“Ask Karen” -
Virtual Food Safety Specialist
Cases of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs Rise
Brief Report: Hazardous
Materials Release Resulting from
Home Production of Biodiesel - Colorado, May 2006
Injuries from Magnet Ingestion in Children - United States, 2003-2006
FDA Broadens Access to Lead Screening Test
Proposes Allowing More Substances in Organic Livestock
Widely Used Organic Pesticide Requires Help to Kill
- Back by Popular Demand
Waterborne Disease and
Outbreaks Associated with Recreational Water - U.S.,
Lead in Candy Likely To Be Consumed
Frequently by Small Children: Recommended Maximum Level and Enforcement
Sandy Ogletree again has compiled a very interesting series of articles
for this issue of
the Environmental Toxicology
Newsletter offering a wide ranging look at a number of issues
related to human, veterinary and environmental toxicology. One of the most recent
relates to the recent release of an assessment done by the Food and
Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM) on animal
cloning, and in particular, their assessment of the safety of foods
derived from animal clones. I have been privilidged to serve on the
FDA/CVM Advisory Committee and was involved directly in the review of
their assessment. Their assessment was related to cloning done using
somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), a process in which the nucleus of
an unfertilized egg (ovum) is removed and replaced with the nucleus of
somatic (body) cell from the animal to be cloned. An unfertilized ovum
contains half the genes usually found in the normal animal cell. When
fertilized by a sperm to give the full number of chromosomes, the ovum
then begins to divide to form an embryo. After transfer of the somatic
nucleus into the ovum, the ovum has to be coaxed to begin the process
of division and formation of an embryo, but once this starts, the
process runs its course to form an animal fetus. For a cow, the bovine
ovum cell body is half of what is needed to make an fetus. The other
half is a nucleus with the full complement of chromosomes. In natural
reproduction, half of the chromosomes in the nucleus come from the
mother cow, and half from the bull. In SCNT, all of the chromosomes
come from the nucleus donor (cow or bull). Either way, the ovum is 100%
cow, and nothing but cow! The cloned animal is essentially a twin of
the nucleus donor, there are no extra chromosomes added or genetic
alterations made, SCNT clones are NOT transgenic animals. These
animals are 100% cow, pig, sheep or goat.
The FDA/CVM assessment concluded that foods derived from cloned animals
are safe to eat, and I agree completely with that conclusion. In my
opinion there is no reason to consider "labeling" from cloned animals
or their offspring, if we do, then we should also label all food
derived from twin animals as well.
The complete assessment, and review comments are posted on the FDA/CVM
website (see article and links below). Be forewarned, these are long
documents and full of a lot of detail. SCNT is really a modern
reproductive technology, much like artificial insemination was long
ago. As we become more familiar with these newer technologies, I hope
that those who are skeptical will understand their value in modern
agricultural systems. Food safety is simply not an issue when it comes
to SCNT cloned animals and their offspring.
As a final statement I would like to refer to the
report from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) on
pesticide use in 2005. Each year DPR issues a report on the amounts of
pesticide used, and again this year, we see a reduction of the total
number of pounds of "highly toxic" pesticides used, although the total
poundage applied rose this year. I would once again like to remind
readers that using the total number of pounds of pesticide applied is a
very simplistic way to look at pesticide use in California. There are
so many toxicological factors to consider with respect to worker health
and safety, water quality, and non-target species, that are lost in
such an oversimplification. Each chemical truly needs to be evaluated
independently, and I KNOW that DPR does this prior to registration of
any pesticide for use in California, and in its monitoring programs
after approval. For more specific information, readers are referred to
the databases maintained on the DPR website.
~~ Art Craigmill
This Draft Risk
Assessment is the result of a multi-year effort by staff from the
US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Veterinary
Medicine (CVM or the Center). Since the late 1990s, CVM has been
meeting with clone producers and other stakeholders interested in
cloning to discuss the safety and regulatory implications of somatic
cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the process most commonly used to
generate animal clones during this time period. In the fall of 2000,
CVM tasked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform an
independent, scientific review of the available data on the safety of
cloning, including holding a public meeting to identify science-based
concerns and elicit data and information on clones and their food
products from the scientific community. In July of 2001, the Center
issued a CVM Update requesting that clone producers not introduce meat
or milk from clones or their progeny into food or feed until the NAS
report had been completed, and the agency had had a chance to complete
its own review of the safety of those food products.
In October of 2002, NAS issued its report "Animal Biotechnology:
Science-Based Concerns." Following an overview of the
available data on animal clones, the report indicated that the most
likely mechanism for generating hazards to clones would stem from
reprogramming the donor cell genome, and that any harms that might
result from that reprogramming would be observed early in a clone’s
development. They further noted that there were no published data
comparing the composition of meat or milk from clones with conventional
animals. Nonetheless, the report concluded that there is "no evidence
that food products derived from adult somatic cell clones or their
progeny pose a hazard (i.e., there is no evidence that they present a
food safety concern)".
This Draft Risk Assessment is CVM’s subsequent
independent analysis of all of the data relevant to assessing the
health of clones and their progeny (and other animals involved in the
cloning process) or food consumption risks resulting from edible
products from these animals. In order to make the Risk Assessment as
transparent as possible, all of this information is available to the
public, either by virtue of its publication in peer-reviewed journals,
or by "publication" in this risk assessment. We are actively seeking
independent peer-review of these data by providing all of the data in
raw form (not summaries) either in the text of the risk assessment or
in appendices. In addition, we have also described the means by which
the methodology was developed to facilitate peer-review by risk
To read this entire article link to: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/CloneRiskAssessment.htm
REF: FDA/CVM website
FDA Statement on Foodborne E.
coli O157:H7 Outbreak in Spinach
For more information link
to the FDA website at: FDA Spinach
This statement is current as of October 12,
FDA and the State of California
announced today that test results from the field investigation of the
outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 in spinach are positive for E.coli O157:H7.
