China has lifted its bans on pork products from the United States, Canada and Mexico, which were established following the initial H1N1 flu outbreak.

The bans were lifted on the basis of risk assessment, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement on its Web site.

Source: Reuters, Xinhua

Consumer Reports, National Chicken Council offer differing opinions of chicken safety

Consumer Reports' latest test of fresh, whole broilers bought in 22 states reveals that two-thirds of birds tested harboredSalmonellaand/orCampylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease. The story appears in the January 2010 issue ofConsumer Reportsand is also available free online

Consumer Reports has been measuring contamination in store-bought chickens since 1998. The recent test shows a modest improvement since January 2007, when the magazine found these pathogens in 8 of 10 broilers. Consumer Reports also found that most disease-causing bacteria sampled from the contaminated chicken were resistant to at least one antibiotic, potentially making any resulting illness more difficult to treat.

"Consumers still need to be very careful in handling chicken, which is routinely contaminated with disease-causing bacteria," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. "Our tests show that Campylobacter is widespread in chicken, even in brands that control for Salmonella. While one name brand, Perdue, and most air-chilled chickens, were less contaminated than others, this is still a very dirty industry that needs better practices and tighter government oversight."

The National Chicken Council issued a statement that read in part, "Chicken is safe. Like all fresh foods, raw chicken may have some microorganisms present, but these are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking. Consumers are encouraged to follow the safe handling and cooking instructions printed on every package of fresh meat and poultry sold in this country.

"A much more comprehensive survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Salmonella and Campylobacter on fewer raw chickens than Consumer Reports. More important is the fact that USDA found that the levels of microorganisms present are usually very low. Consumer Reports failed to perform this analysis. The USDA survey also showed that poultry processing greatly improves the microbiological profile of raw chickens. In fact, the industry does an excellent job in providing safe, wholesome food to American consumers," the NCC added.

For its latest analysis, Consumer Reports had an outside lab test 382 chickens bought last spring from more than 100 supermarkets, gourmet- and natural-food stores, and mass merchandisers in 22 states. Among the findings:
* Campylobacter was in 62 percent of the chickens, Salmonella was in 14 percent, and both bacteria were in 9 percent. Only 34 percent of the birds were clear of both pathogens. That's double the percentage of clean birds Consumer Reports found in its 2007 report but far less than the 51 percent in the 2003 report.
* Among the cleanest overall were organic "air-chilled" broilers. About 60 percent were free of the two pathogens.
* Perdue was found to be the cleanest of the brand-name chicken: 56 percent were free of both pathogens. This is the first time since Consumer Reports began testing chicken that one major brand has fared significantly better than others across the board.
* Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were found to be the most contaminated; less than 20 percent were free of either pathogens.
* Store-brand organic chickens had no Salmonella at all, but only 43 percent of those birds were also free of Campylobacter.
* Among all brands and types of broilers tested, 68 percent of the Salmonella and 60 percent of the Campylobacter organisms analyzed showed resistance to one ore more antibiotics. All of the antibiotics were effective against 32 percent of Salmonella samples and 40 percent of the Campylobacter samples, as compared to just 16 and 33 percent in 2007.

Source: Consumer Reports, National Chicken Council

Nebraska meat market, USDA settle lawsuit

Markey’s Meat Market, a Gering, Neb., business, has settled a two-month-old lawsuit with federal prosecutors and agreed to follow federal inspection laws governing businesses that sell to commercial customers. Prosecutors said the company had violated meat inspection rules since 2006, because the company sold to commercial customers without USDA inspectors being present, AP reports.

Owner Mark Gies said that everything had been resolved and that he’d been working with the USDA since he became aware of the issue in 2007. From 2006 through 2009, the company exceeded the federal threshold on how much uninspected meat could be sold commercially. Markey’s sold $204,513.37 of uninspected meat in 2008, when the limit was $56,900.

The USDA has approved a HACCP plan for the business, and an inspector will be at the business when the company is preparing products for restaurants. Publicity about the case helped his business attract new customers, Gies added.

Source: Associated Press