Friday, December 15, 2017

Canada - Public Health Notice Issued for Romaine Lettuce Due to E. coli Outbreak

In Canada, officials are investigating 30 E.coli O157 infections with one death and twelve hospitalizations.  They are linking this outbreak to romaine lettuce.  There is no more information at this time (chopped, whole, bagged, etc).  From the report, "Many individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before their illnesses occurred. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to."

Public Health Notice - Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce

Import Alert Concerning Imported Frozen Tuna Steaks With Hepatitis A

FDA issued an import alert for frozen tuna steaks from Vietnam and Indonesia.   According to the import notice - " FDA believes that Hepatitis A Virus contaminated seafood is a result of insanitary conditions in the production or packing facilities, e.g., poor worker hygiene, inadequate worker sanitation facilities, and/or contaminated water supply."

FDA Import Alert
Import Alert 16-137
Published Date: 12/13/2017
Type: DWPE
Import Alert Name:

Sliced Smoked Salmon Recalled after Listeria Positive Sample

A Massachusetts company is  recalling its 1lb. packages pre-sliced salmon because the product has  the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  This issue was identified after FDA product sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the product.

Slicers can be difficult to clean and can become a repository for Listeria if not properly cleaned....but can also be another source within the facility from the point when the salmon is removed from the smoking units to the point where it is packaged.  While slicer cleaning should be evaluated, so to should other potential point sources in the facility.
Springfield Smoked Fish Recalls Smoked Salmon Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 13, 2017

Federal Agencies Release Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for 2013

FDA and CDC released their inter-agency report for determining cases of foodborne illness attributed to food sources.  Please note - this data is from 2013.

December 2017

Noted from the report with comment.
  • Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods.  Salmonella illnesses were broadly attributed across multiple food categories. More than 75% of Salmonella illnesses were attributed to seven food categories: Seeded Vegetables (such as tomatoes), Eggs, Chicken, Other Produce (such as nuts), Pork, Beef, and Fruits.  [Many animals carry Salmonella and then this can contaminate produce and grain items through cross contamination probably originating with contamination from fecal deposits]
  • E. coli O157 illnesses were most often linked to Vegetable Row Crops (such as leafy greens) and Beef. More than 75% of illnesses were linked to these two categories.
  • Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were most often linked to Fruits and Dairy products. [Note that meat products are not mentioned here and much of this is due to the work of the meat industry which has conditions and products that are a lot more of a challenge.  I suspect that we will see FDA regulated facilities taking clues from the meat industry about Listeria control.]
  • More than 75% of illnesses were attributed to these two categories, but the rarity of Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks makes these estimates less reliable than those for other pathogens.
  • Non-Dairy Campylobacter illnesses were most often linked to Chicken [but the main source was raw milk.  Incredible to think about when you consider how few people actually drink raw milk]
  • Almost 80% of non-Dairy foodborne illnesses were attributed to Chicken, Other Seafood (such as shellfish), Seeded Vegetables, Vegetable Row Crops, and Other Meat/Poultry (such as lamb or duck). An attribution percentage for Dairy is not included because, among other reasons, most foodborne Campylobacter outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk, which is not widely consumed, and we think these over-represent Dairy as a source of Campylobacter illness. Removing Dairy illnesses from the calculations highlights important sources of illness from widely consumed foods, such as Chicken.
Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration: Release of a New Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for 2013
December 15, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cruise Ship Season is Here...What about Norovirus?

Planning to go on a cruise this year?  This past week, a Royal Caribbean ship, Ovation of the Sea, had 195 cases of gastrointestinal illness.  One of the largest cruise line ships, it was carrying 5800 people, and was at sea for 14 days off the coast of Australia.

Controlling illness on cruise ships is a challenge.  Over the past 4 years, there have been 10 or so ships that meet the conditions for reporting by CDC (CDC  Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships).  But in order to report by CDC, there is a cutoff  - "3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage."  So in the recent outbreak on the Ovation, it just made that mark at 3.3% on board ill.

This table shows the other cases in the last 6 months.

