Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – March 10th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

March 10, 2006


FDA Proposes New Guidelines for Safe Produce

With the publication of a draft guideline document, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an effort to minimize microbial food safety hazards common to the processing of most “ready-to-eat” fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. The draft “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables” provides recommendations for produce processors in several key areas — including personnel health and hygiene; training; building and equipment; sanitation operations, and processing controls such as packaging, storage and transport.

FDA recommends that produce processors encourage the adoption of safe practices both in their own operations and in the processes of partners throughout the supply chain. From produce growers, packers and distributors to retailers, food service operators and consumers, all those involved with the process of bringing fresh produce to the table are urged through the new guidelines to improve cleanliness and overall health safety conditions. Recommended practices include:

* Establishment of policies in which individuals must report any active case of illness to supervisors before beginning work and training.

* Training programs for supervisors to recognize typical signs/symptoms of infectious disease and refusing to allow an employee to work with any aspect of fresh or fresh-cut produce, processing equipment or tools until symptoms have disappeared, the wound has healed and/or the infectious disease has been treated.

Additionally, consumers are urged to reduce their risk of illness exposure by following safe fresh-cut produce handling practices, including thorough washing of all produce, proper refrigeration routines, using only clean hands, utensils and dishes in food preparation and awareness of “use by” dates.

FDA will accept public comments on the draft guidance for 60 days.

To view the FDA’s new draft guidelines, please go to:
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/prodgui2.html

To read more information about safe handling practices of produce, please go to:
http://portal.fightbac.org/pfse/toolsyoucanuse/phec/

Ground Water Awareness Week Begins March 12

Stressing proper water well maintenance and yearly water testing, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) will celebrate its annual Ground Water Awareness Week beginning March12. The key message of NGWA’s week: “Time to Schedule Your Annual Water Well Checkup”.

According to NGWA, proper operation of wells through scheduled check-ups is essential to safe drinking water. NGWA advises that a licensed and/or certified water well contractor should conduct routine well checkups. The maintenance routine should include the following:

* A flow test to determine system output, along with a check of the water level before and during pumping (if possible), pump motor performance (check amp load, grounding, and line voltage), pressure tank and pressure switch contact, and general water quality.

* An inspection of well equipment to assure that it is sanitary and meets local code requirements.

* A test of your water for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and any additional contaminants of local concern. Other typical additional tests are those for iron, manganese, water hardness, sulfides, and other water constituents that cause problems with plumbing, staining, water appearance, and odor.

Approximately half the U.S. population receives its drinking water from private wells, and more than 90 percent of the world’s fresh water supply originates from ground water, according to NGWA.

Ground Water Awareness Week includes cosponsors from the Automotive Oil Change Association and promotional partners U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Groundwater Foundation.

To learn more about Ground Water Awareness Week, please go to:
http://www.ngwa.org/awareness/aware.cfm

To read more from the Water Quality & Health Council about private well disinfection, please go to http://www.waterandhealth.com/newsletter/private_wells.html
USDA Aims at Salmonella Reduction in Meat and Poultry Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new initiative to reduce Salmonella contamination in raw meat and poultry by intensifying testing efforts on processing facilities. The new program will focus on improved and expedited reporting of test results. Since 2002, there has been a steady increase in Salmonella in broiler chickens, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Approximately 16% of broiler samples tested by USDA tested positive for Salmonella in 2005.

Each year in the U.S. over one million cases of Salmonella poisoning are reported and 500 Americans die from the complications of the infection.

Initially, FSIS resources will concentrate on facilities reporting the highest levels of Salmonella, providing sample-by-sample test results to facilities as soon as they become available. Currently, firms receive results after a full set of samples is completed, which, in the case of broilers, means after 51 consecutive days of sampling. By providing short term results reporting for each sample, processing facilities will be able to assess slaughter dressing procedures immediately, making certain adequate pathogen reduction protocols are being followed.

In addition, the USDA also plans to identify Salmonella serotypes more quickly so it can notify meat firms and investigate illness outbreaks in coordination with health other agencies. Serotypes are used to trace the sources of outbreaks of food borne disease by matching pathogen strains found in patients with strains found in foods.

The FSIS collects and tests samples of seven categories of products: broilers, market hogs, cows and bulls, steer and heifers, ground beef, ground chicken, and ground turkey. For all product categories combined in 2005, they found Salmonella in 5.7% (2,322) of the 40,714 samples tested.

To read more the FSIS “Progress Report on Salmonella Testing of Raw Meat and Poultry Products, 1998-2005”, please go to:
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Science/Progress_Report_Salmonella_Testing/index.asp

Membrane Filtration for LT2 Rule in New EPA Manual

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new guide to help utilities and states comply with the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) to control microbial pathogens. The EPA-issued manual, Membrane Filtration Guidance Manual, is provided as an option for drinking water utilities that need to install treatment processes in compliance with the new LT2 rule, according to the agency.

The LT2 rule requires utilities using surface water to carry out additional monitoring for pathogens and, if necessary, take additional treatment steps. Membrane filtration has gained increased acceptance over the years because of its effectiveness against chlorine-resistant protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, while limiting the formation of disinfection byproducts (DBPs), according to EPA.

Based on the levels of pathogens found in the monitoring, a utility would be placed in one of four risk-based “actions bins” under the rule, with Bin 4 requiring the most treatment. The bin also would determine which treatment methods a utility could use from a “toolbox of actions” included in the LT2 rule. Among the toolbox items are source water protection measures, use of pretreatment, using an alternative source of water, use of disinfectants such as chlorine dioxide and ultraviolet light, and the use of various types of filters, including membrane filters.

Membrane filtration processes include microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, and membrane cartridge filtration, according to EPA. Each of these processes uses a membrane barrier that allows water to pass through but removes contaminants, including Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

To read more from the EPA about the new rule, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/disinfection/lt2/pdfs/guide_lt2_membranefiltration_final.pdf.

In The News-is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council.  The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org.  To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.

Subscribe to receive the weekly "Water Quality & Health Council Perspectives"