Samples of cattle feces on one of the implicated ranches tested
positive based on matching genetic fingerprints for the same strain of
E. coli that sickened 199 people.
The trace back investigation has narrowed to four implicated fields on
four ranches. The outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 from cattle feces
was identified on one of these four ranches. At this time, testing of
other environmental samples from all four ranches that supplied the
implicated lot of contaminated spinach are in progress. The positive
test result is a significant finding, but is just one aspect of this
investigation. More information may come forward as the investigation
continues. These four fields, located in Monterey and San Benito
counties, are not currently being used to grow any fresh produce. While
the focus of this outbreak has narrowed to these four fields, the
history of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to leafy greens indicates
an ongoing problem. As FDA stated in its letter to the lettuce industry
in November of 2005, FDA continues to be concerned due to the history
of outbreaks and the on-going risk for product contamination of leafy
For more information on the illnesses, states
affected, advice, recalls, symptoms of E.coli, lettuce safety
initiative, and other background information, visit http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/spinach.html.
This investigation is on-going. FDA, the State of California, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) continue to work closely to determine
the cause and scope of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak
linked to fresh spinach.
REF: FDA.GOV website
Multidrug-Resistant Shigella sonnei
Gastroenteritis Associated with Day Care Centers-
Kentucky, and Missouri, 2005
Infection with Shigella sonnei that is
antibiotics commonly used in pediatric practice has become more common
during the past decade. In 2005, Kansas, Kentucky, and
Missouri reported increases in shigellosis cases associated with day
care centers caused predominantly by multidrug-resistant (MDR) (i.e.,
resistant to ampicillin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole [TMP/SMX])
strains of S. sonnei. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE)
patterns for isolates from Kansas and Missouri were similar, suggesting
a common outbreak in the Kansas City area, whereas isolates from
Kentucky had a different pattern. This report describes the
investigation of two outbreaks of MDR shigellosis associated with day
care centers and reviews measures for prevention and control of S.
sonnei infection in these settings. Given the current rates of
resistance to antibiotics available to treat children with shigellosis
safely, public health measures initiated during shigellosis outbreaks
should focus on promoting appropriate handwashing and diapering
practices in day care centers.
In the United States, Shigella
species cause an estimated
450,000 cases of gastroenteritis each year, mostly among
children aged <5 years. S. sonnei is the most common species
of laboratory-confirmed Shigella infection in the United States
and usually causes an acute, self-limited, diarrheal illness.
During the past two decades, numerous outbreaks of S. sonnei
infection have been associated with day care centers. Because few
bacteria are required to
transmit shigellosis from person to person through the fecal-oral
route, shigellosis can propagate in settings with insufficient hygiene
practices. Certain states, including the three states in this report,
require that children with shigellosis be excluded from day care
centers until documentation indicates that they have submitted two
consecutive stool specimens that do not yield S. sonnei;
however, whether excluding children until stool cultures do not yield Shigella
bacteria reduces transmission is unclear. As a result, the control of
shigellosis outbreaks associated with day care centers often requires
considerable time, effort, and expense from health departments, day
care centers, and affected families.
The emergence of MDR
shigellosis highlights the importance of prevention and rapid control
of outbreaks. Appropriate handwashing and diapering practices
are critical in minimizing the transmission of shigellosis in day care
centers. Scheduling handwashing sessions on arrival at the day care
center, before meals, or after playing outdoors; supervising
handwashing among young children; and eliminating water play areas have
been used to reduce the spread of shigellosis within day care centers
and to the community. Forming cohorts of convalescing children
(e.g., asymptomatic children who are culture-positive), by allowing
them to attend the day care center but excluding them from interacting
with other well children, also has been used to control outbreaks
associated with day care centers; however, state regulations in these
three states do not allow such measures. Given the current rates of
resistance to ampicillin and TMP/SMX, the uncertain safety of
administering fluoroquinolones to children, the difficulties in
monitoring azithromycin resistance, the absence of an appropriate
vaccine, and the unclear benefits of exclusion policies in day care
centers, public health measures should focus on prevention of
shigellosis outbreaks through appropriate hygiene practices and, where
possible and allowed by state regulations, forming cohorts of
convalescing children in day care centers.
Weekly, October 6, 2006, 55(39)
Testing and Results for Suicide Victims - 13 States, 2004
2003, an estimated 31,484 suicides (10.7 per
100,000 population) occurred in the United States. Suicide was the
fourth leading cause of death among persons aged 10-64 years and the
second and third leading causes of death among persons aged 25-34 and
10-24 years, respectively. Few studies have attempted to determine the
contribution of substance use to suicide. To assess toxicology testing
practices and to determine the prevalence of positive results for
alcohol or other drugs, CDC analyzed test results of suicide victims in
the 13 states that collected data for the National Violent
Death Reporting System (NVDRS) in 2004. This report summarizes the
results of that analysis, which determined that 1) the percentage of
suicide victims tested varied among states, ranging from 25.9% to
97.7%; 2) of those victims tested, 33.3% were positive for alcohol, and
16.4% were positive for opiates; and 3) similar percentages of
poisoning suicide (i.e., suspected intentional overdose) and
nonpoisoning suicide victims tested positive for alcohol or other
drugs, with the exception of opiates. These results underscore the need
to continue monitoring toxicology test results of suicide victims,
which might identify patterns of substance use that can help guide
development of effective suicide interventions. Such data can be
enhanced by uniform, comprehensive, toxicology testing practices on a
state and national basis.
