Document Directory

03 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmed salmon 'contaminated'
02 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Pigs free to move after swine fever ban
02 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Masai milk link to healthy hearts
01 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobile may have caused tumour
01 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Kosovo troops tested for cancer from uranium
31 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Monster US cockroaches invade British kitchens
29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Cramped flights 'kill three a year'
29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Airport reveals 25 'economy-class syndrome' deaths
29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Top US damages lawyer takes on mobile phones
23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Condemned meat fraudsters jailed
23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Peril on your plate
23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Hangovers 'down to wine additives'
23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Five jailed for £2.5m unfit meat scam
22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Traders guilty of plot to sell condemned meat
22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Factory closes after mass food poisoning outbreak
22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - From van floor to table top
22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Gang guilty of £2.5m rotten poultry scam
22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Five Jailed For Massive Condemned Meat Fraud
21 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Protection from plough to plate
21 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Condemned meat conspiracy exposed
20 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Mobile phones cleared of link to brain tumours
20 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Just for starters, eat more avocado to protect your liver from disease
18 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Shoppers warned on radioactive watches
16 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Dip Maker Linked to Food Poisoning
16 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Milk bacteria not dangerous
15 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Incinerator firm faces charges over toxic waste
13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Most British men survive on beer and fast-food diet
13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Councils shamed for food safety failures inspect
13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Health drive targets beer and fast food lifestyle
13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - One man in three prefers beer and chips diet
13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Councils warned by foods chief
12 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Salmonella outbreak linked to restaurants

03 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmed salmon 'contaminated'

BBC... Wednesday 3 January 2001

UK scientists are calling for urgent research to be carried out into the safety of farmed salmon after research showed that some fish contain worrying levels of potentially dangerous chemicals. Dr Miriam Jacobs of Surrey University found the farmed fish contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The production of PCBs is banned in most countries - but the chemicals accumulate in oceans after being released in industrial waste.

The chemicals are thought to affect human nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Dr Jacobs traced the contamination back to the feed that includes fish meal and oil which come from wild fish trawled from the world's oceans in vast quantities by industrial fleets.

Concentrating the nutritional value of these fish into pellets to produce a high-protein diet for farmed salmon multiplies the minute traces of toxins present in each individual fish to a more significant level.

Once ingested, PCBs build up in body fat and take years to break down.

Toxic pollutants

Greenpeace scientist Dr Paul Johnston said: "Ultimately all these practices lead to products that are consumed by human beings.

"We are maximising human exposure to these chemicals by promoting an artificial food chain."

PCBs are among the most toxic and persistent pollutants in existence.

They are also thought to be responsible for so-called "gender bending" effects because they mimic the female sex hormone oestrogen.

Studies indicate the chemicals can cause cancer, decreased sperm counts, deformed genitals and sterility.

The World Health Organisation is sufficiently concerned about the potential consequences to have cut its guidelines on the recommended intake of dioxins.

Limits cut

But UK Government food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, has not followed this lead.

The agency's website points out the potential health benefits of eating oily fish - but makes no mention of potential dangers.

And food safety expert Professor Hugh Pennington told the BBC: "Salmon is an extremely good food, and some studies show it can help prevent heart attacks.

"But if there are small amounts of chemicals then one must counsel moderation."

He said that one portion of salmon a week was unlikely to cause any harm, even to young people.

However, he added: "We should be monitoring the salmon perhaps more often and we should be making sure that what goes into the fish doesn't contain these chemicals, then there isn't a problem".

A spokesman for the Fishmeal and Oil Manufacturers Association said it was aware of chemical concentration in feed.

Salmon farmers were looking at ways of reprocessing fishmeal to reduce toxic contamination, he added.

02 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Pigs free to move after swine fever ban

A Correspondent

Times... Tuesday 2 January 2001

Pig farmers were given some new year cheer yesterday with the news that the Government has lifted all movement restrictions in areas affected by an outbreak of swine fever in England.

The restrictions by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food cost the pig farming industry millions and brought many to the edge of ruin.

A Maff spokesman said that some restrictions remained on individual farms in East Anglia and warned farmers to stay on guard. "There are no area movement restrictions although some individual sites, such as infected premises and those where pigs were slaughtered as dangerous contacts, are subject to individual restrictions," a spokesman said.

The outbreak began in August with a case in Suffolk. Sixteen cases have since been confirmed. Movement restric- tions that were imposed in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex have been lifted in stages, with the final ones lifted in Suffolk over the past few days.

02 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Masai milk link to healthy hearts

By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Times... Tuesday 2 January 2001

The milk-drinking diet of Masai tribesmen in East Africa, who drink huge quantities of milk but remain almost immune to heart disease , could be the inspiration for a theory that could turn the dairy industry upside down.

Bob Elliott, Professor of Child Health at the University of Auckland Medical School, who investigated the diets of the Masai and Tibetan highlanders, believes that diseases linked to dairy products, such as diabetes and heart disease, are caused by an ingredient that is not found in the milk of Asian and African cattle breeds.

A company inspired by this theory, A2 Corporation, is about to start selling milk in the New Zealand and Australian markets that is guaranteed to be free of the ingredient, a variant of the protein beta casein that makes up about 30 per cent of the protein in cows' milk.

Some time during the domestication of the cow, a small genetic change occurred which means that all Western herds produce milk with a mixture of A1 and A2 beta caseins. Goats, buffalo, yaks and African and Asian cows produce only A2 - the healthy variant, in Professor Elliott's view.

It is, however, perfectly possible to select individual cows of Western breeds such as Fresians and Ayrshires which produce only the A2 variant.

01 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobile may have caused tumour

By David Charter, Health Correspondent

Times... Monday 1 January 2001

A tumour removed from the head of a former telephone engineer could have been caused by mobile phone use , his surgeon said yesterday.

Michael Edwards, a surgeon at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, called on other doctors to look out for growths in the saliva glands of frequent mobile phone users.

Mr Edwards reported the non-malignant tumour in the current issue of Laryngology and Otology. He found that there had been only 21 similar tumours reported worldwide.

His report came just days after The Times disclosed that Vodafone would be sued in America by up to ten brain tumour victims who had used mobiles. The Government announced a £7 million research programme last month to try to establish once and for all whether there were long-term health risks. An earlier inquiry by Sir William Stewart, published in May, found no clear danger, but recommended a precautionary approach to their use, particularly among children.

Mr Edwards, who removed the growth from the unnamed 39-year-old patient, said: "I had never seen a growth like it before. We had to go in through the mouth to reach it. It was attached to the salivary gland. The patient told us that he was using the mobile phone against the same ear for an hour a day for four years."

01 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Kosovo troops tested for cancer from uranium

Rory Carroll in Rome and Richard Norton-Taylor

Guardian... Monday 1 January 2001

Nato armies have started testing soldiers for cancer after a spate of deaths allegedly linked to depleted uranium ammunition used by US pilots in Kosovo.

Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium are carrying out health checks on their soldiers who have served in Kosovo to test for traces of radiation as concerns grow in the Netherlands about a "Balkans syndrome".

Italy's military prosecutor, Antonio Intelisano, is examining five deaths that some scientists link to the ammunition used during the 1999 bombing of Kosovo.

Britain is maintaining Nato's official line that no link exists. The Ministry of Defence says it will monitor investigations by Britain's Nato allies but has no plans to tests its soldiers.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said there had been no problems with leukaemia or other illnesses among US troops who had served in the Balkans.

But last week Belgium's defence minister, André Flahaut, called on his European Union counterparts to investigate.

Portugal will send military and scientific experts from the national atomic institute to test radiation levels in Kosovo in the wake of the death from leukaemia of Corporal Hugo Paulino.

Citing "herpes of the brain" as cause of death, the army refused to allow his family to commission a postmortem examination.

Relatives accused Nato of a cover-up over the 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition used by US A10 ground attack aircraft to pierce Serbian armour. The Pentagon at first refused to say whether uranium shells were used in Kosovo.

Peacekeepers who served in Bosnia were also feared to be at risk as 10,800 such shells were used by Nato in the 1994-95 civil war.

Italian authorities are reportedly investigating the cases of 15 soldiers diagnosed with cancer after returning from the former Yugoslavia.

A military report leaked to La Repubblica newspaper over Christmas admitted that Italian soldiers were dying from leukaemia caused by depleted uranium.

The government resisted calls for Balkan tours of duty to be shortened but agreed to set up a scientific committee. The French, Dutch and Spanish are planning to do likewise.

