Monday, December 20, 2010

CDC releases new foodborne illness estimates

ATLANTA — New figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from food-borne illness. The agency said the new figures are more accurate than previous estimates due to better data used. The findings were published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The C.D.C.’s new estimates are lower than those published by the agency in 1999, when it estimated 76 million people fell ill due to food-borne illness, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The difference is largely the result of improvements in the quality and quantity of the data used and new methods used to estimate food-borne disease, according to the C.D.C.
For example, it is now known that most norovirus is not spread by the food-borne route, which has reduced the estimate of food-borne norovirus from 9.2 to approximately 5.5 million cases per year. Because of data and method improvements, the C.D.C. said the 1999 and current estimates cannot be compared to measure trends.

“We’ve made progress in better understanding the burden of food-borne illness and unfortunately, far too many people continue to get sick from the food they eat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C. “These estimates provide valuable information to help the C.D.C. and its partners set priorities and further reduce illnesses from food.”

The report noted Salmonella is the leading cause of estimated hospitalizations and deaths, responsible for about 28% of deaths and 35% of hospitalizations due to known pathogens transmitted by food. About 90% of estimated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths were due to seven pathogens: Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157, Listeria and Clostridium perfringens. And nearly 60% of estimated illnesses, but a much smaller proportion of severe illness, was caused by norovirus.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Manor district creates high-tech school kitchen

Decker Elementary School's kitchen has gone high tech.

A computer system paid for with a federal stimulus grant has given the kitchen staff a swifter way to organize menus, keep track of daily work and inventory, and monitor ovens and other appliances. Because of the system, installed in August 2009, the kitchen manager has reduced her paperwork and can focus more attention on food safety and efficiency, officials said.
Manor school district officials took U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on a kitchen tour at the eastern Travis County school Tuesday .

George Townsend , the district's food service director, said that not only has the technology made kitchen management more efficient, it also has given employees a greater sense of purpose.

"I think they enjoy their jobs more," Townsend said. "By having healthier food and putting an emphasis on how important nutrition is, it makes them feel like their job is more important."
Money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 paid for the system and new ovens. Decker received $16,000 for the revamped kitchen, Townsend said.

Decker needed a secondary oven after removing its fryer to comply with the 2004 Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which required that all schools eliminate the use of deep fryers in their daily meal preparations in an effort to fight child obesity.

About 20 percent of Texas children ages 10 to 17 are obese, a recent report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found. That rate ties Texas with Arkansas in seventh place for child obesity, according to the report, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010."

Janey Thornton , USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services , toured Decker on Tuesday to see the government's money in action. She spoke about the need to solve the childhood obesity problem in the United States.

"We recognize that schools are only a small part of the issue," Thornton said. "We need to be teaching kids at school how to eat and then have parents reinforce it at home."

Decker's new computerized kitchen and convection ovens have inspired the kitchen staff in the year since they were installed, Decker Principal Leslie Whitworth said.

"The food is fresh and made from ingredients in the kitchen rather than just something packaged," Whitworth said. "Preparing food and watching the children enjoy it makes them a stronger part of the Decker community."

Teachers at Decker push students to try new foods and learn good eating habits, which some kitchen staff members say is working.

"I think the children like what they are eating," said Susan Covington , Decker's PTA president. "I've never seen as many people get involved in the nutrition program before."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

E. coli fears prompt 1 million lb. ground-beef recall

WASHINGTON – Valley Meat Company, Modesto, Calif., is recalling (Class I Recall-Health Risk High) approximately 1 million lbs. of frozen ground-beef patties and bulk ground-beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) announced on Aug. 6.

On July 15, F.S.I.S. became aware of the problem when the agency was notified by the California Department of Public Health (C.D.P.H.) of a small E. coli O157:H7 cluster of illnesses with a rare strain as determined by P.F.G.E. sub-typing. Six patients with illness onset dates between April 8 and June 18 were reported at that time. After further review, C.D.P.H. added another patient from February to the case count, bringing the count to seven. F.S.I.S. is continuing to work with the C.D.P.H. and the company.

Products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST. 8268" inside the U.S.D.A. mark of inspection, as well as a production code of 25709 through 01210. These products were produced between Oct. 2, 2009 through Jan. 12, 2010, and were distributed to retail outlets and institutional foodservice providers in California, Texas, Oregon, Arizona and internationally.

When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on F.S.I.S.' Website at Concerns exist that some product may still be frozen and in consumers' freezers. F.S.I.S. strongly encourages consumers to check their freezers and immediately discard any product that is the subject of this recall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

U.S.D.A. finalizes ground-beef standards for lunches

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has finalized what it is calling tougher new standards for ground beef purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Service for federal food and nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch Program, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced. "It is one of my highest priorities to ensure that food provided to the National School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs is as safe and nutritious as possible," Mr. Vilsack said. "The new standards guarantee our purchases are in line with major private-sector buyers of ground beef. We will continue to apply the best scientific knowledge to increase the safety across the board of our nutritional programs."

In February, Mr. Vilsack announced a series of initiatives to improve the safety of food purchased for nutrition assistance programs. The final standards are the result of a detailed, ongoing review by U.S.D.A.'s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) and Agricultural Research Service (A.R.S.). These new requirements will be applicable to A.M.S. ground beef contracts awarded on or after July 1. The A.M.S. released a draft of the plan in May with a request for comments. Based upon comments and data submitted by the Department of Agriculture's F.S.I.S. and A.R.S. and members of the general public, revisions were made to the final specification that will be used for purchases beginning in July.

The new A.M.S. standards, in addition to continuing a zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella: (1) tighten microbiological testing protocols; (2) tighten the microbiological upper specification and critical limits; (3) increase microbiological sampling frequency for finished products to every 15 minutes; and, (4) institute additional rejection criteria for source trimmings used to manufacture AMS purchased ground beef. A.M.S. will also consider any vendor classified by F.S.I.S. as having a long term poor safety record as an ineligible vendor until a complete cause-and-effect analysis is completed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reusable grocery bags present food safety risks: study

TUCSON, Ariz. – Reusable grocery bags, which are being widely touted in the growing "green" movement, can serve as a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious public health risk, according to a joint food-safety research study issued on June 24 by University of Arizona (Tucson) and Loma Linda University (Loma Linda, Calif.) researchers.
Randomly testing reusable grocery bags carried by shoppers in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, and Tucson, the study also found consumers were almost completely unaware of the need to regularly wash their bags.

"Our findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half the bags sampled," said Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a University of Arizona environmental microbiology professor and co-author of the study. "Furthermore, consumers are alarmingly unaware of these risks and the critical need to sanitize their bags after every use."

Bacteria levels found in reusable bags were significant enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even lead to death — a particular danger for young children, who are especially vulnerable to food-borne illnesses, he said.

Awareness of potential risks was very low, the study also found. Ninety-seven percent of those interviewed have never washed or bleached their reusable bags, said Mr. Gerba , who added thorough washing kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in reusable bags.
This study was published at a time when some members of the California State Legislature, through Assembly Bill 1998 (Brownley), are seeking to promote increased consumer use of reusable bags by banning plastic bags from California stores.

"If this is the direction California wants to go, our policymakers should be prepared to address the ramifications for public health," said co-author Ryan Sinclair, Ph.D., a professor at Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health.

"A sudden or significant increase in use of reusable bags without a major public education campaign on how to reduce cross contamination would create the risk of significant adverse public health impact," the study noted. Sinclair said geographic factors also play a role. He noted contamination rates appeared to be higher in the Los Angeles area than in the two other locations — a phenomenon likely due to that region’s weather being more conducive to growth of bacteria in reusable bags.

The study, Assessment of the Potential to Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags, offered the following policy recommendations for lawmakers, as well as tips for consumers who use reusable grocery bags:

States should consider requiring printed instructions on reusable bags indicating that they need to cleaned or bleached between uses.

State and local governments should invest in a public education campaign to alert the public about risk and prevention.

When using reusable bags, consumers should be careful to separate raw foods from other food products.

Consumers should not use reusable food bags for such other purposes as carrying books or gym clothes.

Consumers should not store reusable bags in the trunks of their cars because the higher temperature promotes growth of bacteria.

"As scientists, our focus was not on the relative merits of paper, plastic or reusable grocery bags," Gerba said. "Our intent was purely to provide relevant data to better inform consumers and lawmakers about the public health dimensions that could arise from increased use of reusable bags. With this knowledge, people will be in a better position to protect their health and that of their children."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Romaine Lettuce Recalled Over E. coli

Contaminated Lettuce Used in Salad Bars and Restaurants in Eastern States
By Daniel J. DeNoonWebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
May 6, 2010 -- Romaine lettuce sold in 23 states and the District of Columbia may be contaminated with dangerous E. coli O145 bacteria and has been recalled.
So far, 19 cases of E. coli O145 illness have been reported in Michigan, Ohio, and New York. Twelve people have been hospitalized, including three with life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by the bacterium.
Several lines of evidence -- including detection of bacteria in an unopened package of Freshway Foods shredded Romaine lettuce -- point to Freshway Foods wholesale Romaine lettuce products.
Freshway Foods has recalled all products containing Romaine lettuce with a use-by date of May 12 or earlier. These products were sold wholesale to restaurants and supermarkets under the Freshway or Imperial Sysco brands.
The recall does not include bagged or prepackaged Romaine or lettuce mixes containing Romaine. However, the lettuce may be found in supermarket salad bars and delis.
Freshway Foods is advising consumers not to eat "grab and go" salads sold in store salad bars and delis at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores.
Symptoms of infection with harmful E. coli may range from none to mild diarrhea to severe complications. The acute symptoms include severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Patients may progress to serious complications, such as kidney damage. The FDA and the CDC encourage anyone with these symptoms to contact his or her health care provider immediately.
The states in which the lettuce was sold are Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CDC reports little change in foodborne illness

Little or no progress has been made in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness in the United States in recent years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC did see progress during 2009 in reducing the incidence of E. coli to the national health target of one case per 100,000 of the population, but it has missed public health objectives for all other foodborne illnesses measured as part of its Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet – and for listeria for five years in a row.
The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) said that the reduction in E. coli was good news, but that it should be viewed cautiously, considering that the CDC has met this target before, in 2004, only to see the number of cases rebound.
The Consumer Federation of America said in a statement: “CFA hopes that the government and the industry will be appropriately modest about this news until this type of performance can be achieved year after year. It will take sustained and dedicated effort in order to maintain this recent success.”
Despite 2009 being marked by a widespread salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products, salmonella cases were down during the year compared to the 1996-1998 period. However, at 15.19 cases per 100,000 people, the number of cases was still more than double the national health target of 6.8.
A listeria target of 0.25 cases per 100,000 people was set in 2000, following the Ball Park franks incident, in which 21 people died from eating Bil Mar hotdogs. But the incidence of listeria was at its highest level in a decade in 2009, the CDC found, at 0.34 cases.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Extra helping of education needed in obesity battle

Much discussion has been heard during the past few months about childhood obesity and what ought be done to reduce its incidence. Despite the high volume and fierce intensity of the debate, a key component to addressing childhood obesity and, indeed, adult obesity has been omitted from the equation — the need for nutrition education in schools. The goal of programs targeting childhood obesity such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is to provide healthier foods in schools, help children become more physically active and make healthy foods available to consumers throughout the country. Other programs addressing this issue have similar goals, and while they all have the laudable target of making sure consumers have ready access to healthy foods, they neglect the daunting challenge of attempting to ensure both children and adults understand why and know how they need to manage their food intake and physical activity levels. Producing and promoting food and beverage products perceived as healthier, making sure students in schools have access to healthier foods, and even posting calorie counts on food service menus are all good ideas, but if consumers do not understand why they should be consuming such foods or in what portion sizes, such efforts will be wasted. For people in the food and beverage industries as well as medical and public health officials it may be obvious what individuals and parents need to do to manage their own weight as well as the weight of their children. But as the incidence of obesity in adults and children has worsened, it is clear that expanded education is needed beyond the efforts of federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state public health agencies. It is easy to place the blame for obesity in children on the parents, but in many cases adults may be equally as ignorant of their nutritional and exercise needs as their children. For the adults, programs are in place to help them learn what they need to do to improve their health and wellness. For children, the structured environment of a classroom provides the ideal venue for addressing one of the most challenging public health issues before the country today. For a long time, nutrition education was relegated in schools to courses such as home economics. But as budget constraints have forced school districts to pare curriculums, many programs that featured a nutrition education component have been suspended. Today, nutrition education is often included in health studies. Instead, it should be incorporated into considerably more diverse curriculums such as biology, science and even mathematics. As society has evolved, access to a variety of food and beverages has become easier. In turn, this means that greater efforts must be undertaken to ensure students comprehend diet and nutrition fundamentals. Such education efforts, if successful, will have many long-term benefits. The most notable promise would be realized by shifting the focus of health management away from addressing a specific condition that may be associated with obesity to preventing such a condition from occurring. It has become strikingly evident that simply telling consumers they need to eat better is not a viable obesity prevention effort. To aid in ending the obesity epidemic among children, subjects like nutrition science and weight management should be addressed in the structured format of the classroom. Only by educating children in all aspects of nutrition science so they learn the role positive nutrition practices play in a healthy life will the issue of obesity truly be addressed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Consider six E. coli types adulterants: S.T.O.P.

WASHINGTON – This past week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was urged by Safe Tables Our Priority and victims of foodborne illness to recognize six other potentially deadly types of E. coli pathogens as adulterants, in addition to the E. coli O157:H7. All seven strains are linked to human illness and are transmitted through feces-contaminated beef products, the group said.
"The U.S.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have known for decades of the public health risks posed by non-O157 strains of E. coli," said Nancy Donley, S.T.O.P. president, whose son died from the foodborne illness in 1993. "Yet, 10 years after requiring public health laboratories to report positive test results for these strains from infected people, nothing has been done to prevent meat contaminated with these strains from entering into commerce."
In 1994, E. coli O157:H7 was declared an adulterant in ground beef in the aftermath of an outbreak that sickened more than 700 people and killed at least four. The C.D.C. has since identified six additional strains of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (S.T.E.C.) -- O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145 — associated with severe illness and death. Just like E. coli O157:H7, these S.T.E.C. strains get into the nation's beef supply when cattle feces contaminate meat during slaughter and processing, the group pointed out.
Ms. Donley and other victim members of S.T.O.P. demanded that U.S.D.A. enact health-based strategies to prevent all types of E. coli-contaminated beef from reaching consumers' tables at a demonstration outside U.S.D.A. offices.
This includes:
• Recognizing as adulterants the six additional E. coli strains.
• Expanding the definition of adulterant to include E .coli O157:H7 when in any type of beef, not just ground beef or beef intended for ground beef.
• Implementing better ways of tracing all S.T.E.C. outbreaks to prevent widespread illness and deaths.
• Asking Congress for mandatory U.S.D.A. recall authority. All government agency food recalls are currently voluntary and issued by the companies responsible.
Producing meat that is as safe as possible is the industry’s No. 1 priority, responded James Hodges, American Meat Institute executive vice president, in a statement. “Federal inspectors are present in our plants every day to ensure we are operating in compliance with federal rules and that the technologies we use to destroy bacteria are working to ensure that only safe and wholesome products enter the marketplace,” he added.
“Our enemy is pathogenic bacteria and these bacteria respond to scientific interventions, not regulatory bans,” Mr. Hodges continued. “The food-safety strategies in place in plants today are far more effective in enhancing food safety than outlawing a pathogen that nature presents us.”
Mr. Hodges said industry has used Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans that require plants to analyze what problems might occur and then put in place ways to prevent those problems for two decades. “We believe so strongly in H.A.C.C.P.’s benefits that we petitioned the U.S.D.A. to mandate H.A.C.C.P. for all federally inspected plants,” he added. “H.A.C.C.P. became mandatory for large plants in 1998, medium sized plants in 1999 and small plants in 2000. As part of H.A.C.C.P. plans, plants use ‘hurdle strategies’ that are like roadblocks for bacteria throughout a plant. No other industry has the level of regulation and inspection as the meat industry.”
Technology does not exist yet to guarantee eliminating E. coli O157:H7 in raw agricultural products, including ground beef, “but we are getting close,” Mr. Hodges said. Government data show industry has made great progress, he added.
“According to U.S.D.A., the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 on raw ground beef has declined by 63% since 2000 to a prevalence rate of one-third of 1%,” Mr. Hodges said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show those human cases of E. coli O157:H7 from all sources – not just meat – have declined by 44% since 2000. Government estimates show that three illnesses per 100,000 population occur each year from the consumption of nearly 10 billion lbs. of ground beef. That is an occurrence of one illness per 5 million servings of ground beef, which is far lower than many other foods we consume.”
E. coli O157:H7 is considered an “adulterant” in non-intact beef products, such as ground beef, which means if the pathogen is found, the product cannot be sold and if it is in the marketplace it must be recalled. “Some groups have raised concern about another strain of E. coli called non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli or “non-O157 S.T.E.C.s,” Mr. Hodges said. “It’s important to note that there have been no known outbreaks of non-O157 S.T.E.C.s associated with meat products in the U.S.”
Consumers should be assured that the highly-effective interventions currently in place to control E. coli O157:H7 will also destroy non-O157 S.T.E.C.s, Mr. Hodges continued. “If a regulatory change could destroy bacteria, we would be lobbying for it,” he said. “But changing a bacteria’s legal status won’t make it disappear. Only preventative food-safety technologies will destroy pathogens. And the final food-safety step — cooking ground beef to 160°F – works equally well against various strains of E. coli and a host of other bacteria, in the event that they are present on meat.
“We share the frustration of those who argue for a regulatory change because the industry also wants to eliminate pathogens on all meat products,” Mr. Hodges added. “We spend millions of dollars annually to achieve that goal. We simply believe that science and technology offers a better solution than regulatory bans that won’t eliminate the pathogen.
“Finally, we ask consumers to keep in mind that the industry benefits by selling food that is as safe as we can possibly make it and we will continue to look for new and better scientific strategies to improve meat safety,” he concluded.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great Link for Government Recalls

To provide better service in alerting the American people to unsafe, hazardous or defective products, six federal agencies with vastly different jurisdictions have joined together to create -- a "one stop shop" for U.S. Government recalls.

Follow the link below to obtain the latest recall information, to report a dangerous product, or to learn important safety tips.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wary of major shifts in school lunch focus

Among many items on the national legislative agenda of importance to food manufacturing, reauthorization of the National School Lunch Program may not win as much attention as it deserves. In contrast to past reauthorizations, when spending limits were the main matter, this time it is likely that efforts will center on changing the quality and quantity of food made available. Considering that the program affects foods served to almost all school age children, its potential impact on eating habits of a huge swath of the consuming public, now and into the future, is striking.

To be specific, school lunch aid is available in 99% of U.S. public schools and 83% of private and public schools combined. In addition, the School Breakfast Program is offered in 85% of public schools. Saying that no other federal program affects food consumption more than school lunch and school breakfast is no exaggeration. Reauthorization comes at a time when attitudes toward school lunches have been radically changed by rising concern with what children are eating and how this has meant inadequate nutrition and obesity worries.

In contrast to the program’s start in the 1940s when the guiding principle was a minimum level of calories for each student, current concerns would change that minimum by adding a maximum. Further, the Institute of Medicine has recommended to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the program, that it be revised to focus on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole-grain-rich foods and reducing saturated fat and sodium. Hardly anything underscores the shift under way in federal food policies than the way one of the original school lunch goals is being questioned. The program got its start in 1946 with the passage of the National School Lunch Act. Early support came from agricultural advocates who promoted the program as a wise way of using the rising stocks of grain and other commodities acquired by the Commodity Credit Corp. in supporting farm prices. That backing led to U.S.D.A. management. Significantly, that support is still essential, since it will be the congressional committees on agriculture that will take up reauthorization. The concept of “additionality” has figured prominently from the program’s start.

This concept measures the amount by which a dollar spent on food by the government results in how much additional food consumption. The measure is in terms of dollars and cents, even though early sponsors spoke of bushels of wheat, pounds of butter and wheels of cheese. Lawmakers often pointed to the program’s nutritional benefits for children and financial aid for school districts as secondary to the help in disposing of surpluses. If there also was a gain in spending on food outside of schools, so much the better. All of that “additionality” has taken on a new complexion due to concerns about obesity and children eating too much of the wrong food. Several studies hint that any boosting of consumption on account of school lunch should now be interpreted as a policy failure when measured against what should be nutritional goals. Overconsumption of calories is now seen as a, if not the, primary challenge to the health of children. Rather than showing how much consumption is bolstered, the program now gauges success by how much school meal nutrition has improved.

In abandoning any role for the school lunch program in building markets, leaders in this shift are risking loss of farm lobby support. Since this backing has been important to past legislation, it seems likely that lobbyists not usually associated with school lunch programs will have to become involved. Even as food manufacturers are very aware of the program and its impact on retail volume, the fundamental concern has been with the way school lunches influence future eating habits. At stake in the current effort not just to reauthorize, but also to rewrite, is a great force in the food marketplace of the next several decades.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Industry expresses support for nutrition

WASHINGTON – Many segments of the food and beverage industry have come out in support of legislation to improve the health and nutrition of products sold in the nation’s schools and through other nutrition programs. The legislation has been proposed by U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. She unveiled the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on March 17.The bill, which would provide $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, would mark the largest investment ever made in federal child nutrition programs. Previously, the highest increase was $500 million over 10 years.

“The Grocery Manufacturers Association strongly supports efforts to feed many more children through school lunch and breakfast programs and to increase the number of healthy choices in the cafeteria,” said Scott Faber, vice-president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “We share Senator Lincoln's priorities for a stronger Child Nutrition Act, including increased access to the school meals programs, science-based standards for foods sold in schools, more healthy foods available in the cafeteria, and more education about healthy diets. “In particular, we believe that Congress should give U.S.D.A. clear authority to set science-based standards for foods sold in schools during the school day. The school environment is a special environment, and U.S.D.A. should be given the power to establish nutrition standards for competitive foods. We believe that the school cafeteria line can be on the front lines of feeding children while ending childhood obesity within a generation.

We look forward to working with Senator Lincoln on these provisions.” The American Beverage Association echoed many of the sentiments expressed by the G.M.A. “As parents and grandparents, we recognize that schools are special places," said Susan Neely, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “Industry has spent the past several years removing full-calorie soft drinks from schools across America and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages. We believe this standard, which is already implemented and working, provides a strong cornerstone for developing a new federal nutrition standard for all foods and beverages sold in schools.”

Hank Izzo, vice-president of research and development for Mars Chocolate, US, McLean, Va., said, “Mars believes that schools are a unique environment, and we strongly support a new national school nutrition standard that will ensure children have access to high quality nutritious snacks at school.” Specifically, the company supports new standards that are consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published under the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act, as well as other authoritative sources such as scientific recommendations, state and local standards and other voluntary standards that have been developed as best practices.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sentry9000 featured product at the Texas Region 4 Annual Child Nutrition Showcase

The Future of Food Safety Technology - Paperless HACCP Documentation and Digital Production Reports.

