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Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Briefly: Pufferfish poison — Sail or fail — CRISPR mushrooms

Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of Alchemy Systems.


Emergency alert about ‘fugu’ aka pufferfish
Gamagori City in Japan issued an emergency alert Monday after two people ate  portions of “fugu” blowfish with their potentially poisonous livers intact.

It’s unknown whether they ate large enough portions to be harmful.

“The fish, also referred to as puffer fish, contains a toxin hundreds of times more poisonous than cyanide; its liver alone can contain enough poison to kill five men.”

Japan enforces laws to ensure that the fish are prepared and detoxified properly before they are sold, but according to the recent report, five packs of Yorito fugu (blunt head blowfish) were sold at a supermarket by a licensed employee who had not removed the livers.

According to the report, these blowfish typically contain very weak or no poison, but Japan’s food hygiene laws prohibit the sale of any liver because of its poisonous potential.

All five packages were accounted for after several returns of the fish, which still had the livers intact. No illnesses were reported.


Carnival cruise ships fail sanitation tests
Two more Carnival Cruise Line ships recently failed the CDC’s USPH Vessel Sanitation Program. The Carnival Vista received a failing grade of 79 out of 100 and the Carnival Breeze was issued a score of 77 during inspections in December.

The Vessel Sanitation Program helps prevent and control the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, such as norovirus, in the cruise ship industry. Any score below 86 out of 100 is considered a failing grade.

Carnival Vista’s inspection issues include the failure to isolate two crew members who were suffering gastrointestinal symptoms until they were symptom-free for a minimum of 48 hours. Carnival Breeze had inaccurate and incomplete information in the ship’s medical surveillance log, along with espresso machine maintenance issues.

In November, the Triumph received a score of 78, but earned a score of 98 during reinspection. “We have taken the same immediate approach with Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista,” Carnival Cruise Line said.


Modified mushroom resists browning
Yinong Yang, a professor of plant pathology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has developed a genetically modified mushroom that resists browning.

An acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,  CRISPR technology is a method for modifying the genome of an organism by “precisely delivering a DNA-cutting enzyme — Cas9 — to a targeted region of DNA,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This deletes or replaces specific DNA pieces, and ultimately promotes or disables certain traits.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reported that Yang’s anti-browning mushroom would not be subject to USDA approval, making it the first CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited crop requiring no regulatory review by the agency.

Yang said that’s because his genome-edited mushroom contains no foreign DNA integration in its genome, but rather small deletions in a specific gene.

According to Yang, the technology is promising for precision breeding of crops with desirable traits including low levels of food allergens or toxins, disease resistance, drought tolerance and efficient nitrogen and phosphorous utilization. Additionally, he believes it will favor food safety, quality and reduction of pesticide, fertilizer and water usage.

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