Good Fruit Grower

July 2016

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28 JULY 2016 Good Fruit Grower and we're finding that there are isolates that appear to be indistinguishable, yet were collected from regions 100- plus miles apart. So therefore, just because you find a matched whole genome sequencing isolate in one place, that doesn't necessarily mean it could only have come from one farm or one packing facility." In the meantime, whole genome sequencing will continue to be a tool of choice in determining the origin of illness outbreaks, according to Shawn Stevens, a global food-safety attorney and founder of Food Industry Counsel LLC. "As time moves on, we may learn more, but I think the science is good enough to allow the agencies to do what they are trying to do." Glass agreed that whole genome sequencing is a high- quality assay, and its use will expand. "It will definitely result in smaller outbreaks in the future, but we're going to start seeing an increasing number of identified outbreaks," she said. Placing criminal blame Besides looking back in time, the FDA has switched gears in its approach toward the identified sources of contamination, said Stevens, who wrote a white paper on the topic in February (available at In the past, the FDA tracked foodborne pathogens mainly as a means of learning how they got into the food stream, so it could then determine how to prevent the same thing from happening again. Following a number of food recalls, however, Congress in 2011 passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which put the emphasis on preventing contamination rather than on responding to it, Stevens said. "The Food Safety Modernization Act essentially told the FDA that it was now responsible for overhauling the safety of our food supply," he said. "As a result, the FDA shifted its policy, and that policy now is one of using criminal sanctions in any circumstance where human illness occurs as a result of contaminated food." In fact, an Associated Press article in July 2015 quoted Attorney General Stuart Delery as stating, "We have made a priority holding individuals and companies responsible when they fail to live up to their obligations that they have to protect the safety of the food that all of us eat." Stevens pointed to the 2015 Blue Bell ice cream recall as a good example of the altered FDA policy. In this case, 10 patients over a five-year span — the first in January 2010 and the last in January 2015 — were hospitalized with listeriosis and three died. In its investigation, the FDA took ice cream samples from retail locations and environmental samples at Blue Bell production facilities, and then was able to match those samples that tested positive for Listeria to patient samples from the CDC database, he said. Then, the FDA and Department of Justice served grand jury subpoenas on the company seeking all sorts of documents and records relating to their food safety practices, Stevens said. "That's the pattern that I think will be repeated over and over again as we move forward." With the FDA's change in focus and the advent of whole genome sequencing as a means to track foodborne illnesses to their origins, Stevens said anyone involved in the food industry, including growers, should take steps now to scrutinize their operations. "It's a very dynamic time for everybody, and I know there's a lot of apprehension in the industry, but hopefully we can get the word out, keep everybody informed, and look for ways to better protect everyone," he said. • Leslie Mertz, Ph.D., is a freelance writer based in Gaylord, Michigan. Photo courtesy of trevor suslow The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using whole genome sequencing to not only look for the source of and responsibility for current disease outbreaks, but also for past outbreaks, according to Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California. ©2016 Meadow Creature, LLC MeadowCreature.Com ® Or Give Us a Call 360-329-2250 MAKE CIDER WITH EASE - - MEADOW CREATURE ® Commercial quality at a family price–the AVALON ® Growers & Fruit Industry Truck Buyers. . . Partner up with your GMC Business Elite Dealer Lee Peterson Motors Every dollar counts in the ag business, and you need hard working trucks from a reliable dealer you can trust, your GMC Business Elite Dealer. 410 S. First Street • Yakima • 509-575-6372 L P MOTORS .com www Click! Drive! Save! MON-FRI 8 AM - 6 PM SAT 8 AM - 5 PM SUN 11 AM - 4 PM 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Regular Cab Standard Box Rich Ausink Fleet Manager Jim Peterson General Manager The right truck customized to your specific agricultural businees needs.

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