Is UFCW v. USDA the end or just the beginning of the great line speed debate?

Seaboard Foods wants to intervene in UFCW v. USDA “to move to stay the effect of the Court’s forthcoming judgment by 10.5 months as to Seaboard, and for the purpose of perfecting an appeal” with a stay pending appeal if necessary.

A federal court in Minnesota in March ruled that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) hadn’t fully assessed how faster line speeds in pork plants affect employee safety. Shortly after the March 31 ruling, USDA notified pork processors that plants running faster than 1,106 hogs per hour should prepare to slow down.

Seaboard says it is “profoundly affected” by the court’s line-speed ruling and is “grateful” for the court’s 90-day pre-judgment stay, but it says to save it from “certain and significant loss” the stay needed to be extended by at least another 10.5 months.

UFCW v. USDA involves several local unions and the federal government. Seaboard’s intervention … Read more

Oregon’s bill to open up data on reportable diseases may have hit snag

Data for foodborne and other reportable diseases in Oregon might take on more clarity if Senate Bill 719 ever gets moving. Time is still on its side, with the Oregon Legislature not scheduled to adjourn until June 30.  But, progress is slow.

The Senate Committee on Health Care produced and engrossed an amended version of SB 719 on April 23. After a public hearing and a work session, the committee gave the amended version a “do pass” recommendation.   

But instead of sending the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, Senate President Peter Courtney put up a detour, sending SB 719 to the Ways and Means Committee.

The amended bill draws a tighter line than did the original by continuing to make investigations of reportable diseases exempt from public disclosure while saying the public health administrator “shall release aggregate information that does not disclose the identity of any individual.’ Read more

Singaporean agencies probe illnesses; help form food safety hub

Authorities in Singapore have launched an investigation after 15 people fell sick beginning in late March.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said one person was hospitalized but has since been discharged.

Gastroenteritis symptoms started after consuming food prepared by Meetup @ 352 (Kin Hoi) between March 28 and April 15. SFA has suspended operations at the business until further notice.

The agency has also prohibited Kemono Pte from preparing and serving all menu items, including online orders, to Kin Hoi. The former is a business partner of Kin Hoi and provides food preparation and cooking services for Kin Hoi’s online delivery orders in a separate facility from their own business.

All food handlers working at Kin Hoi must re-attend and pass a food safety course before they can resume this work. Meetup @ 352 is also required to clean and sanitize the premises, including equipment … Read more

EFSA tool helps firms decide what info to give consumers

Experts have developed guidance to help food firms decide what other information to give consumers besides use-by or best-before dates to ensure food safety.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific opinion covers storage conditions, time limits for consumption after food has been opened and thawing of frozen items.

Setting a limit for consumption in days after opening a package, also known as secondary shelf-life, is complex but experts have created a decision tree with five questions. Consumer behavior and reasonably foreseeable conditions of use also need to be considered, they said.

After opening the package, contamination may occur via air flow, fluid drip or due to consumer handling via hands, utensils or containers, introducing new pathogens into the food and factors such as temperature and gas atmosphere may change, affecting microbiological safety.

Factors to consider
For those products where opening the packaging leads to a change in the type … Read more

Federal report focuses on ongoing pathogen threat from raw flour

Warnings are now appearing on the flaps of flour packages. “Cook before sneaking a taste,” says one. Another says “Flour is raw. Please cook fully before enjoying.”

And the April 23 edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) turned its “Note from the Field” section to a closer look at outbreaks involving flour. “Multistate Outbreak of Escherichia coli O26 infections linked to Raw Flour — the United States, 2019” examines one such instance.

Here’s how it came down, according to the MMWR authors:

PulseNet, the molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, on Feb. 20, 2019, identified six Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O26:H11 infections with the same pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern combination. 

The PFGE pattern combination matched that of infections from a July 2018 outbreak associated with ground beef. In response, CDC initiated an investigation with federal, state, and local partners to identify the outbreak source and Read more