The Spanish defence ministry says it will examine all 32,000 soldiers who have served in the Balkan region since 1992. A spokesman said none of the tests on 5,000 soldiers screened in recent months had proved positive.

The ministry said all returning troops are routinely given physical examinations, but the new testing is specifically directed at the question of uranium radiation.

The ministry medical chief, Colonel Luis Villalonga, said the tests were designed to calm soldiers' fears. "Spanish troops in Kosovo were deployed in zones where these arms were not used," he said.

Controversy over depleted uranium has raged since battlefields were contaminated during the Gulf war, reportedly causing cancer among Iraqi civilians and allied troops. Symptoms allegedly associated with "Gulf war syndrome" have been recorded in around 5,000 British personnel who served in that campaign.

Though the evidence is inconclusive, exposure to depleted uranium has allegedly been shown to damage the neurological and immune systems and the reproductive organs, and to cause problems that can lead to cancer.

The MoD said it was sticking to advice that depleted uranium's toxicity was dangerous only if ingested. It was safe to touch as its radiation level was no higher than a household smoke alarm.

31 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Monster US cockroaches invade British kitchens

By Robert Mendick

Independent... Sunday 31 December 2000

First there was the superrat. Now Britain is being overrun by giant cockroaches .

The number of roach infestations is soaring, with native varieties increasingly resistant to permitted poisons and a giant American variety which escaped from laboratories breeding prolifically here.

Environmental health officers, mainly working for local authorities, were called out to treat 12,052 premises for cockroach infestations last year, compared to 6,545 in 1994.

"It is generally accepted cockroaches are becoming more resistant to what is being thrown at them," said Elvira Doghem-Rashid, consultant at Mintel, the market research company, which has produced a report based on figures collated by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. Environmental concerns restricted the number of poisons allowed.

She added: "There are only two or three chemicals now that can be used to attack them and the cockroaches become resistant to these."

Cockroaches, a primitive form of beetle, not only leave a stench but also carry potentially fatal diseases. In restaurants they transmit food poisoning organisms directly on to kitchen surfaces via drains, lavatories and other dirty places.

Traditionally Britain has been plagued by the German cockroach, measuring 1.5cm across and which can scuttle at up to 30cm per second, and the Oriental, which is 2.5cm across. But the plague is being fuelled by the emergence of the American cockroach which, at 3.5cm, is the largest species in the UK.

It has escaped from university laboratories over the past three decades and is now beginning to breed in enormous numbers, say experts.

"The American cockroaches are increasingly coming over with goods from the US," said Richard Strand, executive director of the British Pest Control Association. "They were traditionally the insects used in laboratories for tests but there were a few escapees and they have done well."

The difficulty for pest controllers is in destroying roach colonies. They only survive at temperatures above 20C, explained Mr Strand, but are not easy to hunt down because they nest during the day in difficult-to-get-at places and only emerge at night. It requires just a small number of cockroaches to survive a pest controller's best efforts for the colony to grow rapidly again.

The creatures thrive in restaurant kitchens and heating systems installed in large apartment buildings as well as airports and hotels.

Mr Strand said the economic boom may be contributing to infestations. "There are more and more restaurants and hotels than there have ever been and that gives more opportunities for cockroaches to get themselves established," he said.

Jeffrey Roberts, Rentokil's pest control spokesman, said cockroaches had even been known to drink from men's moustaches as they slept.

But a new nerve poison was proving effective, he added. It is spread throughout a colony as the cannibalistic insects prey on their dead.

29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Cramped flights 'kill three a year'

By David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent

Telegraph... Friday 29 December 2000

Cramped airline seats are to blame for the deaths of three people each year suffering from "economy class syndrome" and treated at Tokyo airport, a study has found.

Doctors working at the airport's clinic yesterday said 25 passengers arriving on long-haul flights had died from deep vein thrombosis over the past eight years. Between 100 and 150 passengers were treated for the condition annually.

The finding will fuel the row over the dangers of blood clots triggered by cramped seating and immobility on long-haul flights. Concern over deep vein thrombosis grew in October when Emma Christoffersen, 28, from Wales, collapsed and died after a 20-hour flight from Australia to Britain.

Her death prompted a report from the House of Lords science and technology committee which called for airlines to give more information about the health risks of flying.

Dr Toshiro Makino, head of the New Tokyo International Airport Clinic, said the 25 deaths reported since his clinic opened in 1992 were not limited to economy class passengers. One was a pilot who collapsed in the cockpit. He said: "The syndrome may have become well known only recently, but it has been around ever since people began flying."

A spokesman for Japan Airlines, Japan's largest carrier, said it had posted advice on its websites recommending that passengers stretch their legs and drink plenty of water. Videos of simple exercises were shown on some long-distance flights.

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when clots form in deep blood vessels, often in the legs. If the clots break away they can lodge in the lungs or heart.

29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Airport reveals 25 'economy-class syndrome' deaths

By Roy Garner in Tokyo and Steve Connor

Independent... Friday 29 December 2000

The first assessment of the extent of so-called "economy-class syndrome" on long-haul flights has identified 25 deaths in eight years at one major international airport.

The study at a clinic at Narita Airport in Tokyo also showed that about 150 passengers each year received treatment for suspected blood clots.

The findings are likely to increase concern about the extent of such fatalities and add to demands for further research. The findings will also intensify pressure on airlines to warn passengers of the risks of deep vein thrombosis.

Patrick Kesteven, consultant haematologist at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, said that in Britain it was virtually impossible to assess accurately the frequency of deep vein thrombosis in airline passengers. "The problem with this area is that it's virtually impossible to pick up all cases because they are dispersed from the airports. As regards how often it happens, nobody has the faintest idea," he said.

Over the past decade, details of at least 200 cases of traveller's thrombosis have been reported in scientific literature but there are probably many more cases that go unreported or are wrongly attributed to other factors.

The director of the Japanese study, Dr Toshiro Makino, pointed out that even people in business class were shown to be vulnerable, particularly those who were overweight or who drank heavily when flying.

The study at Tokyo, based on data gathered since the Narita clinic opened in 1992, also showed that risk increases with age, with those who died having an average age of 64, although one 46-year-old is reported to have succumbed.

Mr Kesteven said that estimates of the prevalence of deep vein thrombosis in the general population vary from about 1 in 10,000 for young adults to more than 3 or 5 per 1,000 for people aged over 60.

The syndrome arises when passengers are forced to sit in cramped conditions for long periods. Blood clots can form in veins in the legsand then travel to the lungs or brain, with serious repercussions.

Mr Kesteven said: "The risk to any one individual is tiny. But the risk applies to a very large number of people. There is no evidence that it is getting any worse, but obviously more people than ever are now flying."

Doctors recommend that passengers reduce the risks by drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol to prevent dehydration, and by doing stretching exercises and taking strolls around the cabin during flights.

Dr Hidetaka Onda, a night-shift doctor at the Narita clinic, stressed that the problem was "not confined to the economy-class sector, although the percentage there is higher", adding that a case he handled recently was typical. "She was elderly and overweight" - two contributory factors.

Other doctors say the latest findings should be regarded as a conservative estimate of the problem.

29 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Top US damages lawyer takes on mobile phones

Michael Ellison in New York

Guardian... Friday 29 December 2000

The mobile phone industry has acquired a formidable new adversary: the lawyer who did much to win billions of dollars in damages from the tobacco and asbestos companies.

Peter Angelos, who owns the Baltimore Orioles baseball club, has agreed to represent a doctor who is claiming $800m because, he says, heavy use of mobile phones contributed to his brain tumour.

Christopher Newman, 41, also from Baltimore, is suing Motorola, Verizon, SBC Communications, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association and the Telecommunications Industry Association.

"The phone companies knew and they turned their heads," he said.

"They made a choice for me. I would like to see the industry acknowledging the risk and fund research to help solve the problem."

Mr Angelos said six months ago that he was studying mobile phone litigation but that he would not pursue the matter unless he was 90% confident of victory.

Now he is said to be on the point of bringing cases in California, Kentucky and Maryland.

But Dr Newman's case cannot have been helped by two studies produced last week, both of which showed that mobile phone users were no more or less likely than anyone else to get brain tumours or cancers.

Surveys suggest that mobile phones are used by two in three Britons and one in three Americans.

About 16,500 people in the United States develop brain cancer each year.

Kenneth Rothman, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University school of public health, said of the two new studies: "They are the best information to date and they provide much reassurance."