Overall, the percentage of suicide victims tested
varied by type of substance tested: alcohol (74.4%), cocaine (48.4%),
opiates (i.e., heroin or prescription opioid analgesics) (45.3%),
amphetamines (38.8%), and marijuana (29.6%). The percentage of victims
tested also varied among states by type of substance tested, ranging
from 97.4% to 25.1% for alcohol, 95.3% to 1.1% for amphetamines, 96.5%
to 7.5% for cocaine, 96.5% to 10.9% for opiates, and 95.3% to 0.4% for
Among all suicide victims with positive test
results, the greatest percentage tested positive for alcohol (33.3%),
followed by opiates (16.4%), cocaine (9.4%), marijuana (7.7%), and
amphetamines (3.9%). Among states (excluding those in which fewer than
20 victims were tested), the percentage of positive tests ranged from
27.4% to 40.6% for alcohol, none to 23.0% for amphetamines, 3.1% to
21.8% for cocaine, and 9.6% to 63.7% for opiates. Numbers of positive
tests for marijuana in individual states were too small to be
Greater percentages of victims of suicides caused
by poisoning were tested than nonpoisoning suicide victims. Tests for
alcohol were conducted in 82.0% of poisoning suicides and 72.9% of
nonpoisoning suicides. Similar differences were observed for
amphetamines (54.2% versus 35.8%), cocaine (66.0% versus 44.9%),
opiates (70.7% versus 40.2%), and marijuana (42.3% versus 27.0%).
However, despite greater testing in poisoning suicides, with the
exception of opiates, the proportions of tests with positive results
were similar for poisoning and nonpoisoning suicides, respectively:
31.6% versus 33.7% for alcohol, 5.8% versus 3.3% for amphetamines, and
8.3% versus 9.7% for cocaine. For opiates, 39.8% of poisoning victims
tested positive, compared with 8.2% of nonpoisoning victims.
the entire article link to: MMWR
Weekly, November 24, 2006 /
DPR Reports 2005
Pesticide Use Data; Highly Toxic Categories Down Again
Department of Pesticide Regulation
reported a statewide decline in
the use of several highly toxic
chemicals in 2005, including fumigants and other pesticides of
DPR tentative statistics for 2005 show 194
million pounds applied
for all commercial uses, compared to 180 million pounds in 2004. Half
of the increase was attributed to sulfur, a natural compound used by
organic and conventional growers to combat mold and mildew. Wet weather
was a factor for many growers in 2005.
At the same time, use of many higher risk
chemicals declined, both
in pounds applied and acres treated, while use of some reduced-risk
compounds increased dramatically.
“DPR continues to put strong emphasis on reducing
and use whenever possible,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam.
“While last year’s weather presented challenging conditions for
growers, we see a growing reliance on sustainable pest management.
“The number of pounds applied is not as
significant as the chemicals
that contribute to that total,” said Warmerdam. “Increased use of less
toxic materials shows that we are moving in the right direction.”
As in previous years, most farm pesticide use
occurred in the San
Joaquin Valley, the nation's No. 1 agricultural area. Fresno, Kern,
Tulare, San Joaquin, and Madera counties had the highest use, as
measured in pounds. Other indicators summarized by DPR include the
number of applications made and cumulative acreage treated, statewide
and county by county.
Pesticide use varies from year to year based on
including types of crops, economics, acreage planted, and other factors
– most notably weather. A cool, wet spring in 2005 promoted fungus and
other diseases in crops such as grapes, requiring more intensive pest
Some details from the 2005 DPR pesticide use summary:
- As measured in pounds, the most used pesticides were sulfur,
petroleum oils, metam-sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and mineral
oil. Sulfur use increased by 7.3 million pounds (13 percent) and was
the most highly used pesticide in 2005, both in pounds applied and
acres treated. By pounds, sulfur accounted for 32 percent of all
reported pesticide use. Sulfur is a natural fungicide favored by both
conventional and organic farmers.
- Fumigant chemicals decreased in pounds applied from 2004 to 2005
(1 million pounds, 2.5 percent) and decreased in cumulative acres
treated (54,000 acres, 14 percent). Use of about half of the major
fumigants decreased in pounds but nearly all major fumigants decreased
in acres treated.
- Pounds of reduced-risk pesticides increased by 630,000 pounds
applied (60 percent) and by 2.4 million acres treated (39 percent).
- Crops that showed an overall increase in pesticide pounds applied
from 2004 to 2005 included wine grapes (6 million pounds), oranges (2.7
million pounds), raisin and table grapes (1.8 million pounds), walnuts
(1.2 million pounds), and almonds (1 million pounds). Major crops or
sites with decreased pounds applied included rice (1.5 million pounds),
fresh tomatoes (700,000 pounds), strawberries (420,000 pounds), and
lemons (370,000 pounds).
For several years, DPR annual pesticide use summaries have included
various toxic categories. The statistical summaries for these
categories are not risk indicators. DPR uses the data to support
regulatory activities to enhance public safety and environmental
protection. Some notable changes from 2004 to 2005:
- Pounds of all the higher risk pesticide categories, except for
toxic air contaminants, decreased and use of all the lower risk
pesticides increased. Acres treated with carcinogens and
organophosphates increased, mostly because of increased use of the
fungicides mancozeb and maneb and the insecticide chlorpyrifos.
- Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins decreased in pounds
applied from 2004 to 2005 (2.1 million pounds or 8.8 percent) and
decreased in cumulative acres treated (88,000 acres or 4.1 percent).
- Pounds of insecticide organophosphate and carbamate chemicals,
which include compounds of high regulatory concern, continued to
decline as they have for nearly every year since 1995.
