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    Thursday, 8 December 2016

    Hawaii Looking to Update Food Safety Regulations

    Following a spat of foodborne illness outbreaks, the state of Hawaii began a week of public hearings to discuss revisions to its food code. The batch of meetings commenced on Monday, 5 November, starting with state officials clearing a seaweed grower-shipper linked to the outbreak to resume operations.

    Hawaiian limu, or ogo, from Kahuku was identified as the source of the outbreak  - Img source: gendershecuisine
    As a result of the outbreaks, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) sent grower-shipper Marine Agrifuture LLC a cease and desist order to stop the sale and distribution of products Kahuku Ogo, Robusta Ogo, and Sea Asparagus originating from its Kahuku farm.

    Concerning the outbreak, the health department had this to offer in a news release made on 10 November: “The farm is located in Kahuku on Oahu. Reports of the Salmonella infections on Oahu were linked to consumption of ogo (or limu) and subsequently led to the investigation of Marine Agriculture LLC on Nov. 2 and 7.”

    Ogo, limu in Hawaiian, is a type of edible seaweed harvested and eaten on the islands. According to the news release, samples of Marine Agrifuture’s ogo product underwent testing as did the environmental and processing area. Salmonella bacteria were discovered in the packing and processing tanks in the farm.

    A follow-up test on 29 November detected no traces of remaining bacteria. Searching not only for residual bacteria, the test examined “the wells, all inlets to production ponds, and the growing and rinse tanks,” searching for salmonella and levels of indicator organisms – Enterococci and Clostridium perfringens – that would signal possible environmental contamination.”

    No less than 14 people on the island of Oahu were found to have Salmonella infections, confirmed by lab tests conducted in November. Those with the infection experienced diarrhoeal illness from mid- to late October with four requiring hospitalisation, according to Food Safety News.


    Hepatitis A Outbreak

    Seaweed contaminated with Salmonella might not be grounds for a re-examination of food safety codes, but a four-month Hepatitis A outbreak might be. Not long ago, frozen scallops were served raw in the Genki Sushi fast food chain. Originating from the Philippines, the scallops were responsible for infecting 292 persons with Hepatitis A as of the state health departments update on 30 November. Cases of the outbreak date back as far as 10 June with the latest case surfacing on 9 October.  

    While this particular instance was not mentioned in the proposed revisions, it has likely influenced the health department’s decision to improve food safety codes.

    The proposed changes can be reviewed here.

    Public hearings are scheduled to start at 2 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. for the following locations:
    • 6 December for the Island of Maui
    • 7 December for the Island of Hawaii-Hilo
    • 8 December for the Island of Hawaii-Kona
    • 9 December for the Island of Kauai


    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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