One was funded by the mobile phone industry, however, though it was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The other was supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Both found that, whatever the criteria used to test the data, there was no suggestion of a link between brain cancer and cell phones

"Based on the published evidence to date, I don't think there's any evidence that cell phones cause cancer," said Dr Peter Inskip, one of the leaders of the cancer institute study.

23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Condemned meat fraudsters jailed

By Paul Stokes

Telegraph... Saturday 23 December 2000

Five meat traders were jailed yesterday for a plot that made 1,300 tons of condemned poultry available for sale .

Chicken and turkey that should have been sent for use in pet food was cleaned up and sold into the human food chain for three years. A 70-day trial at Hull Crown Court heard that the conspirators made profits of £2.5 million.

Investigators found the unfit meat was supplied to butchers, market traders, restaurants, take-away outlets, schools, old people's homes and supermarkets. Andrew Boid, 33, former manager of the Wells By-Products factory, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, owned by Britain's largest pet food rendering firm, Prospect De Mulder, received the largest jail term of eight years.

Boid, of Carlton-in-Lindrick, near Worksop, was sentenced to seven years for conspiracy with a further 12 months consecutive for fraud. Darren Bibby, 29, an assistant manager at Wells By-Products, of Oldcotes, near Worksop, was given three years' imprisonment. Peter Tantram, 47, of Ingham, Lincoln, who ran a trimming and repackaging operation called Cliff Top Pet Foods, received six years with a consecutive 12-month sentence for fraud.

Two meat brokers who admitted conspiracy were also jailed. John McGinty, 48, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was given five years, and Arnold Smith, 63, of Sheffield, three years nine months. Andrew Boid's father Clive Boid, 55, a former director of Prosper de Mulder, of Oldcotes, near Nottingham, was convicted of fraud against Pedigree Pet foods and will be sentenced later.

23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Peril on your plate

Guardian... Saturday 23 December 2000

'Tis the season to... inspect closely the contents of sausages, chipolatas, salami, mortadella, Bratwurst, rillettes - that is to say any meat product chopped, minced, processed or imported.

"What's really inside them?" asked Bild newspaper yesterday on finding beef among the ingredients of a packet of German "ham sausage", shocking in a country that takes purity seriously. We report today how European Union inspectors were unimpressed by hygiene and record-keeping at French meat plants when they took a close look earlier this year. And in case those reports from across the Channel lead to a fit of Brit righteousness, look at the failings indicated by the conviction this week of a gang of Rotherham meat-mongers for passing off dangerously unfit odds and ends of poultry as prime turkey.

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the food standards agency (FSA), shocked people a fortnight ago when he suggested that the front line of public defence against disease in meat was the public's willingness to read labels and make inquiries about foodstuffs. He is right. After BSE the public must never again relinquish all responsibility for food quality or safety to experts, regulators or retailers. But the public needs to know in order to make informed assessments of risk - and that in turn requires much more detailed labelling.

The Rotherham case points up one reason why identification of the food we eat is still inadequate - lack of cooperation, even rivalry, between the FSA and the trading and environmental health officials of local authorities, who are responsible for the detective work and for prosecutions of traders who deliberately mislead. The FSA says a fifth of beef and beef product imports are deficient in terms of paperwork, leaving consumers at the mercy of meat traders allowed - in France and elsewhere on the continent - to use "old" beef in processed meat products. But it falls to local authorities to take court action.

Some councils do valiant work - the Rotherham case ate up much precious time and money - but like everything to do with local government, the picture is mixed. Enforcement varies. Some environmental health departments are antediluvian. Others have excellent records and may rightly criticise the FSA and the ministry of agriculture for getting in their way. Here is yet another instance of the need to "join up" our government.

23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Hangovers 'down to wine additives'

Jamie Wilson

Guardian... Saturday 23 December 2000

All those suffering from seasonal hangovers can stop feeling guilty. The headache, nausea and general inability to function that afflicts millions at this time of year has nothing to do with the several bottles of wine used to wash down the Christmas turkey.

Instead the suffering is a result of unsavoury additives - including bulls' blood, wood chips, anti-freeze and sulphides - that unscrupulous wine producers are using, an MEP warned yesterday.

"Dodgy booze causes hangovers and worse," said Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat MEP. "At the moment producers are under no obligation to list ingredients of alcoholic drinks and have been known to add all manner of chemicals to wine and other drinks."

According to Mr Huhne, the main problem arises from producers adding extra sulphides, chemicals which occur naturally at low levels, to make wine last longer.

"Obviously you can get a hangover with low sulphide wine if you drink enough of it. But for some people high sulphide wines make the whole aftermath experience a lot worse than it needs to be," Mr Huhne said.

He accused Europe's major wine producers of keeping British drinkers ignorant of their dubious practices. The European commission and European parliament have been trying to get wine producers to list the full ingredient for years, but their attempts have been blocked by France, Italy and other wine producing countries.

Mr Huhne added: "Britain can't wait for the wine producers on this issue any more. We should introduce full labelling to protect consumers from dodgy booze straight away."

But Malcolm Gluck, the Guardian's wine critic, was more sceptical about the additives theory. He said: "I have been a great advocate of wine labelling. It is a food and I don't see why it should escape normal labelling procedures. But the idea that additives make a hangover any worse is rubbish. The only thing that causes a hangover is alcohol."

23 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Five jailed for £2.5m unfit meat scam

Angelique Chrisafis

Guardian... Saturday 23 December 2000

Five meat industry executives who hosed down rotten petfood meat and sold it to butchers and supermarkets for human consumption were jailed yesterday for a total of 24 years.

Andrew Boid, 33, a former meat factory manager from Nottinghamshire, was sentenced to seven years; Peter Tantram, 47, from Lincoln, who ran a meat trimming and repackaging firm, was given six years; and Darren Bibby, 29, an assistant factory manager, was given three years.

Between 1993 and 1996 they made £2.5m by hoarding 1,300 tons of rotten chicken and turkey destined for petfood. They employed a team to slice through mould, slime and faeces, remove scraps of pink meat, rinse it in salt water and repackage it to sell to restaurants and supermarkets, including Kwiksave.

The three had denied conspiracy to supply unfit meat to the human food chain.

Two other meat dealers, John McGinty, from Rotherham, and Arnold Smith, from Sheffield, who both pleaded guilty, were respectively jailed for five years and three years and nine months.

Passing sentence at Hull crown court, Judge Peter Heppel QC said: "It is difficult to find words sufficient to describe the appalling nature of the main fraud in this case. Fraud of this type on this scale is unprecedented in this country."

He said the gang had duped the public, particularly poor people who shopped at the low cost supermarkets they targeted.

Clive Boid, 55, found guilty of a separate charge of selling petfood meat as fit for humans, will be sentenced in the new year.

22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Traders guilty of plot to sell condemned meat

By Paul Stokes

Telegraph... Friday 22 December 2000

A loophole in food laws allowed a chain of unscrupulous meat traders to sell 1,300 tons of condemned poultry for dinner tables throughout Britain.

The scam involved chicken and turkey which had been declared fit only for pet food and yielded an estimated £2.5 million profit over three years. Three men were convicted of conspiring to supply unfit meat after a 70-day trial which ended at Hull Crown Court yesterday.

Two others admitted the same offence at the start of the hearing and all five will be sentenced today. Unlike other meats, condemned poultry is not required to be marked with an indelible dye, which makes it possible for it to be "laundered" and sold back into the human food chain.

Rotherham metropolitan borough council, which spent four years and £500,000 on the case, is to discuss the implications with the Food Standards Agency. Lewis Coates, the environmental health officer who led the council's inquiries, found evidence that trade in unfit poultry meat had existed since the late 1980s.

He said: "It is difficult to assess the risk to public health from food poisoning, carcinogens and chemical contamination as a result of eating this condemned meat. This investigation was potentially only part of a much wider problem. As it proceeded officers became aware that similar scams were operating throughout the country."

The poultry involved in the Hull case had been sent for reprocessing as pet food from reputable companies, including Asda, Bernard Matthews, Buxsted and Sun Valley. Police traced sales of some of it to old people's homes and schools in five counties and to large wholesalers in England, Scotland and Wales.

It should have gone to the pet food manufacturers Spillers and Pedigree, but was diverted to a secret boning shed at the Wells By-Products factory, owned by Britain's biggest meat rendering firm, Prosper de Mulder, in Darlton, near Newark, Notts.

