Friday, April 24, 2015

Fruit and Vegetable Juice Blends - Reviewing the Risks and Their Control

Juice blends, the mixing of juice from different fruits and vegetables, are growing in demand. But some processors may not realize there can be a risk of foodborne pathogens if that juice operation does not handle and process the fruits and vegetables properly. This goes for both when serving juice fresh without any processing treatment, or fresh juice receiving a processing treatment that serves to reduce/eliminate pathogenic microorganisms (a 5 log reduction). According to the Food Code, if a processor does not use a microbial reduction process, that product must be labeled as such. (Consumers should know the difference between these two, because the non treated juice does have a higher risk for foodborne illness, especially when that juice is low acid, and/or stored for any time rather than consumed immediately).

Low acid / high pH juices are the result of using a high proportion of low acid produce such vegetables, including spinach or kale, in the blend These low acid juices, as compared to the higher acid juices, are a bigger concern in that they better able to support the growth of pathogenic bacteria if present (as compared to more acidic juices like apple juice.) When these low acid receive a processing treatment, such as those processed by ultraviolet light (UV) or by high pressure processing, Clostridium botulinum is a risk.

What are the concerns related to juice:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Inventure is Recalling Frozen Vegetables and Juice Blends Due to Potential for Listeria Contamination

Inventure's Georgia facility is recalling fresh frozen vegetables and  smoothie kits after the company discovered Listeria in that Georgia processing facility.  There have been no reported illnesses to date.

While Listeria in smoothies can be a risk, specifically since the product is considered ready-to-eat.  The vegetables on the other hand, do have cooking instructions.  However, there is a risk if the consumer undercooks the product or if they use it in the preparation of vegetable juice blends.

The other interesting point is that this action is being taken for positive environmental sample, not a product sample testing positive.  There is no indication as to the location in the environment of the positive sample or whether product was actually tested.  Since two product lines were recalled, either these lines shared the same pieces of equipment, or there were more than one positive samples.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NY Company Recalls Fresh Cheese Due to High S. aureus Levels

 A New York Company is recalling a Queso Fresco or Fresh Cheese after the NY State Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services tested and found the product to have a high level of Staphylococcus aureus in the product.  While Staph aureus may be naturally present on our skin and in our nasal passages, it is can be an issue when in high levels in food products.  When S. aureus reaches high levels, it produces an enterotoxin that can cause serious vomiting.

How high is high?  Generally we don't expect to see any, but may see low levels, 10 cfu or less per gram, and up to 100/gram may be acceptable on fresh cheese.  So if one had to guess, the numbers here would probably be above this level.

FDA News Release
Contact:  Joe Morrissey 548-457-0752
Dave Bullard 315-487-7711 x 1377

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 20, 2015 — State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today warned consumers not to consume La Clarita Queseria Queso Fresco “Fresh Cheese” made by Queseria La Poblanita, Inc., 216 E. 117th St., New York, NY, 10035, due to possible Staphylococcus aureus contamination. To date, no illnesses are known by the Department of Agriculture and Markets to be associated with this product.

Spinach Recalled after Sample Tests Positive by Michigan Dept of Ag

Taylor Farms of Salinas CA is recalling institutional sized units of fresh spinach after the Michigan Department of Ag had a positive Salmonella result in a sample they tested.  No illnesses have been reported.

 Schnuck's issued a recall notice for their pasta salad because they used that spinach.

The Produce News
Taylor Farms recalls foodservice spinach in response to Michigan testing
by Joan Murphy | April 22, 2015

Salinas, CA-based Taylor Farms has notified foodservice companies of a spinach recall after Michigan inspectors detected pathogens in foodservice product during routine testing.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development’s Geagley Laboratory tested spinach that was pre-packaged and ready for institutional use and stored in a food warehouse facility as part of the state’s routine food-safety assurance program.

Over 20 Cases of Botulism with one death from Food at Church Potluck

One death and 23cases of botulism are being reported after the individuals ate at a church potluck in Lancaster. Ohio.

Antitoxin has been administered to the victims, which can reduce severity of the illness. 

The food has not yet been identified.

Botulism is the disease caused when the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is ingested.   The toxin is produced by the organism as it grows in a food. Generally we do not see many cases of this deadly disease, but it can be a risk when certain foods are not properly prepared. 
  • Improperly processed low acid canned foods like green beans that are not properly pressure canned and then those cans are stored on the shelf..  
  • Heated foods likes soups and stews when those foods are not properly cooled or are stored at the elevated temperatures (not refrigerated).
  • Vacuum packaged cooked foods that are not stored at the right temperature.
 Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming organism, and these spores can survive normal cooking.  If conditions are right, then the spores germinate and the organism grows in the food.  Conditions include a notorious food, warm to high temperatures, non-acidic pH, and low oxygen level.

The toxin is a neurotoxin and stops vital functions including breathing.

Columbus Dispatch
Botulism death tied to Lancaster church potluck
Wednesday April 22, 2015 9:33 AM 
One person has died and at least 20 others were hospitalized as of late last night with suspected botulism that health officials are linking to a potluck on Sunday at a Lancaster church.

Cooked Chicken Sausage Product Recalled Because of Plastic Pieces

A Massachusetts company is recalled cooked chicken sausage due to the potential to have small plastic pieces.  The recall was done after two consumer complaints were  received about small pieces of plastic.

Product was sold at Trader Joe's.

Surprisingly, this was labeled a Class 2 recall (This is a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product), versus a Class 3(This is a situation where the use of the product will not cause adverse health consequences).  Complaints of injury may be the reason, although not stated in the USDA release.  Perhaps this explains the reason for the necessity of a recall on such a few complaints.
USDA Recall Notice
Kayem Foods Recalls Sausage Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 066-2015
Health Risk: Low Apr 20, 2015
Congressional and Public Affairs  Alexandra Tarrant   (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 – Kayem Foods, a Chelsea, Mass., establishment, is recalling approximately 59,203 pounds of fully cooked chicken sausage products that may be contaminated with pieces of plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Salmonella Cases from Raw Tuna Sushi in CA

Raw tuna used in sushi has been linked to 25 cases of Salmonella infection with most of the cases occurring in California.

By regulation, fish sold to be used for sushi, must be frozen for a set period of time to get rid of parasites, but this will not destroy bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella.  To prevent this, processors must utilize good handling techniques including sanitation.

LA Times
Raw fish linked to Salmonella outbreak in California
April 20, 2015
 Public health officials say raw fish could be responsible for Salmonella outbreak in California. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
By Veronica Rocha contact the reporter

Raw tuna in sushi could be to blame for a Salmonella outbreak that has already sickened 25 people from California and elsewhere.