Today the FDA launched a new and improved web search tool for consumers to use during recalls.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in January by President Obama called for a more consumer-friendly recall search engine.

How does the new site work? Search results provide data from news releases and other recall announcements in the form of a table. That table organizes information from news releases on recalls since 2009 by date, product brand name, product description, reason for the recall and  the recalling. The table also provides a link to the news release on each recall for more detailed information.

A quick look at the new site showed some favorites – Skippy, Teavanna and DelMonte (cantaloupes) all listed as recalled because of  salmonella.

Under FSMA, FDA was required to provide a consumer-friendly recall search engine 90 days after the law went into effect.  The  law also requires that recalls conducted under FSMA indicate whether the recall is ongoing or completed. Believe it or not, prior to passage of FSMA, FDA did not have mandatory recall authority for food and feed products other than infant formula.

And while this is a good thing, don’t look for your turkey, beef or chicken recalls at this site. That’s all handled by the USDA, not the FDA. Getting better but still confusing for sure.

Check FDA’s new recall site at:  Recalls & Safety Alerts, USDA at:

Three months into one of the largest Salmonella outbreaks in history, with no specific details or certainty, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now telling consumers that peppers from Mexico are to blame.

“The collective review of the current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeño pepper (only one?)originated in Mexico. Additional traceback and traceforward information obtained this week has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigosa produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas–from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample–was not the original source of the contamination.”

Mexican officials said the findings were “premature.”

Initially, tomatoes seemed the most likely source of the outbreak. The FDA told consumers to avoid certain raw tomatoes on June 7, prompting grocery chains and some restaurants nationwide to stop offering them. As a result over $100 million in tomatoes have been destroyed. The agency lifted that ban last week.

So far, 1,294 people infected with the same type of Salmonella Saintpaul have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, according to the CDC.,

In the United States, the principal federal regulatory organizations responsible for providing consumer protection with regards to food are:

  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and certain egg products and for performing certain food quality inspections and certifications that include food safety elements.
  • FDA is responsible for the safety of all other foods, including milk, seafood, and fruits and vegetables.The FDA is charged with protecting consumers against impure, unsafe, and fraudulently labeled food other than in areas regulated by FSIS.
  • EPA’s mission includes protecting public health and the environment from risks posed by pesticides and promoting safer means of pest management. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets limits on the amount of pesticide residues that are allowed in food.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) within the Department of Commerce provides fee-for-service inspections of seafood safety and quality.
  • Department of Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating agencies’ food security activities, including at U.S. borders.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS’ primary role in the U.S. food safety network of agencies is to protect against plant and animal pests and diseases.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responsible for monitoring, identifying, and investigating foodborne disease problems and for working with FDA, NMFS, USDA, state and local public health departments, universities, and industry to develop control methods. Read the rest of this entry »

On the heels of another 5 million pound ground beef recall, and with over 1000 people sickened and no answers in the salmonella contaminated tomato/pepper/cilantro fiasco, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer today announced that beginning next month, the USDA will begin listing retail stores receiving meat and poultry products involved in Class I recalls – those of the most serious concern to public health.

The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will post on its site a list of retail stores that receive products subject to Class I recalls (only), the highest risk category, generally within three to ten business days of issuing the recall release. Retail stores include supermarkets or other grocery stores, convenience stores, meat markets, wholesale clubs and supercenters. FSIS will not identify distribution centers, institutions or restaurants, since they prepare food for immediate consumption without packaging that is identifiable or available to consumers. Read the rest of this entry »

So sad. Another out-of-control recall.  More ground beef. More sick people. A government on vacation. And stupid comments that would lead anyone to wonder, “what exactly is an acceptable level of EColi?”

Nebraska Beef Ltd. is expanding a recall announced earlier this week to include all 5.3 million pounds of meat it produced for ground beef between May 16 and June 26.

Federal investigators have linked Nebraska Beef’s products to an outbreak of E. coli illnesses affecting 41 people in Michigan and Ohio.

USDA spokesman Roger Sockman said investigators traced the meat back to Nebraska Beef after finding two samples of beef that tested positive for E. coli at processing plants that bought meat from Nebraska Beef.

Sockman said investigators then visited Nebraska Beef’s plant and found “unacceptable high levels of E. coli.”

Some Nebraska Beef products were sold by grocer Kroger Co. Kroger has recalled ground beef products in more than 20 states because the meat may have been contaminated. Read the rest of this entry »

Nebraska Beef, Ltd., an Omaha, Neb., establishment is recalling approximately 531,707 pounds of ground beef components that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today.

The problem was discovered by FSIS through traceback investigations and ground beef samples collected from two federally inspected establishments positive for E. coli O157:H7, as well as multiple samples of Kroger brand ground beef positive for E. coli O157:H7.

Kroger brand ground beef samples were collected by the Michigan and Ohio Departments of Agriculture and Health from patients in Michigan and Ohio. Nebraska Beef, Ltd., was identified as a common supplier to those stores in addition to two federally inspected establishments where FSIS obtained a positive ground beef sample that was matched to the outbreak strain identified in Michigan and Ohio.

The epidemiological investigations and a case control study conducted by the Michigan and Ohio Departments of Agriculture and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that there is an association between the ground beef products and 35 illnesses reported in Michigan (17) and Ohio (18).

See related story: Yet another sad tale of ground beef contaminated with EColi

Read the rest of this entry »

Am I crazy or is Ag Secretary Ed Schafer rewarding states with $30 million (taxpayer) dollars for actually doing their job?

The Story:

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced that USDA will award $30 million to states for demonstrating excellence in administering Food Stamp Program benefits in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. Among those states, South Dakota and Nebraska have exceptional records, winning high performance bonuses every year since 2003, the first year that the high performance awards were authorized. The overall national payment accuracy rate for FY 2007 was 94.36 percent, an historic high for the program. Read the rest of this entry »

Fruits and vegetables are a key to good health in older men and women, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study. Their research shows the nutrients in fruits and vegetables helps preserve muscle mass in older adults. Researchers say that with aging increasing metabolic “acidosis” develops, triggering a muscle wasting response. Fruits and vegetables in the diet reduces “acidosis.” The study included nearly 400 male and female volunteers over age 65 for a three-year period.


Consumers and farmers will soon be on their own when it comes to finding out which pesticides are being sprayed on everything from corn to apples.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it plans to do away with publishing its national survey tracking pesticide use, despite opposition from prominent scientists, the nation’s largest farming organizations and environmental groups.

“If you don’t know what’s being used, then you don’t know what to look for,” said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center, a nonprofit in Enterprise, Ore. “In the absence of information, people can be lulled into thinking that there are no problems with the use of pesticides on food in this country.”

Since 1990, farmers and consumer advocates have relied on the agency’s detailed annual report to learn which states apply the most pesticides and where bug and weed killers are most heavily sprayed to help cotton, grapes and oranges grow. Read the rest of this entry »

A federal appeals court judge is pondering whether the Bush administration has the authority to stop meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Bush administration made its request on Friday to the court that is considering overturning a ruling that allowed Creekstone Farms Premium Beef of Arkansas City, Kan., to test all its beef for mad cow disease.

Creekstone wants to conduct the intensified testing so that its meat can be sold to customers in Japan and other foreign countries that have tougher safety laws to protect its consumers from contacting the fatal disease.

Company lawyers argue that the government has no right to stop it from conducting more tests than the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires.

USDA guidelines only call for testing less than 1 percent of the cows slaughtered for human consumption in America for BSE. Read the rest of this entry »