Andrew Boid, 33, the then manager, and Darren Bibby, 29, his assistant manager, employed 12 workers in a 20-hour-a-day operation to remove mouldy and green flesh. From there it went to Peter Tantram, 47, who ran Clifftop Pet Foods, Ingham, Lincs, for further cleaning and trimming and packing into food grade plastic bags.

It was than sent to John McGinty, 48, who had industrial units at the Barbot Hall Industrial Estate, near Rotherham, South Yorks, where it was further repackaged before being sold to supermarkets, butchers, markets, restaurants and takeaways.

McGinty and Arnold Smith, 63, another food broker, from South Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. Ben Nolan, QC, for the Crown, said the full spread of the meat distribution could never be calculated, but once it had moved into the hands of edible food brokers it went all over the country.

Charges were brought against 21 butchers last year under the Food Hygiene Act over stocking unfit meat, but withdrawn for fear of prejudicing the conspiracy trial. Rotherham officials, who ran an operation jointly with South Yorkshire Police, conducted raids across England.

They found a sophisticated nationwide distribution network, using unmarked lorries, false names and paperwork. In most cases the end use suppliers were hoodwinked with the unfit meat disguised, hosed down and washed in salt.

Andrew Boid, of Carlton in Lindrick, Notts, Darren Bibby, of Oldcotes, Notts, and Tantram were found guilty of conspiring to supply unfit meat. Boid's father, Clive Boid, 55, a former director of Prosper de Mulder, was found not guilty of the conspiracy.

But the two of them and Tantram were found guilty of a second conspiracy to sell to Pedigree meat of pet food grade which was falsely represented as human grade quality.

22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Factory closes after mass food poisoning outbreak


Press Association ... Friday 22 December 2000

Japan's largest dairy company has announced plans to shut down a factory blamed for producing tainted milk that has affected 13,000 people in the country's worst ever case of food poisoning.

The announcement by Tokyo-based Snow Brand Milk Products came as the company tried to draw a line under the incident that dealt a heavy blow to its sales and to public trust in Japan's food processing industry.

"We want to show people a new Snow Brand," president Kohei Nishi said at a news conference shortly before the company notified health authorities that it will permanently shut its milk factory in the city of Osaka from January 31.

About 13,000 people suffered ill-effects after drinking the milk, which was tainted with the staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Hundreds needed hospital treatment.

A subsequent investigation revealed that Snow Brand has routinely - though secretly - recycled old milk returned from stores to make cheese and other products.

In Osaka, germs were found accumulating in a production line valve that employees had neglected to clean properly.

Police in that city are now investigating management for possible criminal negligence.

22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - From van floor to table top

Martin Wainwright

Guardian... Friday 22 December 2000

The vans came in the middle of the night but the darkness could not hide the smell of poultry meat which was starting to turn green and drip slime .

It wasn't long before tip-offs reached Rotherham's environmental health department, who were already puzzling over local butchers' complaints about suspiciously cheap chicken and turkey supplies.

So began three years of detective work by Lewis Coates, Claire Cheetham and Lesley Alder, whose daily bread had previously been scams in the town's market or infestations in South Yorkshire takeaways. Ten arrests, a dozen raids and half a million documents later, they had uncovered a national scandal of contaminated petfood repackaged for family dinner tables.

More than 1,300 tonnes of chicken and turkey were laundered in the scam exposed by the Rotherham team, netting at least £3m for bent executives in Britain's meat trade. But the operation also exposed legal loopholes, the virtual certainty of similar rackets across the country and the past feeble response of government food safety agencies.

As five of the gang awaited sentencing last night, Rotherham began a rueful audit of the effect on its local environmental health service. Virtually unaided by other agencies, apart from the police, three staff spent two years full-time on the inquiry and, for three months in 1997, every member of the department was put on the case.

"So much time and resource went into this," says one of Coates, Cheetham and Alder's colleagues, "that we've been unable to provide our basic day-to-day service for almost three years. It's ridiculous that investigations like this have been left to local authorities. The food standards agency should appoint a special investigative team to break the illicit trade in unfit poultry and other meat."

Rotherham was even criticised by central government for failing to reach adequate standards in its local environmental health performance, as well as having to foot the inquiry's £250,000 bill.

"It makes you wonder who's being punished," says another long-time council officer. "Especially when endless requests to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food brought very little help with the raids and no real follow-up."

Change is promised, following the spectacular success of the operation and the setting-up of the new food standards agency, which distanced itself yesterday from Maff's work in the past. And others will learn from the quality of Rotherham's work which began with the stinking midnight vans.

Watched by covert environmental health teams, drivers with names like "Nick the Belgian" unloaded poultry carcasses at four units on Barbot Hall industrial estate in Rotherham, where follow-up raids found rotting poultry meat smeared with faeces, brine units for cleaning the meat and invoice books which showed a list of customers at butcher's shops and supermarkets. Two walk-in fridges at one warehouse had stacks of meat beyond its sell-by date alongside boxes of poultry labelled for retail sale as human food.

The trail led to Britain's biggest poultry rendering firm, Wells By-Products of Newark, which took 85% of condemned poultry from slaughterhouses and food manufacturers, theoretically for petfood. But a raid by the inquiry team discovered a secret boning shed where chicken and turkey meat was prepared for sending on to Clifftop petfoods, a Lincolnshire firm and the link to the chain's main link, John McGinty, a 48-year-old meat broker in Sheffield.

"Mr McGinty's position in the fraud was pivotal," said prosecutor Brian Nolan QC in the Hull trial. "It was through his energies and activities that the product changed its identity from petfood to food which was ostensibly wholesome and marketable to the human food chain."

Using regularly changed vans and drivers, and altering invoice books, McGinty took the meat to at least three different brokers in Brighton, Cleethorpes and on Rotherham's Barbot Hall estate. More altered paperwork and mixing with good-quality meat made final, undetected sale to retail outlets a cinch.

The length of the chain was key to the success of the scheme, which the Rotherham team traced back, in part, to rumours in the town about sub-standard meat as long ago as 1974. The racketeers also relied on tight security which meant that even a succession of Newark meat-boners, who worked in the secret shed and gave evidence in Hull, genuinely believed they were preparing petfood.

Finally, despite all the obstacles they uncovered in the path to reliable meat hygiene regulations, the Rotherham environmental health team could eventually celebrate yesterday - two of them in particular. After all the close cooperation with Lewis Coates over the meat racket, Claire Cheetham recently became Mrs Claire Coates.

22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Gang guilty of £2.5m rotten poultry scam

Angelique Chrisafis

Guardian... Friday 22 December 2000

The food standards agency yesterday admitted there was an "anomaly " in Britain's regulation of contaminated poultry after three executives were found guilty of selling more than 1,000 tonnes of rotten petfood meat for human consumption .

Andrew Boid, 33, Darren Bibby, 39 and Peter Tantram, 47, wholesale meat suppliers from the East Midlands, made £2.5m from hosing down condemned chicken and turkey destined for tins of Spillers and Pedigree petfood and selling it to butchers, market traders, restaurants and supermarkets across England, Scotland and Wales.

The three had denied charges of conspiracy to supply unfit meat into the human food chain.

In a three-month trial at Hull crown court, Ben Nolan QC, prosecuting, told the jury that over a three-year period, the men had caused an "incalculable risk to human health" by acquiring condemned poultry fit only for petfood, slicing through mould and green slime to find scraps of remaining pink meat, washing it in salt and repackaging it as fit for humans.

The three men will be sentenced today alongside John McGinty, a meat broker from Rotherham and Arnold Smith, a meat dealer from Sheffield, who earlier pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy.

Three other food brokers - Timothy Powell, Louise Tantram and Kevin Wilson - were found not guilty of conspiracy. Another defendant died within hours of his first court appearance and Clive Boid, a former director of Prosper de Mulder, Britain's biggest meat rendering firm, was acquitted of conspiracy but found guilty of a charge of fraudulently selling petfood meat as quality human food.

Rotherham council's environmental health department, which investigated the scam at its own cost of £500,000, warned yesterday that it had found what was potentially the tip of an iceberg of contaminated poultry laundering in Britain.

Lewis Coates, team leader, said: "This investigation was potentially only part of a much wider problem. As it proceeded, officers became aware that similar scams were operating throughout the country."

He said there was a loophole in the law whereby poultry is exempt from stringent rules which require condemned meat to be stained with indelible dye to prevent resale for human consumption.

