Organic meat less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria

Meat that is certified organic by the US Department of Agriculture is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, compared to conventionally produced meat, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The findings highlight the risk for consumers to contract foodborne illness — contaminated animal products and produce sicken tens of millions of people in the US each year — and the prevalence of multidrug-resistant organisms that, when they lead to illness, can complicate treatment.

The researchers found that, compared to conventionally processed meats, organic-certified meats were 56 per cent less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria.

The study was based on nationwide testing of meats from 2012 to 2017 as part of the US National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).

For meat to be certified organic by the USDA, animals can never have been administered antibiotics or hormones and animal feed and forage – such as grass and hay – must be 100 per cent organic. Continue reading

NZ Food Safety sets new goal – to reduce food-borne Campylobacter by 20% by 2025

A new goal to significantly reduce foodborne Campylobacter poisoning by 20% by 2025 was announced today.

The results of a study commissioned by New Zealand Food Safety to add greater scientific rigour to efforts to reduce food-borne illnesses were released today, too.

The study, Source assigned campylobacteriosis in New Zealand, found more than 80% of human food-borne cases are likely due to the consumption of poultry meat.

New Zealand Food Safety and the poultry industry, working collaboratively to reduce Campylobacter rates, have updated their strategy and action plan to include enhanced consumer education, better hygiene through the poultry processing and food distribution chain, and improved measures at the poultry farm level.  Continue reading

MPI directs unregistered raw drinking milk producers to stop selling

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has directed unregistered raw (unpasteurised) drinking milk suppliers across the country to stop selling their product until they comply with the legal requirements for sale.

MPI compliance staff this week executed search warrants at non-compliant raw drinking milk suppliers in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Nelson, and Southland following a year-long operation.

MPI’s manager of food compliance Melinda Sando says the purpose of the coordinated site visits was to gather evidence of the offending and to allow further investigation of non-compliant sales. Continue reading

Regulation changes allow hemp seed to be sold as food

Hemp seed can be treated as an edible seed under regulatory changes which come into force on November 12.

Announcing this today, Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor hailed the changes as great news for the local hemp industry, which has argued for decades that the production of hemp seed foods will stimulate regional economies, create jobs and generate $10-20 million of export revenue within 3 to 5 years.

Hemp is currently grown under permit and is used for fibre and hemp seed oil.

“Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed,” Mr O’Connor said.

Growing, possession and trade of whole seeds will still require a licence from the Ministry of Health.

The Minister said hemp seeds are safe to eat, nutritious and do not have a psychoactive effect, .

The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food.

Hemp flowers and leaves will not be permitted.

“We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world’s most discerning customers,” Mr O’Connor said.

More information is attached as a Q&A and from the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Food safety culture in good shape but there’s more to be done

The Food Safety Assurance and Advisory Council (FSAAC) and New Zealand Food Safety (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) have released research into the food safety culture in New Zealand food businesses.

The FSAAC was established in 2014 to provide the Ministry for Primary Industries with high-level independent strategic advice and risk analysis on the performance of New Zealand’s food safety system. The council commissioned this research.

The chair of the FSAAC, Michael Ahie explains:

“We wanted to get a better understanding of how New Zealand food businesses are implementing and maintaining a strong food safety culture in the workplace. Food safety must be treated as a way of doing business and not just something that is discussed at a weekly meeting. This initial research provides a baseline that will be valuable for tracking improvements over time”.

New Zealand Food Safety’s director of food regulation, Paul Dansted says having a strong food safety culture is very important.

“It’s important for the health of our consumers and the strength of our economy that New Zealand food continues to be safe and suitable and we protect our good reputation. Most food business owners, managers, and staff have an inherent sense of pride in what they are doing and are motivated to build and maintain a good reputation for their business.

“But there is still work to do to ensure consistency across all types and sizes of food businesses, and right across the supply chain, whether it’s growing, harvesting, importing, processing, transporting, storing, exporting, or selling. Part of having a world-leading food safety system is that we must always look at continuous improvement. This research helps to identify areas where we excel and areas where we can do better.”

Nine hundred food business and 193 employees spanning all areas of the food supply chain from manufacturers to retailers were surveyed.

Overall, the results show that New Zealand food businesses have a strong commitment to food safety, Mr Dansted said.

Food businesses are doing well with keeping customer safety top of mind and having formalised food safety policies and procedures – 95% of them say they had policies and rules in place to identify and deal with food safety risks.

Good leadership with driving food safety culture is reflected in 75% of employees surveyed saying their managers visibly show support for food safety and walk the talk.

On the other hand, the research indicates businesses need to have specific food safety goals and key performance indicators in place, and reward employees for taking part in the day-to-day improvement of their food safety practices.  Businesses also need to develop a more inclusive and shared sense of responsibility for food safety across the whole organisation.

Only 3% of food businesses surveyed report data on their food safety performance back to their employees.

