Below you see a list of food-borne illnesses the American people are already hearing of these last few decades hitting populations with greater frequency---and we are now hearing that the FDA and Department of AG are no longer issuing re-calls to clear the market of contaminated lots----they are allowing corporations to wait and/or decide to ride out the contagion. When our public health system is dismantled locally in a city like Baltimore---AS IT IS-------this means as well the network that once made the city ready to fight epidemics no longer exists. Hopkins may claim it controls this process----but we saw what happens when corporate health systems control who and how PHARMA and health center access is left to corporate control. When Obama first came on board in 2009 we had such a national event----a avian flu scare----and later a threat from EBOLI from Africa. In both cases the Centers for Disease Control was shown not to have any way of effectively handling a major national epidemic. We were lucky these two incidences were not the real deal with epidemics----WE THE PEOPLE RECEIVED A WARNING SHOT ----letting us know that the Clinton/Bush/Obama dismantling of all Federal public health agencies have left all Americans vulnerable to grave harm at the same time global markets and movement of immigrants from one nation to another to work in FOXCONN factories opens the door to great pandemics/epidemics.
American citizens today do not remember or know what kinds of terrible chronic diseases filled American cities and towns before the New Deal FDR public health policies that created this Federal system of public health centers designed to keep ALL AMERICANS safe from preventable disease. Already we are seeing Polio and Tuberculosis regaining hold because public health and poverty safety nets are being defunded and dismantled. Look over in Asian cities to see what the poor ghettos look like----and that is what comes when the US is made an International Economic Zone with third world quality of life. Citizens in Baltimore know what that is like----as public health was dismantled decades ago.
IT'S MORE THAN GOING IN FOR AN HIV/HEP C TEST FOLKS.
US meat was the best quality and most safe in the world for almost a century until Reagan/Clinton started dismantling all Federal regulations and oversight---now nations of the world are fighting to keep US meat out of their countries because of poor quality and health safety threats. Add to that bringing meats in from developing nations to the US never having any food safety----AND A MAJOR EPIDEMIC IS ON THE HORIZON FOLKS.
Please glance through this long article to see what major outbreaks will look like. If you are like me------I never experienced digestive distress----AKA diarrhea------and now I am frequently dealing with this-----AND IT IS THE FOOD QUALITY. Is it the milk----the vegetables----the meat-----IT IS ALL OF THE ABOVE.
Think of all the layers of food safety that existed here in the US to keep all this from our food supply---then think of having none of this overseas----and even the fact that developing nations have no sewage systems----
EUFIC REVIEW 04/2006
Some Animal Diseases and their Possible Impact On Food Safety
Zoonoses are infectious diseases that are transmissible from animals (i.e. non-humans) to man. Humans may acquire zoonotic infections through a number of routes, including food, water, direct contact and insect vectors. Transmission of certain diseases through food remains an important cause of illness in both developing and developed countries .
The recent Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)
crises in Europe and the Avian Influenza crisis in Asia have heightened public concerns over the safety of foods of animal origin. In some cases, the mere presence of disease in herds or flocks of food-producing animals is perceived by consumers as a risk that undermines their confidence in derived food products. However, the risks for human health associated with some of these diseases may be negligible or non-existent, as will be explained in this review.
In industrialized countries, potential risks associated with foodborne pathogens are minimised through stringent animal health control measures. Diseased animals cannot be used to produce human food. For instance, milk from cows with an udder infection cannot be sold or delivered to the dairy plant. Animals arriving at the abattoir to be slaughtered are first inspected for signs of clinical illness before they enter the premises. Throughout the slaughter process, meat inspection procedures are carried out by trained personnel to identify signs of disease in the carcass. Needless to say, any deviation from normality leads to rejection of the carcass for further use.
Some zoonotic pathogens may, however, cause little or no disease in their animal hosts and, unfortunately, these unapparent infections (carrier states) are more difficult to detect, either on farm or at slaughterhouse level. Many of these pathogens reside in the intestinal tract of healthy animals and may spread through faecal contamination of the environment and products such as meat, milk or eggs. Small amounts of intestinal contents may contaminate milk during milking, the carcass at slaughter and the egg during laying. The risk associated with this type of contamination is minimised where proper food hygiene is applied throughout the entire food chain from production, through processing to preparation at home.
This review discusses some of the main animal diseases of importance that may affect man and the risks of contracting the disease via the food chain.
SalmonellaSalmonellosis is the disease caused by one of the many serotypes of the bacterium, Salmonella enterica. It is one of the most common causes of bacterial foodborne illness worldwide, second only to campylobacteriosis [2,3,4]. All species, including humans, may be infected by Salmonella bacteria, which live in the intestine and may be shed in faeces. However, Salmonella can survive and multiply very well outside the intestinal tract, which makes eradication impossible. Moreover, faecal contamination of carcasses, milk and eggs cannot be completely prevented.
In animals, the disease may manifest as one or more of three major syndromes: septicaemia, acute enteritis and chronic enteritis. Some serotypes of Salmonella, such as S. Choleraesuis in pigs, S. Dublin in cattle and S. Pullorum in poultry, can cause severe disease in animals, but livestock can also be carriers without showing clinical signs of infection. The most common serotypes involved in human foodborne illness are S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium, but these often cause only mild, if any, disease in livestock.
In humans, salmonellosis causes fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Symptoms usually develop within 12-72 hours after ingestion, and last for 4-7 days. Most cases are self-limiting, but severe cases require hospitalisation, and may be fatal. The more severe cases are associated with septicaemia, when the organism spreads, via the blood stream, to other body sites. Particularly vulnerable groups include the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems. Some people may become carriers following infection and in some cases, there may be long term complications, such as reactive arthritis. ‘Typhoid fever’ is caused by S. Typhi, which only infects humans and is not spread by animals.
Food sources of animal origin include poultry and other meats, eggs and raw milk. However, infection may also be acquired from vegetables that have been irrigated with, or washed in, contaminated water. Although the organism can survive at refrigeration temperatures, it is destroyed by proper cooking and pasteurisation. Cooked foods may, however, be cross-contaminated by raw foods or other unhygienic practices.
Poultry and eggs are particularly high risk foods. Egg-associated salmonellosis is usually transmitted through faecal contamination of the shell, but S. Enteritidis may, rarely, also infect the ovaries of apparently healthy chickens and contaminate their eggs before the shells are formed.
Control measures and voluntary codes of practice for the control of Salmonella are implemented at national and European levels. Compulsory measures are currently in place through EU regulations to control S. Typhimurium and S. Enteritidis in breeding poultry flocks, and these are due to be extended to other groups of poultry and other species .
Humans that are carriers may inadvertently spread infection if they handle food without washing their hands after using the toilet. Direct contact with infected animals, including pets, can also be a source of infection. Reptiles are particularly likely to harbour Salmonella and hands should always be washed after handling pets e.g. reptiles.
Campylobacter jejuni was identified in the early 1980’s as an important enteric pathogen in humans . Prior to this, the organism was thought to be a minor animal pathogen, causing abortion and enteritis in cattle and sheep. Other Campylobacter species are occasionally involved in human disease, including Campylobacter coli. The organism is widespread in the intestines of most warm blooded animals, including cattle, sheep and poultry, and survives particularly well in birds. It rarely causes disease in livestock, although a significant number may be asymptomatic carriers.
Campylobacter is now considered the most common bacterial cause of gastroenteritis in humans throughout the world . In humans, infection causes fever, headache and general malaise, followed by abdominal pain and profuse, often bloody, diarrhoea. The incubation period is typically 3-6 days, but may be as long as 10 days, and the illness can last from two days to two weeks. In most patients, the disease is self-limiting and cases recover without specific treatment. In patients with compromised immune systems, however, infection can result in life-threatening septicaemia. Children and elderly patients may also be more severely affected. Complications occur in a small number of cases (2-10%) and include reactive arthritis or a form of paralysis known as ‘Guillain-Barré Syndrome’. These complications usually resolve within a few months.
Transmission of Campylobacter to humans can occur via contaminated raw or undercooked poultry and meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water. The organism is particularly common on poultry carcasses, and poultry meat is thought to be an important vehicle for infection. Contact with infected pets can also be a source of infection.
Relatively small number of bacteria are required to cause illness in humans, which can result from a single drop of juice from raw chicken meat . The bacteria are readily destroyed on cooking and during the pasteurisation process and freezing reduces the numbers on food. The organism does not readily grow in foods and, moreover, needs ‘warmer’ temperatures for multiplication. Hygiene in food storage and preparation is important for preventing disease, as is thorough cooking of poultry products and pasteurisation of milk, in particular.
Listeriosis is the disease caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, although other species of Listeria may very rarely be involved. The organism is ubiquitous in the environment and is found throughout the world.
In healthy adult humans, infection does not result in significant disease, but severe illness may occur in the unborn child, infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. The incubation period is variable from 3-21 days depending on the clinical form. Symptoms range from a mild flu-like condition to severe, life-threatening disease characterised by meningitis and septicaemia. Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to become infected, with about one third of Listeria cases occurring in pregnant women . Although their own symptoms may be mild, infections can lead to miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or infection of the newborn child.
