Keep Away from Robert's American Gourmet Brand Food Product and Chinese Seafood

Keep Away from Robert's American Gourmet Brand Food Product and Chinese Seafood

Over the past decade Risk Analysis, a process consisting of risk assessment, risk management and risk communication, has emerged as a structured model for improving our food control systems with the objectives of producing safer food, reducing the numbers of foodborne illnesses and facilitating domestic and international trade in food.Risk assessment provides us with a framework for organizing all this data and information and to better understand the interaction between microorganisms, foods and human illness. It provides us with the ability to estimate the risk to human health from specific microorganisms in foods.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to eat Veggie Booty snack food, marketed by Robert's American Gourmet, due to possible contamination with Salmonella Wandsworth, bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illness.

Salmonellosis is an illness caused by Salmonella bacteria. An infection with these bacteria usually affects the gastrointestinal system (the stomach and intestines) in humans. In more severe cases, Salmonella can spread to the blood, the bones, or even to the fluid around the brain, but these types of infection are less common.

Salmonella typically live in the intestines of animals and humans and are shed through feces, where the bacteria remain highly contagious. Humans become infected most frequently through contaminated food sources, such as poultry, meat and eggs.Typically, people with salmonella infection develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours.

FDA advises consumers to throw away any Robert's American Gourmet brand Veggie Booty they have in their home. Veggie Booty is sold in a flexible plastic foil bag in four ounce, one ounce, and one-half ounce packages.

Veggie Booty is often consumed by children, so parents are encouraged to watch their children, and seek medical care if they observe signs of illness.

Individuals who have recently eaten Veggie Booty and who have experienced any of the symptoms described below should contact a doctor or other health care provider immediately. Any such illnesses in persons with a recent history of eating Veggie Booty should be reported to state or local health authorities.

This warning is based on 52 reports of illness across 17 states, beginning in March 2007. Almost all the illnesses have occurred in children under 10 years old, with the most cases in toddlers. Most persons had reported bloody diarrhea; four were hospitalized. FDA learned of the illnesses on June 27 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted an investigation of the illnesses with state and local health officials. The outbreak is considered likely to be ongoing.

Salmonella typically causes diarrhea (may be bloody); the diarrhea is often accompanied by abdominal cramps and fever. Symptoms typically begin within one to four days after exposure to the bacteria. In infants, persons with poor underlying health and those with weakened immune systems, Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

States reporting illnesses include: California (seven cases), Colorado (five cases), Connecticut (one case), Georgia (one case), Indiana (one case), Massachusetts (three cases), Minnesota (two cases), New Hampshire (two cases), New Jersey (two cases), New York (13 cases), Oregon (one case), Pennsylvania (three cases), Tennessee (one), Texas (one), Vermont (three cases), Washington (four cases), and Wisconsin (two cases).

Robert's American Gourmet, of Sea Cliff, N.Y., which markets Veggie Booty, and its contract manufacturer, are fully cooperating with FDA's investigation into the cause of the contamination. Manufacturing and distribution of this product has ceased, and Robert's American Gourmet is recalling all potentially contaminated product, including all expiration dates and lot codes. The product is sold in all 50 states and Canada at retail locations and over the Internet.

China's federal food regulator said widespread use of illegal and toxic ingredients has been found in at least 180 small food processing plants.

At a Beijing news conference, Han Yi, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine's quality control division said most of the cases were found at plants that employ fewer than 10 people, the China Daily reported .Such additives as mineral oils, formaldehyde, paraffin wax and carcinogenic dyes were found being used in the production of flour, candy, pickles, biscuits and seafood, while others were using recycled or expired food.

Under the alert imposed , importers must show by independent testing that the fish has no dangerous contaminants, effectively removing the United States as a market, The New York Times reported. The species covered by the alert are shrimp, catfish, eel, basa -- which resemble catfish -- and dace, which resemble carp.

Dr. David Acheson, the assistant commissioner for food protection, said the FDA decided to act because of a long history of contamination with unapproved drugs and additives. He said long-term consumption of Chinese-raised fish might cause health problems.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a broader import control of all farm-raised catfish, basa, shrimp, dace (related to carp), and eel from China. FDA will start to detain these products at the border until the shipments are proven to be free of residues from drugs that are not approved in the United States for use in farm-raised aquatic animals.

For Salmonella in broiler chickens, the risk characterization estimates the probability of illness in a year due to the ingestion of Salmonella on fresh whole broiler chicken carcasses with the skin intact, and which are cooked in the domestic kitchen for immediate consumption.

This action by FDA, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will protect American consumers from unsafe residues that have been detected in these products. There have been no reports of illnesses to date.

"We're taking this strong step because of current and continuing evidence that certain Chinese aquaculture products imported into the United States contain illegal substances that are not permitted in seafood sold in the United States," said Dr. David Acheson, FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection. "We will accept entries of these products from Chinese firms that demonstrate compliance with our requirements and safety standards."

During targeted sampling from October 2006 through ,FDA repeatedly found that farm-raised seafood imported from China were contaminated with antimicrobial agents that are not approved for this use in the United States.

The contaminants were the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and fluoroquinolone. Nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet have been shown to be carcinogenic with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance to this critically important class of antibiotics.

None of these substances is approved for use in farm-raised seafood in the United States, and the use of nitrofurans and malachite green in aquaculture is also prohibited by Chinese authorities. Chinese officials have acknowledged that fluoroquinolones are used in Chinese aquaculture and are permitted for use in China.

The levels of the drug residues that have been found in seafood are very low, most often at or near the minimum level of detection. FDA is not seeking recall of products already in U.S. commerce and is not advising consumers to destroy or return imported farm-raised seafood they may already have in their homes. FDA is concerned about long term exposure as well as the possible development of antibiotic resistance.

The FDA action includes conditions under which an exporter can be exempted from FDA's detention action by providing specified information to the agency. This information must demonstrate the exporter has implemented steps to ensure its products do not contain these substances and that preventive controls are in place. The additional import controls placed on seafood from China will last as long as needed.

FDA may allow the entry into the United States and subsequent distribution into the marketplace of individual shipments of the Chinese farm-raised seafood products if the company provides documentation to confirm the products are free of residues of these drugs.

The Members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and of the World Health Organization (WHO) have expressed concern regarding the level of safety of food both at the national and the international levels. Increasing foodborne disease incidence over the last decades seems, in many countries, to be related to an increase in
disease caused by microorganisms in food.

During talks between U.S. and Chinese officials, the U.S. pressed China to increase safety measures for food and other goods it exports after numerous recent outbreaks and recall related to unsafe Chinese food products. Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, tried to explain how important creating a safe image is to Chinese producers saying, "Any nation that doesn't create an atmosphere of trust with consumers and customers, they will be disadvantage quickly in the world market."

The U.S. proposed to send its own inspectors to China and urged the Chinese to adopt new policies that would punish Chinese firms that use banned chemicals, such as the recent case of the chemical diethyl glycol being put into toothpaste.

Consumers should be aware that the FDA is enforcing a new import alert regarding food ingredients from China. Because food labels do not list the country of origin for every ingredient, consumers may want to contact manufacturers regarding the origin of the ingredients in their processed foods. The concern about the safety of food imports from China arose after thousands of dogs and cats in the United States became seriously ill after eating pet food made with contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein from China.


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