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Europe’s Horse Meat Scandal Starts to Raise Food Safety Concerns

British authorities say an equine painkiller, potentially harmful to humans, may have entered the food chain in France. Officials emphasized that the drug — phenylbutazone, or bute, an anti-inflammatory used on lame horses — was found only in trace amounts in a small number of British horse carcasses. Still, the disclosure about the drug sparked worries even in countries like France, where eating horse meat is more acceptable than in Britain, where it is taboo. Bute can be used to treat arthritis in humans but very large doses can cause a potentially fatal blood disorder. The drug disclosure widened the horse meat scandal from a mislabeling concern to one of food safety and raised questions about Europe’s food supply chains. The New York Times, BBC News

U.S. judge approves Transocean deal with Justice Department to pay $400 million in criminal penalties.  Under the agreement,  which was reached last month and approved by the judge Thursday, Transocean also will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Transocean owned the rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded, killing 11 men and causing the U.S.’s worst offshore oil disaster. Transocean also has agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties. A different judge will decide whether to accept that part of the settlement. BP separately agreed to pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties and pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges. The Associated Press, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune

Republican governors of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina push offshore oil and gas exploration. The governors asked Sally Jewel, recently chosen by President Obama to be his next interior secretary, to open waters off their states’ coasts to energy exploration. In a letter, the governors asked Jewel to support their quest to “prudently take advantage of abundant off-shore resources.” They said energy production from the Atlantic’s outer continental shelf would create 140,000 jobs in the next 20 years. Waters off Virginia were in line for oil and gas exploration with the scheduled sale of leases in 2012. But, after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration delayed the lease sale until 2017. The Associated Press

Authorities say at least 124 people in 12 states have been sickened by salmonella infections from chicken. Officials said the tainted poultry appears to have come from a Foster Farms operation in Kelso, Wash. The infections of salmonella Heidelberg have been confirmed during the past eight months, and most of the cases have occurred in Washington and Oregon. About a third of those who became sick have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, and no recall has been announced. Most of the people who became ill reported eating chicken in the week before symptoms began. Separately, the Food and Drug Administration documented 552 food and beverage recalls in the fourth quarter of 2012, the highest number in two years. Food Safety News, NBC News, Food Business News

Workplace safety regulators cite Texas tortilla plant. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused Landes Foods of six  violations, including four repeat offenses, at its operation in Dallas. The charges included failing to monitor exposure to formaldehyde released while chips are being fried along with failing to provide “quick drench and eyewash facilities” for employees working with corrosive sanitation chemicals. OSHA said the violations, uncovered in an August inspection, were similar to problems found at the tortilla plant in May, 2010. OSHA proposed penalties of $129,500 for the latest citations. OSHA

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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