’s herd of 1,500 mother cows is unremarkable in terms of numbers, and the dedicated slaughterhouse is picayune by industry standards. The USDA-inspected processing area operates only on Tuesday mornings, with fewer than 20 head handled.

Despite its modest size, Prather Ranch is an industry model in many ways. It began addressing BSE in cattle in 1990 and achieved ISO certification long before mad cow disease was part of the public dialogue. The ranch has a closed herd, with bull semen, organic rice and packaging the only feed and materials entering from the outside world. Organic and humane-handling certifications have been achieved. The most remarkable quality assurance, however, is the detailed record of each animal’s genealogy, feed source and medical records. A HACCP card documenting the information is attached to each carcass on the kill floor.

Connoisseurs of dry-aged organic and natural beef are only part of Prather’s customer mix. An even more demanding audience is medical and pharmaceutical buyers. The collagen in hides is harvested for cosmetic surgery. Pituitary glands, pericardium membranes and certain bone and tissue are extracted and sold to pharmaceutical companies who demand much more than an ear-tag number when validating raw-material sources.

Records are maintained in a database program called Cattle Pro, which was expanded and enhanced to document the fields where hay comes from, the results of irrigation-water testing, the methods and validation of every procedure in processing—enough information, in fact, to keep three data-entry clerks busy. “I don’t know if it’s gotten any easier,” Mary Rickert says of the record-keeping. “We’ve gotten better at it, though.” The information is available on demand and, while the people who pay up to $25 a pound for prime rib and other Prather cuts are unlikely to ask for them, their existence is a quality assurance measure that complements the flavor and tenderness of the meat.

Norway is magnitudes larger than Prather Ranch, but its largest meat processor, Nortura, which processes 200,000 tons of product per year, enjoys some of the same closed-loop advantages. Once on the retail shelf, a 2D code on the label can be photographed by a camera phone and, within seconds, the shopper receives a text message detailing the farm where the animal was raised, its slaughter weight and its medical and feed history.

Owning the supply chain, from the herds to the individual cuts, makes the information delivery possible, acknowledges Ashleigh Stephenson, co-founder and chairman of Reva Systems, which supplies the RFID technology that makes Nortura’s data collection system possible. The implementation underscores the importance of manufacturer-driven RFID initiatives: if Nortura had been responding to a retail mandate rather than seizing the chance to optimize the value chain and improve traceability, the project likely would not have succeeded, he believes.

“Norwegian consumers are quite particular about food quality, safety and the source of the food,” Stephenson says. “Food producers are realizing there is a real benefit in terms of consumer perceptions of their products and their own efficiency in having a comprehensive traceability program in place. Neither retailer mandates nor pure regulation is going to motivate adoption of an RFID-based information system.”

Contrast the Prather and Nortura controls with the confidence-shattering recall in January and February of peanut butter ingredients and finished products from Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) Blakely, GA, plant. As the extent of the crisis slowly expanded and the number of recalled products steadily mounted, one of the few track-and-trace success stories was the advisory issued to buyers of affected products at Costco. The club store generated millions of automated calls and letters to members who had purchased recalled products. Wegmans and Price Chopper supermarkets also leveraged their frequent-shopper databases to alert customers.

Standards vs. practices

Regulation 178/2002 is the European Union’s equivalent of the track-and-trace requirements of the US Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which the FDA originally construed to require one-up, one-down traceability records that could be produced in a few hours. As the PCA recall entered its third week, it was painfully evident that standard had not been met.

The salmonella-related recall is arguably the worst domestic food recall of the 21st Century. Eight deaths and more than 500 illnesses were linked to the plant. Unlike the meat and vegetable public-health crises of the recent past, it involved a highly processed product. It also dramatized the industry’s complex web. One producer’s finished goods can weave through many channels to serve as a raw material for hundreds of other manufacturers.

While US and EU traceability standards are similar, US executions often suffer from a failure to designate a single responsible person. “When a problem occurs, QA, processing and maintenance all say they did their part, but when you stitch all those parts together, you see that everything wasn’t done properly,” suggests Vicki Griffith, global marketing director, food & beverage, for St. Paul, MN-based Lawson Software. Organizations assume data on raw materials, process steps, sanitation procedures, etc. reside in ERP or another centralized system, but that almost is never the case. Typically, information is squirreled in unconnected databases, resulting in slow responses and lack of accountability. Traceability is “a company issue, not a departmental issue,” Griffith points out, yet that’s not how it is approached.

The hard-dollar cost of poor supply-chain tracking was quantified in an AMR Research study commissioned by Lawson last year. Only 11% of 251 food and beverage companies surveyed in the US and three European countries made it through 2007 without at least one product recall. While most were satisfied with their mock-recall performances, execution during actual events was spotty: it took an average of 48 days to identify a problem, and less than 40% of affected product was actually collected. Most US product recalls cost the organization more than $20 million. Using AMR’s math, the peanut recall—at 1,351 US and Canadian products as of February 4, plus additional products made in Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore—will cost businesses well over $1 billion.

