Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California

Following a state law mandating testing, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued more alerts for lead in candy than for the other top three sources of food-borne contamination combined, according to the first analysis of outcomes of the 2006 law by researchers at UC San Francisco and CDPH.

For many years, the state health department’s Food and Drug Branch has routinely prepared and disseminated health alerts to regional and county public health programs, practicing community clinicians, and the general public warning of potentially toxic food exposures. However, until the 2006 law mandated a surveillance program, the CDPH did not test widely for lead in candy. The new study shows that in the six years before the law went into effect, from 2001 to 2006, only 22 percent of the alerts about food contamination involved lead in candy. Once the program was implemented, however, 42 percent of the food contamination alerts issued by state health officials were for lead in candy, nearly all of it imported, which was more than the total for SalmonellaE. coli, and botulism, according to an analysis of alerts issued between 2001 and 2014. The study was published Oct. 26, 2017, in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause developmental delays, neurological damage, hearing loss, and other serious health problems in young children and adults. The study found that active community monitoring can identify lead in food products such as candy so they can be recalled before too many people have eaten them. Without such testing, health investigators must wait until after children have been poisoned to look for the sources, which is especially difficult when the source is as perishable as candy. “With this policy change identifying lead sources is more upstream and community-based,” said Margaret Handley, Ph.D., MPH, a professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and the first author of the study. “By testing candy and issuing alerts when foods are found to be contaminated, we can identify and remove sources of lead before children become poisoned.”Image result for Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California

As many as 10,000 California children under the age of six are poisoned by lead each year, and 1,000 of them are exposed to very high levels of the toxic metal. Most efforts to reduce exposure focus on the lead found in gasoline and industrially contaminated soil, as well as lead-based paint, which children take in when they eat paint chips or breathe in dust. However, after several high-profile poisoning cases, the California legislature passed a law requiring the state health department’s Food and Drug Branch to increase surveillance of lead in candy and to issue health alerts when levels are high. Over the 14-year study period, state public health officials issued 164 health alerts for food contamination. Of these, 60 were lead-related, and 55 of those were from imported food, mostly candy from Mexico (34 percent), China (24 percent) and India (20 percent). Two alerts were issued for imported foods that were not candy: One for a toasted grasshopper snack called chapuline, the other for spices.

To get an in-depth look at how well the testing program was working, the study analyzed data for the years 2011-2012 and found that state officials had tested 1,346 candies. Of these, 65 different products were found to contain lead, and 40 of those exceeded the federal limits for children (.10 parts per million). These candies came from a more diverse set of countries compared to the overall 2001 to 2014 samples; just over a third (35 percent) came from India. The others came from Taiwan (12 percent), China (11 percent), Mexico (9 percent), Pakistan (6 percent), Hong Kong (4 percent), the United Kingdom (3 percent), and one sample each from Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and Spain.

Since the candy testing program is not comprehensive, the researchers said the actual number of contaminated candies and other foods on the market could be even higher. “As more lead sources are identified we must develop prevention approaches for all of them, and not just replace one prevention approach with another,” Handley said. “If there is anything we have learned from the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, Michigan, it is not to oversimplify or cut corners when it comes to identifying and removing sources of lead poisoning.”

Adapted from: University of California – San Francisco. “Imported candy at top of contaminated food list in California: More health alerts issued for lead in candy than for Salmonella, E. coli or Botulism.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171026085753.htm>

Nutritional Nugget

Prepare for the after-school rush! Prep small containers of fruits and veggies the night before so kids can help themselves when they get home.

WODal Nugget

Arita: A type of Japanese porcelain characterized by asymmetric decoration

Inspirational Nugget
Do good for others. It will come back in unexpected ways.

“At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiance to our basic goodness. It’s highly beneficial to understand that our limitations are not absolute and monolithic, but relative and removable.”

~Pema ChÖdrÖn

 

Faster Salmonella test boosts food safety for humans and animals

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A new test allows accurate, rapid testing for Salmonella, a bacteria that is one of the leading causes of food-borne illness across all regions of the world. Salmonella can infect animals as well as people, with commonly reported cases of people falling sick after handling pets and livestock. Tests that used to take days now take 24 hours, with a hundredfold improvement in detection for at least one type of Salmonella, called Salmonella Dublin, that is an emerging concern and is difficult to grow in culture, making diagnosis difficult. The new method, first developed for automated food safety testing and then adapted by Cornell scientists for a wider range of sample types, can detect the bacteria from environmental and clinical samples, including swabs, feces, milk and blood.

The test improves diagnosis time from as many as five days using current procedures, according to a recent study published Sept. 1 in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation. “Because we have this 24-hour turnaround time with the new test, there are veterinary hospitals and clinics that can test and get results rapidly and make sure they are not exposing other animals to Salmonella,” said Belinda Thompson, assistant clinical professor at the Animal Health Diagnostic Center and a senior author of the paper. Fast clinical diagnoses also allow veterinarians to quickly quarantine an infected animal. Salmonella Dublin is “host adapted” in cattle, meaning infected animals can become permanent or long-term carriers, putting herd mates, especially susceptible calves, at risk.

This strain can infect people who may be exposed by contact with infected animals, by drinking raw milk, or by consuming other contaminated food products. In humans, Salmonella Dublin has higher hospitalization and fatality rates than other Salmonella types; it causes systemic infection of body tissues, similar to typhoid. “Salmonella biosurveillance in veterinary facilities is critical because animals can shed the bacteria without showing clinical disease signs,” said Laura Goodman, a senior research associate in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences and lead author of the study. Goodman added that the method described in the study is now available as an environmental testing program through the Animal Health Diagnostic Center.

Adapted by: Laura B. Goodman, Patrick L. McDonough, Renee R. Anderson, Rebecca J. Franklin-Guild, James R. Ryan, Gillian A. Perkins, Anil J. Thachil, Amy L. Glaser, Belinda S. Thompson. Detection of Salmonella spp. in veterinary samples by combining selective enrichment and real-time PCR. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 2017; 104063871772831 DOI: 10.1177/1040638717728315

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Do you know the Salty Six for kids? These six common foods contribute the most sodium to American kids’ diets. Compare food labels and help your kids make healthy choices.

Daily Inspiration 

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