The food standards agency said it had had one meeting with Rotherham council this month and so far no evidence had been provided of an illicit trade in condemned poultry outside the court case.

An FSA spokeswoman said of the law which allowed contaminated poultry to go unstained: "It is an anomaly which we have picked up and are looking at."

Rotherham council began its investigation in 1995 after an anonymous letter from a local butcher.

It found the gang had set up a secret boning shed operation at Wells By-Products factory at Darlton, near Newark. There, Boid and Tantram employed 12 workers in a 20-hour a day operation to remove feathers, mould and green bits of flesh from petfood grade meat. Raids revealed hundreds of tons of bruised poultry, covered in faeces. Meat like this had been hosed down and left to steep in salt baths. Then it was packed and relabelled as fit for humans.

Police discovered a nationwide distribution network, using unmarked lorries, false names and paperwork to sell meat, heavily disguised to look white, which moved through a series of middle men on to supermarkets including Kwiksave and Netto.

Money changed hands in car parks, pubs and through private bank accounts. The conspirators made a profit of £1 per pound of chicken and 60p per pound of turkey.

22 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Five Jailed For Massive Condemned Meat Fraud


Guardian... Friday 22 December 2000

Five men have been jailed for their part in a nationwide fraud involving the sale of condemned poultry to supermarkets.

The men sold hundreds of tonnes of heavily disguised pet food as fit for human consumption to butchers, market traders, restaurants and supermarkets across England, Scotland and Wales.

Passing sentence at Hull Crown Court, Judge Peter Heppel QC, said: "A fraud of this type and of this scale is unprecedented in this country."

Three of the five men have been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud businesses by selling poultry not fit for human consumption. They were Andrew Boid, 33, of Carlton in Lindrick, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, Darren Bibby, 29, of Oldcotes, near Worksop, and Peter Tantram, 47, of Ingham, Lincolnshire. Boid was jailed for seven years, Bibby for three years and Tantram for six years.

Arnold Smith, 63, of Sheffield, and John McGinty, 48, of Woodsetts, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, admitted the conspiracy before the trial began in September. Smith was jailed for three years and nine months and McGinty was sentenced to five years.

Andrew Boid and Tantram were also found guilty of conspiracy to sell pet food grade meat which was falsely represented as human food quality. They were both sentenced to 12 months to run consecutively.

The judge said the five had been fooling the public into believing that the condemned poultry was fit to eat.

"One consignment was served at an old people's home in South Yorkshire," said Judge Heppel.

"This court has heard no evidence that anyone was affected in any way or may do by the consuming of this produce. The risk to public health was, however, present. An outbreak of food poisoning in that old people's home could have had catastrophic consequences."

Judge Heppel said the five were greedy and dishonest and between them had netted millions of pounds during the fraud which operated between 1993 and 1996.

21 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Protection from plough to plate

By BBC consumer affairs correspondent Nicola Carslaw

BBC... Thursday 21 December 2000

Throughout the UK enforcement officers police the trade in food, from plough to plate.

The industry argues it has never been more thoroughly vetted. But there is no doubt criminals could slip through the net.

The very nature of an illegal trade means it is hard to find out whether it is going on and to what extent.

But meat industry sources are certain it is growing. It is often unhygienic, and no-one knows the consequences for human health.

They believe that post-BSE, the burden placed on businesses through increased regulations coupled with European Union-wide food safety directives, is highly likely to be driving parts of the trade underground.

While it is hard to get away with illegal slaughter in the beef sector, it is relatively easy to to set up a hidden retail network, using remote farm buildings, for unlicensed slaughter of poultry, lamb and pigs, with a sophisticated distribution system that is international and hard to police.

'Fragmented policing'

A former environmental health officer and now an independent food safety advisor, Dr Richard North, says since a reorganisation of food law enforcement in the early 1990s, criminals can find it easy to beat the system.

He says the meat industry used to be policed on a local basis. Now he says it is too fragmented.

A multitude of agencies is involved - local authorities, the Meat Hygiene Service, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Food Standards Agency.

Dr North says: "There's confusion about who's responsible. There's limited communication between all the agencies. Often there are turf wars, leaving criminal elements to operate with some freedom."

The driving force behind these meat trade scams is greed.

'Tempting racket'

David Edwards runs an independent food industry consultancy that includes auditing the meat trade.

He explains the temptation to run a meat racket.

He says if you have meat or poultry that is discarded for human consumption, it can cost you to dispose of it.

Before 1996 a slaughterhouse could be paid £25 a tonne for its waste material to be rendered or to go into petfood.

But now, slaughterhouses have to pay out about £120 a tonne.

If a cow dies in a field, the farmer has to pay a knacker to take away the carcass - an unwanted financial burden if you are already strapped for cash.

The laws are very tight now, too, on what can go into pet food - it is only products from meat that has been passed as fit for human consumption.

Could it happen again?

So the temptation for the unscrupulous is to dress up bruised or otherwise unpalatable meat and pass it into the human food chain illegally.

So after this latest scandal revealed at Hull Crown Court, what is being done to ensure it can never happen again?

Lewis Coates, one of the investigating officers involved in the case, says poultry that is destined for pet food or deemed unfit for human consumption ought to be stained so there is no misunderstanding about its destination and no way it can be passed off as fit for the human food chain.

This is the case with red meat - but not poultry.

Mr Coates also says a national investigation unit ought to be set up to tackle exactly the sort of crime he and his colleagues have uncovered.

The Food Standards Agency says only that it is considering the proposals.

The advice to consumers is that dodgy meat may be in the human food chain - but not at reputable butchers and supermarkets.

So, if you see meat that is extraordinarily cheap and looks too good to be true, it probably is.

21 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Condemned meat conspiracy exposed

Staff Reporter

BBC... Thursday 21 December 2000

Five people have been found guilty of selling hundreds of tonnes of pet food as meat fit for human consumption.

Environmental health officers from Rotherham Council - who uncovered the fraud - say 1,300 tonnes of condemned meat was sold to butchers, supermarkets and restaurants all over the UK.

The prosecution said it had caused an "incalculable risk to human health".

Containers of smelly, badly-bruised poultry, covered in faecal matter, flies and feathers, were found by investigating officials.

Inspector Gary Blinkhorn, of South Yorkshire Police, which investigated the fraud jointly with Rotherham Council, said it was a "heinous crime".

"I am a police officer but also a family man with children and an elderly mother and I would not want chicken from these people on their plates," said Insp Blinkhorn.

"You only have to look at food poisoning outbreaks in hospitals to realise that something like this could kill people.

"After a five-year investigation which has cost a lot of money, I am extremely pleased with today's three guilty verdicts."

Nationwide fraud denied

A jury at Hull Crown Court found Andrew Boid, 33, of Carlton, Nottinghamshire, Darren Bibby, 29, of Oldcotes, Nottinghamshire, and Peter Tantram, 47, of Ingham, Lincolnshire, guilty of conspiracy to defraud businesses by selling poultry not fit for human consumption.

They had denied the nationwide fraud, which operated between 1993 and 1996 and earned millions of pounds.

Before the trial began in September two men had already pleaded guilty to the fraud.

They were Arnold Smith, 63, of Sheffield, and John McGinty, 48, of Woodsetts, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

All five are due to be sentenced on Friday.

The jury found Timothy Powell, 38, of Hove, East Sussex, not guilty.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on Tantram's wife Louise, 45, Boid's father Clive, 55, of Worksop, and Kevin Wilson, 39, of Cleethorpes, North Lincolnshire, and were directed to find all three not guilty.

The jury heard that Clive and Andrew Boid and Bibby were bosses at Newark-based company Wells By-Products Ltd , which was responsible for processing poultry meat for pet food.

Huge quantities of poultry

Its main customers were pet food giants Spillers and Pedigree .

The company bought in huge quantities of condemned poultry, which was packaged as pet food and invoiced to Lincoln-based company Cliff Top Pet Foods, run by Peter and Louise Tantram, the court was told.

The meat was then cleaned up and passed on to a man not on trial, who helped change the product's identity from pet food to normal food, said prosecutor Ben Nolan QC.

The profits made from the operation were enormous and ran into millions of pounds over the three years, Mr Nolan said.

Salt and slime

The scam was uncovered when food officials launched an undercover surveillance operation on a company in South Yorkshire.

Large quantities of salt, used to remove slime from the meat and freshen up its appearance, were discovered in addition to the smelly, badly-brusied poultry.