CDC Software’s David Cahn seconds Griffith’s point about fragmented data, adding the problem is most pronounced outside the four walls of the plant. “Once product is on the truck and leaves the dock, that’s where the system of records falls down,” maintains Cahn, vice president-product strategy at the Atlanta firm. If integrated data systems are not driving “better analytics and front-end visibility,” however, they become costly exercises, rather than “compliance as a value proposition.”

“It takes a calamity to draw attention to certification of raw materials as a critical need,” he adds. “But the overall issue isn’t peanut butter this week or lettuce next week: it’s milk from China.”

Human greed and indifference to public health was starkly displayed in China’s melamine-adulterated milk scandal last year. The chemical boosts protein readings in traditional nitrogen tests, and 22 Chinese dairies were found to be selling milk contaminated with melamine. The largest, Sanlu, knew of the problem by May but continued accepting and selling the milk until its New Zealand partner, Fonterra, became aware of the practice. Two death sentences and one life imprisonment were given to Sanlu executives, and hundreds of products containing Chinese milk worldwide were recalled.

Traceability systems alone wouldn’t have provided an early warning for melamine any more than they could have spotted salmonella in peanut butter. Chemical (or, with salmonella, biological) analysis is required, a costly procedure involving more expertise than is found in the typical food company lab. But pre-calibrated and formatted instrumentation is coming to market, and regulators are beginning to require importers to test for chemical adulterants (see related story on page 46).

Chemical and toxic-chemical poisoning from food is rarer than pathogen and allergen issues, though companies like Flora Research Laboratories are being retained for more food testing. Testing for pesticide residues in ginseng and tobacco is common, according to Jim Kababick, Flora’s owner. To help meet demand, his team designed a “solution package” with equipment supplier PerkinElmer to detect melamine. It can be programmed to detect other chemicals of concern. “If you’re going to go back to a supplier and say, ‘There’s an adulterant in your product,’ you’re going to have to give them hard data to support it,” says Kababick.

“The bigger challenge is the unknown contaminant,” acknowledges PerkinElmer’s Alessandra Rasmussen, who developed the EcoAnalytix detection system in conjunction with Flora. “If a new danger is identified, the same technology can be used with a modified protocol, which is relatively easy to do.”

Mass spectrometers “are all over food labs in China,” adds Kababick, though having the tools and using them effectively are two different things. And a sampling program alone won’t provide the validation needed. A food safety information system is being deployed in China’s Henan Province, home to many of the country’s dairies and other food manufacturers. Helping to provide the traceability and regulatory-compliance recordkeeping is CDC’s Ross Enterprise and CDC Factory systems, which are deployed on a subscription as a service (SaaS) basis.

SaaS is also the delivery mechanism for Plex Systems Inc., an Auburn Hills, MI, supplier of on-demand manufacturing software. Coming from the automotive sector, the company branched into food recently with a deployment at Cuisine Solutions Inc., Alexandria, VA. Accessing Web-based programs eliminates issues of hardware maintenance, software updates and user licensing, notes Ron Zilkowski, Cuisine’s chief financial officer. Plex’s ERP package replaced a conventional system from JD Edwards.

Security concerns about SaaS give many IT professionals pause, acknowledges David Chidsey, a senior project manager at Plex who is involved in Cuisine’s deployment. But the program is SAS 70 certified, an audited standard that is respected in IT circles, Chidsey says.

Raw materials arrive at Cuisine from hundreds of companies, “from mom and pops to international suppliers,” according to Zilkowski. Slow cooked (up to 72 hours) and flash frozen after vacuum packaging, the center-plate items are sold through a variety of institutional accounts, including the US military. Traceability and process validation is critical with the military, Zilkowski says, and their auditors like the fact the manufacturing system doesn’t permit raw materials to move beyond a given step unless all protocols have been satisfied.

Some small-scale recalls of raw materials have occurred since Cuisine’s plant opened in 2001, including a mushroom shipment suspected of containing glass. “Fortunately, that product was fairly traceable,” says Zilkowski, and he’s confident capabilities have been enhanced. “The military much prefers our track and trace capabilities now,” he says.

Every food crisis draws new clients to validation solutions, though whether they view them as a cost of doing business or a way to improve operations depends on the organization. Dole Fresh turned to Reva Systems after the spinach recall of 2007, an event that cost the firm $42 million. “You can buy a lot of RFID for that amount of money,” Reva’s Stephenson says.

Ideally, the investment returns more than recall assurance. When RFID tags incorporate temperature sensors, for example, a manufacturer knows instantly whether a delivery was subjected to temperature abuse. Freezing temperatures turn leafy greens black, and validating transport temperatures can mean the difference between accepting a bad shipment and turning it away at the receiving dock.

Detailed records are helping Prather Ranch make use of a genetic test for tenderness, a quality characteristic with obvious commercial value. An even stronger argument for validation systems is the ranch’s understanding of the public trust it holds.