“This research helps us to build a better picture of how food businesses view and develop food safety cultures both internally and across their supply chain. New Zealand Food Safety has been providing more effective food safety tools for businesses,” Mr Dansted said.

“We have received very positive feedback on our new food safety templates, resources and guidance, and the way we have worked in partnership to develop them.”

A food safety guide aimed at boards, directors, chief executives, and business owners will be released next month as NZFS continues to help food businesses to support their work in developing a strong food safety culture.

More information about the research can be found HERE. 

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Latest NZ Total Diet Study gives more insight on what Kiwis are eating

New Zealand Food Safety (a unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries) today published the results from the 2016 New Zealand Total Diet Study,  which shows the food New Zealanders eat has a high level of safety in regard to chemical hazards which might be present in the food supply.

Exposure to agricultural chemicals and contaminants from food remains low and for the first time in two decades dietary intake of iodine is sufficient for good health.

The study, which is carried out on average every five years, is a national survey of a range of common foods consumed in a typical diet.

It is used to assess New Zealanders’ overall exposure to chemicals, such as agricultural compounds, environmental contaminants and nutrients, and to identify any potential food safety risks. It is also used to monitor trends and changes in levels over time.

The ministry’s specialist advisor for toxicology and environmental chemistry, Dr Andrew Pearson, says more than 4300 individual food samples were tested for the 2016 study for 301 agricultural chemicals and 10 contaminants and nutrients.

The number of food types tested was increased to 132 to capture new food trends, and for the first time the study has looked at Pacific Island ethnicity diets.

“Overall we found that the New Zealand food supply continues to be safe in terms of exposure to chemicals, and generally there is a sufficient level of nutrients for health,” Dr Pearson said.

Both contaminants and nutrients can come from a variety of sources, such as those naturally occurring in the environment, natural processes (like volcanic activity), and materials used in food preparation and storage (such as tin from cans).

In terms of contaminants, the ministry tested for aluminium, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and tin.

Dietary levels of cadmium and mercury have remained consistent with results from the previous studies.  Lead levels, on the other hand, have decreased and the declining trend is continuing.

Aluminium was tested for the first time and higher-than-expected levels were found in some foods.

“While the potential health risk is low, we are actively working with industry to reduce the level of aluminium in these foods,” Dr Pearson said.

The ministry tested a range of common nutrients, such as iodine, selenium, sodium, and zinc. Approximately half of the foods were also tested for fluoride.

The study found New Zealanders are still consuming higher-than-needed levels of sodium in their diets but they are getting the right levels of selenium and zinc, both of which are essential in supporting a healthy metabolism.

An increase of iodine was found in New Zealanders’ diets. This is linked to bread being fortified with iodised salt.

This means that for the first time since the 1990s iodine intakes are estimated to be at a level in the population which is needed for good thyroid function.

The ministry tested three types of agricultural chemicals that are commonly used in agriculture – insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. The test for the first time also included two chemicals commonly found in disinfectants used in the food production industry and in homes.

“We tested more agricultural chemicals than in any previous TDS and although about 40% of the samples had a detected level of agricultural chemical residue, all of the exposures in the diet were very low, and far below the levels that would be a food safety risk,” Dr Pearson said.

“All in all, the results from the 2016 TDS are very reassuring, and show the New Zealand diet is safe and wholesome.

“The levels of agricultural chemicals and contaminants in our diets remain low and most of the latter are naturally occurring in the environment, so the fact they are showing up in our foods is unavoidable.

“In addition, we are eating foods that are providing us with the right levels of nutrients needed to maintain a good diet.”

The next study will likely be conducted in 2021.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Cheesemakers can look forward to an easing of the regulatory burden

Cheesemakers are set to benefit from a more modern and common-sense approach to food safety regulation, says Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor.

A guest at The Great Eketahuna Cheese Festival, Mr O’Connor launched the Food Safety Template for Cheesemakers – a tool to help cheesemakers producing cheese for New Zealand and Australia to meet food safety requirements.

Cheese producers are required under the Food Act and the Animal Products Act to have a written plan to manage food safety risks on a day-to-day basis.

Over the years this has become burdensome and costly for cheesemakers who build plans from scratch and have them verified under two laws, Mr O’Connor acknowledged.

The Food Safety Template for Cheesemakers, developed for the first time in partnership with artisan cheesemakers, pulls together regulatory requirements – making it easier and cheaper to meet important food safety standards.

Last week Mr O’Connor launched New Zealand Food Safety, a new business unit in the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It is charged with looking at ways to make compliance easier for small, regional and rural food businesses “because their nimbleness and creativity are key to helping the food producing sector reach higher up the value chain,” he said.

Source: Minister of Food Safety



NZ Food Safety is launched as a new business unit within MPI

Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor, launching New Zealand Food Safety, said it will help raise the profile of food safety for all New Zealanders.

It is one of four new business units created within the Ministry for Primary Industries to create a stronger focus on keys areas of work, along with Biosecurity New Zealand, Fisheries New Zealand and Forestry New Zealand.