- Chemicals categorized as toxic air contaminants, another group of
pesticides of regulatory concern, remained nearly the same as in 2005
while cumulative acres treated increased by 220,000 (6.1 percent).
REF: CDPR website, November 15, 2006.
Anniversary: Director's Perspective ---
William H. Foege,
M.D., M.P.H., 1977--1983
Expansion of Public
public health began 210 years ago, in 1796, when
Jenner, using material from a cowpox lesion on the hand of Sarah
Nelmes, vaccinated James Phipps. A later attempt to give Phipps
smallpox demonstrated his immunity, and the vaccination era had begun.
Although Jenner lacked our understanding of viruses, the immune system,
or vaccinology, his clinical observations had convinced him that
milkmaids were protected from smallpox because of their previous
exposure to cowpox, and he acted to see if nature could be replicated.
David Sencer reported on the conclusion to the
smallpox saga in his
describing how Jenner's actions were taken to their logical extension
during the smallpox eradication program in the 1960s and 1970s. CDC
contributed more than 300 workers to this global effort, many of them
assigned to the World Health Organization for deployment throughout the
world. The importance of this event in the collective energy that
defined CDC in 1977 cannot be overstated. Workers at CDC believed they
could make a difference. They thought globally, understood teamwork,
and were proud to be part of the organization.
much of the past 210 years, public health has
with combating infectious diseases. As Sencer points out, although
public health had made excursions into occupational health and
environmental health, nutrition, birth defects, smoking, and even
family planning, the focus was predominantly on the prevention and
control of infectious diseases. However, interest in the health of the
public increasingly required concern over the toll of chronic diseases,
exposure to chemical toxins, the role of intentional and unintentional
injury, and the interaction of many risk factors beyond microbes.
Public health was changing, and so were the demands on CDC.
For the entire article,
please link to: CDC
October 6, 2006, 55(39).
FDA Posts Acrylamide Data
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been
variety of U.S. food products for acrylamide and has posted data from
its analysis of composite food samples from FDA's Total Diet Study. FDA
also surveyed individual food product samples for acrylamide; the
individual food product data are available at Survey Data on Acrylamide
in Food: Individual Food Products.
For more, see the Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Total Diet Study
REF: Food Safety Network,
FSnet, Nov. 2, 2006.
Age-Adjusted Death Rates for the Five Leading Causes of
United States, 2001--2004
The five leading causes of death account for
approximately two thirds of all deaths in the United States. The two
leading causes of death, heart disease and cancer, account for
approximately half of all deaths. Both heart disease and cancer death
rates declined substantially during 2001-2004.
Mortality data from the
National Vital Statistics System, available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.
Age-Adjusted Death Rates for Leading Causes of Injury Death, by Year
During 1979-2004, the three
leading causes of injury death in the United States were motor-vehicle
traffic, firearm, and poisoning (including drug overdose). In 2004, for
the first time since 1968, when such data first became available, the
number of reported poisoning deaths (30,308) and the age-adjusted
poisoning death rate (10.3 per 1000,000 population) exceeded the number
of firearm deaths (29,569) and the firearm death rate (10.0),
respectively. During 1999-2004, the poisoning death rate increased 45%,
whereas the firearm death rate declined 3%; during the same period, no
change occurred in the rate (14.7) for motor-vehicle traffic deaths.
SOURCE: Mortality data from the
National Vital Statistics Systems. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.
REF: MMWR Weekly, Vol 55(50), December 22, 2006.
Associated with Commercial Carrot Juice
Florida, September 2006
8, 2006, the Georgia
Division of Public Health (GDPH)
and CDC were notified of three suspected cases of foodborne botulism in
Washington County, Georgia. On September 25, the Florida Department of
Health and CDC were notified of an additional suspected case in Tampa,
Florida. This report describes the joint investigation and control
measures undertaken by state and local health departments, CDC, and the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On September 8, the three patients from Washington
County, Georgia, went to a local hospital with cranial nerve
palsies(weakness) and progressive descending flaccid paralysis
resulting in respiratory failure; the patients had shared meals on
September 7. On the evening of September 8, physicians suspected
foodborne botulism, notified the state health department, and collected
clinical specimens for testing at CDC. On the same evening, CDC
provided clinical consultation and dispatched botulinum antitoxin,
which was administered to each of the patients the following morning.
After receiving antitoxin, the patients had no progression of
neurologic symptoms, but they remain hospitalized and on ventilators.
On September 9, the Washington County Health
County Health Department, and GDPH launched an investigation. The three
patients had consumed several food items during their two meals
together on September 7, including juice from a single 1-liter bottle
of Bolthouse Farms carrot juice. The bottle had a "best if used by"
date of September 18, 2006. Clinical specimens and leftover food and
juice were collected and sent to CDC for testing. On September 13,
botulinum toxin type A was identified in the serum and stool of all
three patients. On September 15, leftover carrot juice recovered from
the home of one of the patients also tested positive for botulinum
toxin type A.
FDA launched an
investigation of the Bolthouse Farms, Inc., manufacturing plant in
Bakersfield, California. FDA and CDC tested other bottles of the
implicated brand of carrot juice, including bottles from different
lots, and all were negative for
botulinum toxin. Because botulinum
toxin was found only in the bottle of carrot juice consumed by the
three patients, a lapse in
refrigeration of the carrot-juice bottle
during transport or storage was suspected, which would have allowed for
growth of Clostridium botulinum and subsequent production of
botulinum toxin. Based on the CDC test results, on September 17, FDA
issued a consumer advisory on the importance of keeping carrot juice
refrigerated. However, information obtained from patient interviews
regarding storage and transport of the carrot juice did not confirm
mishandling by the patients.