Of the farm animals, cattle, sheep, goats and, rarely, pigs, are the most commonly affected. In these species, infection causes encephalitis, septicaemia, abortion and kerato-conjunctivitis. L. monocytogenes can also found in healthy animals. In most cases, listeriosis is foodborne but transmission to humans can occasionally occur through direct contact with infected animals.
Because Listeria is widespread in the environment, even in households, it may be transferred to food from a variety of sources. L. monocytogenes is destroyed by cooking and pasteurisation, but contamination of prepared foods can occur after processing and before packaging. Unlike some other foodborne pathogens, the organism grows at low temperatures, and can often be found in refrigerators. Typically, listeriosis in humans is associated with consumption of prepared, ready-to-eat foods that have an extended shelf life and are stored in chilled environment. Soft cheeses, meat pâtés and other delicatessen meat products, in particular, have been sources of infection and should be avoided by pregnant women and other at-risk individuals.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious disease of humans and many animals (including birds) that is caused by different species of Mycobacterium. Most cases of human TB are caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which primarily affects humans. The disease in cattle is caused by M. bovis, but this organism can also affect other species, including humans. Birds may be affected by M. avium, which can also infect mammalian species. M. avium does not normally cause disease in humans unless the individual is immunocompromised, as in Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
The disease is characterised by the formation of caseous ‘tubercles’ in various organs of the body. In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) causing chronic coughing, spitting of blood, fever, nights sweats and weight loss. In some cases, infection may spread to other organs, including the central nervous system, lymph nodes, bones and joints. Many individuals may be infected without showing signs of disease, but the infection lies dormant and may be activated in later years when the immune system is weakened.
Similarly, in cattle, TB usually affects the lungs but may also spread to other organs, including the udder. In the early stages of disease, affected animals may not show signs of clinical disease.
Transmission of the organism is via exhaled air and in excretions and secretions. Today, the main source of TB in humans is other humans infected with M. tuberculosis . During the 1930’s, however, many cattle were infected with M. bovis, and this was a significant cause of TB in humans. The organism spread readily to humans via raw milk, although direct contact with infected animals and person-to-person contact have also been implicated.
The incidence of human M. bovis infections dropped markedly with the introduction of milk pasteurisation and compulsory eradication programmes in cattle. In many European countries these measures have, for 30 years or more, prevented many cases of TB. In the UK, for example, less than 1% of all confirmed tuberculosis cases are due to M. bovis . However, these can usually be attributed to infections acquired abroad, or to reactivation of dormant infections in elderly people who were probably infected before the mandatory pasteurisation of market milk .
The organism is destroyed by heat and there is no risk from pasteurised milk. The risk of contracting bovine TB from meat is extremely small, particularly as the organism is killed readily on cooking, and no cases have ever been recorded.
To control TB in cattle, a system of testing and routine meat inspection is undertaken according to EU legislation [8,9]. Infected animals are slaughtered and cattle may not be moved from farms where TB is diagnosed. Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are currently designated by the EU as being officially free of bovine TB .
Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the various species of the bacterium Brucella. The organism affects cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, pigs, dogs and many other species, including humans. Brucella organisms persist within the host’s own cells, where they are protected from the animal’s immune response and can give rise to chronic, recurrent infections.
In animals, brucellosis is primarily a disease of the reproductive tract, causing abortion, retained placenta and impaired fertility. Brucella abortus causes brucellosis in cattle (‘Bang’s Disease’, contagious abortion, infectious abortion) although it may also infect other species including humans. B. melitensis causes brucellosis primarily in sheep and goats.
In humans, B. abortus causes ‘undulant fever’ whereas B. melitensis causes the slightly more severe ‘Malta fever’. Symptoms of acute brucellosis are flu-like, including fever, sweats, headache, back pains and physical weakness. Infections usually become chronic, causing recurrent fever, fatigue and joint pain.
Humans may be infected through eating contaminated food or drink or through close contact with an infected animal when the organism may be inhaled or acquired via skin wounds. Most cases occur following consumption of contaminated raw milk or dairy products.
Areas of Europe that are currently listed as high risk for brucellosis include the ‘Mediterranean Basin’ (Portugal, Spain, Southern France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa) and Eastern Europe [12,13]. It also occurs in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Consumption of ‘village cheeses’ in these areas may pose a risk.
EU legislation provides for continued monitoring of areas designated officially free of B. melitensis through annual testing, and places restrictions on sheep and goats that are moved into the area. Currently, officially free regions include the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and parts of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal .
Control measures for B. abortus in cattle include eradication schemes in a number of European countries. The UK, for example, is currently brucellosis-free and operates a national surveillance scheme in which bulk milk samples from dairy herds are tested monthly and blood samples from other breeding cattle are tested every two years. In addition, all cases of abortion or premature birth in cattle are tested for brucellosis and checks are carried out on all imported females after they calve for the first time in the UK.
Pathogenic E. coli
Escherichia coli is a common bacterium that is found as part of the normal flora in the intestines of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. There are many strains of E. coli, and most do not cause disease. However, some strains can result in serious illness in both man and animals. The presence of high numbers of E. coli in raw food or water may be a sign of faecal contamination by humans or animals, but does not cause illness in most cases. E. coli multiplies readily wherever the temperature, humidity and nutrients are favourable.
Pathogenic strains cause gastroenteritis or more serious forms of disease, and are generally grouped according to their mechanism of virulence. Of the five groups, enterotoxigenic strains of E. coli (ETEC) are the major cause of bacterial diarrhoea in developing countries and of ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ in developed countries . These organisms cause disease by producing toxins that stimulate the lining of the intestines to secrete fluid, resulting in profuse, watery diarrhoea. Most cases recover with fluids alone, particularly oral rehydration solutions, although a number may require antibiotic treatment.
Enterohaemorragic E. coli (EHEC)
is a highly pathogenic group of E. coli that has emerged in recent years. The most widely recognised serotype is E. coli O157:H7. This serotype causes symptoms that range from mild diarrhoea to severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhoea (haemorrhagic colitis). In some cases, infection can lead to more serious complications including haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in which the rapid destruction of red blood cells (causing anaemia and spontaneous bleeding) results in kidney failure and, occasionally, neurological signs. Young children and the elderly are the most vulnerable groups and in these patients, infection has proved fatal in a small percentage of cases.
Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli are usually transmitted by contaminated, undercooked minced (ground) beef, but other foods such as sprouts, lettuce and apple juice have also been vectors . Large outbreaks have been caused by contaminated water. If a carcass is contaminated, the organism can be thoroughly mixed in when the meat is minced (ground), resulting in the contamination of a large quantity of meat. Indeed, E. coli O157:H7 was first identified in the USA following an outbreak caused by eating contaminated hamburgers from a fast food outlet . Raw milk has also been a source of infection, resulting from contamination of the milk by faecal material on the udder or on milking equipment. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with infected people or animal carriers, or through contact with contaminated land. It should be reiterated that the animals that carry and excrete EHEC are asymptomatic and are thus not identified on farm or during meat inspection.
The number of organisms required to cause disease is thought to be relatively small . Thorough cooking is required to kill the organism, and minced beef should not be eaten if it is still pink. Beef burgers, for example should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 70ºC for two minutes.
Foodborne yersiniosis is usually caused by the bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica, although Yersinia pseudotuberculosis may occasionally be involved . The organism occurs in the digestive tract of animals and in the environment, but not all strains are harmful. Strains of Y. enterocolitica that are most likely to cause illness in humans are found most commonly in pigs but have also been isolated from cattle, sheep and poultry. Although Y. enterocolitica can cause enteritis in piglets and lambs, most infections in animals are clinically silent.
Yersiniosis in humans is most common in young children and is characterised by acute diarrhoea, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting. In older children and adults the disease can mimic appendicitis, with fever and right-sided abdominal pain being the predominant signs. Rarely, infection can lead to complications including reactive arthritis or a skin condition called erythema nodosum, but most cases are self-limiting.
Most cases of yersiniosis occur after eating or handling contaminated meat, particularly raw or undercooked pork products. Unpasteurised milk or untreated water that is contaminated can also pose a risk. Children may be infected through cross contamination of their toys, bottles or pacifiers by carers after handling contaminated food. Prevention is dependent on scrupulous hygiene measures in food preparation and storage, and avoiding consumption of raw meat, unpasteurised milk or untreated water.
Anthrax has been recognised as an infectious disease of people and animals for centuries. In nineteenth century Europe, 20-30% of sheep and cattle died of anthrax each year. Today, anthrax still exists in most countries of sub-Sahelian Africa and Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean, some Southern and Eastern European countries and the Middle East . In other countries, the disease may occur sporadically.
The anthrax organism is a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. Spores form when the organism is exposed to air and, being very resistant, they can survive for decades in soil. Animals are infected when they are exposed to spores by inhalation, ingestion or via the skin.
Anthrax can affect most species, including humans, but is most commonly seen in cattle and sheep, sometimes, pigs. In cattle and sheep, the disease is usually rapidly fatal and affected animals may be found dead without prior clinical signs. The course of the disease tends to be slightly longer in pigs and horses, which may show swelling of the head and neck, although the disease is usually fatal. Where anthrax is suspected, the carcass is not opened, to prevent the anthrax bacilli forming spores on exposure to air. In cattle, anthrax is always considered a possible cause of unexplained sudden death and a blood smear is always carried out to investigate that possibility. Affected carcasses must be disposed of in an approved manner, usually by incineration.
