Food news state ag and rural leaders

The most common sources of foodborne pathogens causing illness are widely varied and, for most pathogens, not meat, according to a new report from the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC). The report, titled “Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2016 for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States,” is the result of collaboration among the Centers for Disease Control, the Food & Drug Administration and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.The authors used outbreak data to produce new estimates for foods responsible for foodborne illnesses caused by four pathogens in 2016. The CDC estimates that, together, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year.

The 2016 report shows that:Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods.E. coli O157 illnesses were most often linked to vegetable row crops (such as leafy greens) and beef. Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were most often linked to dairy products and fruits. Dairy and fruits remain the top two categories with the highest estimated attribution percentages, but the difference between the two categories is not statistically signifcant.There was an increase in the estimated attribution of Listeria illnesses to vegetable row crops from 3.4 percent in 2013 to 12.5 percent in 2016 due to the impact of a large multi-state outbreak in 2015 linked to prepackaged lettuce.Campylobacter illnesses were most often linked to chicken after removing dairy outbreaks from the estimates.Most foodborne Campylobacter outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk, which is not widely consumed, and those outbreaks likely over-represent dairy as a source of Campylobacter illness. For 2016, chicken had a significantly higher estimated attribution percentage than the other non-dairy food categories. The adjusted chicken percentage increased from 9.5 percent to 30.3 percent after removing dairy.

Proponents of cultured meat – or whatever we wind up calling it –aren’t painting an accurate picture of the impact the new food could have on the environment. For that matter, they aren’t painting an accurate picture of the impact of real beef, either. A scientist says when it comes to weighing the effect of ruminants, there’s a lot to chew over. A battle royal is brewing over what to call animal cells grown in cell culture for food. Should it be in-vitro meat, cellular meat, cultured meat or fermented meat? What about animal-free meat, slaughter-free meat, artificial meat, synthetic meat, zombie meat, lab-grown meat, non-meat or artificial muscle proteins?Then there is the polarizing “fake” versus “clean” meat framing that boils this complex topic down to a simple good versus bad dichotomy. The opposite of fake is of course the ambiguous but desirous “natural.” And modeled after “clean” energy, “clean” meat is by inference superior to its alternative, which must logically be “dirty” meat.The narrative posited by, for now let us call it cultured meat, proponents is that animal agriculture requires large amounts of land and water, and produces high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). The environmental impacts of a product, such as a beef hamburger, is then compared to the anticipatory ones for producing a cultured hamburger patty through tissue engineering-based cellular agriculture.However, framing cultured meat as “clean,” thereby unavoidably invoking dirty as the alternative, belittles the important role that ruminants play in global ecosystems and food security. Furthermore, I believe that overplaying the role that dietary choices actually play on GHG emissions in the United States distracts focus from reducing the much larger source of GHG from human activities – the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation.

The European Parliament approved limits on the use of antibiotics in farm animals produced for food. The limits are aimed at keeping drug-resistant bacteria out of food. The legislation was adopted with 583 votes to 16 and 20 abstentions.The new regulations, which go into force in 2022, limit the use of antimicrobials as a preventive measure — in the absence of clinical signs of infection — to single animals. A veterinarian must approve and justify the use of antibiotics in cases where there is a high risk of infection. Additionally, treating a group of animals when one shows signs of infection should be a last resort. Antibiotics should be administered only after a veterinarian has diagnosed infection and prescribed antimicrobials.The new law also gives the European Commission power to reserve select antimicrobials for treating only humans, and not animals.Finally, the law also requires that imported foods meet EU standards and that antibiotics cannot be used to promote growth of animals.

In a report titled "Chain Reaction IV: Burger Edition," only two hamburger restaurants, California-based Shake Shack and Florida-based BurgerFi, earned A grades based on their public policy of sourcing meat raised without antibiotics.The report was co-authored by Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumer Reports, Center for Food Safety, FACT: Food Animal Concerns Trust, and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, all of which were called public interest organizations working to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.The restaurants earning A grades both currently serve only beef raised without antibiotics and claims that because the chains are expanding from the small number of current locations, that "their responsible sourcing practices — including serving beef raised without antibiotics — are paying off."The Wendy’s chain received a D- grade on the report because in 2018, the chain began to purchase 15 percent of its beef supply from producers that have "reduced the use of one medically important antibiotic, tylosin, by 20 percent."Tylosin, approved and most commonly used for the treatment of shipping fever, falls under the Veterinary Feed Directive though the report gives no details about the stage of production in which the drug is being reduced.Food Safety Inspection Service Acting Deputy Under Secretary Carmen Rottenberg commented on an earlier article published in Consumer Reports, one of the publications behind this report, reminding producers to continue talking about the safety of the U.S. beef supply. Conversation about the carcass by carcass inspection and the robust food safety program, she said, should fill the space rather than allowing the space to be filled with the scare tactic narrative.

After two -days of public meetings this week in Washington D.C., the government can claim it is getting ahead of the day when meat grown from cells grown in the lab becomes available in the marketplace alongside meat grown on the hoof.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the federal government’s top two food safety regulatory agencies, co-sponsored this week’s meetings. FDA and USDA plan to continue to cooperate and develop the regulatory structure during 2019.Food safety and jurisdictional issues took up the first day of the public meeting with day two focused on labeling. Acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker told the gathering that cell-cultured meat and poultry products should be “identified according to customer expectations.”The tradition versus technology debate went pretty much like this. The traditional meat and poultry industries don’t want the cell-based products using their “standards of identity,” meaning words like “beef’ and “meat.”The food technologists, however, say the cell-based products they are developing are not just going to taste like pork or beef, but are going to be pork and beef. They say it would be “simply dishonest” to label their products as anything other than meat.