C. botulinum spores are found in the
environment and can be
present naturally in carrot juice and other foods that have not
undergone the retort canning process, which involves high temperatures
and high pressure. Anaerobic conditions, low acidity (pH>4.6), low
salt and sugar concentrations, and temperatures >39ºF
(>4ºC) promote germination of C. botulinum
spores and botulinum toxin production. Carrot juice has low acidity,
with a natural pH of approximately 6.0; therefore, in the absence of
another inhibitor, refrigeration at temperatures <40ºF
(<4ºC) is necessary to prevent germination of C.
botulinum spores and production of botulinum toxin. Inhibiting C.
botulinum growth in other ways, such as through acidification, can
retard its growth in juice that is not properly refrigerated.
Suspected botulism cases should be reported
immediately to local or
state public health officials, who then should call the 24-hour CDC
Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100; the center will
immediately connect them with an on-call botulism specialist.
Health-care providers and public health officials are encouraged to
inquire specifically about consumption of carrot juice as part of the
food history of suspect botulism cases. Additional information on
botulism is available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/botulism_g.htm.
October 6, 2006 55(Dispatch)
Virtual Food Safety Specialist
Food safety specialists at the USDA Meat and Poultry
answer customers’ questions weekdays on the toll-free line. But they’re
also the brains behind “Ask Karen,” the automated information source on
the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Web site. With a database of
more than 9,300 food safety questions maintained by the Hotline, “Ask
Karen,” a virtual representative, or vRep, is
available 24/7 worldwide. Because “Ask Karen” never sleeps, she’s ready
with an answer whenever you have a question. How can this innovative
Web tool help you? Say you forgot to put your dinner leftovers in the
refrigerator. Now, you’re ready for a 3:00 a.m.
snack. But are these morsels still safe to eat? Or, maybe you’re
writing a newsletter in the early hours of the morning, and you need
to a food safety question. Is there anybody awake you can ask? It
doesn’t matter if it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon or 3 o’clock in the
morning. Because “Ask Karen” is available on the FSIS Web site, you can
type in your question at any time, from any place. Since its launch in
April 2004, more than 29,000 customers have done just that and asked
more than 91,000 questions.
“More than 20 years of research and experience from
the Hotline went
into creating the database,” said Diane VanLonkhuyzen, the Hotline’s
manager. “Hotline staff knew what people might ask.” This knowledge has
grown into the extensive database that is now at Karen’s virtual
fingertips. In fact, when launched, “Ask Karen” had the largest number
in the software developer’s rollout history. You can be confident that
answers you receive from “Ask Karen” are based on up-to-the-minute
The Hotline’s food safety experts
continue to research new
science-based answers, often with the assistance of other FSIS
divisions. In addition to responding instantaneously with answers, this
cutting edge tool provides links to other Web pages with additional
information. Not sure what to ask? Choose questions by category. By
clicking the “Help” button, you’ll find more than 100 categories from
choose. Questions in the database relate to meat, poultry and egg
products, safe handling, food storage, food preparation, food
inspection, food recalls
and many other topics.
“Ask Karen” was listed as one of the Government’s
“Best Practices” at
this and other venues, “Ask Karen” is used
by other government agencies as a model of how to assist the public
with finding answers to questions and to help identify the public’s
for food safety information.
Q How do I know if my chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat?
A Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food
has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.
All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of
165° F as measured with a food thermometer. A whole chicken must
reach a minimum internal temperature of 165° F throughout the bird.
Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and
wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal
preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures.
Visit ASK KAREN at www.fsis.usda.gov
Click on “I Want To ... Ask A Food Safety Question”
Call the USDA Meat &
REF: Be Foodsafe, The FSIS Magazine, Fall 2006.
Cases of Xylitol Poisoning in Dogs Rise
The Animal Poison
Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals has managed a substantially increased number of cases involving
xylitol poisoning in dogs. Found in
sugar-free chewing gum, candy, and
baked goods, xylitol is a sweetener that can cause serious and
sometimes life-threatening problems for pets.
managed more than 170 cases of
xylitol poisoning in 2005, up from approximately 70 in 2004, said Dana
Farbman, a certified veterinary technician and spokesperson for the
center. As of August, the center had managed nearly 114 cases in 2006.
An increase in availability of xylitol-containing
products may be one reason for the rise in cases, Farbman said.
While it was previously thought that only large
concentrations of xylitol could cause problems in dogs, lesser amounts
of the sweetener may also be harmful, the center reported.
"Our concern used to be mainly with products that
contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients," said Dr. Eric
Dunayer, who specializes in toxicology at the center. "However, we have
begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with
lesser amounts of this sweetener." Dr. Dunayer said that with smaller
concentrations of xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed
as much as 12 hours after ingestion.
According to Dr. Dunayer, dogs ingesting substantial
amounts of items sweetened with xylitol could develop a sudden drop in
blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and
seizures. "These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30
minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that
pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately," Dr. Dunayer said. He
also said that there appears to be a strong link between xylitol
ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.
REF: JAVMA 229(7), October 1, 2006.
Home Production of Biodiesel
Colorado, May 2006
On May 7, 2006, a hazardous materials (HazMat)
release occurred in a
residential area of Colorado when a homeowner who was processing a tank
of homemade biodiesel fuel forgot to turn off the tank's heating
element and left for the weekend. The heating element overheated and
caused a fire that burned the surrounding shed and equipment. The shed
had contained >600 gallons of
biodiesel and recycled restaurant cooking oil, smaller amounts of
glycerin and sodium hydroxide, and 1-gallon containers of sulfuric and
phosphoric acid; a mixture of these ingredients seeped into the ground
during the fire. A certified HazMat team and the local fire department
responded. Investigators found seven 55-gallon barrels of methanol and
other hazardous materials outside the shed. No injuries or evacuations
occurred. To prevent potential injuries, biodiesel should be purchased
from a licensed commercial source.
