FDA to Review Ways to Reduce the Risk of Contamination In Processing of Food

July 17, 2003

The Food and Drug Administration announced it has contracted with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to conduct an in-depth review of preventive measures that food processors may take to reduce the risk for an intentional act of terrorism or contamination. As part of this contract, IFT will provide information about temperature, technology, chemical treatments, and other ways that may reduce or mitigate the risk.

The review will assess ways to prevent or reduce the risk of contamination of processed food either through natural or intentional acts and will provide information on various research needs that might be used for eliminating or reducing the risk. There are more than 57,000 food processors in the U.S. that provide processed foods to our citizens and exports to the world and over 1.2 million retail food facilities serving and/or selling foods directly to the consumer. The U.S. agricultural enterprise is a $200 billion business with over $55 billion in exports each year.

This effort will complement ongoing food security efforts, existing food security guidance, and proposed regulations. The industry guidances, published in March 2003, are not regulations and are not mandatory. Those guidances identified the kinds of preventive measures that may be taken to minimize the risk that food under their control will be subject to tampering or other malicious, criminal, or terrorist actions, and they focused on management, staff, public access (visitors), the facility and operations.

The IFT review will focus on preventive controls and research needs that might be used for eliminating or reducing the risk of an intentional act of terrorism or contamination for high and medium risk combinations of various food commodities and agents. The review will include information on how these research needs technologies work, optimization of the method or processes, effectiveness, limitations in use, and equipment or methods for monitoring to ensure method and processes efficiency throughout the entire operation.

Discussions and deliberations involved with IFT's review will be confidential, with the possibility that some of the information developed could become classified to protect national security. The review is expected to be completed by June 2004.

New Edition of Lung Disease Data Report Updates Resource With Newest Available Statistics


The new edition updates the report, also known as the WoRLD Surveillance Report, with the addition of data from 1997 through 1999. Tables, figures, and maps show statistics on asbestosis, coal workers' pneumoconiosis, silicosis, byssinosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and respiratory tuberculosis, as well as on associated occupational dust exposures.

The updated edition also includes new sections on malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and "other" interstitial lung disease, as well as smoking status by industry and occupation. In addition, tables are now provided listing U.S. counties with the highest mortality from certain occupational respiratory diseases.

Notable findings from the report include the following:

  • Asbestosis deaths increased from fewer than 100 in 1968 to more than 1,250 in 1999, with no apparent leveling off of this trend. Asbestosis is now the most frequently recorded cause of death among dust-induced occupational diseases, which are known as pneumoconioses.
  • In contrast to asbestosis, coal workers' pneumoconiosis and silicosis deaths continued to decline, from 1,990 and 308, respectively, in 1990, to 1,003 and 187 in 1999. Despite this decline, significantly elevated silicosis mortality in the miscellaneous non-metallic mineral and stone products, iron and steel foundries, and structural clay products industries was accompanied by quartz dust levels in those same industries that frequently exceeded the permissible or recommended exposure limits.
  • Nearly 2,500 malignant mesothelioma deaths were recorded in 1999. Of those deaths, nearly 20 percent occurred among women, and more than one-third occurred among residents of just five states: California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.
  • More than 2,500 cases of work-related asthma were identified from 1993 through 1999 by public health monitoring in the four states (California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey) that participate in the NIOSH-funded Sentinel Event Notification Systems for Occupational Risks (SENSOR) program. About 80 percent of the cases involved asthma caused by occupational exposures, and another 20 percent involved pre-existing asthma aggravated by occupational exposures.

"By compiling data from many different government sources in one easily accessible place, the WoRLD Surveillance Report saves hours if not days of work for researchers, occupational health professionals, or others who have a role in preventing occupational lung diseases that affect nearly every type of industry and occupation," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "Understanding current trends in such cases is a key step toward identifying employee populations at risk and developing effective preventive measures."


Court of Appeals Rules for MSHA on Dust Sampling

The Mine Safety and Health Administration may average samples taken on a single working shift to determine compliance with standards designed to protect coal miners from black lung disease, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled. The court reversed an earlier ruling by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission that required the government to average samples taken during multiple shifts.

MSHA has based regular compliance determinations under the respirable coal mine dust standard on multiple samples taken over a single shift since 1975. Excel Mining had challenged that practice in contesting three citations for respirable dust violations that MSHA issued to the company in 1999.

"With this ruling we can identify overexposures using multiple samples in a single shift and require corrective action," said Dave D. Lauriski, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. "Meanwhile, we await the results of current research on personal continuous dust monitors, which we hope will provide the next quantum jump in monitoring miners' dust exposures."