Seized invoice books showed butcher shops, supermarkets and restaurants across the UK were being supplied.

Clive and Andrew Boid and Peter Tantram were also found guilty of conspiracy to sell pet food-grade meat, which was falsely represented as human food quality to Pedigree.

Rotherham environmental health officer Lewis Coates, who led the authority's investigation team, said there was evidence that the trade in unfit poultry meat had existed since the late 1980s.

"This investigation was potentially only part of a much wider problem," he said.

"As it proceeded officers became aware that similar scams were operating throughout the country.

"Despite what we found, no-one followed up our findings and we feel that a full investigation into the extent of this illegal trade should be undertaken."

Senior council officers are meeting officials from the Food Standards Agency early in the New Year to discuss the national implications of the case.

20 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Mobile phones cleared of link to brain tumours

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent

Telegraph... Wednesday 20 December 2000

Mobile phones have been given a clean bill of health over links with brain tumours.

A study of 891 mobile users revealed no link between the time spent on calls and the risk of cancer. But the American research team said more work was needed before it could be assumed that mobiles were safe in the long term. Despite the health scares of recent years, there is no scientific evidence that mobiles pose any health risk.

The scientists from the American Health Foundation and Memorial Sloan-Ketting Cancer Centre in New York interviewed 469 men and women diagnosed with primary brain cancer and 422 without between 1994 and 1998. Volunteers were asked which type of phone they used, the amount of time spent on calls each month, the year of first use and the number of years of usage.

The cancer patients, aged 18 to 80, were matched to the comparison group by age, sex, race, years of education and occupation. The team found no significant pattern linking mobile phone use with cancer. Brain cancer patients had used a mobile for an average of 2.8 years and healthy volunteers 2.7 years.

The cancer group used their phones only slightly more often per month than the healthy volunteers - 2.5 hours and 2.2 hours respectively. The results, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that among the cancer patients, 26 out of 41 cerebral tumours occurred more frequently on the same side of the head as mobile phones were used.

But temporal tumours mostly appeared on the opposite side of the head. Preliminary data from a group of Swedish investigators had produced similar finding. However, the researchers admitted that their study was limited. They said: "Further studies are needed to account for longer induction periods, especially for slow-growing tumours."

20 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Just for starters, eat more avocado to protect your liver from disease

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

Independent... Wednesday 20 December 2000

Avocados contain potent chemicals that may prevent liver damage and could be developed into new drugs, scientists said yesterday.

Japanese researchers made the discovery after feeding 22 different fruits to rats that had liver damage caused by a powerful toxin, to see if the fruits could provide protection.

Avocados were found to have the biggest impact in slowing progress of the damage. Five avocado compounds appeared to be involved. Because the damage resembled that caused by viruses, the scientists suspect avocado extract might be useful to treat viral hepatitis.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence that avocados are good for you. The fruits are rich in vitamins E and C, high in fibre and potassium, and contain large amounts of folate, a vitamin that reduces the risk of birth defects in pregnant women.

The study, part-funded by Kagome, a Japanese food and drink manufacturer, measured changes in specific liver chemicals that try to lessen the damage caused by the toxin, called galactosamine. Kagome plans to patent the avocado extract and test it on humans.

But the researchers do not know whether the rat tests will be mirrored in humans, or how much extract would be needed to have an effect, or how the chemicals work. The liver has remarkable regenerative powers: a person can lose more than half the liver without being affected. But some toxins lead to severe, and permanent, damage.

In America, Bruce Ames, professor of biochemistry at the University of California, says it is more cost-efficient for governments to advertise fruit heavily, encouraging people to eat it, rather than try to extract tiny residues of carcinogens from the environment.

"So much gets spent trying to remove the last traces of pesticides from the fruit and vegetables that it puts the price up too high for people to afford enough of them," he says. "As to the risk - hell, people are more likely to get killed in a car accident on the way to the supermarket."

He says there are more carcinogens in a cup of coffee than in pesticide residues from fruit.

18 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Shoppers warned on radioactive watches

By Emma Hartley

Independent... Monday 18 December 2000

Christmas shoppers looking for cross-Channel bargains have been warned to avoid cheap Chinese watches on sale in French ports.

Carrefour, one of France's largest shopping chains with outlets in the Channel ports of Cherbourg, Quimper and St Malo, has sold 1,500 pieces containing the radioactive element cobalt 60, used in treating cancer, and in industrial processes to detect flaws in metal.

Thousands of watches have been recalled from hypermarkets after they were discovered to be radioactive. The alarm was raised when a worker in the nuclear industry wore one of the watches to work at Tricastan in south-east France. As he passed the plant's radioactivity detectors, the alert lights and alarms were triggered.

The watches, with the logo "Trophy" were in a batch of 4,500 bought from Jieyang City Stainless Steel Company in Guangdong, China. The radioactive material probably entered the manufacturing process during steel recycling. The scrap was purchased in China.

A spokesman for the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) in Britain said: "They were made of contaminated scrap, which can happen easily, considering how sloppy some countries are with their radioactive material."

David Kyd, of the UN International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) in Austria, said: "If you were wearing one of these watches for a year, you would have had an exposure to radioactivity which would exceed the acceptable norms.

"We are being bombarded with natural radiation all the time. But these watches would produce, after one year, 300 millisieverts of radiation exposure. The recommended safe level is 500 millisieverts."

Anyone who has a Trophy watch with a serial number T65007-3 should contact the NRPB on 01235 831600.


17 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Key Figure Testifies in E. Coli Case

Associated Press

Guardian... Sunday 17 December 2000

WALKERTON, Ontario (AP) - Seven months after learning that town wells he managed were tainted, Stan Koebel will talk publicly for the first time Monday about why he failed to notify anyone of what became North America's deadliest E. coli contamination .

Koebel, 47, begins an expected three days of testimony in the government-ordered judicial inquiry of the contamination. The infection has been blamed for seven deaths and sickening 2,300 people in this rural town of 5,000 people, 90 miles west of Toronto.

The deaths followed flooding on May 12 believed to have swept E. coli-laced cattle manure into town wells operated by Koebel, manager of the local water utility for 12 years.

People began getting sick less than a week later, and Koebel received test results on May 18 that showed E. coli contamination, Mayor David Thomson has said.

Koebel, however, allegedly tried to fix the problem himself by adding chlorine and flushing the system instead of notifying town and health officials as required.

A regional health official issued a boil order for Walkerton water on May 21, but by the time the provincial government took control of the water system on May 25, five people had died and hundreds were hospitalized. More died or were sickened later.

Koebel was described as distraught and even contemplating suicide because of the deaths. He was from the start portrayed sympathetically by his friends and neighbors, but has now become a focus of anger as testimony has revealed chronic problems in the water system and reports of a tentative deal to pay him almost $65,000 to resign.

Under the boil order, which stretched until Dec. 5, Walkerton residents were forced to treat water with bleach, use donated bottled water and go to homes of relatives and friends in neighboring towns to bathe. Town officials drank tap water on Dec. 5 to show it was safe.

Koebel has been described by previous inquiry witnesses - including his younger brother Frank - as a manager who mislabeled samples and submitted false information about the town's water to fend off regulators.

Frank Koebel, the water plant foreman, dissolved into sobs several times when telling how Stan ordered him to fill in missing information on log sheets and submit other faked information. He said they guessed at proper chlorine levels because the scale to measure amounts was broken.

Stan Koebel's lawyer, Bill Trudell, last week accused local authorities of setting up his client as the fall guy for a system left depleted and overwhelmed by funding cuts.

Trudell tried to get Koebel excused from testifying, arguing he was too emotionally frail. Koebel underwent psychiatric testing earlier this month that found him fit to testify.

Provincial police are studying possible criminal charges in the case, and Ontario officials have backed an as yet undefined health study for Walkerton residents to determine if bad water might have caused longterm health problems.

E. coli is an intestinal bacterium that causes cramps, diarrhea and in extreme cases, kidney failure. The worst known E. coli contamination in the United States killed four people in 1993, traced to tainted hamburger sold at several Jack in the Box outlets in Washington state.

16 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Dip Maker Linked to Food Poisoning

Associated Press

Guardian... Saturday 16 December 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A company that makes gourmet dips linked to more than 400 cases of food poisoning has agreed to pay about $500,000 in penalties, costs and improvements.

People in California, Oregon and Washington got sick after eating several dip varieties made by Senor Felix's Gourmet Mexican Foods . Some of the victims required medical treatment, Deputy District Attorney Dana Aratani said.