In humans, there are three forms of the disease: • Cutaneous anthrax when the spore enters the skin via a cut or abrasion. This is the most common form, accounting for 95% of human cases worldwide. Skin infections start as a raised itchy lump and develop into blisters then ulcers with a characteristic black centre. • Pulmonary or inhalation anthrax acquired from breathing in spores. Symptoms are initially flu-like, but progress to severe breathing difficulties and shock after 2-6 days. • Gastrointestinal anthrax when spores are consumed in contaminated food, usually undercooked meat from an infected animal. This form of anthrax is extremely rare but, when it occurs, results in severe acute gastroenteritis.
Cutaneous anthrax is milder than the other two forms of disease and can be treated effectively with antibiotics. If untreated, however, the disease can be fatal in approximately 20% of cases. Although inhalation and intestinal anthrax are often fatal, recovery is possible if antibiotic treatment is initiated prior to or immediately after the onset of symptoms. An effective vaccine is available for both humans and animals in at-risk areas.
Humans usually contract anthrax through occupational exposure to the tissues or products, such as skins or wool, of infected animals. In Europe and North America, cases of human anthrax are rare and usually result from contact with imported animal products from countries where the disease is endemic .
Foot and Mouth Disease Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is caused by a virus and is one of the most contagious diseases of animals. It affects mainly cloven-hoofed animals, particularly cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and deer, although other animals including elephants, hedgehogs and rats are also susceptible. Foot and Mouth Disease is endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America . In disease-free areas, sporadic outbreaks may occur.
The disease causes the formation of vesicles (blisters), mainly in the mouth and on the feet. Vesicles subsequently rupture leaving painful erosions. The disease is rarely fatal, although it can cause sudden death in very young animals. After infection, there may be a drop in milk yield, which can be permanent and chronic lameness. Economic losses as a result of the disease can be very severe, so disease-free areas employ stringent precautions to prevent import of the virus, and measures to eradicate the disease if it occurs.
Although humans can be affected by FMD, this is extremely rare . When it occurs, the disease in humans is relatively benign. During the large outbreak in the UK in 2001, there were no confirmed cases of transmission of FMD from animals to humans [22,23]. Less than 40 cases of FMD in humans have been confirmed worldwide throughout the last century . Although it is not entirely clear how transmission occurred, these cases are believed to have had close contact with infected animals or to have consumed raw milk. No cases of infection from pasteurised milk or from consuming meat from infected animals have been reported. It is generally agreed that FMD has no implications for the human food chain .
Avian influenza is an infectious, viral disease that causes respiratory, digestive and/or neurological disease in many species of birds. Some species, such as migratory wildfowl, can be asymptomatic carriers, and may represent a natural reservoir of virus .
Avian influenza is caused by Type A strains of the influenza virus. There are a number of different subtypes of influenza that affect birds, some of which cause relatively mild disease whilst others cause a highly contagious, rapidly fatal form of the disease, resulting in severe epidemics. The latter form of the disease is referred to as ‘highly pathogenic avian influenza’ (HPAI), with a mortality rate that can approach 100%. Domestic poultry, including chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, occasionally ducks and geese, are particularly susceptible to epidemics of rapidly fatal influenza.
Avian influenza viruses normally only infect birds, but can also infect pigs and other mammals. The first documented cases of avian influenza infecting humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997 . The HPAI strain (H5N1) that was involved caused severe respiratory disease, resulting in six human fatalities. Further spread of the virus was prevented through the rapid destruction of Hong Kong’s entire poultry population. Subsequently, outbreaks in flocks the Netherlands and Hong Kong, involving other avian influenza viruses caused relatively mild disease in humans, although one fatality occurred in the Netherlands. In 2004, cases involving H5N1 strain occurred in humans in Viet Nam and Thailand with more severe consequences and, since then, cases have also been confirmed in Cambodia, Indonesia, China and Turkey .
Although trade restrictions have been imposed on some countries to protect animal health, there is no epidemiological evidence that avian influenza can be transmitted to humans via properly cooked food [25,26,27]. The WHO and other expert bodies, therefore, do not currently consider avian influenza a food safety risk for consumers. Humans have acquired avian influenza infections through close contact with live poultry, not through eating poultry meat.
Infected birds generally die or are slaughtered before they can enter the food chain and any remaining potential risk is reduced to insignificant levels when the meat is processed. Although HPAI virus strains can survive for long periods of time at low temperatures, they are inactivated at temperatures above 70ºC. Poultry meat and eggs that are properly cooked do not pose a risk to consumers.
Trichinellosis, or trichinosis, is a parasitic disease of mammals caused by a nematode worm (roundworm) of the Trichinella genus, mainly Trichinella spiralis. The worm gains entry to the body when larval cysts are eaten in infected muscle meat. Gastric juices break down the tough cysts and release infective larvae, which then invade the small intestinal lining and mature to adults. Adult female worms subsequently release larvae that penetrate the intestinal wall and are distributed throughout the body via blood and lymphatic vessels. Only in skeletal muscles, they form cysts, which can remain viable for several years. The life cycle is perpetuated when the infected muscle is eaten by another host.
Although all mammals are probably susceptible, infection is usually confined to carnivorous species, mainly pigs, dogs, cats, carnivorous game, rodents and humans. Horses may occasionally be infected after eating fodder contaminated by decaying rodents. Most infections in domestic and wild animals go undiagnosed, but heavy infestations can give similar signs to those seen in humans.
In humans, trichinellosis is very variable in the symptoms it causes. Light infections may go unnoticed, whilst heavy infestations can cause severe symptoms and may, occasionally, be fatal. The intestinal phase of infection may be associated with diarrhoea and abdominal pain, whilst the period of larval migration may be associated with fever, sweating, chills, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue and swelling and pain around the eyes. Symptoms are directly or indirectly associated with the damage caused by the larvae penetrating the tissues. Symptoms gradually subside but, occasionally, complications develop when heart, brain or lungs are involved. Rarely, death may result from heart failure.
Human infections are traditionally associated with eating raw or undercooked pork (such as ham or sausage) or wild carnivorous game (including wild boar, bear and seal). However, recent outbreaks in Europe have been linked to eating undercooked horse meat . Current EU regulations dictate that all pig, horse and wild boar meat intended for Community trade must be inspected for the presence of Trichinella according to EU standards. There is no evidence to suggest that Trichinella is currently present in UK pigs or horses, and a recent survey found no evidence of infection in the UK fox population .
Taeniasis is a parasitic disease of humans caused by the tapeworms Taenia saginata (from cattle) or Taenia solium (from pigs). The adult tapeworms are found only in humans, where they attach to the wall of the small intestine and can grow to several metres in length. Egg-containing segments, which are independently motile, are shed by the tapeworm and passed in faeces or migrate through the anus. Infection is usually asymptomatic, but may be associated with diarrhoea, flatulence, abdominal discomfort and weight loss.
For both tapeworms, the intermediate host is infected when they eat material contaminated by infected human sewage. For T. saginata, the intermediate host is cattle, whereas both pigs and humans can act as intermediate hosts for T. solium. Ingested eggs hatch in the intestine and migrate to other tissues where they form small larva-containing vesicles (cysticerci), which may survive for several years. T. saginata cysticerci form only in muscle tissue whereas T. solium cysticerci can form in muscle, liver, lung, brain and other tissues. The condition in which cysticerci are present in muscle or other organs is known as ‘cysticercosis’.
In cattle and pigs, infected individuals may show no obvious clinical signs unless the infestation is severe. In humans with cysticercosis, however, symptoms may be moderate to severe depending on the number and location of the cysticerci. Where cysticerci are present in muscles, patients are frequently asymptomatic although heavy infestations can cause muscle inflammation with swelling and weakness. Severe involvement of heart muscle can lead to heart failure whilst the presence of cysticerci in the brain (neurocysticercosis) can cause seizures and other neurological signs.
EU regulations dictate that carcasses are inspected routinely for the presence of cysticerci . However, light infections may not be detected. Taeniasis (adult tapeworm infection) in humans may thus occur by eating undercooked beef or pig meat that contains viable cysticerci. Tapeworm carriers are the source of infection for human cysticercosis, when poor hygiene measures allow contamination of food, water and other surfaces with T. solium eggs.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a transmissible brain disease of cattle, which was first recognised in November 1986 in the UK . In this country, the number of cases grew considerably over the next few years but, following the introduction of protective measures, has been declining steadily since the epidemic peaked in 1993. Since 1989, cases have also been reported in native cattle in a range of other European countries, with most of these occurring in France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
BSE is one of a group of neurological disorders known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE), which affect a variety of animal species and humans. These include scrapie in sheep and goats, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. The TSEs are characterised by degeneration of the central nervous system, giving the brain a spongy appearance on microscopic examination. This results in the development of severe neurological signs and is invariably fatal.
In cattle, BSE has a long incubation period of four to five years but death occurs within weeks to months of the onset of clinical signs. The neurological signs associated with BSE include incoordination and behavioural abnormalities, which give rise to its colloquial name, ‘Mad Cow Disease’.
The causal agent of BSE and other TSEs is still a matter of scientific debate, although the weight of evidence points to a protein, named ‘prion’, rather than a microorganism, such as bacteria or viruses [30,31]. The prion theory hypothesises that the agent responsible for BSE and other TSEs is a ‘misfolded’ form of a normal host prion protein, which is found mainly on brain cell membranes. The abnormal prion accumulates in the brain by transforming normal prion proteins adjacent to it, and forms amyloid-like deposits, which are insoluble and eventually cause neuronal death and astrogliosis.