While waiting for results of the research on continuous dust monitors, the Federal mine agency recently suspended work on regulatory proposals that would allow compliance determinations based on a single full-shift sample as well as set new requirements for verifying coal mine operators' dust control plans. The Excel decision does not affect these proposals.

Federal coal mine health standards provide that each coal mine operator must maintain the average concentration of respirable dust at or below 2.0 milligram per cubic meter of air on each shift.

Failure to Safeguard Workers against Lead Hazards Results in Nearly $50,000 in OSHA Fines

A Franklin, N.H., foundry's failure to adequately protect workers against lead and other occupational health and safety hazards has resulted in a total of $49,560 in fines from OSHA.

Franklin Non-Ferrous Foundry, Inc. has been cited for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following inspections conducted between January and April of this year. According to David May, OSHA's New Hampshire area director, the bulk of the violations concern inadequate safeguards for workers exposed to airborne concentrations of lead.

"Lead is a systemic poison and continued overexposure can damage the blood-forming, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems," said May. "That's why it's imperative that employers follow the health standards designed to reduce exposure levels and minimize hazards. Unfortunately, that was not the case here."

The company was cited for two alleged willful violations, with $28,000 in fines, for failing to monitor airborne lead levels when required and for allowing an employee who had been medically removed from a work area due to lead overexposure to return to the same job before he received the required medical clearance. Four citations for alleged repeat violations, with $14,000 in fines, were issued for exposing employees to excess airborne lead levels and failing to institute controls to reduce the exposure levels, not conducting periodic lead monitoring, allowing lead dust to accumulate on surfaces, and not providing an annual medical exam for a lead-exposed employee.

A total of 13 alleged serious violations were also cited, with $7,560 in fines, encompassing lack of respiratory protection, not using a HEPA vacuum to remove lead dust from work clothing, not conducting annual audiograms for employees exposed to excess noise levels, unmarked exits, lack of eye protection, no procedures and training for workers in "lockout/tag out" measures to avoid energizing machinery under repair or maintenance; lack of machine guarding; and electrical hazards.

Franklin Non-Ferrous Foundry has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

USDOT Releases 2002 Highway Fatality Statistics

Highway fatalities in 2002 reached the highest level since 1990 while crash-related injuries hit an all-time low, the U. S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced.

Alcohol-related fatalities remained at 41 percent of the total with 17, 419 deaths in 2002, up slightly from 17,400 in 2001. Historically, the majority of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing safety belts; that trend continued in 2002 with 59 percent unrestrained.

The number of injured dropped from 3.03 million in 2001 to 2.92 million in 2002, a record low, with the largest decrease in injuries among occupants of passenger cars.

Though overall fatalities increased to 42,815 in 2002 from 42,196 in 2001, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained at 1.51, a historic low. According to Federal Highway Administration estimates, VMT increased in 2002 to 2.83 trillion, up from 2.78 trillion in 2001.

NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person.

Fatalities in rollover crashes accounted for 82 percent of the total fatality increase in 2002. In 2002, 10,666 people died in rollover crashes, up 5 percent from 10,157 in 2001. The number of persons killed in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that rolled over rose 14 percent. Sixty-one percent of all SUV fatalities involved rollovers.

NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also shows that, in 2002:

  • Motorcycle fatalities increased for the fifth year in a row following years of steady improvement. A total of 3,244 riders died, up slightly from 3,197 in 2001. It was the smallest increase in motorcycle fatalities in five years. However, deaths among riders 50 and over increased 26 percent.
  • Alcohol-related fatalities have been rising steadily since 1999. However, deaths in low alcohol-involvement crashes (.01-.07 blood alcohol concentration (BAC)) dropped 5.5 percent from 2001 to 2,401 deaths.
  • Fatalities from large truck crashes dropped from 5,111 in 2001 to 4,897 in 2002, a 4.2 percent decline.
  • Fatalities among children seven and under dropped to historic low levels. In 2002, 968 children seven and under were killed, down from 1,059 in 2001.
  • Pedestrian deaths also declined, to 4,808, a 1.9 percent drop from 2001.

In fatal crashes between passenger cars and LTVs (light trucks and vans, a category that includes SUVs), the occupants of the car were more often fatally injured. When a car was struck in the side by an LTV, the fatality was 20.8 times more likely to have been in the passenger car. In a head-on collision between a car and an LTV, the fatality was 3.3 times more likely to be among car occupants.

NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual report on traffic fatality trends.