The recent rise in petroleum prices has caused an
in alternative fuels such as biodiesel. Although many
alternative fuels exist (e.g., ethanol, hydrogen, and natural gas),
biodiesel is used increasingly as a diesel-replacement fuel in the
United States because it can be manufactured from readily available
ingredients such as vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled restaurant
cooking oil. Biodiesel is created through a chemical process
involving the reaction of fat or oil with methanol in the presence of a
catalyst (e.g., sodium or potassium hydroxide) to produce methyl ester
(i.e., biodiesel) and glycerin, a byproduct used in soap and other
products. Biodiesel can be used in vehicles and machinery
designed to operate on diesel fuel, such as automobiles with diesel
(but not gasoline) engines, fuel and heating-oil boilers, and
Biodiesel usually is produced commercially; however,
some persons in
the United States and elsewhere produce biodiesel in their homes for
personal use. Those who produce homemade biodiesel should be aware of
the substantial risk for injury. Substances used in biodiesel
production can be highly explosive (i.e., methanol) or corrosive (i.e.,
sodium hydroxide). If improperly handled, these substances can cause
severe eye, skin, and upper respiratory irritation; chemical burns; and
other serious injuries. During the preceding 10 years,
almost all fires and injuries caused by home production of biodiesel of
which the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is aware were caused by
improper handling of methanol during production. NBB is the nonprofit
trade association coordinating regulatory, technical, and market
development of the fuel as a commercial product. The event described in
this report is the first known to NBB involving a heating element in an
unintentional fire related to home production of biodiesel.
Production of homemade biodiesel can be dangerous for persons
without appropriate training and equipment. Therefore, this fuel should
be purchased from a licensed source.
17, 2006 / 55(45);1227-1228
Injuries from Magnet Ingestion in Children - United States, 2003-2006
Ingestion of nonfood objects, inadvertently or
intentionally, is common among young children and also occurs with
older children and adolescents. Unless the objects are large or sharp,
they usually pass through a child's digestive system without health
consequences. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
has become aware of toy products containing small, powerful rare-earth
magnets that pose unique health hazards to children. Since 2003, CPSC
staff members have identified one death resulting from ingestion of
these magnets and 19 other cases of injuries requiring gastrointestinal
surgery. This report describes three selected cases and summarizes the
20 cases of magnet ingestion identified by CPSC that occurred during
2003-2006. Caregivers should keep small magnets away from young
children and be aware of the unique risks (e.g., volvulus and bowel
perforation) that magnets pose if ingested. When evaluating children
who have ingested objects, health-care providers should be aware of
potential complications if magnets might be involved.
CPSC and the respective manufacturers announced
voluntary recalls of
Magnetix magnetic building sets by Rose Art Industries, Inc.
(Livingston, New Jersey) in March 2006 and of Polly Pocket™
magnetic play sets by Mattel, Inc. (El Segundo, California) in
November. However, other toys also include magnets. CPSC is working
with the ASTM International toy safety standard (F 963) subcommittee to
address hazards associated with toys containing magnets.
For the entire article link to: MMWR
REF: MMWR, December
8, 2006 / 55(48);1296-1300
The FDA Broadens Access to
Lead Screening Test
In September 2006, the Food and Drug
Administration expanded the
availability of the first simple and portable lead test system to more
than 115,000 certified point-of-care locations nationwide, including
health care clinics, mobile health units, and schools. This action will
make it easier and faster for children and adults to be tested and
treated for lead poisoning.
The LeadCare II Blood Lead Test System is made by
ESA Biosciences of
Chelmsford, Mass. The test is used to screen children and adults for
harmful levels of lead using a finger stick or venous whole blood
sample. It is performed while the patient is present, in as little as
three minutes. The rapid result means a second sample for further
testing can be obtained quickly, if needed, reducing the need for a
Health care providers will have more
opportunities to test for lead
exposure in the community and to detect and treat people earlier,
before the damaging effects of lead poisoning occur, says Acting FDA
Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. "FDA's expansion of the
test's availability bolsters ongoing efforts to reach populations at
greatest risk for lead poisoning and to expand testing inside
communities. This may be particularly true for young children and inner
city residents who may face obstacles accessing healthcare."
At this time, the test is available only at
private and public health laboratories, and other testing facilities
with the capability of performing moderate- and high-complexity
testing. Patients whose results are borderline or positive must make a
second appointment with their doctor for follow-up testing. But some
people fail to do this, and doctors sometimes have difficulty reaching
patients to give them their results or to discuss treatment options.
Lead poisoning in children typically results from
from deteriorating lead-based paint or from drinking water from
corroding plumbing. Lead poisoning may have no symptoms, but symptoms
can include headaches, stomach cramps, fatigue, memory loss, high blood
pressure, and seizures. Lead poisoning in children has been linked to
learning disabilities and developmental delays.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and
more than 300,000 children younger than age 6 each year have blood
levels that exceed 10 milligrams per deciliter, the threshold used to
poisoning. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
estimates that 24 million homes in the United States have significant
lead-based paint hazards. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
estimates that 1 out of 4 homes with children younger than age 6 has
The CDC and the AAP have issued recommendations
children at ages 1 and 2 who live in high-risk homes. The LeadCare II
Blood Lead Test System also will aid adults exposed to lead in
occupational settings where the availability of immediate lead test
results will help to identify problems early.
The ease and accuracy of the test system were
evaluated by testing
516 blood samples over a two-month period at 11 sites. The test
instrument applies an electrical current to the patient's blood sample,
causing lead to collect on disposable sensors. Studies show that nearly
98 percent of the values measured by the test instrument were within
Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recommendations for
blood lead proficiency testing. Another laboratory method should be
used to confirm blood lead values above 10 milligrams per deciliter.