Transmission of the acquired form of the disease usually occurs by ingestion of infective material. The main vector of BSE in cattle is meat and bone meal (MBM) which, at the time BSE was first recognised, was commonly fed to cattle as a recycled protein source. This animal feed may have become contaminated through the incorporation of carcasses of TSE-affected animals, such as sheep with scrapie or cattle with BSE. It is thought that changes in the rendering process used to manufacture MBM, particularly changes in the temperature and pressure applied, may have favoured the survival of the infectious agent in the feed . Although the original source of BSE is still not clear, its rapid spread was almost certainly due to the feeding of contaminated MBM to other cattle.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) is one of a number of TSEs that affect humans. This is a rare and fatal condition that occurs sporadically in middle aged and older individuals, causing dementia and progressively severe neurological signs. In 1996, a new form of CJD, called variant CJD (vCJD), was described in the UK . This form differed from classic CJD as it affected younger patients and had a longer duration of illness. It has been shown that vCJD was probably linked to potential dietary exposure to beef products contaminated with infected tissues. More recently, it has been shown that the prion protein that accumulates in the brain of patients with vCJD is similar to that found in cattle with BSE.
A range of protective measures have been introduced throughout the EU, and are under constant review, to minimise the risk of BSE spreading amongst cattle and of infective material entering the human food chain. Suspected cases of BSE are slaughtered and their carcasses incinerated. In the UK, a ban on feeding MBM to ruminants was introduced in 1988 and led to a drastic reduction in the incidence of BSE in cattle [32,33]. Current EU regulations prohibit the feeding of any mammalian protein (MBM and, for example, bloodmeal) to ruminants and the feeding of mammalian MBM to all other farm livestock.
The active surveillance of TSEs consists of the removal, at slaughter, of all specified risk materials (SRM) from cattle, sheep and goat carcasses of animals older than one year. SRMs include brain, spinal cord, eyes. The whole intestine in cattle, and the spleen in sheep are removed from all animals regardless of their age. EU regulations also now prohibit the use of mechanically recovered meat from ruminant bones.
In the UK, the risk to consumers has been further reduced by the Over Thirty Month (OTM) rule, in which cattle over thirty months are not permitted to enter the human food chain. No clinical cases have occurred in the UK in cattle under thirty months, and animals below this age are unlikely to contain significant BSE infectivity. This rule is not applicable in other EU countries, where older animals may enter the food chain if a post-mortem test for BSE proves negative.
In January 2006, however, the UK government introduced a replacement of the OTM rule with a system of robust testing for OTM cattle born after July 1996 . This change acknowledges the reduced, very low risk to UK consumers that has been achieved and the effectiveness of other control measures, which will remain in place. The new scheme, known as the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS), will bring the UK in line with other EU countries.
Prevention of foodborne infections requires an integrated (‘Farm to Fork’) approach to food production. This involves measures aimed at eradication of zoonotic diseases within the animal population and prevention of contamination at all stages of the food supply chain.
In developed countries, governments have established food safety and sanitary regulations to control zoonoses, which are under continual reassessment. The EU food safety strategy, for example, provides extensive legislation and outlines the responsibilities of both producers and suppliers in ensuring the safety of the food supply . Specific control measures for a number of zoonotic pathogens are discussed in the relevant sections of this review.
EU regulations are amongst the most stringent in the world and cover: • The rejection of animal feed materials that could pose a risk to animal and human health. • Monitoring of disease within the resident animal population and implementation of eradication and control strategies. • Health requirements for animals and animal products imported into or traded within the EU. • Identification and traceability of individual animals. • Animal welfare standards. • Food hygiene standards at critical points throughout the food production process.
The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), an arm of the European Commission, plays an important role in verifying whether EU food safety regulations are being enforced . A team of about 80 FVO inspectors carry out spot checks at the premises of producers, slaughterhouses or processing plants, both within and outside the EU, to ensure that adequate control and enforcement mechanisms are in place and are effective in practice.
Food safety has a high priority within the food chain, but consumers must also share the responsibility for ensuring food safety within the home because contamination of certain foods cannot be prevented. A few simple procedures should be employed to minimise the risk of foodborne disease, and these may be summarised in accordance with the WHO’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ strategy :
- Wash and dry hands before preparing any food and after handling raw foods, especially raw meat or poultry.
- Ensure that food preparation areas and equipment are clean.
- Ensure that hands are washed after going to the toilet.
- Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals.
- People with gastrointestinal illness, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, should not handle food intended for consumption by others.
Separate raw and cooked food
- Store raw foods (especially meat, poultry and seafood) separately from ready to eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
- Store raw meat and poultry in sealable containers, preferably at the bottom of the fridge, to prevent juices dripping onto ready-to-eat foods.
- Use different knives and chopping boards for preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- Ensure that food is cooked thoroughly to the correct temperature.
- Poultry, minced meat products (eg hamburgers and sausages) and rolled joints, in particular, should not be served pink. Ideally, the centre of the food should reach a temperature of 70ºC for at least two minutes.
- Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.
- Soups and stews should be brought to the boil.
- Reheated food should be piping hot before serving and only reheated once.
Keep food at safe temperatures
- Store perishable foods at the correct temperature.
- Chilled, ready to eat foods must be kept at temperatures below 5ºC (41ºF).
- Hot foods must be kept at temperatures above 60ºC (140ºF) before serving.
- Cool rapidly and refrigerate leftover foods if they are not to be used within 2 hours.
- Food should be cold before placing in the refrigerator, since it may take a while to cool off in the refrigerator and hot food may warm up other foods.
- Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature.
- Use safe drinking water to wash and prepare food and make ice.
- Select fresh and wholesome foods.
- Avoid consuming raw meat and unpasteurised milk.
- Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw.
- Use produce before the ‘Use by’ or ‘Best before’ date on the packaging.
You would have to be very, very, very naive and uninformed to believe all the hype from the BIG MEAT chicken and port corporations partnering with Chinese corporations supposedly making sure the meat is from the US-----being 'processed' in China where slave labor can be used. Do we really think this will last if it even exists now??????? Spending all that money to ship US meat to China to be processed and then shipped back?
Latino immigrants have borne the brunt of BIG AG MEAT processing sweat shops for decades-----they exist right here on Maryland/Virginia Eastern Shore. Think how bad those conditions are in the US---then think how bad they must be in Asia for corporate meat to want these FOXCONN global meat factories in China. That is how bad it can get. Not long after this is allowed with Trans Pacific Trade Pact ----International Economic Zone policy will bring these conditions back to the US----this time minus the few protections Latino immigrants have had. The point is this-----Republicans and Clinton neo-liberals have erased all the gains of food safety and workplace safety in our food system-----BIG AG and BIG MEAT----and now they intend to erase all developed world status by bringing the US down to third world anything goes.
Smithfield Ham has partnered with China as have beef and chicken corporations----all with the same intentions.
As I said-----diseases are carried to great extent in meat-----and as Obama super-sized the dismantling of public health----and is now bringing global corporations to be government-----the US will become as bad as India and China.
Lorraine Chow | July 14, 2015 9:18 am Don’t miss out. Stay Informed. Get EcoWatch’s Top News of the Day.
Although the news came out more than a year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) controversial chicken arrangement with China is still ruffling feathers. As EcoWatch reported in March 2014, the USDA now allows chicken to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption. One reason this story is resurfacing is a recent Facebook post by Erin Brockovich, who is outraged that this export/import policy exists.
Most Americans would probably agree with Brockovich that sending homegrown chicken on a 14,000-mile round trip is unnecessary and absurd, especially with China’s appalling food safety standards. Even National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super said that the arrangement “doesn’t make much sense” economically.
The big question then is why would the U.S. allow frozen chicken to be shipped to China from America, then have a Chinese company cook the chicken, refreeze it and send it back to the states?
The answer, as it was later reported by Newsweek and other publications, is that the USDA’s Chinese chicken arrangement is much more about the profitable meat product or beef, than it is about chicken.
According to Vice, “The USDA’s move to bring Chinese plants into the American fold is just the first step in a politically motivated process to get the country to give the U.S. something in return. In 2003, when mad cow disease was discovered in cattle in Washington state, China enacted a ban on imported U.S. beef that continues to this day. With China’s meat consumption on the rise, it makes sense that U.S. beef producers would want to recapture that lucrative market. By starting to accept China’s processed chicken, the U.S. is apparently warming to the idea of soon accepting the country’s raw, unprocessed poultry—a move that might convince China to lift its beef ban.”
Brockovich’s Facebook post has been causing quite a stir with more than 4,700 likes and 6,200 shares. In the post she calls out the dubious relationship between the respective countries’ chicken and beef industries.
Brockovich also added in the comment section: “We export rice to China … farmed with California water … so we get chicken? What is wrong with us?”
But the good news is, we’re not likely eating U.S. chicken by way of the Far East. Even though a similar process is already being used for U.S. seafood and outsourcing labor to China might be desirable for some stakeholders (China’s chicken workers earn about $1 to 2 per hour), lobbyists and chicken industry proponents argue no U.S. company will ever ship chicken to China for processing because it wouldn’t work economically.
