Should corporate confidentiality trump food safety concerns? The FDA has finally came clean about a dirty food production operation, naming Dixie Dew Products Inc. of Erlanger, Ky., as the manufacturer of soy-based “goo” marketed as an allergen-free alternative to peanut butter—and Food Safety News is not happy about the delay. The revelation came weeks after FDA inspectors who were investigating a widespread E. coli outbreak found filthy conditions, insect infestation, and broken food safety equipment at the company’s production plant. The outbreak count climbed from 12 sick people in five states to 29 people in a dozen states in the four weeks between the initial outbreak announcement and the FDA’s move to go public, yet FDA did not mandate a broad-based recall of products containing the ingredient and the public had no idea which products—many of them marketed as “organic” and “healthy”—contained the peanut-butter substitute. Count the victims: 25 of the total of 29 victims are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A dozen victims have required hospitalization, and nine have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. The FDA’s response is that “federal law protects confidential corporate information.” Read more HERE and HERE.

FOOD CONTAMINATION

Is ‘not for export’ a good excuse? The company that manufactures Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria has been ordered by the Lagos High Court to place warning labels on its products. The court says the popular drinks are unsafe when consumed with vitamin C. The sodas contain high levels of benzoic acid and yellow “sunset” coloring additives that may be harmful when mixed with vitamin C, CNN reports. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirms this concern, noting that the two can form a carcinogen called benzene when combined. The two drinks were first found problematic nine years ago, when a local  company tried to export the drinks to the United Kingdom. U.K. health authorities would not allow sale of the products because they exceeded the limit for benzoic acid. Nigeria Bottling Co. (NBC), the beverages’ manufacturer, responded that the drinks weren’t meant for consumption in Nigeria. This spurred anger in many Nigerians as they questioned why food and drink standards were lower in Nigeria than in the U.K. READ MORE

New Salmonella strain reported in Europe: A new Salmonella serotype that first caused illness in Greece has spread to three other countries, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Greece, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Luxembourg have reported 40 cases of illness from a type of Salmonella that has not been described before. The Salmonella serotype was identified in sesame seeds in Germany that had been imported from Nigeria. READ MORE

Two mass food poisoning incidents reported: Promedmail.org, a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, reports that dozens of Beirut, Lebanon, school children missed school because of food poisoning. About 40 students were suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, prompting the school to open an investigation. Some 360 people consumed the food served that day. Promedmail.org also reports that at least 400 jawans (police officers) attached to the Central Reserve Police Force camp at Pallipuram in India were taken ill because of suspected food poisoning, local police said. They were admitted to various hospitals in the city following complaints of diarrhea and vomiting after consuming food on Saturday, April 1, they said. Initial investigations suggested that the police fell ill after consuming fish curry. READ MORE

‘Mad honey’ poisoning: A Hong Kong man developed dizziness, numbness and shortness of breath around five minutes after consuming honey at home on March 25 in what has been diagnosed as a case of so-called “mad honey” poisoning. An initial investigation by the Center for Health Protection showed the honey contained grayanotoxin, a neurotoxin that can affect nerves and muscles, and has earned the epithet “mad honey” in the Black Sea region of Turkey where cases have been reported of people falling ill after eating honey obtained from the nectar of rhododendron species growing naturally on the mountains in the region. Initial enquiries revealed that the honey was brought from Nepal by the patient’s friend. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Invasive mosquito species in California raise concerns about Zika: Two invasive (non-native) mosquito species have recently been found in several California cities and there is a potential for them to spread into other areas of California. They are named Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito). Unlike most native mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus bite during the day. Both species are small black mosquitoes with white stripes on their back and on their legs. They can lay eggs in any small artificial or natural container that holds water. Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus have the potential to transmit several viruses, including dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever. None of these viruses are currently known to be transmitted within California, but thousands of people are infected with these viruses in other parts of the world, including in Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. The presence of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in California poses a threat that Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses can be transmitted in infested areas from returned infected travelers. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. When traveling to countries with dengue, chikungunya, or Zika,use insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and stay in places with air conditioning or with window and door screens. READ MORE

Carbon monoxide, the sneaky killer: One child was killed and more than a dozen other people were injured in southwest Michigan on Saturday after a suspected carbon monoxide leak in the indoor pool of a hotel in Niles, underscoring our warnings in the past about the ease of using deadly carbon monoxide in an attack by terrorists or a disgruntled employee. Staff members at the Quality Inn & Suites found several children lying unconscious on the deck Saturday, according to a local report. First responders rushed the children to local hospitals; some of the rescuers were overcome by the noxious gas in the attempt, South Bend, Ind. NBC-affiliate WNDU reported. Carbon monoxide readings in the hotel’s enclosed pool area were 16 times higher than normal levels, the fire department told the news station. READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

Animal cruelty charges in Massachusetts: It is worth noting that there is no faster way to destroy a “brand” and alienate consumers than to be associated with flagrant animal cruelty. Case in point: the owner of a Westport, Mass., farm and 26 tenants who rented space on the property have been charged with mistreating about 1,400 animals in what authorities are calling the largest animal cruelty case in New England, the Boston Globe reports. Eight months ago, investigators found dogs, goats, horses, cows, and other animals at the Westport Tenant Farm living in squalid, overcrowded conditions, often without enough food or water. Some of the animals were housed with carcasses while others were living in such deep manure that their hooves had rotted off, and they were suffering from painful eye, intestinal, and skin ailments, the newspaper said. Many had to be euthanized while others were transported to other farms with severe injuries. State officials ousted two Westport animal inspectors, saying the clean inspection reports they filed in January 2016 stood in stark contrast to the horrific conditions that had been festering on the farm for years. READ MORE

China’s avian flu cases slowly decline: China’s weekly number of H7N9 avian flu cases continues to slowly decline following an unprecedented spike of cases over the winter, with 17 more illnesses, three of them fatal, reported in the past week. Also, a research team from China published an analysis of cases in Jiangsu province this season, which raises questions about whether illnesses have become more severe over the past few H7N9 waves. READ MORE

ANIMAL FEED SAFETY

About the new VFD: Complying with the new veterinary feed directive (VFD) requires pork producers to do more than establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship and retain printed or digital versions of the VFD forms for a minimum of 2 years. For example, did you know that producers who mix their own VFD feeds should retain samples for future audits? READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Drone ‘incidents’ on the increase: The number of incidents reported to police in the United Kingdom involving drones has increased more than 12-fold over the past two years. Complaints, including allegations of snooping, burglary “scoping” exercises, mid-air near-misses and the smuggling of contraband into prisons, rose to almost 10 a day (3,456) last year, compared with 283 in 2014. Last year’s figure was almost three times higher than the 2015 total of 1,237 incidents. READ MORE

Global food crisis deepens: Reuters reports that global food crises worsened significantly in 2016, and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine. A recent report from the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) points to a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen because of armed conflict, drought and macro-economic collapse. FSIN said that 108 million people were reported to be facing crisis-level food insecurity or worse in 2016, a drastic increase from the previous year’s total of almost 80 million. The network uses a five phase scale with the third level classified as crisis, fourth as emergency and fifth as famine/catastrophe. FSIN is co-sponsored by the United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme, and the International Food Policy Research Institute. READ MORE

Boiler explodes at company supplying boxes for food companies: Three people are dead and four were injured after a boiler exploded at a box company in St. Louis. The Loy-Lange Box Co. provides boxes to the food industry. According to the St. Louis Fire Department, a van-sized piece of the boiler went airborn and crashed through the roof of a nearby business, Faultless Healthcare Linen. READ MORE