Friday, August 29, 2014

Study - When cooking chicken, too many use risky practices

A study in Food Protection Trends found that people cooking chicken 1) did not wash their hands before serving or after handling raw chicken, 2) did not properly wash their hands with some not using soap, 3) washed their chicken even though that creates a cross contamination risk,  4) did not use a thermometer, and 5) when a thermometer was used, the still undercooked it.

Surprising....unfortunately not.

Food Protection Trends - Sept / Oct 2014Chicken Preparation in the Home: An Observational Study
By Christine M. Bruhn


Poultry has been linked to foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp.
This study reports on observed handling behavior when 120 volunteers prepared chicken and salad in
their homes. A food safety attitudes and knowledge questionnaire was administered to volunteers after meal preparation had been video recorded. In the questionnaire, consumers stated that they were knowledgeable about safe-food handling and had heard of people becoming ill from eating chicken. 

The video recording, however, revealed that personal hygiene was insufficient, with 65% of meal
preparers not washing their hands prior to meal preparation, 40% not washing their hands after
handling raw chicken, and 45% washing the chicken prior to preparation. Hand-washing duration was less than 20 seconds, and in one-third of the handwashing events, soap was not used. Most people
judged thoroughness of cooking by appearance.

When chicken temperature was taken, 60% of the cooked chickens registered 165°F or above.
However, 39% of households stopped cooking even though the internal temperature of the poultry
registered below 165°F. These results suggest that educational messages should focus on thorough
washing of hands with soap, not washing chicken, and using a calibrated thermometer to determine
doneness. To increase consumer protection, the poultry industry should adopt additional approaches to reduce pathogen levels.

Study - 1/4 of Used Kitchen Hand Towels Analyzed Contained E. coli

A study on cleanliness of used handtowels published in Food Protection Trends shows that about 1/4 of the used hand towels collected from over 80 kitchens and analyzed had E. coli present. This is one of the primary reasons why dishes should be air dried instead of wipe dried.  The kitchen hand towel gets used over and over throughout the day, and people often forget what they used the towel to wipe last (insert butt joke here).  It is not uncommon for towels to be used for a number of days.  This not only provides more opportunity for introduction of bacteria, but allows for the growth of bacteria.  Leaving them air dry does not get rid of the bacteria. It is important that people change out towels throughout the day as they go from task to task.  Then the used towels should be collected to prevent reentry into the kitchen without first going into the wash.  When washing, hot water, detergent and bleach.
From the report:
"E. coli numbers also were related to the frequency of washing, with numbers on towels being lower the more often they were washed. Age of the towel and days since last time washed did not influence the concentration of any of the bacteria in the towels. The results suggest that E. coli is particularly easily removed during washing or requires an unusually long time to colonize and grow in the towels. Coliforms, E. coli and Salmonella can survive the drying of kitchen cleaning cloths and regrow if the cloth becomes soiled again (3)."
 Of course, not all E. coli are pathogens, but they are indicators of insanitary conditions, that is, show a high correlation to fecal contamination, and may indicate the potential for other pathogens to be present.
Food Protection Trends  Sept - Oct, 2014
Bacterial Occurrence in Kitchen Hand Towels
By Charles P. Gerba, Akrum H. Tamimi, Sherri Maxwell, Laura Y. Sifuentes, Douglas R. Hoffman and David W. Koenig
The common occurrence of enteric bacteria in kitchen sponges and dishcloths suggests that they can play a role in the cross-contamination of foods, fomites and hands by foodborne pathogens. This study investigated the occurrence of bacteria in kitchen towels often used to dry dishes, hands and other surfaces in the domestic kitchen. A total of 82 kitchen hand towels were collected from households in five major cities in the United States and Canada and the numbers of heterotrophic bacteria, coliform bacteria, and Escherichia coli in each towel were determined. In addition, identification of the enteric bacteria was performed on selected towels. Coliform bacteria were detected in 89.0% and E. coli in 25.6% of towels. The presence of E. coli was related to the frequency of washing.

Walnuts falling from tree result in spinach recall

A limited amount of spinach is being recalled due to the potential to be contaminated by an allergen, walnuts.  What is interesting in this is how the walnuts were found to have contaminated the product - they fell from the trees into spinach trucks/bins as the trucks/bins moved the spinach from the field to the processing facility.

FDA Recall Notice
Dole Fresh Vegetables Announces Allergy Alert and Voluntary Limited Recall of DOLE-branded Spinach Due to Possible Contamination by Walnuts

Contact: Consumer: 1-800-356-3111
Media: David Bright 1-818-874-4879

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 28, 2014 - Although no illnesses or allergic reactions have been reported, Dole Fresh Vegetables is initiating a limited voluntary recall of the following products:

This recall is due to possible contamination of these products by walnuts. The walnuts fell from a tree into spinach bins being delivered from a field and were discovered at the plant. No illnesses or allergic reactions have been reported. However, people who have an allergy to tree nuts may have a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products or products containing walnuts.