For more information:
David Cahn, CDC Software, 770-351-9600
Jim Kababick, Flora Research Laboratories, 541-472-0980
Vicki Griffith, Lawson Software, 651-767-4724,
Alessandra Rasmussen, PerkinElmer Inc., 781-663-6900
David Chidsey, Plex Systems Inc., 248-391-8006
Ashleigh Stephenson, Reva Systems, 978-244-0010,

DIY chemical analysis

Food pathogens and allergens aren’t the only threats to human health: chemicals and toxic metals accidentally or deliberately introduced can sicken or kill tens of thousands. Two of the biggest international scandals since 2007 involved melamine. In both cases, melamine was deliberately added to fool conventional tests of protein levels.

Pet food containing wheat gluten from China was the subject of a massive recall in April 2007. The chemical combined with cyanuric acid to form melamine cyanurate, an excellent fire retardant, but the cause of acute renal failure in many pets that ate it. The incident prompted instrumentation maker PerkinElmer Inc. to partner with Flora Research Laboratories to develop a protocol and methodology for using the Waltham, MA, firm’s gas chromatography/mass spectrometer to detect melamine levels down to 50 parts per billion (ppb), well below the 1,000 ppb deemed safe by FDA for infant formula.

Last September, Chinese dairy processor Sanlu began recalling infant formula laced with melamine that was blamed for the deaths of six infants and almost 300,000 illnesses.

Demand for PerkinElmer’s EcoAnalytix melamine analyzer increased in November when FDA began requiring testing of Chinese imports containing milk-derived ingredients. Some legislators urged FDA to extend import testing to include eggs and fish products from China, America’s third largest food importer.

“Supply chains have become very global,” notes Alessandra Rasmussen, a PerkinElmer vice president who headed development of the system. More than 13 countries recalled baked goods, frozen desserts and other products containing Chinese milk powder with melamine last year. “People want access to more food variety, and that magnifies the issues of validation,” she says.

A technician proficient in mass spectrometry could forego PerkinElmer’s turnkey solution, though “the mass spec method and protocols as written by the FDA can be overwhelming,” observes Jim Kababick, owner of Grants Pass, OR-based Flora Research, an analytical lab registered with both FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The complexity of sample preparation and standard operating procedures can be overwhelming, making guidance for in-house analysis essential.

Kababick is sanguine about EcoAnalytix cannibalizing some of his business. “There are so many people that have these problems, there’s no shortage of clients at all,” he says.

USDA Sec Vows Accountability for Animal Abusers

The Humane Society of the United States has accused UL’s New Iberia Research Center of physical and psychological abuse of animals at the facility.

The allegations came after a nine-month undercover investigation by the HSUS, the findings of which were released on Wednesday.

“The major issue for us is the psychological depravation and torment these animals are enduring,” HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a conference call. “These animals were in isolated or barren cages, not handled well, not given stimulation, and subjected to procedures and sedation methods that were demonstrably inhumane.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement on the matter Wednesday afternoon:

"In light of the video evidence presented today, I am ordering a thorough investigation of animal welfare practices at New Iberia Research Center. If the allegations prove to be true, the American public can expect the perpetrators to be held fully accountable. I take the protection of animals very seriously, and will do my utmost to fully enforce the Animal Welfare Act."

UL System President Randy Moffett released the following statement on Wednesday:

“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center is a well-respected facility that conducts important medical research. The center frequently undergoes stringent internal and external review of its animal care practices, maintains compliance with all national regulatory agencies, and recently received praise from an external review committee for the care and use of its nonhuman primates.

The University has a no tolerance policy of animal abuse and strict reporting guidelines to ensure the safety of its animals. Consistent with this, any employee who witnesses instances of abuse and fails to report such findings through the appropriate channels is as guilty as those who commit such abuses.

UL Lafayette takes their responsibility to care for animals housed at the New Iberia Research Center very seriously and will follow-up on these allegations with appropriate corrective action.”

UL Lafayette officials released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“The American public continues to advocate and financially support medical research aimed at finding cures for diseases and illnesses that are detrimental to their quality of life. The New Iberia Research Center plays a vital role in research that advances the nation’s public health.

Endless debate has ensued as to the best approach to conduct this research, but little debate has questioned the need. Biomedical research is a stringently regulated field and the New Iberia Research Center maintains professional standards that meet and surpass these regulations.

The videos posted online today by ABC Nightline and the Humane Society and obtained in an undercover manner at the New Iberia Research Center are part of a larger campaign by the Humane Society to ban the use of chimpanzees in research. Nothing in the videos alter the fact that the New Iberia Research Center is in compliance with all federal standards and guidelines regarding the care and use of animals, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

The New Iberia Research Center has made and continues to make numerous contributions to public health improvements for the prevention and treatment of diseases such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, mumps, measles, chicken pox and prion diseases (mad cow disease). In addition, advances are being made in the development of antiviral compounds, therapeutic proteins, gene therapy, and in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

We take very seriously our responsibility to care for the animals housed at the center and to carry out biomedical research according to federal rules and regulations. We are driven by high standards and ethics and believe the videos distort acceptable standard procedures and incorrectly imply mistreatment of nonhuman primates at the New Iberia Research Center. We take seriously our mission to conduct research that plays a critical role in protecting the health of the nation.”

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Americas Worst Food Scares

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