U.S. Approves Chinese Genetically Modified Rice
As reported by Reuters, a rice genetically modified (GMO) by Chinese researchers to resist pests has passed safety inspections by authorities in the U.S., allowing for its sale there even though Beijing continues to prohibit planting of any GMO food grain. The rice, known as Huahui 1, was developed by a team at Huazhong University in central Hubei province to resist pests like the rice stem borer. While Chinese authorities granted the strain a safety certificate in 2009, it has never been approved for commercial production. Beijing has spent billions of dollars researching GMO crops but has held back from commercial production of any food grains because of consumer concerns about their safety. Validation of the country’s GMO safety testing and products by U.S. authorities could help persuade the government and consumers in China to accept the products at home.
Finding Sources of Foodborne Illnesses
The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) releases a report titled “Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2013 for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States.” The authors used outbreak data to update previous analyses. CDC estimates that, together, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year. The report noted that Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods; E. coli O157 illnesses were most often linked to vegetable row crops (such as leafy greens) and beef; Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were most often linked to fruits and dairy products; and non-dairy Campylobacter illnesses were most often linked to chicken. IFSAC indicated that attribution percentage for dairy was not included in this analysis because, among other reasons, most foodborne Campylobacter outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk, which is not widely consumed, and likely over-represents dairy as a source of Campylobacter illness.
USDA’s FSIS proposes to amend the egg products inspection regulations by requiring official plants that process egg products to develop HACCP systems and Sanitation SOPs and to meet other sanitation requirements consistent with the meat and poultry regulations. FSIS is proposing that facilities will be required to produce finished egg products free of detectable pathogens. The regulatory amendment is also said to remove unnecessary regulatory obstacles to innovation.
According to “Impacts of the 2014-2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak on the U.S. Poultry Sector,” a new report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, between December 2014 and June 2015, more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. died of highly pathogenic avian influenza or were destroyed to stop the spread of the disease. These birds accounted for about 12% of the U.S. table-egg laying population and 8% of the estimated inventory of turkeys grown for meat. In response to this historic animal-disease event, many destination markets for U.S. poultry commodities levied trade restrictions on U.S. poultry exports, distorting markets and exacerbating economic losses.
USDA’s FSIS also proposes to amend the federal meat inspection regulations by establishing a new voluntary inspection system for market hog slaughter facility called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), while also requiring additional pathogen sampling for all swine slaughter facilities. According to the agency, market hogs are uniform, healthy, young animals that can be slaughtered and processed in this modernized system more efficiently with enhanced process control. For market hog establishments that opt into NSIS, the proposed rule would increase the number of offline USDA inspection tasks, while continuing 100% FSIS carcass-by-carcass inspection.
FDA scientists releases their quantitative risk assessment model using a discrete event framework to quantify and study the risk associated with norovirus transmission to consumers through food contaminated by infected food employees in a retail food setting. According to the agency, norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S. Food employee contact with raw or other ready-to-eat foods is the most common scenario resulting in foodborne norovirus outbreaks. The objective of this risk assessment was to evaluate the impact of prevention strategies and their level of compliance on contaminated food servings and the number resulting infected consumers; and to provide a basis for potential changes regarding Employee Health for the 2017 FDA Food Code.