New Zealand Food Safety brings together about 390 people from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ food standard setting, verification and assurance teams into one strong and visible business unit.

Everyone had a vital role to play in food safety – from farmers and producers to hospitality workers, small business-owners and families at home, Mr O’Connor said.

“New Zealand Food Safety’s job is to ensure that everyone within the system has the skills, knowledge and experience to play their part”.

Mr O’Connor has asked New Zealand Food Safety to make compliance easier for businesses – particularly for small, regional or rural food businesses including providing guidance to market stallholders, rolling out templates to reduce costs and allowing those operating under several food safety laws to have one plan.

“Small businesses are vital to New Zealand’s economy. We need to be more focused on supporting and understanding them,” he said.

“Their nimbleness and creativity are key to helping our food producing sector stay ahead of consumer trends and reach higher up the value chain.”

Source: Minister of Agriculture

New device made available for work in NZ could help control harm from food

A “game-changing” piece of technology for quickly identifying harmful strains of bacteria in food has become available in New Zealand, thanks to a partnership between a Lincoln University taxonomy expert and two US senior food safety researchers.

The scanner, called a BEAM device, was developed at Purdue University in Indiana with an initial focus on the United States market.

It has been offered free of charge to Lincoln University Associate Professor Stephen On and is the only device of its kind outside the US.

Dr On recently received an $80,000 Catalyst grant from the Royal Society Te Apārangi to use the scanner for New Zealand-focused research that will complement studies already being undertaken in the United States.

The resulting data will be pooled for maximum global impact.

The scanner is designed to better identify disease outbreaks by providing a “specific fingerprint” of bacteria cultured on a standard agar media plate.

This allows scientists to pinpoint strains of interest more quickly, with a particular focus on pathogens.

“If there’s an outbreak of E. coli or Salmonella, for example, you may have dozens of samples to examine,” said Dr On.

“The technology provides the major advantage of identifying the pathogen of concern by rapidly screening it from microorganisms naturally present in food or clinical samples.

“Because it’s non-invasive, you can take your isolate of interest and further characterise it with sub-typing methodologies to better identify an outbreak

“No comparable technology is available elsewhere – it’s a game-changer.”

The project with the US experts came about after Dr On visited Purdue University in 2015 to investigate whether the BEAM technology would be relevant to New Zealand.

The results, some of which involved 26 pathogenic E. coli strains important to New Zealand meat products, were promising.

“They showed the potential value of BEAM to national problems and indicated that the method might be capable of identifying E. coli strains with a higher infection potential than others,” said Dr On.

“This is a first in the history of underpinning BEAM research.”

The United States researchers are Endowed Cytometry Professor J. Paul Robinson, of Purdue University, and Professor James Lindsay, senior national program leader for the US Department of Agriculture.

Dr On will work with them to examine a geographically diverse range of strains of microbial species of clinical and economic importance to New Zealand and the US.

He said the economic and public health significance of pathogenic E. coli remained of critical importance and partners of the NZ Food Safety and Science Research Centre (including ESR and Plant & Food Research) had identified other bacterial pathogens of concern, including Campylobacter and Listeria.

This requires improvements in diagnostics, he said.

Source: Lincoln University

MPI reminds consumers of the risks when they drink raw milk

The Ministry for Primary Industries is reminding consumers to take care when drinking raw unpasteurised milk because raw milk is a high-risk food.

The ministry was aware of several recent recalls of raw milk,  the ministry’s director animal and animal products, Dr Paul Dansted, said.

It was important that consumers remember and understand the risks with drinking raw milk, which is milk that has not been pasteurised (heat treated) to kill harmful bacteria such as CampylobacterListeria and toxin-producing strains of E. coli (STECs) which  potentially are present in the milk.

In 2014, the ministry introduced rules which require farmers selling raw milk to meet food safety requirements.

But consumers still needed to take care when drinking raw milk, Dr Dansted said.

“Some people who drink raw milk may not always fully understand the risks and don’t realise that there is the possibility of getting sick from the harmful bacteria in the milk.

“Pregnant women, young children (particularly babies), the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems should not drink raw milk as they are at greatest risk of getting sick and the consequences for them can be more severe, and in some cases can lead to death,” says Dr Dansted.

“No matter how carefully the animals are milked, there is always a risk that harmful bacteria can get into the milk. There is no way of telling by taste, sight or smell if the milk you are drinking contains harmful bacteria, so we recommend that people heat their raw milk until just boiling (or to 70°C for one minute) before drinking it.”

Keeping raw milk refrigerated (4°C or less) also reduces the risk of any harmful bacteria in the milk growing to levels which make people sick when they drink it.

Consumers are advised to discard the milk if it has been left out of the fridge for two hours or more and drink it by its use-by date.

People who choose to drink raw milk should make sure they are getting their milk directly from the farmer and are only buying it for personal and household consumption, Dr Dansted said.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries.