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Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, linked to 264 people falling ill, has passed three Council inspections since outbreak made public

THE Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre will continue serving food despite being linked to at least 264 people falling ill ? including 27 confirmed cases of salmonella ? because they have passed three Council inspections since the outbreak was first made public. A second outbreak of salmonella has been linked to the BCEC in the same week that 254 people have been confirmed ill ? with 22 cases of salmonella ? fowling a principal?s conference at the venue on February 26-27. Fundraising Institute of Australia chief executive Rob Edwards said about 10 people are ill, five with confirmed cases of salmonella, across Australia and New Zealand after eating at the venue from February 18 ? 20 for the organisation?s conference. A Brisbane City Council spokeswoman said the BCEC had been inspected three times since March 3 ? when the outbreak became public ? and they were ?compliant to a Five Star Safety Standard? under Council?s EatSafe program. The Council does have the power to immediately suspend a food licence when there is a ?serious breach of food safety? and concern for public safety but despite the salmonella outbreak they haven?t invoked this for the BCEC. BCEC general manager Bob O?Keeffe said Queensland Health had informed them 56 swab tests from kitchens and food products had tested negative to salmonella. Hot puddings and custards have been now struck off the menu pending the investigations. On March 3 whole eggs and poultry were also banned. Mater foundation executive director of fundraising Lesley Ray, 53, chaired the FIA conference and was first to fall ill and attended an emergency department on February 22. On February 25 she told the FIA she believed she was sick from conference food and she believes this was passed onto the BCEC. Two days later a blood test confirmed she had salmonella poisoning.

To read the full article click here. Article published by The Courier Mail 7/3/15.

Canned and preserved fruit imports face extra screening for lead, tin contamination

Australia has started testing canned and preserved fruit imports for lead and tin contamination, after a local processor raised concerns earlier this week. Victorian processor SPC Ardmona said it provided evidence to the Federal Government a year ago, showing elevated lead levels in some imported products. The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Thursday that imported peaches would be subject to additional screening. The Department of Agriculture has now confirmed increased screening will apply to all types of canned and preserved fruit imports, from all importing countries. Canned and preserved fruit is classed as a "surveillance food import", which means 5 per cent of consignments are screened. That remains unchanged, but lead and tin testing will now be added to existing labelling checks undertaken at the border. The national food safety authority says that in addition to its regular survey and investigations, it did specifically investigate canned fruit a year ago, when SPC first revealed it had undertaken private testing that showed elevated lead levels in imported product. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) chief executive Steve McHutcheon said his organisation's assessment was that while the results showed a compliance issue, there were "no public health and safety issues". "We did suggest to the industry that because it was a compliance issue, they really should be taking it up with the regulators who have the legal ability to do something about it for them," he said.

To read the full article click here. Article published by ABC Online 6/3/15.

QLD banana industry at risk

There are growing fears a destructive fungal disease detected in a north Queensland banana farm could decimate the state?s $570 million banana industry. A banana plantation near Tully, south of Cairns, has been quarantined after initial testing returned positive results for the Panama TR4 disease. The fungus is carried through soil and water, making it difficult to stop it from spreading. Bill Shannon, the mayor of the Cassowary Coast, the largest banana growing region in Australia, says the spread of the disease to other farms could devastate the area. ?The industry is our main economic driver,? he told AAP on Thursday. ?This is as serious as it ever gets. ?I know in the Northern Territory when there was an outbreak (in 1997) they literally closed down the banana industry.? There are hundreds of banana plantations in the Cassowary Coast region which employs thousands of people, many of whom a backpackers. Mr Shannon expects farmers will quickly move to restrict access to their properties and carry out checks for soil on vehicles and workers? boots. He says the suspected case is a double blow for banana growers, many of whom are still recovering from the devastating effects of Cyclone Yasi in 2011. Agriculture Minister, Bill Byrne, has said Biosecurity Queensland responded as rapidly as possible following reports the farmer at the centre of the scare raised concerns about his plants a couple of weeks ago. ?Everything that could have been done in a timely fashion has been done,? he told ABC radio. About 95 per cent of Australian bananas are grown in Queensland and the industry is worth $570m to the Queensland economy.

To read the full article click here. Article published by Inside FMCG 5/3/15.

Berry Recall Update:

Patties Foods has extended its Consumer Recall to include Nanna’s Raspberries 1kg packs following investigations through our global supply chain over the past few days that have identified the potential link to a specific source of raspberries in China.

To read the full article click here. Media Release published by Patties Foods 17/2/15.

Poor hygiene in China thought to be cause of hepatitis A outbreak linked to imported frozen berries

Poor hygiene amongst Chinese workers as well as potentially contaminated water supplies in China are thought to be the likely causes of an outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia, linked to imported frozen berries. Five people — three in Victoria and two in New South Wales — had become sick with hepatitis A after eating Nanna's frozen mixed berries, prompting a national recall of the one-kilogram bag product. On Sunday the recall was extended to Creative Gourmet mixed berries in 300 gram and 500 gram packets, because they were packaged in the same plant as the Nanna's berries. The berries, grown in China and Chile, had previously been repackaged by Patties Foods in Bairnsdale in regional Victoria.

To read the full article click here. Article published by ABC Online 16/2/15.

How did frozen berries become contaminated with hepatitis A, and why didn't the cold kill the virus?

But how did the berries become contaminated in the first place? And why wasn't the virus killed when the berries were frozen? We asked experts to explain how the contamination occurred. How would berries have become contaminated with hepatitis A? Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake, an infectious diseases expert from the Australian National University, said hepatitis A is transmitted by the "faecal-oral" route. "This means that people who have contaminated hands can transmit the virus," he said. So the infection could have been spread by someone working at the plant, who was infected with hepatitis A and did not wash their hands properly before handling the berries. "Or alternatively, because it's excreted in the stool, whether there's been a water supply that's been contaminated with sewage, which contains hepatitis A virus, and that water has been involved in the processing. That's another possible scenario," he said.

