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  • Writer's pictureJennifer

Food Safety FOMO - 8/1/2023

Hello food safety community,

I’m fresh back from vacation and the annual IAFP meeting, so I’m catching up on what’s been going on and wanted to share some notable items:

1. Tomorrow (Aug 2) kicks off the first of a 4-series webinar on the FDA traceability rule, organized by GS1 US and FMI.

2. Cyclospora confusion: outbreaks vs total cases, travel related vs domestically acquired?

a. There’s a huge disconnect between the number of cases of cyclosporiasis reported on the CDC annual summary pages, and the numbers present in the CDC NNDSS annual summary data (if you search box 2 for cyclosporiasis, all years). For example, the former reports 1241 cases for 2020, while the latter shows 2689. Could it be because the former is only for cases from May -August (peak cyclosporiasis season)? And/or that the former is limited to people who did not travel internationally prior to illness (historically, a lot of cases result from overseas travel). These seem like reasonable explanations and original authors should provide context and explanation to avoid confusion, or worse, feed skepticism of scientists.

b. It’s not one big outbreak. Despite the fact that the annual Cyclospora information is listed under “surveillance and outbreak response” the number of cases is the total cases for all sources. Those of us accustomed to looking at CDC data for Salmonella or Listeria outbreaks find the format similar (map where ill people live, timeline etc.)—so the presentation makes it look like one outbreak. It’s not.

c. I shared my thoughts on this parasite with Food Fix Founder Helena Bottelmiller Evich.

3. Few FDA ‘user fees’ apply to the food industry (I need to write a blog post on user fees for food vs medical products…). Exceptions include participation in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program, which is basically a fast lane for imports (it’s a fairly rigorous program for both the importer and exporter—not just a fee). That fee was announced at $14,975 for FY 2024 (up about $2K from last year, but down $1K from when the program first launched).

4. CDC has identified and defined a persistent strain of Salmonella Infantis linked to poultry, classifying it as a REP strain. If you’re unfamiliar with REP designation, it indicates a strain (based on whole genome sequencing; in this case there is more genetic diversity than what you’d see in a single outbreak) that gets extra attention because it continues to cause outbreaks over time.

5. Several things strike me about the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s report on microbiological testing. First, that they publish these informative interim reports so often. Second is the generic E. coli criteria established. Third is how the criteria for indicators, and in some cases, Listeria monocytogenes, are used to distinguish acceptable, investigative, and unsatisfactory levels. Last is the recognition that tests for parasites and viruses stay investigative (vs unsatisfactory) because of the methodological limitations- this seems reasonable and aligned with a recent article about testing for viruses (specifically Hep A).

Thanks for reading! More to come.

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