Consumer Magazine, November-December 2006.
Allowing More Substances in Organic Livestock
The Department of
Agriculture is proposing to permit
additional substances, including those used in a number of medical
treatments, in organic livestock production.
The medical treatments permissible with limitations
under the new rule would include administration of atropine, bismuth
subsalicylate, butorphanol, flunixin, furosemide, magnesium hydroxide,
poloxalene, tolazoline, and xylazine.
The amendments to the National List of Allowed and
Prohibited Substances for organic livestock also would allow the use of
peracetic acid for sanitation of facilities and processing equipment,
calcium propionate for inhibition of mold in dry herbal products, and
excipients in the manufacture of drugs. Excipients are inactive
ingredients such as fillers, extenders, diluents, wetting agents,
solvents, emulsifiers, preservatives, flavors, absorption enhancers,
sustained-release matrices, and coloring agents.
The new rule would reflect recommendations from the
National Organic Standards Board. The USDA also consulted with the Food
and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The USDA did not accept the board's recommendation
to extend withdrawal periods for drugs to twice the usual FDA
requirements. The USDA also did not approve allowing the antimicrobial
moxidectin for controlling parasites in organic livestock or allowing
activated charcoal, calcium borogluconate, calcium propionate, kaolin
pectin, mineral oil, or propylene glycol as veterinary treatments.
REF: JAVMA, 229(5), September 1, 2006.
Most Widely Used Organic Pesticide
Requires Help to Kill
The world's most widely used organic insecticide, a
bacterium known as Bacillus
or Bt for short,
requires the assistance of other microbes to perform its insect-slaying
work, a new study has found.
The startling new insight into the workings of one
of the most
important and environmentally friendly weapons in the human arsenal
against insect pests has significant implications not only for the
control of insects in agriculture, forestry and human health, but for
understanding microbial disease in humans and other animals.
For the entire article link to: University of
REF: Chemically Speaking, October 2006
DDT - Back by
The Word Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed
the indoor spraying of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) to control
malaria-carrying mosquitoes, reversing a 30-year policy. The
Organization said there is little
risk from the insecticide when it is used appropriately and
that any risks are far outweighed by the effectiveness of DDT in controlling a
disease that kills one million people annually. Said one WHO
official, “The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports
this reassessment. DDT presents no health risk when used properly.”
New data that suggest minimal effects to the
environment or health from indoor spraying of DDT have largely
eliminated the concerns which led to the ban on DDT in the early 1980s.
The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
implemented a global ban on DDT, but allowed about 25 nations to keep
using the insecticide for vector control to combat malaria under strict
conditions. The WHO said of the dozen insecticides WHO has approved for
house spraying, DDT is the most effective. For about $5, a household of
five people can be protected for a year, during which time the
incidence of the disease is being reduced by 90%.
One of the proponents of the use of DDT is South
Africa, which reintroduced DDT for indoor use several years ago after
finding that malaria-carrying mosquitoes had developed resistance to
other insecticides. Since then, malaria case and fatality numbers have
fallen to all-time low levels and South Africa has moved towards
malaria elimination. Currently, 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are
using indoor spraying programs and ten of those are using DDT.
Activist organizations are split in their
reaction. Environmental Defense,
which launched the anti-DDT campaign in the 1960s, now endorses the
indoor use of DDT for malaria control, as does the Sierra Club and the
Endangered Wildlife Trust. Others are less enthusiastic. (Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News,
REF: Chemically Speaking, October 2006.
Surveillance for Waterborne Disease and
Outbreaks Associated with Recreational Water
report summarizes data from the Waterborne Disease and Outbreak
Surveillance System, which tracks the occurrences and causes of
waterborne disease and outbreaks (WBDOs) associated with recreational
water. During 2003-2004, a total of 62 WBDOs associated with
recreational water were reported by 26 states and Guam. Illness
occurred in 2,698 persons, resulting in 58 hospitalizations and one
death. The median outbreak size was 14 persons (range: 1-617 persons).
REF: MMWR Surveillance Summaries, December 22, 2006.
Lead in Candy Likely To Be Consumed
Frequently by Small Children: Recommended Maximum Level and Enforcement
This guidance provides a recommended maximum lead
level of 0.1 ppm in candy likely to be consumed frequently by small
children. FDA considers the
recommended maximum lead level to be achievable with the use of good
manufacturing practices in the production of candy and candy
ingredients and to be protective of human health.
In addition to announcing the recommended maximum
lead level, FDA as
explained below, is rescinding the previous 0.5 ppm guideline for
considering enforcement action against candy products likely to be
consumed frequently by small children. FDA is prepared to take
enforcement action against any candy product containing lead at levels
that may pose a health risk. Further, FDA is reiterating its
enforcement policy toward the use of lead-based ink on candy wrappers
as originally stated in its 1995 letter to the industry on this
FDA considers the issuance of this guidance to be
a prudent public
health measure consistent with the Agency's policy of reducing lead
levels in the food supply to reduce consumers' lead exposure to the
lowest level that can be practicably obtained.
For this entire article link to: FDA/CFSAN
REF: Ednet Update December 2006.
Dairy Foot Baths Affect Farm
Crops, Field Lifetime
Commonly used foot
baths to prevent
lameness in dairy cows may not only
reduce crop yields but also contribute to the copper load in farm
fields. To look at how the use of the foot baths' copper sulfate
affects three crops' quality and yields and to give farmers an idea of
how much copper may be kept in field soil, a research project, funded
by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP),
which is supported, in part, by Cornell University, is now under way.