To read the full article click here. Article published by ABC Online 17/2/15.

US apples modified to resist browning

The US Department of Agriculture has given its approval for two types of apples genetically modified to resist turning brown after they're bruised or sliced. The development could boost sales of apples for snacks, salads and other uses. Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny Smith apples are being developed by a Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc of Summerland, British Columbia. The Agriculture Department gave its OK on Friday - saying the apples aren't likely to pose a plant pest risk or have "a significant impact on the human environment." The first Arctic apples are expected to be available in late 2016 in small, test-market quantities. It takes apple trees several years to produce significant quantities, so it will take time before the genetically-modified apples are widely distributed. "We can't wait until they're available for consumers," said the company's president and founder, Neal Carter. Apples brown quickly after they are cut open and exposed to air. The browning-resistant varieties are considered especially desirable for use as pre-sliced apples, in fruit salad and salad bars, and in the manufacturing of juice. The company said it is working on developing other browning-resistant apple varieties as well. The non-profit Center for Food Safety questioned whether browning-resistance will mask apples that no longer are fresh. The Environmental Working Group says the government's decision to allow marketing of the apples shows the need for mandatory, clear-labelling of genetically modified foods. The Food and Drug Administration is not required to approve genetically engineered crops for consumption, but most companies will go through a voluntary safety review process with the FDA before they put them on the market.

To read the full article click here. Article published by SBS Online 15/2/15.

Food Packaging Security

Packaging security is critical to food, keeping food fresh as well as safe to eat. Packaging security encompasses everything from consumer tampering to bioterrorism to product counterfeiting.

The definition of tamper-evident packaging is: Packaging having an indicator or barrier to entry which, if breached or missing, can reasonably be expected to provide visible or audible evidence to consumers that tampering has occurred.

Tamper evidence in packaging

Tampering involves the intentional altering of information, a product, a package or system. Solutions may involve all phases of product production, distribution, logistics, sale and use. No single solution can be considered as ‘tamper-proof’. In most cases, many levels of security need to be considered to minimise the risk of tampering.

Some considerations are:

  1. Identify all feasible methods of unauthorised access into a product or package. In addition to the primary means of entry, also consider secondary or ‘back door’ methods.
  2. Identify type of tampering, including what level of knowledge, materials or equipment is involved.
  3. Improve the tamper resistance by making tampering more difficult.
  4. Add tamper-evident features to help indicate the existence of tampering.
  5. Educate consumers so they are aware of tampering.
  6. Ensure that the window of opportunity for tampering is minimised.

To read the full article click here. Article published by Food Processing Online 15/1/15.

Supermarket dumping of cage eggs could result in egg shortages

Egg producers have continued to express concerns about the impact on Australia?s egg industry of moves by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, and fast food chain McDonald?s Australia, to ditch cage eggs. Australian egg farmer and Chair of the NSW Farmers? Association Egg Committee Bede Burke told Australian Food News that the 2014 announcement from Woolworths in particular that it would phase out cage eggs completely could lead to an egg shortage in Australia.

Moves away from cage eggs Australian Food News reported in September 2014 that McDonald?s Australia had announced it would move to cage-free eggs by the end of 2017. Also in September 2014 Australian Food News reported that Woolworths had announced that its ACT stores would sell 100 per cent cage-free eggs as part of the the supermarket?s ongoing commitment to remove cage eggs from all outlets by December 2018.

Woolworths announced its 2018 commitment to phase out cage eggs in conjunction with its partnership with Jamie Oliver in 2013. The supermarket group was the first Australian retailer to introduce free-range eggs to its own brand. Woolworths has said it will also remove caged eggs as ingredients from all of its Homebrand products by the end of 2018. Australian Food News reported in March 2013 that Woolworths? rival Coles had also announced that it would move towards cage-free eggs.

According to figures collected by the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (AECL), grocery sales of eggs in Australia were valued at $785.6 million in the year to June 2014. While the barn-laid segment has remained relatively stable, the free range egg segment in Australia has seen considerable growth in recent years, and the cage egg segment has shrunk. In the year to June 2014, the AECL reported that cage eggs held 53 per cent volume share and 41 per cent value share, down from 65 per cent volume share and 50 per cent value share in December 2010; while free range eggs represented 38 per cent volume and 47 per cent value share in the year to June 2014, up from 26 per cent volume share and 38 per cent value share in December 2010

To read the full article click here. Article published by Australian Food News 14/1/15.

Fresh Produce Safety Centre launches two projects

University of Sydney-based research centre the Fresh Produce Safety Centre has launched two landmark research projects, which it says are aimed at improving the safety of Australian and New Zealand fresh produce...

The two projects are: 
1.Understanding the Gaps a Food Safety Literature Review; and 
2.The Guidelines for Fresh Produce Food Safety...

Guidelines project

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre said the aim of the Guidelines project was to review and update the Guidelines for On-Farm Food Safety for Fresh Produce, to expand the scope to include new topics and post-farm activities and to contain the most up-to-date information available...

Understanding the Gaps project

The Fresh Produce Safety Centre said the Understanding the Gaps project would engage a research provider to review the contemporary literature surrounding microbial contamination of fresh produce and the interaction of sanitisers and fungicides when used postharvest. The Fresh Produce Safety Centre said the review will provide the fresh produce industry in Australia and New Zealand with information to improve food safety best practice and reduce the opportunity for foodborne illness.

To read the full article click here. Article published by Australian Food News 19/1/15.