Newsweek also reported that the country’s four major chicken companies (Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms) have not yet put any money into this export/import plan, nor have the National Chicken Council or the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
Tyson Foods even felt compelled to issue an official statement on the matter and respond directly to a concerned Twitter user.
Americans already knew national grocery chains were using all kinds of questionable tactics to keep seafood longer than they should to avoid discarding -------think what will be necessary when sending all this seafood from Asian nations that do not have a distribution system that if efficient to get this food from Asian fish farms to export terminals -----
THERE IS NO DISTRIBUTION STRUCTURES IN MOST DEVELOPING NATIONS FOR SPEEDY TRIPS TO MARKET---SO THEY TAKE SHORTCUTS OF COURSE.
When our food sources become national and then---internationally owned as is happening now----more and more developing nation tactics become mainstream in the US----and no one is watching the food imports as they enter the US and VOILA----the American people are being driven into weakened health just from trying to by their food supply. Remember the mantra of PREVENTATIVE HEALTH CARE from Obama and Clinton neo-liberals?????? As they work with Republicans to make the US market flooded with food from around the world as per Trans Pacific Trade Pact---Republicans are trying as hard as Obama to take all food labelling off our food so we don't know from where it comes----BECAUSE THAT HARMS FREE MARKET THEY SAY.
Formaldehyde Detected in Supermarket Fish Imported from Asia
1 in 4 sampled fish contaminated
By James Andrews | September 11, 2013
A large number of fish imported from China and Vietnam and sold in at least some U.S. supermarkets contain unnatural levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, according to tests performed and verified by researchers at a North Carolina chemical engineering firm and North Carolina State University.
Around 25 percent of all the fish purchased from supermarkets by researchers in the Raleigh, N.C., area were found to contain formaldehyde, a toxic chemical compound commonly used as a medical disinfectant or embalming agent. All of the fish found to contain the compound were imported from Asian countries, and it was not found in fish from the U.S. or other regions.
The researchers only collected samples from supermarkets around Raleigh, N.C., and could not comment on whether or not the same results could be applied to fish sold nationwide.
Formaldehyde is illegal in food beyond any naturally occurring trace amounts. But, according to chemical engineer A. James Attar and his colleagues who conducted the tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test any imported fish for formaldehyde contamination, and only 4 percent of imported fish gets tested for any contaminants at all.
“The look on my face when we found this – it was a complete shocker,” said Jason Morton, Attar’s colleague at N.C.-based Appealing Products, Inc.
Attar, Morton and another colleague at Appealing Products, Matthew Schwartz, came across the alarming revelation when they set out to validate a new formaldehyde test they developed for Bangladeshi clients who needed a cheap way to detect contaminated fish.
To verify the accuracy of their test, the team purchased domestic and imported fish from supermarkets around Raleigh, NC, with the intent of purposefully contaminating them with formaldehyde and then verifying that their test worked.
Instead, they found that about one in four fish was already contaminated with formaldehyde. The commonality between all the contaminated fish? They were imported from Asian countries, predominantly China and Vietnam.
Not all of the Asian fish were contaminated, but many were, Attar said.
The FDA has not had the opportunity to analyze the fish samples tested by Appealing Products, nor has the agency had the opportunity to review the test methods utilized.
“The FDA’s priority is to ensure that both domestic and imported seafood is safe and that we are protecting consumers from products that can cause illness,” the agency told Food Safety News. “To accomplish this, FDA oversees a comprehensive food safety program designed to ensure the safety of all seafood sold in the United States. This prevention-oriented program includes risk based inspections, product testing, and assessments of foreign countries regulation of aquaculture facilities.”
All foods imports entering the U.S. are screened electronically by the FDA. A subset of those foods are physically inspected at rates based on the potential risk associated with them, with some samples undergoing lab analysis.
“FDA encourages anyone who has evidence that an FDA regulated product violates food safety laws and regulations to contact FDA,” the agency added.
Attar and Morton stopped short of accusing Asian fish companies of intentionally adding formaldehyde to fish to prevent spoilage, though it appears to be a common problem in Bangladesh, where formaldehyde might preserve fish when refrigerators or ice aren’t available. (Think of frogs preserved for dissection in a high-school science lab.)
Attar and his team first uncovered the issue in February 2013, and then spent six months routinely testing samples, finding the same results. Their results were then verified by researchers at North Carolina State.
Attar said the sampling was restricted to purchases from Raleigh only and might not reflect fish in supermarkets nationwide.
“But, empirically, this is what we found,” he added.
Formaldehyde is present in some fish at small, naturally occurring levels. But everything observed in the Asian fish found that they were contaminated with far higher-than-normal or acceptable levels, Attar said.
The team tested whether or not levels of formaldehyde increased in cuts of fish as they aged, but the levels remained the same. They also tested the same species harvested from both Chinese and U.S. companies, finding that the Chinese-caught fish contained formaldehyde, while the U.S.-caught fish of the same species did not.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. imports approximately 91 percent of its seafood. China alone accounts for approximately 89 percent of global aquaculture production.
Appealing Products’ formaldehyde test costs approximately $1 per swab, which is applied to a cut of fish and turns purple in the presence of formaldehyde. The company has shipped 100,000 tests to Bangladesh and anticipates orders from companies in other Asian countries. More information on the tests can be found at formaldehydetests.com.
Documented instances of intentional formaldehyde contamination of food have occurred in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.
Attar and Morton said that their evidence makes a strong case for improved testing on seafood imports in the U.S., especially from Asian countries.
“I cannot say that companies are adding formaldehyde to fish, but our findings are higher than what naturally occurs,” Morton said.
We are reading that all over the US stores and restaurants are lying about what they are feeding us-----and this is an epidemic because NO ONE IS PROVIDING OVERSIGHT AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT NATIONAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LEVEL.
This is what public health department does-----it monitors for food safety and makes stores and restaurants too afraid to pull this mess. You will never hear of any audit or findings like this in Baltimore or Maryland because corporate pols are fine with citizens being taken.
ALL MARYLAND POLS ARE CLINTON/OBAMA NEO-LIBERALS OR BUSH/HOPKINS NEO-CONS.
Baltimore has absolutely no system in place to prevent health epidemics/pandemics and any system that does address it will be directing PHARMA and hospital resources to a select group and not to a public health system for everyone. We saw that in the avian flu outbreak when a shortage of vaccine led to profiteering sales of vaccine to highest bidders---with the vaccines being bought to Wall Street ------to national pharmacy chains----but not to be had in public clinics and schools.
You may think this audit done last decade may be picky-----but think of what happens as all food labelling and country of origin disappears. Prices for certain kinds of fish-----prices for fish from wild USA areas-----are high. Farmed fish are usually from Asia with no safety protections and lots of health violations. Soon, there will be no protections for how much we pay to get what we think is a better product.
The label said red snapper, the lab said baloney
Last reviewed: December 2011
This article appeared in
December 2011 Consumer Reports Magazine.
Americans spent $80.2 billion on seafood last year, $5 billion more than in 2009, but they aren't always buying what they think they are. More than one-fifth of 190 pieces of seafood we bought at retail stores and restaurants in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut were mislabeled as different species of fish, incompletely labeled, or misidentified by employees.
Whether deliberate or not, substitution hurts consumers three ways: in their wallet, when expensive seafood is switched for less desirable, cheaper fish; in their health, when they mistakenly eat species that are high in mercury or other contaminants; and in their conscience, if they find out they've mistakenly bought species whose numbers are low.
We sent our fresh and frozen fish samples to an outside lab for DNA testing. Researchers extracted genetic material from each sample and compared the genetic sequences against standardized gene fragments that identify its species in much the same way that criminal investigators use genetic fingerprinting. (See How we tested: Using DNA to solve a mystery.) Some fish were sampled more widely than others. Still, our results provide a snapshot of what a shopper might buy. Among our findings:
- Only four of the 14 types of fish we bought—Chilean sea bass, coho salmon, and bluefin and ahi tuna—were always identified correctly.
- Eighteen percent of our samples didn't match the names on placards, labels, or menus. Fish were incorrectly passed off as catfish, grey sole, grouper, halibut, king salmon, lemon sole, red snapper, sockeye salmon, and yellowfin tuna.
- Four percent were incompletely labeled or misidentified by employees.
- All 10 of the "lemon soles" and 12 of the 22 "red snappers" we bought weren't the claimed species.
- One sample, labeled as grouper, was actually tilefish, which averages three times as much mercury as grouper. The Food and Drug Administration advises women of childbearing age and children to avoid tilefish entirely.
- Out of curiosity, we sent the lab something labeled "colossal sea scallop" because it looked suspiciously huge. The results showed that it was a scallop, but not the labeled species.
Our findings are in line with those from other recent studies showing that 20 to 25 percent of seafood around the world is mislabeled.
It's impossible to determine where species substitution and mislabeling occur—fish pass through many hands from hook to cook. After harvesters farm or catch seafood, they ice it or flash-freeze it. Sometimes they transfer their catch to larger vessels, where the fish might be mixed with other species. The fish may be processed at sea or shipped to foreign or domestic facilities where it's prepared for distribution.