Copper sulfate is
cost-effective treatment for controlling
hairy heel warts that cause lameness in dairy cows. However, much of
the copper sulfate used in the cows' foot baths is disposed of in
manure slurry applied to farm fields. A William H. Miner Agricultural
Research Institute survey of New York and Vermont farms estimates that
4 to 16 pounds of copper sulfate is applied per acre per year to some
fields. Since the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation has set a lifetime load limit for copper at 74 pounds per
acre, a field could reach its maximum load of copper in 4.5 to 19
years. Over those years, a farmer hopes to harvest maximum crop yields.
the Miner Institute
in Chazy, N.Y., are evaluating
timothy and orchard grass grown in greenhouses using controlled
applications of copper sulfate on sandy loam and silt loam soils. A
field study on corn is also under way.
"What we want to
know is how much
and how well copper sulfate is
tolerated by field crops," says Everett D. Thomas, vice president of
agricultural programs at the institute. "We know of no research that
determines how copper in sulfate form affects crop development on
different soils. The data from our project will determine how the rate
of copper sulfate application affects root growth, forage quality and
farmers can consider
several alternatives to reduce their
use of copper sulfate to protect the environment and obtain desired
crop yields while protecting cow foot health. Those alternatives
include adjusting the amount of copper sulfate used in foot baths,
reducing the frequency of foot baths, using them less in the
winter and improving hoof trimming and stall surfaces.
Institute, he said, was
able to reduce its copper sulfate use
by 60 percent and maintain its dairy herd's hoof health through good
hoof trimming practices and use of rubber mats throughout the milking
While Thomas says
it is too early to
release results, "some of the
results from the greenhouse study on the forage grasses were
eye-opening -- big yield decreases where copper sulfate was used." He
is eager, he said, to see the field corn study results.
REF: Penn State Veterinary
News, June-August 2006.
Clinical, Pathological and
Toxicological Findings of a Latrogenic
Selenium Toxicosis Case in Feeder Pigs
(A. Casteignau1, A.
Fontán2, A. Morillo3, J. A.
J. Segalés5. 1Unité Pédagogique d'Histologie et
Anatomie Pathologique, Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de
Toulouse, France; 2Swine Veterinarian, Altorricón, Spain; 3Test
& Trials, S.L., Binéfar, Spain; 4Foganar, S.A., Spain; 5Dept
de Sanitat i d'Anatomia Animals, Facultat de Veterinària, Centre
de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA), Universitat Autònoma de
Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain)
Histopathological and toxicological analyses
confirmed a clinical
diagnosis of selenium (Se) intoxication in pigs from a farm in Spain.
After an initial episode of diarrhea, animals presented both
dermatological and neurological signs; the most obvious sign was a
marked hind limb paresis. Cutaneous lesions consisted on diffuse
alopecia, multifocal skin necrosis and coronary band necrosis of the
hooves. Central nervous system lesions involved the cervical and lumbar
intumescences of the spinal cord and consisted of a severe, bilateral
symmetrical poliomyelomalacia of the ventral horns; pons and medulla
oblongata also presented lesions of polioencephalomalacia. Analyses of
feed and sera from clinically affected pigs revealed a marked increase
in Se concentration. Clinical investigations indicated that a failure
in Se dosage in feed was the cause of the toxicosis. (Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series A,
August 2006, Volume 53, Page
Penn State Veterinary News, June-August 2006.
Warning Letter was sent to a farm in Indiana for
offering a bull for sale for
slaughter as food that was adulterated because of the presence of
illegal tissue residues. Analysis of tissue samples collected from the
animal identified the presence of gentamicin and flunixin. No tolerance
has been established for residues of gentamicin in the edible tissues
of cattle as codified in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations
(21 CFR). The amount of flunixin found exceeded the tolerance of 125
parts per billion established for residues of flunixin in the liver
tissue of cattle as codified in 21 CFR 556.286. The presence of these
drug residues in the edible tissues of this animal causes the food to
be adulterated within the meaning of the Federal Food, Drug, and
Cosmetic Act (FFDCA).
Animals at other facilities were
conditions so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially
harmful drug residues were likely to enter the food supply. For
example, each operation lacked an adequate system to ensure that
animals medicated by the operation were withheld from slaughter for
appropriate periods of time to permit depletion of potentially
hazardous residues of drugs from edible tissues. In addition, new
animal drugs were adulterated when each of the operations failed to use
a drug in conformance with its approved labeling. “Extralabel use,”
i.e., the actual or intended use of a drug in an animal in a manner
that is not in accordance with the approved labeling, is permitted only
if the use is by or on the lawful order of a licensed veterinarian
within the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
The extralabel use of approved veterinary or human drugs must comply
with sections 512(a)(4) and 512(a)(5) of the FFDCA and 21 CFR Part 530.
FDA investigations found that the extralabel use of new animal drugs at
these operations failed to comply with these requirements and resulted
in illegal drug residues. Because the extralabel uses of the drugs were
not in compliance with Part 530, the drugs were caused to be unsafe and
adulterated. The above violations involved sulfadimethoxine, penicillin
G procaine, flunixin, penicillin, and gentamicin in dairy cows.
Animals were held under
conditions so inadequate
that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are
likely to enter the food supply. The operations lack an adequate system
to ensure that animals medicated by the facilities are withheld from
slaughter for appropriate periods of time to permit depletion of
potentially hazardous residues of drugs from edible tissues. The above
violations involved sulfadimethoxine in a cow; gentamicin in a beef
cow; and neomycin, flunixin, sulfamethazine, and gentamicin in a culled
REF: FDA Veterinarian, 2006 - No. II.
!! CLICK ON THE PIG !!