Thursday, August 7, 2014

Botulism Poisoning Cases Result from CA Company Processing Errors

A California company is recalling a number of jarred products after two people in Ohio were diagnosed with botulism poisoning.  Both individuals are improving after being on ventilation.  The FDA Notice (below) indicates the products may have been processing errors.

The Company, VR Green Farms, looks to be a vegetable farm that has expanded into numerous product offerings. http://vr-green-farms.myshopify.com/

Their website is not fully functioning, but you can get a sense from their LinkedIn site
Locally grown vegetables delivered within hours of harvest. No Herbicides or Pesticides used. VR Green Farms originated from an idea that was shared by our founder Nic Romano and Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club in San Clemente. Bella Collina provided the land and with the expertise and help from our sister farm in Bell Gardens, Nic transformed the land into a farm. Today VR Green Farms sells weekly vegetable baskets to the local community and wholesales our vegetables to local restaurants who have embraced the concept of buying fresh local produce. In addition we market honey, olive oil, cheese, bread and even eggs all from local sources
Many have predicted that with so many small entities entering the processed food arena, including through the farmers' market channel,  that it was only a matter of time before there would see processing deviations that would result in botulism cases.  Although FDA has strict regulations regarding canning foods that include requirements for registering of processes, training, testing, etc., many small entrepreneurs are either ignorant to these regulations, are incapable of implementing them, or choose not to follow.

You can walk through any farmers' market and see the vast array of jarred food items.  Are they acidified properly?  Have they received the proper thermal treatment?  Guarantee these are the same people fighting not to have to follow these 'restrictive government regulations'.  But trust us, there is a reason that that those regulations are in place.

Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming pathogen that produces one of the strongest toxins known.  The organism can survive boiling temperatures and if the jarred product does not have any barriers (low pH, preservatives, strict refrigeration), the organism will grow and produce toxin.  The toxin, a neurotoxin, travels into the bloodstream to the nerves and it stops neurotransmission to muscles. And so when one ingests this toxin and does not receive quick medical attention, they will die of suffocation.  A hell of a way to buy the farm, so to speak.

No doubt, this farm/company will also have a difficult road ahead, from an intensive investigation to lawsuits.  That is a huge price to pay for not making the effort to produce safe products (unless the product is not to blame, and it was found to be consumer practices.)

In any event, hopefully this will be the 'shot across the bow' for state and federal officials to begin focusing attention on this developing cottage industry.


Cleveland Plain Dealerhttp://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/08/two_ohio_cases_of_botulism_inv.html
Two Ohio cases of botulism investigated in connection with California jarred sauce recall
By Brie Zeltner, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer  
on August 04, 2014 at 2:39 PM, updated August 04, 2014 at 2:54 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Two people in Ohio have been hospitalized with botulism that public health officials suspect is connected to a nationwide recall of a California company's jarred sauces, according to the Cincinnati Health Department.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Symptoms include double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, and dry or sore throat, and may be followed by progressive descending paralysis. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry and poor muscle tone.

The two Ohio patients, both Cincinnati residents in their 20's, were each on ventilators at one point but are improving, according to the Cincinnati Health Department. One patient is still on a ventilator and was transferred last week to an acute long-term care facility, Dr. Steven Englender, director of the the department's Center for Public Health Preparedness said in an email. The other patient is breathing unassisted and "may have been discharged by now," he said.

Preliminary testing by the Cincinnati Health Department found evidence of Clostridium botulinum type B in a meal of pasta that contained the recalled pesto sauce. The lab is still awaiting confirmation of those results.

Foodborne botulism is often caused by failure to follow proper canning methods, and is more common in low acid foods, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn.

The current suspected cases are related to a California company's recall of jarred sauces and other food products. VR Green Farms of San Clemente, California, began a recall of the products late last week "because they may have been improperly produced," according to a news release.
View full sizeRecalled jarred sauceVR Green Farms

The recalled products include Pine Nut Basil Pesto, Pickled Farm Mix, Old World Tomato Sauce, Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Tuscan Grilling Sauce and Pasta Sauce. The products were sold under the VR Farms label and packaged in Mason-style glass jars with screw-on metal lids. The product labels do not include any coding or "use by" dates. Photos are available here.


The recalled products were sold at the VR Green Farms stand in San Clemente and via the Internet to consumers throughout the United States.

Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should discard them immediately. Double bag the cans in plastic bags and place in the trash. Do not recycle the cans. Wear gloves when handling these products or wash your hands with soap and running water.

If you think you've become ill from consuming a recalled product, see a doctor immediately.

If you see the product for sale, you should report the activity to the California Department of Health at 1-800-495-3232. You can also find more information about food safety from the FDA here, or by calling 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. eastern time.


FDA News Release

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm407542.htm

CDPH Warns Consumers Not to Eat VR Green Farms Jarred Food Products Because of Botulism Risk
Contact
Consumer:
(800) 495-3232

Media:
Anita Gore
(916) 440-7259

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 30, 2014 - California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman warned consumers today not to eat VR Green Farms jarred food products because they may have been improperly produced, 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. CDPH is coordinating with the US Food and Drug Administration and the Ohio Department of Health in the investigation of two cases of suspected food-borne botulism infections that may be associated with consumption of the firm’s Pine Nut Basil Pesto.

VR Green Farms of San Clemente, California, is voluntarily recalling the following varieties of jarred food products: Pine Nut Basil Pesto, Pickled Farm Mix, Old World Tomato Sauce, Sundried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Tuscan Grilling Sauce, and Pasta Sauce. These food products were sold under the VR Farms label and packaged in Mason-style glass jars with screw-on metal lids. The product labels do not include any coding or “use by” dates. Photographs can be found on Recalled Product Photos Page. The products were sold at the VR Green Farms stand in San Clemente, California and via the Internet to consumers throughout the United States.

Botulism toxin is odorless and colorless. Consumers who have any of these products or any foods made with these products should discard them immediately. Double bag the cans in plastic bags and place in a trash receptacle for non-recyclable trash. Wear gloves when handling these products or wash your hands with soap and running water.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The initial symptoms frequently experienced are double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, and dry or sore throat. Progressive descending paralysis, usually symmetrical, may follow. Infants with botulism appear lethargic, feed poorly, are constipated, have a weak cry and poor muscle tone. CDPH recommends consumers experiencing any ill effects after consuming these products should consult their health care provider. Consumers that observe the product being offered for sale should report the activity to CDPH at (800) 495-3232.

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