Processing at sea, which includes removing heads and guts, slows spoilage but can make species more difficult to identify, as can breading or sauces that seafood-preparation facilities might add. When sending fish and shellfish to retailers, suppliers must note their country of origin and whether they were wild or farm-raised. (Prepared fish products such as fish sticks aren't subject to that rule.)
Unscrupulous people may try to falsify documentation or hide illegally caught fish with legally captured ones, according to a report released last May by Oceana, an international organization with headquarters in Washington, D.C. They could commingle species and try to sell the lot as the highest-priced species. As a result, mislabeled fish could end up in stores and restaurants. "The likelihood of being caught is so low, there's no incentive to play by the rules," says Margot Stiles, a marine scientist at Oceana.
Still, federal law requires seafood to be labeled in a way that's truthful, not misleading, and in accordance with federal regulations. It is "not acceptable" to misrepresent the identity of seafood products to consumers, says Doug Karas, a spokesman for the FDA, which oversees seafood labeling. If the FDA discovers fish fraud, it has the authority to slap companies with warning letters, seize seafood, and prevent businesses from importing fish. But FDA experts say it's primarily the responsibility of state and local agencies, not the FDA, to regulate retail food stores and restaurants.
In New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, where we bought the tested fish, state officials told us that their inspectors aren't trained to differentiate among fish species and that they focus their limited resources on food safety.
The FDA has spent little time looking for seafood fraud in recent years.Here's what our DNA tests revealed and what companies told us when we asked about their seafood-selling policies. (We didn't reveal our test results.) Fish are listed in descending order of percentage mislabeled.
None of the 22 "red snappers" we bought at 18 markets could be positively identified as such. Eight were deemed possible DNA matches, one was described incorrectly by a store employee, and the species of another could not be conclusively determined at all. The remaining 12 turned out to be ocean perch and other kinds of snapper.
At a Whole Foods Market in White Plains, N.Y., our shoppers paid $22.99 a pound for "red snapper" that our testing showed was actually vermilion snapper, a smaller, poorer cousin.
Nevertheless, Carrie Brownstein, Whole Foods' global seafood quality standards coordinator, told us that the company has its own seafood facilities where its buyers see the species received first-hand. "Since the buyers are experts at species identification, this makes us less vulnerable than competitors to species substitution," she says, adding that the company is also working to ensure the traceability of seafood from the fishery or farm to its stores.
Just 9 of 20 samples told the truth. A "grey sole" fillet that cost $3.99 a pound was really sutchi catfish, often farmed in Asia. Of 10 misidentified lemon soles, one turned out to be Greenland turbot; three were blackback flounder, commonly (but incorrectly) referred to as lemon sole; three were identified as summer flounder; and three were not lemon sole, though the particular species could not be determined.
To avoid confusion, the FDA says that most fish nicknames are unacceptable identification, but that's merely guidance, not a regulation.
Atlantic halibut has been overfished, according to the Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), but Pacific halibut has healthier populations. It's not easy being green, though, because labels don't have to distinguish between the two. Eight samples labeled simply as halibut were the more vulnerable Atlantic species; at four stores, employees told our shoppers that Atlantic halibut was Pacific. Of the 11 other "halibut" samples, one was summer flounder, a different kind of fish altogether.
Three of our 21 "catfish" samples were Pangasius hypophthalmus, or sutchi catfish. None of the three bore country-of-origin labels (they were bought in small fish markets, where such labeling isn't required), but sutchi catfish are largely imported from Vietnam, where some fish farmers use drugs that are unapproved in the U.S.
The rest were Ictaluridae, the only family that can be marketed in the U.S. as plain ol' "catfish," according to a law Congress passed in 2002. The law had support from the U.S. catfish industry, which has accused Vietnam of dumping catfish on the American market. Six years later, Congress passed a law transferring catfish inspection authority from the FDA, which seldom examines imported seafood, to the Department of Agriculture, which requires foreign facilities to meet U.S. standards. Now the USDA must decide whether it will inspect only catfish in the Ictaluridae family or all domestic and imported catfish.
SalmonOur tests found that 24 of 28 salmon were labeled correctly. But two "king salmon" and two "sockeye salmon" fillets were actually coho, generally the least expensive of the three salmon species we bought. At a Wegmans in Manalapan Township, N.J., we paid $17.99 a pound for "king salmon" that was actually coho. At the same store, we also bought correctly labeled coho salmon for $3 less per pound.
Jo Natale, director of media relations at Wegmans, told us that among other actions, the company has worked with the same vendors for many years; buys whole fresh fish and skin-on fillets, making it easier to identify the species; and has worked with organizations that help monitor the fish that Wegmans sells.
Thirteen of 15 grouper samples were correctly labeled—but many species of grouper are overfished. As for the two mislabeled samples, one fillet was pollock, and the other was tilefish, that high-mercury species.
All 24 samples labeled as cod or scrod cod were indeed cod. But we bought two samples labeled only "scrod"--unacceptable to the FDA because that word describes a small fish, not a species. Labels should say "scrod cod," "scrod haddock," or "scrod pollock." One of our solo scrod was a cod, the other a pollock.
As with halibut labels, cod labels don't have to specify whether the species is Atlantic cod, whose populations are considered low by the NMFS, or Pacific cod, considered more abundant and sustainable. Seven of the samples we bought were Atlantic cod. They included broiled fish bought at Red Lobster restaurants in Scarsdale, N.Y., and Paramus, N.J., as well as a fillet from a Whole Foods store in Edgewater, N.J.
We asked Red Lobster and Whole Foods representatives whether they have policies against selling fish that are vulnerable or overfished. Roger Bing, vice president of seafood purchasing for Darden, the parent company of Red Lobster, says the company doesn't serve species considered at risk and cited a policy of using third-party certification of "best aquaculture practices" for a growing number of farmed species.
Whole Foods' Brownstein told us that the company has partnered with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which certifies sustainable, well-managed fisheries. Stores display the MSC eco-label, which is somewhat helpful. (See "Overfished or not?".) By Earth Day 2012 (April 22), she says, Whole Foods will stop selling most wild-caught seafood ranked "red" by the Blue Ocean Institute or Monterey Bay Aquarium, eco-watchdog groups. A red ranking indicates that the population has been overfished or caught in ways that might harm other marine life or habitat. Brownstein says that cod and sole have a deadline of Earth Day 2013. She says that the extra time is needed to try to find solutions, such as lower-impact fishing methods, that could improve the sustainability rankings of those fisheries. "It takes time to make changes on the water," she says.
The two most expensive samples of fish in our test, bought for $49.99 and $64.99 per pound at a specialty store in New Jersey, were correctly labeled as bluefin tuna. But bluefin are in decline, eco-watchdog groups report, and should be avoided. One of our 10 tuna samples labeled "yellowfin" was actually bigeye. Four samples labeled "ahi tuna" were yellowfin, and four others, including three sashimis from Bonefish Grill, were bigeye. According to FDA officials, it's acceptable for various species of tuna to be labeled as ahi tuna as long as that doesn't confuse consumers.
Anyone wishing to avoid seafood high in mercury should take note: The mercury content of different tuna species that may be labeled as ahi tuna can vary. According to FDA data, bigeye averages about twice the mercury concentration of yellowfin and albacore.
Chilean sea bass
We bought 19 steaks and fillets from 19 restaurants and stores of various sizes. Among them: an A&P in Greenwich, Conn.; three Bonefish Grills in New York and New Jersey; and two Whole Foods stores in New York and New Jersey. All of our samples matched their labels. That's good news, except that some Chilean sea bass should be avoided, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium, for a variety of ecological reasons.
Marcy Connor, a spokeswoman for A&P, says that the chain makes every effort not to sell species considered unsustainable. A Bonefish Grill representative says that the company is dedicated to responsible fishing practices and the healthy stewardship of the world's marine resources. And Whole Foods' Brownstein says that the company has prohibited the sale of especially vulnerable species unless they come from fisheries that the MSC has certified as sustainable.
MSC's certification of some Chilean sea bass was recently called into question by researchers at Clemson University and elsewhere who tested 36 MSC-certified Chilean sea bass bought at retail stores and found that three were other species. Amy Jackson, deputy standards director at the MSC, says that the organization has launched an investigation.
FDA spokesman Karas says that all imports are screened before they enter the country and that a subset are inspected based on their potential risk. All investigators are trained to identify and document evidence of fraud and will detain seafood mislabeled with fictitious names such as "salmon trout" and "mackerel pike." He says the agency has purchased DNA sequencing equipment for five FDA field laboratories and anticipates using the equipment to start testing imported and domestic seafood species, usually before they reach the retail market. "With this new technology, the FDA can more easily identify instances of seafood misbranding," Karas says. "We plan on using it regularly as part of our efforts to combat mislabeling, where it affects both seafood safety and economic fraud."
That will be good news to Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, a seafood trade association. He says that the FDA has the authority to deal with species substitution and other types of fraud, "but they basically don't use it, saying essentially that that's an unfunded mandate."
According to a February 2009 Government Accountability Office report, the FDA has spent very little time looking for seafood fraud in recent years. Eighty-six percent of the seafood that Americans consumed in 2010 was imported, mainly from Canada, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. But FDA officials physically examined only about 2 percent of imported seafood from fiscal 2003 to 2008. Only about 0.05 percent of the examined seafood was checked for seafood fraud (mislabeled, substituted, or shortweighted items), according to the GAO report. And during that time, the FDA looked for fraud during only 0.5 percent of domestic seafood inspections. That involved mainly reviewing seafood labels (to make sure that they listed the fish by its correct name, for instance); the agency conducted very little lab analysis, GAO officials told us.