This recall is for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, for only DOLE Baby Spinach 6 oz bags and DOLE Spinach 8 oz bags with the specific Bag Codes and Best-by dates listed above. The bag code and best-by date are on the top right-hand corner of the front of the bag. Consumers who have purchased the designated products are instructed not to consume the product and to call the DOLE Consumer Center toll-free at 1-800-356-3111 from 8am to 3 pm Pacific Time, Monday through Friday, for a refund.

Food safety is the first priority of Dole Fresh Vegetables, so although the contamination is not confirmed, this recall is being initiated in an abundance of caution for the benefit of our customers.

Cyclospora outbreak linked to fresh cilantro

An outbreak of cyclospoa, primarily impacting Texas, has been linked to fresh cilantro from the Puebla area of Mexico .
Cyclospora is a single cell parasite that causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.  Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting food or water that was contaminated with feces from an infected individual.  Humans are the only known host (unlike other parasites that have other animals hosts).  It is not unlikely, however, to be passed from person-to-person, because it needs time (days to weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement (pooped) to become infectious for another person.
It is seen mainly in tropical or subtropical regions of the world but makes its way into the United States, via contaminated food, primarily imported fresh produce, or from people who travel to these areas.  The symptoms take about a week to show up, and it is in the form of watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. (Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted.) Some people who are infected can be asymptomatic (no symptoms).

Texas Department of State Health Services
News Updates
Cyclospora – August 28, 2014

The Cyclospora illness outbreak being investigated by DSHS and local health departments in Texas along with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration appears to have ended. The number of new illnesses being reported has returned to background levels, and the investigation has linked the cases in four restaurant clusters to cilantro imported from Puebla, Mexico.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Study - Analyzing Listeria Contamination in a Processing Plant Over Time

Listeria contamination within a processing facility if often an ongoing battle.  In a paper published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, researchers analyzed Listeria contamination over time in a cheese processing plant.  While they made progress in getting the Listeria contamination under control, they were never able to eliminate it.  In this study, they found that certain species of Listeria are well geared to establish themselves in the facility, making eradication impossible.

International Journal of Food Microbiology
L. monocytogenes in a cheese processing facility: Learning from contamination scenarios over three years of sampling

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tea Sweetened with Industrial Cleaner Results in Hospitalization

A woman was hospitalized after drinking ice tea that had industrial cleaner in it.  The cleaner had been accidently mixed into the sugar that was used to sweeten the tea.

Prevention of chemical contamination is handled through good standard operating procedures.
Keeping cleaning chemical separate from food and food ingredients.
Employee training in food preparation as well as in proper chemical handling.
Proper marking of all chemicals and ingredients.

Poor procedures or poor execution of procedures can result in catastrophe.  Unfortunately, many cleaning chemicals can look like food ingredients...basically white powders.  So proper labeling is critical.  As well as keeping hazardous cleaning chemicals in separate areas.

Unfortunately for this woman, she was the first to drink the tea.  Fortunate that she was the only one.

Standard Examiner
Police waiting as victim improves in ice tea poisoning case
Monday , August 18, 2014 - 11:00 AM

BRADY McCOMBS   The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who unknowingly drank iced tea laced with an industrial cleaning solution at a Utah restaurant has whispered and gotten out of bed, her lawyer said.

The progress marks the first sign of improvement for Jan Harding since the 67-year-old was rushed to a hospital nearly a week ago with severe burns to her mouth and throat, according to family attorney Paxton Guymon.

The heavy-duty cleaner that ended up in the sweetened iced tea Harding drank last Sunday at a Dickey’s Barbecue in a Salt Lake City suburb was unintentionally mixed into a bag of sugar, which a worker later added into the iced tea dispenser, authorities have said.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Woman's Home Soup Operation Shut Down

Virginia Department of Ag and Consumer Services (VDACS) shut down a woman who was making canned soup in own kitchen and selling them at a Farmers' Market.   While she had been making her soups for 30 years, she is not allowed to sell these types of products.

In the video report by the local news channel, you can see Denise's operation.  While she said she boils it, it is clear that she is using a pressure canner...thank goodness for that.  Regardless, there are reasons why we have strict regulations around the canning of low acid foods that will be sold.   My guess is that if we started looking at the various products making their way to farmers' markets, there will be plenty more issues.

VDACS News Release


Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

Food safety staff from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) warn consumers not to eat any canned soups or sauces made by Corfinio Foods of Richmond. These products were improperly processed, making them susceptible to contamination with Clostridium botulinum. Ingestion of botulism toxin from improperly processed jarred and canned foods may lead to serious illness and death.