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2009 Hygiene & Health News

New Food Safety Website

November 28, 2009

The U.S. government has launched a new website about food safety for the public.  The site is a cooperative project of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The site features:  food recall alerts, food safety educational materials, state agency directories, compliance information, contact information for questions or to report a problem, and more.  

The site can be found at: www.foodsafety.gov/

H1N1 Swine Influenza (Flu)

January 13, 2010

January 10 through the 16th is National Influenza Vaccination Week.  The H1N1 flu vaccine is now widely available, and government officials and the Centers for Disease Control are urging EVERYONE to get vaccinated.  Though the number of flu cases reported has decreased, flu season extends until the month of May, and it's not too late to protect yourself.  Most of the flu viruses causing illness are identified as being H1N1 (swine) influenza A, and a third wave of widespread illness can still occur.  Furthermore the seasonal flu vaccine administered for fall/winter 2009 will not protect against novel H1N1 influenza.

 

Young people, pregnant women, and people with asthma or chronic conditions are experiencing the most severe illness; and pediatric deaths from H1N1 have been very high.  The current H1N1 virus is susceptible to the H1N1 immunization as well as the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanimivir.

 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org) reports that there have now been several H1N1 influenza cases in pets, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Most cases involved ferrets, cats, and other felines who were infected by humans carrying H1N1; one dog in the U.S. was also confirmed to have contracted H1N1 from the owner.  There is no approved H1N1 flu vaccine for animals.  To date there have been no reported cases of animals infecting humans.  Consult your veterinarian regarding signs and symptoms to look for, and practice proper hygiene to avoid infecting your pet if you are ill.  Seek medical attention for any concerning illness in your pet; do not give human medication to an animal.

 

Where can you get your H1N1 immunization?

 

Each state decides who will administer the H1N1 vaccine: public health clinics, schools, hospitals, or private physicians.  To find where to go for your H1N1 vaccine, you can:

  • Check the website www.flu.gov and click on your state
  • Or, call your physician's office;  they should know what your state's policy on immunization will be

Important points about the H1N1 immunization:

  • People with egg allergies should consult with their physician before receiving the H1N1 immunization the vaccine may trigger an allergic reaction
  • People who had influenza-like illness since the Spring of 2009 can receive the H1N1 immunization, even if they may have had H1N1 flu illness.  Check with your physician
  • Children under the age of 10 are recommended to have 2 doses of H1N1 vaccine in addition to a seasonal flu shot.  If they have never received a seasonal flu shot, then they will need 2 doses of seasonal flu vaccine.  Check with your pediatrician
  • Children younger than 6 months cannot receive the seasonal or H1N1 flu vaccine
  • If you need both the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots, you can have them at the same time in the following combinations:  
    • inactivated seasonal + inactivated H1N1 
    • inactivated seasonal + live attenuated H1N1
    • live attenuated seasonal + inactivated H1N1

 

Chart Comparing Cold, Seasonal Flu, and H1N1 Symptoms:

Download the chart Cold, Seasonal Flu, Or H1N1?

 

An informative Question and Answer web page about H1N1 and its vaccine can be found: 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/10/health/10primer.html?scp=1&sq=as%20flu%20vaccine%20arrives%20for%20the%20season%20some%20questions%20and%20answers&st=cse

 

What You Can Do to Stay Healthy

 

 

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy:

 

 

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. If you are sick with a flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school until you are fever-free for 24 hours; also, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

The CDC recommendations for and information about H1N1 vaccine is likely to change. For the latest updates, visit :http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/

World Health Organization (WHO) Disease Outbreak News: http://www.who.int/csr/don/en/

Guidelines on Cleaning to Reduce the Risk of Transmission of H1N1 Flu for Cleaning, Janitorial, and Maintenance Staff

August 9, 2009

The H1N1 (swine) flu is a new variant of influenza type A that appeared in Mexico in the Spring of 2009 and quickly spread across the world. Most people do not have immunity to this flu virus, and it can be transmitted from person to person. Cleaning, janitorial, and maintenance staff are on the front line in reducing the spread of H1N1, especially since it will likely remain a threat during the Fall-Winter influenza season. To learn about the current cleaning guidelines for H1N1, download the document: Professional Cleaning for H1N1.

Congress Considering Food Safety Bill

June 13, 2009

In the last few years, the US has suffered a number of recalls and outbreaks of foodborne illness from contaminated food products. New legislation to improve the safety of food was introduced in congress on June 8, 2009. Named the Food Safety Enhancement Act, the bill would amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and aims to strengthen the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) authority to oversee food safety. Some of the bill's stipulations include:

  • Requiring more frequent inspections of food processing facilities by the FDA. (Currently some plants may only be inspected every 10 years.)

  • Requiring food companies to develop and manage food safety programs.

  • Giving the FDA the authority to order companies to recall potentially contaminated food.

The FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg has testified to congress in support of the Food Safety Enhancement Act. Read her comments online at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm164186.htm.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act can be viewed in its entirety at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111congbills&docid=f:h759ih.txt.pdf . This may not be the final version of the bill, since amendments are frequently added by legislators.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is following the course of this bill through congress closely and can assist consumers in contacting their congressperson. Visit the CSPI website at: http://www.cspinet.org, click on the June 3, 2009 article, and find the Safe Food Coalition icon.

Peanut-Containing Product Recall

June 12, 2009

FDA Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak 2009. Flash Player 9 is required.

Recall of Peanut-Containing Products

February 4, 2009

A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have enabled FDA to confirm that the sources of the outbreak of illnesses caused by Salmonella Typhimurium are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia processing plant.

Peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five (5) to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container. Neither of these products is sold directly to consumers. However, through its investigation, FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 100 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream. FDA initiated an inspection of PCA's Blakely plant on January 9 shortly after learning that this firm might be linked to the ongoing Salmonella outbreak. FDA finished its inspection on January 27. A list of problems observed by FDA investigators during their inspection is available at this link: http://www.fda.gov/ora/frequent/default.htm. This list is not a final agency determination regarding compliance. The deficiencies observed indicate that the plant was not compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Practices required by the FDA. These deficiencies are related to cleaning programs and procedures as well as failure to implement steps to mitigate Salmonella contamination in the facility.

On January 28, PCA issued an expanded voluntary recall of all peanuts and peanut products processed in its Blakely, Georgia facility since January 1, 2007. The expanded recall includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste. All of the recalled peanuts and peanut products were made only at the company's Blakely, Georgia facility.

On January 30, FDA confirmed that FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations is involved in a Justice Department investigation of PCA.

FDA has been working with the company and purchasers of PCA's peanut butter and peanut paste to identify affected products and facilitate their removal from the market. FDA and state officials have visited in excess of 1,000 firms who purchased PCA products. Now, the same type of work is continuing and includes the additional products in the expanded recall.

Companies nationwide that received product made by PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. As FDA gathers additional information about these products, the list of recalled products is expected to expand. FDA has created a searchable database for these products, which can be found at: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm.

Product recalls include some pet food products that contain peanut paste that was made by PCA. While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands—and make sure children wash their hands—before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets. Further information for consumers is located in the Frequently Asked Questions section located on this web site. The pet food products are also included in the searchable data base of recalled products.

Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall.

FDA and CDC recommendations for consumers include:

Consumers are urged to check FDA's web site to determine which products have been recalled and will be recalled in the coming days.

Any product that is on the recall list should be disposed of in a safe manner. Consumers are also urged to wash their hands after handling potentially contaminated products.

If consumers are unsure whether a peanut-containing product is potentially contaminated, they should avoid consuming it or feeding it to their pet until they obtain more information regarding the product.

Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut products are advised to consult their health care providers.

For Retailers

Stop selling recalled products.

For Directors of Institutions and Food Service Establishments

Ensure that they are not serving recalled products.

For Manufacturers

Inform consumers about whether their products could contain peanuts or peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). If a manufacturer knows its products do not contain peanuts or peanut products from PCA, it may wish to provide this information to consumers. For specific guidance: Guidance for Industry: Product Recalls, Including Removals and Corrections

The FDA will closely monitor these events by continuing to work with the firms on the details of their actions, conducting follow-up audits and inspections, monitoring the progress of the firms' actions, working with state and local regulatory authorities, and notifying our foreign regulatory counterparts of products that have now been confirmed as having been distributed internationally.

Ongoing Investigation

FDA has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials in various states to investigate the multi-state outbreak of human infections due to Salmonella Typhimurium. An epidemiological investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health isolated and tested subsamples from an open five-pound container of King Nut peanut butter obtained at a nursing home where three patients were sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The Minnesota Health officials found the peanut butter contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with the illnesses linked to the outbreak.

Because it is always possible that the open container was contaminated by someone or something else in the environment, the FDA and the states began testing unopened containers of the same brand of peanut butter. King Nut distributes peanut butter manufactured by the PCA to institutional facilities, food service industries, and private label food companies in several states.

On January 19, 2009, testing by the Connecticut Department of Health of an unopened container of King Nut peanut butter showed that it too contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with illnesses linked to the outbreak. The fact that the Salmonella Typhimurium was confirmed in an unopened container of peanut butter indicates that peanut butter originating from the processing plant was contaminated. FDA has initiated inspections at the direct consignees of PCA and King Nut and continues to follow the distribution points for products.

The FDA has no evidence to suggest that the Salmonella Typhimurium contamination originated with any manufacturing facility other than PCA. The PCA facility in Blakely, Georgia is not operating at this time and the company has recalled all peanuts and peanut products produced there from January 1, 2007, to the present.

The FDA and food manufacturers are working to identify products that may be affected, and to track the ingredient supply chain of those products to facilitate their removal from the marketplace.

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