Two other federal agencies play important roles in detecting and preventing seafood-species substitution: the NMFS and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection. Each has its own labs for testing seafood, but the two haven't effectively collaborated with each other or the FDA in fighting fish fraud, the GAO reported in 2009.
Our interviews suggest that limited progress is under way: Representatives for all three agencies say they've recently shared resources on fish-fraud detection.
Last year, for example, an investigation by the three agencies and others led to the sentencing of a New Jersey man for importing Vietnamese catfish labeled as grouper. His goal: to evade more than $60 million in tariffs. (Vietnamese catfish is subject to federal tariffs; grouper is not.)
Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, supports legislation introduced this year in the U.S. Senate to help prevent seafood fraud, standardize labeling, and strengthen cooperation among federal agencies that oversee seafood safety.
Our advocates also support the USDA's new oversight of catfish safety. We've called for the USDA to define catfish broadly, so inspectors will be able to regulate all domestic and imported catfish species, and to require testing for aquaculture drugs that are illegal in the U.S. but are sometimes used overseas.
What you can do
Before deciding what fish to buy, ask the person behind the counter (or the server in a restaurant) which fish, if any, is in season, and where and how the fish was caught or farmed. Ask for the manager (or chef) if you aren't satisfied with the answers or want to learn more. Just letting the seller know that customers are interested might raise his or her consciousness about the seafood being sold.
Buy from a well-run, clean fish retailer. Make sure that employees working behind the counter are wearing clean clothes, hair coverings, and disposable gloves. In a supermarket, shop for fish last.
Whatever fish you buy, look for:
- Fish that are refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of fresh ice, without a tag stuck in their flesh.
- Fish that smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonialike.
- Fillets with no discoloration and no darkening or drying around the edges.
- Firm, shiny flesh that's moist but not mushy and springs back when pressed.
- Eyes that are clear and bulge a little; gills that are bright red and free of slime.
- Frozen seafood with the package intact—not open, torn, or crushed at the edges—and without frost or ice crystals, which could indicate that the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen.
Prices range widely, even for the same type of fish, but be suspicious if fish is supercheap. For what turned out to be real grouper steaks, we paid $6.80 and $9.99 per pound. The "grouper steaks" that were really pollock and tilefish cost us just $4.99 and $5.60 per pound, respectively.
For those not knowing what terms like disease vector means----it means that a local public health department identifies a sickness that is can be spread to others and it works immediately to isolate people to stop the spreading of the disease. At the same time word is spread nationally so people eating or exposed to the same food source are protected. This has stopped food illnesses from harming and/or killing many people. Without this public health system----thousands of people can die from what they eat.
The same goes for insects that spread disease-----many of the newest diseases are being imported from global shipping ---as the diseases being brought to the US from developing nations get more serious----the network that would protect the American people is disappearing.
Emerging vector-borne diseases create new public health challenges
November 30, 2012
University of California - Santa Cruz
West Nile virus, Lyme disease, dengue fever, and plague are examples of "vector-borne zoonotic diseases," caused by pathogens that naturally infect wildlife and are transmitted to humans by vectors such as mosquitoes or ticks. Land-use change, globalization of trade and travel, and social upheaval are driving the emergence of such diseases in many regions.
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Mosquitoes are an important vector for many emerging zoonotic diseases.
Credit: Photo by Joseph HoytWest Nile virus, Lyme disease, dengue fever, and plague are examples of "vector-borne zoonotic diseases," caused by pathogens that naturally infect wildlife and are transmitted to humans by vectors such as mosquitoes or ticks.
According to Marm Kilpatrick, who studies the ecology of infectious diseases at the University of California, Santa Cruz, a broad range of human activities can affect the spread of zoonotic diseases. In an article in the December 1 issue of the British medical journal Lancet, Kilpatrick and coauthor Sarah Randolph of the University of Oxford describe how widespread land-use change, globalization of trade and travel, and social upheaval are driving the emergence of zoonotic vector-borne diseases around the world. The article is part of a special series of papers focused on emerging zoonotic diseases.
"This collection of papers offers a bridge between ecologists and clinicians whose combined efforts are needed to address the ongoing challenges of emerging zoonotic diseases," said Kilpatrick, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz.
Emerging infectious diseases can be roughly split between introduced and locally emerging diseases. Introduced diseases arise from the spread of a pathogen to a new location, as when West Nile virus arrived in New York in 1999 and subsequently spread across North America. Locally emerging diseases increase in importance in areas where they are endemic, as with Lyme disease in the United States over the past three decades. These two types of emerging diseases can differ markedly with respect to infection dynamics, or the number of cases over time, Kilpatrick said.
"Introduced diseases often cause a big spike in infections and then decrease substantially. Locally emerging diseases often show a steady, sustained increase," he said.
The movement of pathogens by global trade and travel results in the emergence of diseases in new regions. Once established, introduced pathogens often evolve to take advantage of their new environment, including new hosts and vectors. With so much of the landscape shaped by human activities, pathogens may thrive by infecting hosts and vectors that do well in humanmade environments.
"Increasing human population and the urbanization and agricultural intensification of landscapes puts strong selective pressure on vector-borne pathogens to infect humans and be transmitted by vectors and hosts that live around humans," Kilpatrick said.
Emergence of endemic vector-borne diseases can result from changes in land use, such as expansion of people into new habitats, or environmental changes affecting the wild animals that serve as natural hosts or the insect vectors that spread the disease to humans. Although vector-borne diseases are highly sensitive to climate, climate change does not appear to be a major driving force behind emerging diseases, the authors said.
"So far, climate change has been a relatively minor player compared to land use and socioeconomic factors in the emergence of vector-borne disease," Kilpatrick said.
Social and economic changes, ranging from economic downturns to displacement of populations by armed conflict, frequently precipitate disease outbreaks through their impacts on public health systems, sanitation systems, behavioral patterns, and uses of natural environmental resources. One example cited in the article is a large upsurge of tick-borne encephalitis after an economic downturn in eastern Europe resulted in more people harvesting food from forests.
The incidence of any vector-borne disease involves a complex interplay of multiple factors affecting animal hosts, vectors, and people. Kilpatrick and Randolph emphasize that control of these diseases requires combined efforts by clinicians and public health officials to treat patients, promote behavior likely to minimize the risk of infection, and advise on efforts to reverse the ecological drivers of transmission through vector control, urban planning, and ecological restoration.
Publication of the Lancet series coincides with an Institute of Medicine (IOM) symposium on Emerging Infections, Microbial Threats to Health, and the Microbiome, December 11-12 in Washington, D.C. The symposium marks the 20th anniversary of an influential 1992 IOM report on emerging diseases.
"Humans are altering the environment and moving themselves and other organisms around the globe at an ever-increasing pace," said Sam Scheiner, program director for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), a joint effort with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "That has led to a growing disease threat. These papers show how and why that's happening, and what we need to know to ease the disease burden."
What Obama touts as creating better standards is as this article suggests simply cheapening the process and handing control of an entire food safety system full of checks and balances with differing departments keeping each other honest-----being centered into one central agency tied to the Department of Health which has been outsourced to global health corporations and their executives as leaders.
POSING PROGRESSIVE OBAMA HAS DISMANTLED AND DEFUNDED OUR FOOD SAFETY PROCESS MORE THAN ANY OTHER PREPARING FOR HIS TRANS PACIFIC TRADE PACT PUSH OPENING THE US TO GLOBAL CORPORATIONS ACTING IN THE US AS THEY DO OVERSEAS.
'But not everyone is convinced. After Obama’s announcement, the Consumer Federation of America released an opposing statement, warning against adding more functions to HHS, which accounts for one-quarter of federal expenditures'.
'And Douglas Powell, a former professor food safety at Kansas State University, believes the proposal is more of a cost-saving move. Powell said that, centralized or not, the success of a food system depends on the standards that all players in the food production process uphold. That was illustrated in the case of a 2009 recall, during which 700 people fell ill after eating peanut butter that the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America falsely classified as safe. That incident forced the largest national food recall in history and the first trial of a food manufacturer'.
Obama is purely preparing for Trans Pacific Trade Pact and global corporate control is easier when all functions are handled in one agency----Republicans have tried for decades to consolidate oversight so all the checks and balances between agencies held all accountable. Remember, right now Obama has a Gates Foundation/Monsanto executice Burwell as head of HHS-------this will assure NO OVERSIGHT occurs or if so-----the data will protect against class action from citizens harmed.
For those not knowing Department of AG Vilsack is BIG AG AND MEAT------that is why he thinks this condsolidation is great. The food safety has been bad these few decades because the FDA and DEPT OF AG have been overseas working to expand BIG AG AND BIG MEAT----not working in the US to enforce food regulations. Before Clinton/Bush the US had decades of the safest food products in the world.
President Obama Is Proposing A New Way To Deal With Food Safety. But Will It Work?
by Sam P.K. Collins Mar 6, 2015 8:00 am
CREDIT: AP Photo/Al Behrman
President Barack Obama’s proposal to consolidate more than a dozen regulatory offices into an agency that would oversee food safety is drawing the intrigue and ire of some food safety advocates, producers, and experts — some of whom question the feasibility of a move that’s decades in the making.
The federal government has long struggled to address food safety issues. A report released by a trio of federal agencies last month confirmed that bacteria like E.coli, campylobacter, listeria, and salmonella are found in common food like beef, chicken, dairy, vegetables, and fruit. Even with some legal changes, the rate of foodborne illnesses haven’t declined in recent years, according to the latest food safety reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Right now, two entities — the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Inspection Service and Food and the Drug Administration — split food inspection responsibilities, with the former taking on meat, poultry, and processed eggs and the latter overseeing 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. Critics of the status quo say that overlaps in inspection processes and lack of oversight play a part in the spread of foodborne illnesses that strike more than 46 million people annually.
President Barack Obama wants to change that. In his 2016 budget, he suggests merging more than a dozen regulatory offices into a new agency named the Food Safety Administration. If the proposal comes to fruition, the Food Safety Administration would be housed under the Department of Health and Human Services, where its head would act as the centralized voice on all matters of food safety and regulation.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack vehemently defended Obama’s proposal during an appropriations hearing, stressing that the president wanted to streamline food inspection processes and ensure the safety of American consumers. “It’s not about tradition. It’s not about turf. It’s about food safety. We have a system that no one can contend is as effective or efficient as it needs to be,” Vilsack told lawmakers.
But not everyone is convinced. After Obama’s announcement, the Consumer Federation of America released an opposing statement, warning against adding more functions to HHS, which accounts for one-quarter of federal expenditures.
And Douglas Powell, a former professor food safety at Kansas State University, believes the proposal is more of a cost-saving move. Powell said that, centralized or not, the success of a food system depends on the standards that all players in the food production process uphold. That was illustrated in the case of a 2009 recall, during which 700 people fell ill after eating peanut butter that the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America falsely classified as safe. That incident forced the largest national food recall in history and the first trial of a food manufacturer.
“Having fewer people sick has to be the overriding concern and I don’t think that’s the case here. There’s no evidence that a single food agency would improve food inspection,” Powell said. “Having competing agencies may be wasteful but it’s good sometimes. In the case of Peanut Corporation, you had federal, state, and organic regulators involved, and they all missed the signs. The best way to go about this issue is for everyone in the food supply system to recommit to food safety.”
Donna Rosenbaum, the CEO of Food Safety Partners, LTD, told ThinkProgress that reforming food safety in the United States means improving the functions of the existing agencies. She remains skeptical that the food inspection system could improve with what she described as a hasty change that might just worsen the problem.
“What people don’t realize is that even if you’re combining the FDA and USDA, you will have some interdepartmental problems,” Rosenbaum said. “While this seems like it would be a logical step, it requires a lot of background thought. We’re not designing this system from the get-go. Oversight for canned good and animal products is different and requires different processes, oversight, and regulatory authority. The example of the pizza and the different ingredients that go through different agencies has been used as an example but I believe there are different ways to go around that problem that wouldn’t require melding the agencies together.”
Instead, she suggested there could be greater cooperation between higher level food safety officials.
“You could accomplish more by having interagency work done at the top so they’re not so compartmentalized. We had some things happen in the past even at the cabinet level where we had some movement toward getting some of that interagency work done so food safety could happen,” said Rosenbaum.
Other food safety advocates are more optimistic. Caroline Smith DeWaal, a food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, called Obama’s proposal a step in the right direction. However, she said that its success depends whether the right person helms the new agency during the consolidation.
“It’s critical that there’s someone in place who can oversee that merger,” DeWaal said. “We need a strong and effective government agency to give oversight and improve inspections. Making this change will take a number of years but reorganization, whether it’s by administration or legislation should start with the appointment of a food safety administrator who oversees the merger of existing federal agencies. It’s critical that there is someone there who can do that.”
Congress has tried to reform food safety laws, passing the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, a policy intended to allow the Food and Drug Administration to act proactively against the spread of foodborne pathogens. However, organic farmers didn’t warm up to the law, compelling the agency to revise it to allow easier application of raw manure, relaxed oversight of irrigation water, and the exemption of small farms from produce safety rules. Budget shortfalls have also threatened progress in implementing the law.
While some lawmakers support the idea of a single food safety agency, they envision it standing alone. In late January, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Safe Food Act of 2015, which would make the consolidate food safety agency independent of any federal department.
For those that follow Congress----you know public health was devastated with funding cuts---from Medicare and Medicaid to administration at state and local levels --------it was as huge as Obama's consolidation of all public health to one department----Health and Human Services. Now think------when Congress pushed these state health systems and all the reforms----did any citizen have a voice----was there any discussion about what all this meant? From Maryland Assembly pols that simply pass whatever Congress tells them to Baltimore City Hall that simply passed whatever Johns Hopkins tells them. So, having one agency completely captured by global pols means there will be no data or oversight leading to citizen justice as health care becomes a predatory and profit-driven global corporation. Absolutely no public control of Baltimore City Public Health exists-----Maryland is commissioned most of public health from our elected officials to appointed leaders-----serving global corporations. This is how you know where all this leads-----it leads to
NO CITIZEN VOICE---NO CITIZEN PATHWAY TO JUSTICE WHEN HARMED-----AND HEALTH DATA THAT PROMOTES A CORPORATE PATENT ------NOT PROTECT CITIZENS FROM A BAD PATENT.
Funding Cuts Threaten Public Health Preparedness
As the funding decreases, who will take over the various public health initiatives and programs?Raphael Barishansky | October 22, 2012
Food-Safety Inspectors Struggle to Keep Up
Real-Time Public Health Data Improves Situational Awareness
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, considerable funding has been provided to local, state and federal public health agencies and organizations to better prepare them to cope with the continually changing and increasingly dangerous realities of today’s world. These realities include the possibility of public health entities needing to plan for and respond to the full spectrum of weapons of mass destruction threats (i.e., chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) as well as other threats such as pandemic influenza.
But the various funding streams used by these programs are slowly being cut — specifically the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) and Cities Readiness Initiative grants released by the federal government to support state and local health departments. As they decrease, health departments are coping as best they can. But according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials, some 55 percent of the nation’s local health departments reduced or eliminated at least one program between July 2010 and June 2011, and 20 percent of these programs focused on emergency preparedness. Also because of the budget cuts, 53 percent of all health departments experienced some sort of negative job impact (e.g., employee furloughs or reduced staff working hours) that cuts into their overall state of readiness.
So what happens next? The aforementioned funding allows for dedicated personnel, equipment, National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) classes, various training and even participation in exercises. As that funding decreases, who will take over the various initiatives implemented by these programs if and when they go away? Does the emergency management discipline have enough knowledge to seamlessly pick up the critical public health preparedness pieces?
Understanding Public Health Preparedness
The list of public health's accomplishments includes:
-- development of all-hazards preparedness plans;
-- implementing NIMS;
-- administering workforce training in emergency response;
-- creating public education campaigns;
-- implementing new or improved communication systems;
-- completion of various public health emergency exercises;
-- collaboration with nonprofit and faith-based organizations on emergency response planning;
-- enhancement of disease surveillance systems;
-- hiring new staff to work on preparedness planning;
-- implementation or improvement of syndromic surveillance systems;
-- development of a medical surge capacity plan;
-- improved the physical security of their facilities;
-- implementing a Medical Reserve Corps volunteer program;
-- enhanced local public health laboratories;
-- implementing a Community Emergency Response Team program; and
-- stockpiling various vaccines or antivirals
Another element that must be understood is what types of emergency incidents the PHEP programs and their overarching health departments typically respond to. In a 2010 report by the National Association of County and City Health Officials detailing local health department capabilities, these entities reported responding to the following emergency incidents during the time period outlined: infectious disease (26 percent), natural disaster (23 percent), foodborne outbreak (21 percent), chemical spills or releases (9 percent), and exposure to a potential biological agent (5 percent).
The responsibilities of public health entities in an emergency aren’t limited to those situations detailed above — they also must respond during weather-based emergencies like hurricanes and snowstorms. The duties involved in these incidents can include health system readiness, mass care responsibilities and assistance with shelters/sheltering. Additional areas of emergency preparedness and response typically include epidemiological investigations, foodborne emergency preparedness and response to various environmental hazards.
On a daily basis, the responsibilities of PHEP units or programs include:
- training health department personnel how to respond to emergencies they will typically have to confront;
- training in the ICS and NIMS to assure coordinated response (both within the health department and with other, more traditional emergency response partners);
- outreach and collaboration with external partners such as public safety, private sector, nongovernmental organizations and community organizations;
- constant modernization and revision of various emergency plans (e.g., emergency operations plan, medical countermeasures dispensing, non-pharmaceutical interventions, pandemic influenza, anthrax preparedness, etc.);
- planning for drills and exercises that test emergency plans; and
- implementing the corrective actions learned from the exercises.
Perhaps one of the most important areas that PHEP programs cover is the development of realistic, operational and well researched pandemic influenza plans. These plans are seen as fundamental and necessary to federal, state and local public health entities. During recent events, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2002-2003 and H1N1 pandemic seen in 2009-2010, these planning efforts and other public health measures — including the isolation of infected individuals, quarantine of exposed individuals, implementation of community control and social distancing measures, dissemination of information and issuing travel advisories — were widely seen as being successful in staunching the progression.