TAG Risk Matrix Shows Both Positive and Negative Trends

Food Safety & Public Health:

  • The FDA will hold its 2021 Retail Food Protection Seminar on September 13 – 16, 2021. Registration for the virtual event is free and open to all interested in retail food safety, including state, local, territorial, and tribal regulators, industry, and academia. Retail modernization is a priority in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint. FDA is exploring the best ways to further modernize and help ensure the safety of foods sold at restaurants and other retail establishments. Register now for free!
  • The EU is evaluating food irradiation rules due to the process being less used as “driven by industry and consumer fears […] The evaluation found the directives had been inefficient at ensuring a level playing field between EU and non-EU countries and, because of a labeling requirement, had affected businesses’ ability to use irradiation.” As in the U.S., right now irradiation is mostly used for “dried aromatic herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings.” However, as we know, irradiation is a safe and effective process to eliminate pathogens!
  • There are at least 6 foodborne outbreaks that the FDA is currently investigating. See the Table below.

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Recommendations for Industry

TAG Risk Matrix Shows Both Positive and Negative Trends

As TAG’s Risk Matrix shows this week, the U.S. is continuing to show high rates of COVID cases, but there are some encouraging signs in the slowing rate of transmissions.

The trends are following the trajectory that TAG has predicted – following a similar two-month trend as that of the UK, with Delta cases spiking, and now beginning to appear to decline in some states. On the positive side, there is some sign of flattening of the transmission rate across the US. However, we are also seeing the return to school having a negative impact, with more than 100,000 child COVID cases traceable to the schools. Whether this will affect workplaces is yet to be seen.

With all this, TAG continues to recommend that workplaces keep all the standard protections (vaccinations, masks, distancing, cleaning, etc.) in place, and consideration of testing may also be helpful at this time.

Table 1.

Figure 1.

Table 2.

Table 3.

In Case You Missed It

  • In Tuesday’s Recommendations for Industry, we discussed the natural immunity from the COVID-19 virus. Read more here.
  • COVID-19 outbreak in California school traced to unvaccinated teacher. Half of the elementary school students in an unvaccinated teacher’s classroom developed COVID-19 after the teacher — infected and symptomatic — worked for 2 days and read to the students while not wearing a mask, according to researchers. The exposures led to a larger outbreak at the California school in May that was associated with the delta variant, with many cases occurring among children not eligible for vaccination, illustrating a continued need for nonpharmaceutical prevention strategies during the pandemic, the researchers wrote in MMWR. (Article includes illustration)
  • Monoclonal antibody combination reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths by nearly 80%. Interim phase 3 data released by Brii Biosciences showed that the company’s monoclonal antibody combination therapy reduced the combined endpoint of COVID-19 hospitalizations and death by 78% in high-risk patients compared with placebo.
  • The U.S. has now topped 100,000 daily COVID-19 hospital cases; the last time numbers were this high was winter of 2020 (pre-vaccinations). In states like Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida, intensive care units have reached their capacities (both in hospital bed shortages and also healthcare worker shortages).
  • CIDRAP continues by reporting that the Delta variant poses double the hospital risk as the Alpha variant, in fact “[t]he chances of either hospitalization or emergency care within 14 days were 1.5 times higher in those infected with Delta.” Ultimately, the study, recently published in Lancet highlights, “outbreaks of the Delta variant in the unvaccinated could burden healthcare systems more than the Alpha strain.”
  • In Asia, COVID-19 continues to surge to its highest numbers in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.
  • A new COVID-19 variant has been discovered in South Africa (since May 2021); thus far, it is the most mutated strain found. This strain is now considered a variant of interest. There have only been 100 sequences that have been reported globally since May, so sequencing has not provided as much of an insight into what’s going on. However, certain mutations it carries are linked to “increased transmissibility and reduced neutralization” as well as “mutations that could impact neutralization and replication fitness.” Read more from CIDRAP and The Jerusalem Post.
  • The E.U. is proposing new travel restrictions for unvaccinated U.S. visitors. Other countries removed from the E.U.’s “safe list” include Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. All countries have had an increase in cases in the last 2 weeks.
  • Half of U.S. teens are partially vaccinated against COVID-19; while there has been a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, “the highest surges are in schools that have not followed the current guidelines and that data shows schools are more a reflection of the community landscape rather than propagator of more cases.”

Food Safety & Public Health