The company did not admit to any wrongdoing in a judgment signed Friday by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marlene Kristovich, Aratani said. But he added that the company has made a number of reforms in the wake of government actions that included a Jan. 21 recall of three of its products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company's president, Stan Wetch, said the business now has an innovative food safety program that maintains high safety and quality standards.

The judgment also requires Senor Felix's to investigate cases of consumers who became ill after eating its products and to offer to reimburse out-of-pocket medical expenses.

16 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Milk bacteria not dangerous

Staff Reporter

Times... Saturday 16 December 2000

Tayside Health Board said last night that tests on contaminated milk from a Fife dairy farm where a baby girl died from E. coli 0157 two years ago had shown no trace of the bacteria.

Tayside Health Board's public health consultant Dr Mike Roworth said that there was no evidence of faecal contamination in the milk at Findattie Farm in Scotlandwell, Fife, and the bacteria found were not likely to be harmful to humans. The contamination was confined to the dairy's bottling plant, which had been closed while environmental health officers from Perth and Kinross Council carried out an investigation.

Dr Roworth said that the farm was continuing to produce milk but it was being bottled by another Fife dairy. He said that contaminated milk was found in just one pint glass bottle of milk during routine testing of "thousands" of bottles at the dairy.

Two years ago 21-month-old Rose Lindsay died after falling ill with E. coli 0157 at the farm. The source of the infection was never discovered.

A spokesman for the health board earlier advised consumers not to drink milk from the farm or use it for cooking.

He said that none of the affected milk, which was supplied to homes in Kinross, Scotlandwell, Milnathort in Perthshire and Lochgelly, Fife, had been distributed to shops.

15 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Incinerator firm faces charges over toxic waste

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent

Guardian... Friday 15 December 2000

An incinerator company and a city council are to be prosecuted by the environment agency for depositing 2,000 tonnes of toxic ash on parks, public bridleways and allotments, putting children at risk and the public in danger, it was announced yesterday.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne council and the Cambridge-based Combined Heat and Power are between them facing 19 charges of illegally disposing of toxic waste and breaching environment protection regulations at the Byker incineration plant in the city.

The charges follow a 10- month investigation by the agency after protest groups and the agriculture minister, Nick Brown, who represents the area, lodged complaints.

The decision is certain to raise fears about the health dangers of incinerators which are being expanded under Labour as part of the government's initiative to reduce the level of landfill dumping.

The reuse of ash from incinerators is being examined by a Commons environment committee inquiry, which is looking at the government's waste strategy.

The city council had already banned children under the age of two from playing in 27 allotments and people were warned not to eat eggs or poultry there. A big clean-up by the council this year also led to removal of the poisoned ash from 14 footpaths, bridle paths and parks. Samples supplied to Newcastle's public health department revealed the ash contained mercury at 2,406% above accepted levels, cadmium at 785% above normal levels and lead at 136% above normal.

The city council will now face 15 charges concerning allegations of illegally depositing waste, and of disposing of waste in a manner likely to pollute the environment or cause harm to human health under the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 and the environmental protection regulations of 1991.

The council-appointed plant operator, Contract Heat and Power, faces four charges concerning duty of care offences and breaches of authorisation under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. All the offences carry unlimited fines on conviction.

An environment agency spokesman said: "If the agency believes that environmental legislation has been breached a number of courses of action can be taken. The most serious is to bring a prosecution and the agency believes this to be the appropriate response in the circumstances."

When the Byker reclamation plant was built by the former Tyne and Wear council at a cost of £4m more than 20 years ago, it was hailed as a breakthrough in recycling. It was the first of its kind in Europe to reclaim metal and turn household waste into fuel, which was burned to provide heat and hot water for thousands of homes in the neighbourhood.

But before long residents began complaining of pungent smells and a rise in throat and nose complaints. The plant began falling short of targets and by 1993 council chiefs were considering closing it down. But it survived and in 1998 switched from burning refuse to burning coal.

Plans are now being considered to expand the incinerator to burn some 80,000 tonnes of municipal waste and 13,000 tonnes of tyres - and this has led to strong protests.

Mr Brown has also demanded an investigation by the environment agency into dioxin emissions from the incinerator.


14 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Talc Removed From Cancer List

Staff Reporter

Guardian... Thursday 14 December 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal scientific panel wrestled over the safety of talc powder on Thursday before finally deciding that it shouldn't be added to the nation's list of cancer-causing substances.

Some studies have associated the use of talc in feminine hygiene products with ovarian cancer. But after a daylong debate, the scientists voted 7-3 that the evidence wasn't convincing enough that talc powder was a carcinogen.

The committee of scientists advises the National Toxicology Program, a branch of the National Institutes of Health that every two years updates the federal list of proven and suspected cancer-causing substances.

Still facing scrutiny as the panel concludes its meeting Friday are estrogen - the types used for birth control and post-menopausal treatment - and inhaled wood dust.

On Wednesday, the panel voted to add ultraviolet radiation - those sunburn-causing rays long known to cause skin cancer - to the official carcinogen list.

The National Toxicology Program typically follows its advisers' recommendations, but an officially updated carcinogen list isn't expected until 2002.

Talc has long been controversial. When studies first appeared suggesting it migrated into the ovaries to cause tumors, many feminine hygiene products replaced talc with cornstarch.

One panelist, Michelle Medinsky, a toxicologist from Durham, N.C., said she had been prepared to vote to list talk as a substance ``reasonably believed to cause cancer.''

But after listening to hours of industry attacks on the science, ``the evidence has knocked me out of the 'reasonably' category into 'not list,''' she said.

Indeed, several panelists complained that they couldn't figure out how, biologically, talc could cause ovarian cancer, and said animal studies didn't support the theory.

The scientists scrutinized two forms of talc. The second, fibrous talc - also known as asbestiform talc - has a variety of applications. It has been associated with lung cancer in miners, though industry analysts challenged that.

The panel deadlocked on whether fibrous talc caused lung cancer, voting 5-5 on whether to add it to the federal list.

Talc in one form or the other can be found in many papers, paints, ceramics, food wrappers, hard candy, chewing gum, cosmetics and pills.

Most people are familiar with talc as a loose powder used in cosmetics and as a drying powder.

Industry officials on Thursday attacked studies that indicated increased lung cancer in talc miners in New York State, questioned an experiment that found that rats breathing high concentractions of talc got lung cancer and questioned whether talc can really be associated with ovarian cancer.

The group struggled particularly with the definition of asbestiform talc, with speakers stressing that while some talc is itself formed in fibers or may contains minerals in fiber shapes, it does not contain asbestos. While talc was at one time contaminated with asbestos, the industry in 1976 set a voluntary standard aimed at eliminating that problem.

``There should be no guilt by association,'' said John Addison, representing the European Trade Association for Talc Producers.

Higher lung-cancer rates in talc miners may have resulted from their smoking or from the presence of radon gas in the mines or asbestos in soils nearby, industry officials said.

UV light, however, was no problem for the panel, which voted unanimously that it was a known human carcinogen.

UV radiation is not visible, but is felt as heat and can damage the eyes and skin. It comes in three forms, ranging from the relatively long-wavelength UVA to the shortest wavelength UVC. UVA accounts for most of the solar UV radiation because it is not absorved by the atmosphere. UVB is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer and UVC is totally absorbed.

All three are produced by mercury arc sunlamps, while other lamps that simulate sunlight produce primarily UVA.

13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Most British men survive on beer and fast-food diet

By Jeremy Laurance

Independent... Wednesday 13 December 2000

The most popular diet of the British male is based on beer, pies and white bread. His female counterpart subsists on cornflakes, white bread and milk. Neither cares much for apples or cabbage.

A snapshot of the nation's largely unhealthy eating habits shows that about 90 per cent of men and women fall into one of four distinct dietary groups and goes a long way towards explaining why Britain has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world.

The "beer and fast-food diet" is the one eaten by most British men, accounting for one-third of the population. Men in this group eat large quantities of ready-made meat products, such as pies, sausage rolls and pastries, and white bread, washed down with beer and cider. They never eat fish, yogurt or fruit juice and eschew spirits and wines.

Women favour the "traditional British diet" of white bread, cereals and high-fat dairy products such as butter, cream and cheese. Although these women prefer tea to alcohol, they also eat more chips, cakes and confectionery than vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals. The findings, from a team at University College London, are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. They demonstrate how far there is still to go in improving the British diet and curbing the needlessly high number of early deaths from heart disease . More than 250,000 people die from cardiovascular disease in the UK each year, making it the nation's biggest killer.