Sentry9000, the leader in Food Safety Management is proud to announce that its cutting edge Digital HACCP System will be showcased as a “Featured Product” at this years Region 4 Annual Child Nutrition Showcase on March 4th at the William L. McKinney Conference Center in Houston, Texas.

Sentry9000 Digital HACCP System is the pioneer in automated data collection for school foodservice. Sentry9000 is a completely paperless HACCP Documentation, Temperature Monitoring, Kitchen and Food Safety Management System.

Based on Standard Operating Procedures required by the USDA and The National Food Service Management Institute Guidelines, Sentry9000 has put all of the necessary food safety forms into a handheld computer that records real-time data and wirelessly transmits critical information to a customized website for each school in a district for easy viewing and for monitoring. It is Internet based so it also can be viewed from an offsite location.

Not only does Sentry9000 record data but it will analyze the information collected and alert management when out of limit conditions occur. Maintaining safe food temperatures is critical in preserving Food Safety. If a temperature collected is out of the designated safe temperature zone a Corrective Action will be automatically created requiring the problem to be fixed to allow the program to move forward.

Digital data collection changes the work dynamic because the data is Real-Time. It records WHO takes temperatures, WHEN temperatures are taken, and WHAT menu items temperatures are taken. Accountability creates a more responsible kitchen staff. There is much improved data accuracy because temperatures are sent directly from a wireless Bluetooth temperature probe to the handheld computer without transcription error, time recording errors, forgetting and the other human errors that occur. Everything is time and date stamped with a digital signature of the person inputting the data when they take the data.

Sentry9000 prides its self on being an environmentally friendly company. Taking the necessary steps to eliminate ALL paperwork associated with HAACP and Food Safety in the kitchen and the ancillary programs that benefit HACCP. Sentry9000 not only provides the means to do away with all the paperwork, but also provides a kitchen management tool. Nowhere is this more evident than on the home page for each school where Incidents, Reports, Corrective Actions, Freezer and Cooler Temperatures and Food History are all available at a glance.

One of the greatest features of the Sentry9000 system is the Reporting capabilities. Once the data has been collected it can be organized into concise, informative reports.

Sentry9000 is a Food Safety company with a suite of products to enhance your Food Safety Program that is based on the HACCP program. These include:

Temperature monitoring of coolers and freezers – Sentry9000 installs wireless sensors that monitor the temperature and provide alarms and alerts when conditions arise for concern. This includes out of limit temperature conditions as well as lack of signal because of electrical failure. Monitoring of coolers and freezers are an ancillary program of HACCP that provides insurance against the loss of a freezer full of food over that long weekend or scheduled break.

Digital Production Reports – Sentry9000 utilizes the HACCP system that provides a production report based on meals that are prescheduled and allows easy changes to menu items and quantities at the different school grade levels. It can provide the pull amount for each ingredient and accounts for disposal of menu items at the end of the meal.

Menu Scheduling – Sentry9000 makes menu scheduling a breeze, have the entire years menus scheduled in minutes. The menu can be viewed monthly, yearly, or daily. Plus, the calendar on the Homepage allows for quick navigation through past, present, or future menu dates.

Employee Training – Sentry9000 includes a Training Schedule and Record as part of the basic HACCP program. All employees assigned to a single school will be on the Training Record for that school. The training that is scheduled will appear in an easily viewable schedule and a permanent record of training and other administrative actions.

For more information on Sentry9000 please visit To set up a meeting or free demo for your school please call 1-800-519-7657 or email Don’t forget to stop by their booth if you are in the area for the Region 4 Annual Child Nutrition Showcase on March 4th at the William L. McKinney Conference Center in Houston, Texas.