Monday, September 22, 2014

Allergen Labeling Issue Results in Candy Recall

Mars is recalling M&M product after it was discovered the pre-labeled outside box did not have the proper allergen label...that is, the product itself had an allergen not claimed on the outer box label.
One could sense the issue in this case because of a timing issue.  The product had a primary package (which had the right label), and then was place in a secondary package (the box which was incorrect) and these two could have been brought together at a later time...where there may have been less scrutiny.

Allergen mislabeling continues to be one of the primary reasons for recalls.  Many companies have made labeling a critical check point to ensure that the label matches the product in the container.  In this case, it is important that the system follow that product through all label additions.

PR Newswire

Mars Chocolate North America Issues Allergy Alert Voluntary Recall On Undeclared Peanut Butter In M&M's® Brand Milk Chocolate Theater Box

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., Sept. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Mars Chocolate North America announced a voluntary recall of its M&M'S® Brand Theater Box 3.40 oz UPC #40000294764 with the following lot numbers:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Changes to FSMA Rule on Preventive Controls - Product Testing, Environmental Monitoring, and Supplier Control

FDA rolled out its revised FSMA Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Foods and is allowing 75 days for comment. Part of the revisions focus on who has to comply and when (there is a broader exemption for farms is made as the defining of a small company), however probably the most important part of this is the inclusion of language on product testing environmental monitoring, and supplier control. While there is not an absolute requirement for all to have these programs in place, there is now language to say when it is required and what will be required.

 In general, if a facility says that they are controlling or verifying control of potential hazards by one of these programs, (programs traditionally termed as prerequisite programs), then that facility must have formalized programs. Below, I have clipped those sections from the proposed regulation for easier reference.

Product Testing and Environmental Monitoring - these are included in the Verification and Corrective Action sections. (117.165 and 117.150 below) Formalized programs will be needed when you are using these programs for verification of control. For example, if you have identified Listeria as a post process contaminate in an RTE food, then a program specific to that pathogen must be developed including written procedures, sampling locations within the facility, testing protocols, and identification of the laboratory conducting the testing.

Supplier Control (117.136) – The receiving company “must establish and implement a risk-based supplier program for those raw materials and ingredients for which the receiving facility has identified a significant hazard when the hazard is controlled before receipt of the raw material or ingredient.” There is a list of requirements as to what must be done including the need for on-site audits.
It would be worth reviewing the sections below.

FSMA Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food

 Based on FDA’s outreach efforts and public comments, the FDA is proposing revisions to its proposed rule on preventive controls for human food that are more flexible and less burdensome in key areas.


FDA is accepting comments for 75 days after the publication date. The FDA published the original proposed rule on January 16, 2013, and the comment period rule closed on November 22, 2013; no additional comments are being accepted on the originally proposed rule.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Study: Authenticity Trumps Food Safety? Is it a Case of Risk Analysis?

In a study to be published in the journal, Management Science, researchers concluded that people are willing to forgo the results of a poor hygiene inspection of a restaurant if they view that restaurant as authentic. 

The research originated to explain cases where Chinese restaurants, flagged for unhygienic practices such as hanging ducks at room temperature, were still held in high regard by patrons.  In fact, California law was changed to allow 'Chinese-style roast'.

Surprising?  Not really.  We see this with many traditional foods, especially where the science is broadly applied to a category of food, but there is little anecdotal evidence to support the fact that products are safe or not safe.  In this research paper, the authors describe conflicting based on law and another based upon tradition.  To me, it is a risk decision...certainly a bad inspection report gives one the idea that risk may be there, but people will also bring in their own knowledge of associated risk...has there been any outbreaks associated with 'hanging chickens'?  Haven't Chinese restaurants been hanging chickens for thousands of years?

We see this with canned foods where people will can foods using traditional methods...such as using a boiling water bath to can meat (instead of using a pressure canner).  Their mothers and grandmothers did it this way with no issue, thus there is no risk.  Perhaps those people have not been exposed to the data on the cases of botulism that regularly occur each year and thus do not know the real risk.  (The likelihood of occurrence may be low, but the severity is high).

And conversely, where there is an over emphasis on the risk of something, especially when mass media spins a given item, people are willing to view something as risky where there is no scientific support.  So in this example, these same people will get inundated with information on the supposed dangers related to pesticides in food (which represents a smaller risk, based upon USDA testing compared to risk of botulism when improperly canning meat), and go to greater lengths to avoid commercially grown produce.

With the hanging chickens, there is probably a lower risk with this specific application in that spoilage organisms outcompete pathogens on the bird, and then provided the bird is properly cooked, there is little risk.  However, law is written to take a broad range of applications into account.  It is hard to write laws specific to every application.

Management Science
Conflicting Social Codes and Organizations: Hygiene and Authenticity in Consumer Evaluations of Restaurants

David W. Lehman
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904,
Balázs Kovács
University of Lugano, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland,
Glenn R. Carroll
Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305,

Organization theory highlights the spread of norms of rationality in contemporary life. Yet rationality does not always spread without friction; individuals often act based on other beliefs and norms. We explore this problem in the context of restaurants and diners. We argue that consumers potentially apply either of two social codes when forming value judgments about restaurants: (1) an apparently rational science-based code of hygiene involving compliance with local health regulations or (2) a context-activated code of authenticity involving conformity to cultural norms. We propose that violations of the hygiene code recede in importance when the authenticity code is activated. This claim is supported by empirical analyses of 442,086 online consumer reviews and 52,740 governmental health inspections conducted from 2004 to 2011.

Keywords: organizations; institutions; social codes; authenticity; regulatory noncompliance; consumer value ratings; restaurants; health grades

History: Received March 1, 2013; accepted December 10, 2013, by Gérard P. Cachon, organizations. Published online in Articles in Advance.

Black Pepper in 3.53 oz Jars Recalled after FDA Testing Finds Positive Salmonella Sample

A NJ based company, Gel Spice, is recalling black pepper, packaged in 3.53 oz containers, after FDA routine testing found a sample positive for Salmonella.  The product was sold through Big Lots.  There have been no reported illnesses.

FDA appears to be evaluating spice products heavily since they issued their spice risk assessment in November of 2013.  We have also seen a number of recalls in produce for Listeria and Salmonella which would indicate a focus on those products in light of the Listeria outbreak in cantaloupes.  This is where we come back to fact that companies need to consider a pathogen testing program if their product is viewed as having risk for a given pathogen.  A program does not mean end product testing exclusively, but rather compressive program that takes into account raw material, environmental, in-process and finished product testing with an eye on risk reduction.

Gel Spice is a value provider of spices for industrial, foodservice, and consumer ( Brands - Spice Supreme, Spice Time, Spice Select, Chef's Select, Gel, Spice Pride, and various private label products in the grocery, drug, and discount chains).

Market Watch / PRNewswire

Gel Spice Company, Inc. Issues a Voluntary Recall of Fresh Finds brand Ground Black Pepper, 3.53 oz (100 g), due to Possible Salmonella Risk Published: Sept 15, 2014 9:30 p.m. ET

BAYONNE, N.J., Sept. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gel Spice Company, Inc., of Bayonne, NJ, is issuing a voluntary recall notice for 16,443 cases of Fresh Finds-Ground Black Pepper, 3.53 oz, plastic jars, because it has the possibility to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Roma tomatoes recalled after positive Salmonella test

Expo Fresh is recalling one lot of roma tomatoes after routine FDA testing yielded a positive Salmonella result.  No illnesses have been reported.

Taylor Farms received those tomatoes and then issued a recall for tomatoes and salads made with tomatoes. used those tomatoes in salad kits packed on two dates and were shipped on the west coast.    Two other companies, Royal Food Service and UU Foods also used the roma tomatoes and both issued notice.

The Packer

Expo Fresh, Taylor Farms recall roma tomatoes
09/15/2014 10:27:00 AM
Coral Beach 

Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego, is voluntarily recalling roma tomatoes because of potential salmonella contamination discovered during a routine sampling by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although no recall notice had been posted on the FDA website, Robert Schachtel, sales manager at Expo Fresh, said on Sept. 15 that the company notified all of its customers who received roma tomatoes from the single implicated lot: No. 23914-214.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the implicated roma tomatoes, Schachtel said. He referred additional questions to the company’s attorney, who was not immediately available.

Among those receiving the recalled roma tomatoes were Taylor Farms, Salinas, Calif., which issued a recall on Sept. 13 for the tomatoes and salads containing them. The recall is not posted on the Taylor Farms website and company officials were not immediately available for comment early Sept. 15.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Organic Rice Milk Snacks (?) Recalled Due to Potential Choking Risk

Plum Organics is recalling Organic Rice Milk Snacks after it was found that the snack did not soften fast enough, and thus constituted a choking hazard for small children.

 Not knowing what a rice milk snack is, thought it was worth a look.
Easy to see how this could be a choking hazard.

According to the website "Little Crèmes, a line of colorful bite-sized rice milk snacks made of real fruit & veggie blends that are perfect for tactile development and the introduction of new tastes and textures. A non-dairy alternative for sensitive bellies, each bite is a mix of pure flavors with creamy organic rice milk to create the perfect meltable, freeze-dried snack"

I guess snacks are important for tactile development?  As long as it stays in the hands and out of their throats.

I remember my mom gave my younger brothers Zwieback Toast.  Looks safer.  Not Organic, if that matters.  Way messy, at least the way my brother ate them.

FDA Recall Notice
Plum Organics Voluntarily Recalls Little Crèmes Organic Rice Milk Snacks Due to Potential Choking Hazard

Contact  Consumer:  (866) 535-3774
 Media:  Anna Burr  203-939-5261

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 5, 2014 - Plum Organics is voluntarily recalling its Little Crèmes organic rice milk snacks line after it was found that the product has the potential to cause choking. The small, bite-sized snack pieces are made to soften in a child’s mouth in less than 20 seconds making them easy to swallow. Some pieces were found to take significantly longer than this, creating a potential choking hazard, particularly for babies and very young children.

Small WA State Business Recalls Sauce in Jars Due to Improper Processing

A small, entrepreneur-type company is recalling pasta sauce after the Washington State Department of Ag found that the pH of a batch may be too high, and thus constituted a Clostridium botulinum risk.

There have been a few similar cases recently (NC Soup, CA Pesto Sauce) where small businesses have produced jarred products were determined to be Clostridium botulinum issues.  When processing these types of products,  FDA has set regulations and guidance that must be followed.

Certainly, this can be a lot for a small business to comply.  In this case, it is a one woman operation with 'the Sauce Lady' (story below) producing 100 jars of sauce per week.  The retired teacher, now food entrepreneur, has been this for close to 20 years.  But the downside of non-compliance can be severe, especially when that product results in botulism.

With the growing number of Farmers' Markets across the country, there are an increasing number of these type of products being sold by start-up companies.  It is important that they understand the risks and comply with established protocols for producing further-processed products that are jarred, or vacuum packed, etc.

FDA Recall Notice
Tullia's Recalls Sauce Because of Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer:  509-879-0325
 Media:  Marco Barbanti  509-879-0325

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 8, 2014 - Tullia's is recalling Italian Meatless Pasta Sauce code 530140. This recall has been initiated because a records review by the Washington State Department of Agriculture revealed that one batch of sauce produced with the 530140 code had a pH level high enough to allow the growth of Clostridium botulinum. If present, this organism can cause botulism, a serious and potentially fatal foodborne illness.