The FDA Ensures Foods from Animals Are Safe

animals

In case you were wondering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know that it ensures foods from animals are safe.

If you eat meat or drink milk, you want to know: Are there trace amounts of the veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals entering your diet? And if they are, are the amounts safe for human consumption?

Those questions—among others—are the concern of the Division of Residue Chemistry, which is part of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Sick food-producing animals such as pigs, cows, and chickens can be given antibiotics or other drugs to treat diseases. (Some farms also give animals antibiotics to help them grow faster, a practice FDA is working to eliminate by promoting the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.) Producers must then wait for the drug to leave the animal’s system before they can slaughter it for consumption. It’s important to ensure that any remaining trace amounts of the drugs are safe to eat by the time the food reaches our plates.

“Our job is twofold,” says Division Director Philip Kijak, Ph.D. “We validate the methods drug companies use to test for drug trace amounts in foods from animals, and we help develop newer and better methods for testing.”

On the first point, the sponsor—usually, the animal pharmaceuticals company—of a drug to be used in a food animal must complete required testing that establishes the drug’s tolerance (a measure of safety), and develop a method to show whether the trace amount in the animal food product is within that tolerance.

“Then we are responsible for validating that method—making sure not only that it works and is accurate, but that it’s a practical method any standard chemical laboratory can use,” Kijak says.

Making Sure Milk Is Safe

For example, the Division examines the methods used to test milk for trace amounts of veterinary drugs used in dairy cows.

Under the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance standards issued by the FDA and the U.S. Public Health Service, all milk must be tested for beta-lactam antibiotics, the most common drugs used by dairy farms. FDA’s role is to evaluate Animalsand approve the data and methods submitted by companies that manufacture rapid-screening tests for these drugs. Rapid screening is important because milk is perishable, and results are needed on the spot.

“Think of these as off-the-shelf kits, like those consumers buy for pregnancy testing,” Kijak says. It’s up to the individual dairies and state regulators to choose the approved kits they want to use. Since 1994, when FDA began evaluating test-kits, the amount of milk containing beta-lactam drugs has dropped from 0.15 percent to 0.014 percent—more than a tenfold decrease, Kijak adds.

Developing Methods to Test Meat

In addition, FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and state regulators to monitor meat, poultry, eggs, and milk for trace amounts of unapproved or unsafe drugs. FSIS tests the foods for a variety of these medications and reports violations to FDA, which follows up with regulatory action when needed.

“To do this job, we had to focus on developing new methods to detect trace amounts of penicillin and other antibiotics,” Kijak says. “With the older method, we were able to tell if penicillin or penicillin and other drugs were present, but we were unable to measure the exact amount of the penicillin when the sample contained more than one drug.” Without this specific information, it was possible for products with unsafe amounts of penicillin to pass inspection. The newer method, which was developed in close cooperation with USDA, enables inspectors to determine if multiple drugs are present, and the amount of each.

Testing for Fungus in Animal Feeds

Recently, the division has become increasingly involved in developing methods to detect mycotoxins and other contaminants in animal feeds. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds made by fungi that grow on grains. Poor growing methods and improper storage conditions can promote the development of these compounds, which that can enter our diets in meat from animals that consumed the contaminated feed.

“While these fungi are almost always present in grain, it’s the amount of mycotoxins that can make the difference between safe and unsafe foods from animals,” Kijak explains. “The new methods enable us to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure the tested products are safe for consumers.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

November 3, 2014

Is Your Child Consuming Too Much Sodium

sodium

 The September 2014 edition of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vital Signs focuses on the amount of sodium in children’s diets.

Reducing Sodium in Children’s Diets

Nearly 9 in 10 US children eat more sodium than recommended, and about 1 in 6 children has raised blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Lowering sodium in children’s diets today can help prevent heart disease tomorrow. Small changes make a big impact on your child’s daily sodium intake. Learn more in the current CDC Vital Signs.

Sources of Sodium

Americans get most of their daily sodium—more than 75%—from processed and restaurant foods.2 What is processed food?

Sodium is already in processed and restaurant foods when you purchase them, which makes it difficult to reduce daily sodium intake on your own. Although it is wise to limit your use of added table salt while cooking and at the table, only a small amount of the sodium we consume each day comes from the salt shaker.

