USDA wants to reinstate organic welfare standards; could benefit food safety

Celebrating the USDA’s move on Aug. 5 to reinstate organic animal welfare standards, organic advocates are hailing this as a “resounding victory” for organic farmers, their livestock, and organic consumers.

As such, it reverses the withdrawal by the Trump Administration in 2018 of the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry rule.

The 2017 rule, which took 10 years to develop, governed the living conditions, transport and slaughter of organic livestock.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) proposes to amend the organic livestock and poultry production requirements by adding new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and avian living conditions; and expanding and clarifying existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices and mammalian living conditions.

“USDA has again confirmed our stance that ‘organic’ does mean consistently protecting animal welfare,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety.

She also said that … Read more

Virginia Tech researchers testing potential vaccine for norovirus

Virginia Tech researchers are testing a potential live oral vaccine for norovirus. The vaccine that the team is testing is in development by Indiana University researchers and uses the Rotarix rotavirus vaccine as a platform.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, on average in the United States, norovirus causes 900 deaths, 109,000 hospitalizations, 465,000 emergency department visits and 19 to 21 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea illnesses.

“You hear about norovirus outbreaks on the news all the time in hospitals, nursing homes, and cruise ships and how it’s closing down restaurants, so it’s got a lot of economic implications,” said Lijuan Yuan, professor of virology and immunology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, who is leading the testing of the vaccine.

Yuan’s lab plans to evaluate the replication capacity, immunogenicity, … Read more

FSN contributor honored for reporting

Writer Cookson Beecher has won two first place awards in the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW)’s annual contest for articles published by Food Safety News.

To win the first-place awards on the national level, she had to win first-place awards in the organization’s  At-Large division, which included about 20 different states.

One of the articles, “Agrivoltaics Scores Impressive Triple Win, but Some Food Safety Concerns Remain” deals with using solar panels to generate power for houses, barns or even farm equipment but also to grow crops.

The other article, “Super Bugs Bedevil Food” deals with antibiotic resistance, which some human and animal health experts are referring to as a “slow moving pandemic.”

The judge of the first piece about solar power complimented Beecher for writing a well-thought-out and executed article. “The difference between a good writer and a great writer is the ability to take a complicated topic, … Read more

Texas DSHS first wanted Blue Bell to recall ice cream related to infections


AUSTIN — When the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) first learned South Carolina found Listeria in two Blue Bell ice cream products, it suggested the company prepare a recall notice.

But in testimony on the fourth day of the jury trial for former Blue Bell president Paul Kruse, a DSHS official over dairy for half of Texas said the department went along with a more prolonged inquiry by Blue Bell, and it was shortly joined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In charge of conspiracy and five fraud counts, Justice Department attorneys are trying to use Kruse’s hesitancy to issue a press release about the Listeria contamination to make their case.

Harris Hollingwood, DSHS’s dairy manager for west Texas, was over the east in 2015 when Blue Bell confronted a deadly listeriosis outbreak that killed three and sickened at least 10. Upon its first contact after … Read more

Blue Bell president” Ricky” Dickson testifies as government witness against his “friend”

AUSTIN — Richard S. “Ricky” Dickson, the current President at Blue Bell Creameries, testified Wednesday as a government witness against his predecessor and one-time mentor, Paul Kruse.

Dickson took over from Kruse in 2017 at the Brenham, TX, company known for its flagship brand of Blue Bell ice creams.

He testified on the third day of Kruse’s jury trial for conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from a deadly 2015 listeriosis outbreak. Three people dies in the outbreak, which sickened at least 10.

During the outbreak, which ended with Blue Bell shutting down its production facilities and recalling all its products, Dickson was Vice President of Sales and second in the company only to Kruse.

Under questioning from defense attorney Chris Flood of Houston, Dickson acknowledged that he was the subject of a “target” investigation by the federal Department of Justice beginning in 2019, two years after he became Blue Bell … Read more