The scientists, led by Dr Jane Pryer at UCL's Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, used data from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, a survey of more than 2,000 men and women aged 16 to 64 from across Britain.

The results showed that what people eat depends on which part of the country they live in, their income and lifestyle. Less healthy diets were mostly found in the north of England and Scotland, and were eaten by people on low incomes and smokers. People eating healthier diets tended to be middle class and live in southern, central and southwest regions.

Dr Pryer said the majority of men in the "beer and convenience" category were under 30, many of them single. "It is worrying," she said. "They eat a lot of fat and lack vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, once you settle into a diet like this it can become a life-long habit."

The research suggested that health education strategies targeting specific diet groups were more effective than those aimed at men and women as a whole.

13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Councils shamed for food safety failures inspect

By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

Independent... Wednesday 13 December 2000

A list of councils that have failed to conduct adequate inspections of filthy restaurants and grocery shops have been named by the government's food watchdog.

Eighteen councils face a thorough audit by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after showing "unacceptably low levels of food standards and hygiene inspection".

Local authorities have responsibility for raising enforcement standards and sampling food in restaurants, cafés and shops. They must meet new national standards for food law enforcement, which includes inspecting kitchens for hygiene and ensuring that shops do not sell products past their sell-by date.

Although 14 councils have taken "remedial action" since the summer, the agency warned yesterday that they will be formally audited unless their performance continues to improve.

The agency said yesterday that they are now preparing to send in hit squads to the 18 local authority areas.

FSA sources said that the audit will be thorough, including checking the kitchens of local cafés for cockroaches and failure of chefs to wash their hands before preparing food.

They will also check for uncleaned ovens and inadequate refrigeration systems.

Among the 18 local authorities named by the FSA yesterday are the London Borough of Bexley, Norfolk County Council and Wokingham.

The four councils that the agency claims have not taken action to improve their standards are the London Borough of Hillingdon, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Stockport Metropolitan and Suffolk County Council.

This is the first time local councils will face checks to see if they are meeting new UK-wide standards for food law enforcement introduced in October.

13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Health drive targets beer and fast food lifestyle

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian... Wednesday 13 December 2000

British males who live on beer and fast food - around a third of all men between 16 and 64 - are prime targets for a new government health promotion.

Analysis, funded by the Department of Health, of the diets of more than 2,000 men and women confirm that few young men breakfast on cereals, eat fish or shellfish, consume low-fat dairy products or drink fruit juice or wines. It is time such groups were helped to make healthier choices, suggests the team headed by Jane Pryer, of University College London.

"Factors such as convenience, cost, peer group pressure and occupation may be relevant to food choices and lifestyle," she said.

Most men in what the researchers called the "beer and convenience" category were under 30 and single. "They eat a lot of fat and lack vitamins and minerals. Once you settle on a diet like this it can be a lifelong habit. Our recommended strategy would be to target health promotion at particular diet groups, rather than the whole population."

The latest findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, will come as a disappointment to nutritionists, even if they help explain why Britain has such high heart disease rates.

Most people studied by the researchers fell into one of four distinct diet "clusters" which differed between the sexes. Less healthy diets were found mainly in the north of England and Scotland whereas those with healthier diets tended to live in southern, central and south-west England.

The beer and convenience category accounted for 34% of men's diets. A further 18% ate the "traditional British diet" with high intakes of white bread, butter, tea, sugar and confectionery. A similar percentage (17.5%) ate plenty of fish, shellfish, fruit and nuts, and drank wine or spirits as part of a "mixed, sweet diet", which also involved a lot of cakes and pastries. A further 17% had a healthier diet involving pasta, rice and coffee.

Among women, 32% ate plenty of white bread, butter and high fat dairy products, but had low alcohol intakes. Neatly 25% ate a "healthier cosmopolitan diet" with high consumption of whole grain cereals, low fat dairy products, fish and wine, low intakes of chips and no beer or cider.

13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - One man in three prefers beer and chips diet

By Nicole Martin

Telegraph... Wednesday 13 December 2000

The unflattering stereotype of men as beer-swilling couch potatoes living on chips and greasy burgers may not be far off the mark, according to a report published today.

Researchers found that more than one man in three rejected fruit juices, low-fat dairy products and fish in favour of beer and fast food. Almost one in five tended towards the "traditional British diet", including butter, pastries, bacon and potatoes, while just 17 per cent opted for a "healthier diet" which consisted of wholegrain cereals, fish, fruit and nuts.

The findings come from a random sample of 2,000 men and women, aged 16 to 64, who kept weekly food diaries detailing what and how much they ate. Many women also favoured fatty foods. Just under a third opted for the traditional British regime, high in refined cereals, sugars and dairy products.

Although these women preferred tea to alcohol they also ate more chips, cakes and confectionery than vegetables, fruit and wholegrain cereals. Almost one in five women ate a "healthier cosmopolitan diet", which was low in fat and processed foods and high in fibre but characterised by high alcohol consumption. A quarter of them chose a "convenience food" diet, which was high in refined sugars, fats and cereals and low in fibre.

The team, led by Dr Jane Pryer at University College London, found that less healthy diets were predominantly found in the north of England and Scotland in households on low incomes and among smokers. Presenting her findings in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, she said that most men in the "beer and convenience" category were under 30 and single.

She said: "Unfortunately once you settle into a diet like this it can become a lifelong habit." A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "While we are not in the business of dictating what people should eat we know that eating fruit and vegetables is the second biggest way of reducing heart disease and cancer."

13 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Councils warned by foods chief

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Guardian... Wednesday 13 December 2000

Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, has named 18 local authorities , including his local council, Oxford City, and warned them that they face a special audit if they do not improve food safety and hygiene checks.

He will ask for new powers to enter ships and aircraft to check on food served to travellers on cruise liners which embark from the ports of Portsmouth and Dover, cross-Channel ferries and ferries to Northern Ireland and the Republic and to The Netherlands.

The issue is to be discussed at a meeting of the agency board tomorrow before consultations with the industry.Four authorities in particular, the London Borough of Hillingdon, Shrewsbury and Atcham district council, Stockport Metropolitan Council and Suffolk County Council, were criticised for not taking any follow-up action to improve their performance.

The other 14 authorities - Bexley, Buckinghamshire CC, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Middlesbrough, Norfolk, Oxford City, Rochdale, Sandwell, South Gloucestershire, Surrey, Three Rivers, Wokingham, and Ceredigion in Wales - have already stepped up checks on high-risk premises and started sending food samples for micriobiological tests.

Each of the authorities were told they had "unacceptably low levels of enforcement activity in key areas". They had each reported less than 50 per cent of inspections at high-risk premises or did not carry out routine food sampling.

Sir John has given them 12 months to improve standards before he sends in his own team. He said last night he was largely pleased with standards but said there was "a worrying difference" in the levels and priorities nationwide.

12 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Salmonella outbreak linked to restaurants


PA News... Tuesday 12 December 2000

A salmonella outbreak in Scotland affecting 92 people has been traced to 25 Chinese restaurants , claim food safety watchdogs.

The Food Standards Agency Scotland (FSA) says it is now investigating whether the outbreak was caused by contaminated chicken or duck.

Poultry producers and suppliers have been visited by environmental health officials in a bid to trace the source of the contamination.

The announcement came following a meeting of the team of doctors, scientists and environmental health officials overseeing the outbreak, which now affects 10 of Scotland's 15 health boards.

Dr Martin Donaghy of the FSA Scotland said: "So far 25 Chinese restaurants and take-aways have been linked to the outbreak.

"This, together with the wide geographical spread of cases, would suggest that we are looking for a common source. The food histories of those affected point to contaminated poultry as the most likely source of the salmonella."

The 92 people affected all developed the illness before November 23, when an outbreak was declared, and experts suspect 15 may have picked up the bug while they were abroad.

"This would suggest that the outbreak is over," said Dr Donaghy.

"However, given that this is the second outbreak of this type over the last few months, it is in consumers' interests that we do not allow ourselves to become complacent."

The bulk of the cases have been found in Lanarkshire, where 47 people were diagnosed as suffering salmonella, with 16 people in the Greater Glasgow health board area and 14 in Lothian, while a handful of cases were found in the Grampian, Fife, Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Arran, Dumfries and Galloway, Borders and Argyll and Clyde health board areas.