Dietary Guidelines for Sodium and Potassium

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010[PDF-2.9M] recommend that everyone age 2 and up should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. Some groups of people should further limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, including:

  • Adults age 51 or older.
  • All African Americans.
  • Anyone who has high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Those groups add up to about half of the U.S. population and the majority of adults.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend meeting the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg per day). Higher potassium intake can help lower blood pressure. Foods that are high in potassium and low in sodium include bananas, potatoes, yogurt, and dry beans, among others. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sodium and Potassium fact sheet[PDF-153K] has more information about the role of potassium in a healthy diet and a list of foods rich in potassium.

Nearly everyone benefits from lower sodium intake. Learn more about sodium in your diet in Where’s the Sodium?, a February 2012 report from CDC Vital Signs.

 

Who is Drinking all the Diet Beverages?

dietGiven all the concerns about drinking sugary beverages, let’s take a look at who is consuming diet drinks across the U. S.

The following information, posted by the Centers for Disease Control , comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2010 describes the consumption of diet beverages among the U.S. population during 2009-2010 by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and income, and details trends in diet drink consumption from 1999-2000 through 2009-2010.

About 20% of the U.S. population aged 2 years and over consumed diet drinks on a given day during 2009-2010. The percentage consuming diet drinks was similar for females and males at all ages except among adolescents aged 12-19. The percentage consuming diet drinks increased with age for both males and females. On a given day, about 3% consumed some but no more than 8 fluid ounces (fl oz) of diet drinks, and 11% consumed 16 fluid ounces or more.

Although 15.3% of non-Hispanic white children and adolescents consumed diet drinks, only 6.8% of non-Hispanic black and 7.5% of Hispanic children and adolescents consumed any diet drink on a given day during 2009-2010. Similarly, 27.9% of non-Hispanic white adults consumed any diet drink on a given day compared with 10.1% of non-Hispanic black and 14.1% of Hispanic adults.

The percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks on a given day was greater than that of lower-income persons. A total of 18.3% of children and adolescents living in households with income at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, compared with 11.5% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 8.0% of those living below 130% of the poverty line. A similar pattern was observed for adults: Although 32.6% of adults living at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, only 20.1% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 12.2% of those living below 130% of the poverty line, consumed diet drinks.

Summary:

Overall, the percentage consuming diet drinks was higher among females compared with males. Diet drink consumption differed by age, race and ethnicity, and income. For example, the percentage of non-Hispanic white children and adults who consumed diet drinks was higher than those for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children and adults, and the percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks was higher than that for lower-income persons.

The percentage of females and males who consumed diet drinks increased between 1999 and 2010 and was mirrored by a decrease in consumption of added sugar calories in regular soda over a similar time period. These results suggest that sugar drinks may have been replaced with diet drinks during that time.

Although substituting sugar drinks with diet drinks may promote weight loss in the short term it is unclear if long-term consumption leads to weight loss, weight maintenance, or even weight gain.

 diet

Food Handlers Cause Most Food Poisoning Cases

foodEating out is supposed to be enjoyable. Yet, sometimes the food we eat in a restaurant makes us sick.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated, last week, that the Norovirus spread in restaurants accounts for two-thirds of all food poisoning outbreaks. The Norovirus, the leading cause of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States, sickens at least 20 million Americans a year with vomiting and diarrhea.

They CDC clarified that the Norovirus, often referred to as the “cruise ship virus,” is more often caused by infected restaurant workers than outbreaks on cruise ships, which only accounted for 1% of the more than 1,000 food-borne outbreaks examined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most outbreaks were the result of infected kitchen employees touching food with their bare hands, according to a new CDC agency report. Restaurant workers need better hygiene practices if these outbreaks are to be prevented.

For the report, CDC researchers looked at Norovirus outbreaks caused by contaminated food from 2009 to 2012 and included in CDC’s National Outbreak Reporting System. Restaurants accounted for nearly two-thirds of the outbreaks, and catering or banquet facilities accounted for 17 percent. Among 520 of the outbreaks, food workers were implicated in 70 percent of the cases. Of these, 54 percent involved food workers touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands, according to the report.

Among 324 outbreaks in which a specific food was implicated, more than 90 percent of the contamination occurred during final preparation, such as making a sandwich with raw and already cooked ingredients. Another 75 percent occurred in foods eaten raw, such as leafy greens.

Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning When Eating Out

  • Be careful of Salsa – The Center for Disease and Control says that salsa and guacamole are increasingly causing food poisoning since they are often made in large batches and not always refrigerated properly.
  • Avoid Fish on Monday – If the chef bought  fish for Saturday night and didn’t sell out, then by Monday night, it is not so fresh.
  • Check Out the Staff– Cooks and staff should not be wiping their hands on their uniform (which harbors bacteria that can spread to food). Dirty aprons are not a good sign.
  • Avoid Buffets and Salad Bars – The Food Poison Journal puts it bluntly: eat at a salad bar at your own risk.  The Journal says this is one of the main places people get sick in a restaurant. Food in salad bars and buffets are rarely kept to the correct temperature. Also, lots of people touch both the food and the utensils.
  • Beware of Specials – In high-end restaurants, specials can be great fresh meat or fish prepared using a unique recipe. In low-end restaurants, specials are sometimes a way to “fancy up”  meat or fish that’s been sitting around awhile so they can get rid of it.
  • Smell Your Food – Your food has a funny odor or taste, send it back.
  •  Chain Restaurants are Safer- According to MarketWatch, you’re statistically safer if you eat at a chain restaurant as they have much to lose if their diners get sick. Chains havethe  resources to help manage food safety, as well as cleanliness standards that employees must maintain
  • Send it back – If you rmeat is undercooked, send it back.
  • Be aware of the temperature of your food – If the food is supposed to be hot, it should be steaming. If cold, you should be able to feel the coolness. Lukewarm anything is not safe.

Sources: Prevention; June 3, 2014, report, Vital Signs: Foodborne Norovirus Outbreaks — United States, 2009-2012, Journal of Food Poison

 

Sugar Substitutes

sugar substitutesMany of us use sugar substitutes on a regular basis. Which ones are the safest?  The following is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) release on the status of sugar substitutes.

Release…May 19, 2014

Whether it’s to cut down on the number of calories they consume or any of a variety of other reasons, some people use sugar substitutes – also called high-intensity sweeteners – to sweeten and add flavor to their foods. They can be used alone to sweeten foods and beverages such as iced tea or coffee, or as an ingredient in other products. There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market from which to choose.

“Sugar substitutes are called ‘high-intensity’ because small amounts pack a large punch when it comes to sweetness,” says Captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), director of the Division of Petition Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to Zajac, unlike sweeteners such as sugar, honey, or molasses, high-intensity sweeteners add few or no calories to the foods they flavor. Also, high-intensity sweeteners generally do not raise blood sugar levels.

The FDA has approved a new high-intensity sweetener called advantame.

Advantame—which does not yet have a brand name (such as Sweet’N Low, a brand name for saccharin, or Equal, a brand name for aspartame)—has been approved as a new food additive for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry.

Examples of uses for which advantame has been approved include baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.

How Do You Know it’s  Safe?

FDA is required by law to review all new food additives for safety before they can go on the market. The process begins when a company submits a food additive petition to FDA seeking approval. One exception is for substances “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, because those substances are generally recognized by qualified experts as safe under the conditions of intended use and are exempt from the food additive approval process.

Zajac explains that the agency’s scientists thoroughly review all the scientific evidence submitted by a company to ensure the product is safe for the intended use.

“In determining the safety of advantame, FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic (harmful) effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” Zajac says.

Advantame is chemically related to aspartame, and certain individuals should avoid or restrict the use of aspartame. To that end, FDA evaluated whether the same individuals should avoid or restrict advantame, as well.

People who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have a difficult time metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. Newborns are tested for PKU using a common “heel-prick” test before they leave the hospital.

Foods containing aspartame must bear an information statement for people with PKU alerting them about the presence of phenylalanine. But advantame is much sweeter than aspartame, so only a very small amount needs to be used to reach the same level of sweetness. As a result, foods containing advantame do not need to bear that statement.

Five Sugar Substitutes Already on the Market:

The last high-intensity sweetener approved by FDA was Neotame (brand name Newtame) in 2002. The other four on the market, and are:

  • Saccharin, was first discovered and used in 1879, before the current food additive approval process came into effect in 1958. Brand names include Sweet‘N Low

  • Aspartame, first approved for use in 1981. Brand names include Equal

  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), first approved for use in 1988. Brand names include Sweet One

  • Sucralose, first approved for use in 1998. Brand name is Splenda

In addition to the six sugar substitutes ( high-intensity sweeteners) that are FDA-approved as food additives, the agency has received and has not questioned GRAS notices for two types of plant/fruit based high-intensity sweeteners: certain steviol glycosides obtained from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni) and extracts obtained from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.

While these sugar substitutes (high-intensity sweeteners) are considered safe for their intended uses, certain individuals may have a particular sensitivity or adverse reaction to any food substance. Consumers should share with their health care provider any concerns they have about a negative food reaction.

In addition, FDA encourages consumers to report any adverse events through MedWatch: FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.