ABC News
Gastro outbreak on Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, almost 200 ill
By Natalie Whiting
Updated 5 Dec 2017, 2:04amTue 5 Dec 2017, 2:04am

France - Company Conducts International Recall of Baby Milk Product after 26 Ill from Salmonella

A French owned dairy conglomerate, Lactalis, is conducting an international recall of baby milk after there have been 26 reported cases of Salmonella infection. The cases have been reported since Dec 1.
 "The company said a possible source of the outbreak has been identified in a tower used to dry out the milk at a production site in May. Disinfection and cleaning measures have been put in place at the suspected site in western France." 

So did the cases come from product produced before the clean-out / disinfection, and if so, were those conditions sufficient to warrant retrieving product produced before that clean-out /disinfection?

ABC News / Associated Press
Baby milk maker orders global recall over salmonella fears
By The Associated Press
PARIS — Dec 11, 2017

Food Bank Recalls Donated Candy Product for Potential Chemical Contamination

A Kansas food bank / food pantry is recalling a donated candy product due to that it may be contaminated with a chemical substance.  There has been one reported illness so far.  Six cases of this product were received and distributed by the food bank network to potentially  10 counties.  The group also states that this may be an isolated incidence.

This points out a challenge that food banks have with donated food - numerous and varied sources of product.  Depending on a given food banks procedures, donated food can come from retail, food service or manufacturing.  Packaged foods will generally be regarded as distressed - beyond the stated sell-by-date, or will have a cosmetic packaging issue, or will have a quality issue.  They may have been stored or handled using less-than-ideal ways. Food bank receiving and evaluation procedures and documentation is also more difficult considering the numerous entry points into the system.
Harvesters Issues Safety Alert on Bibi Frutix Candy Possible Chemical Contamination
For Immediate Release
December 8, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Week Ending December 8

Beef Bouillon with Undeclared Milk - Creative Contract Packaging LLC is voluntarily recalling 4,412 cases, or 13,236 total pounds, of two code dates of HERB-OX® Beef Flavor Granulated Bouillon, due to the potential presence of an undeclared milk allergen.  The firm discovered the issue during a routine label review.

Almond Found in Chocolate Product - ALDI has voluntarily recalled Choceur Dark Chocolate Bars as a precautionary measure due to the potential presence of almond pieces not listed on packaging. The recall was initiated after an ALDI employee identified almond pieces in the product.
Creative Contract Packaging LLC Issues An Allergen Alert Regarding 4 Ounce Jars Of Herb-Ox® Beef Flavor Granulated Bouillon Due To Potential Presence Of Undeclared Milk
For Immediate Release
December 5, 2017

Sous Vide Cooking for Consumers - Recognizing the Risk

Sous vide cooking is gaining in popularity among consumers.  Sous vide is essentially cooking food in a sealed bag at low cooking temperatures (140F to 180F) for a long period of time. Cooking product at low temperatures in a sealed bag has advantages for flavor retention and tenderization. Unfortunately, there are some serious food safety issues that consumers may be unaware.

Food safety issues arise when the food is not adequately cooked, when cooled incorrectly, or when product is later held at incorrect temperatures.   The first concern is that the food will not reach high enough temperature to kill pathogenic vegetative cells like Salmonella or E. coli (STEC).  In traditional cooking, product is exposed to higher temperature and the center point then rises to meet that temperature.  Our standard endpoint cooking temperatures of 165F for 15 seconds for internal chicken temperature provides sufficient kill that we don't need to worry about Salmonella or Campylobacter.  With sous vide cooking, lower temperatures for longer times are used.  So the concern is that will there be sufficient heat to eliminate vegetative pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.  For traditional consumer cooking temperatures, we have ample scientific support. But for sous vide, while there is some scientific validation for commercial processing, there is less for consumer at-home cooking.  Generally people count on the direction provided by equipment manufacturers.  How valid are those directions?  And what about when people start to vary from those directions?  Perhaps they start with frozen chicken vs thawed chicken, or they decide to process at 148 instead of 155?

The other concern is cooling.  The temperatures used will not eliminate sporeforming pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum or Clostridium perfringes and so if product is not cooled quickly enough, or if product is left at room temperature for an extended time before consumption, these organisms will grow, especially in a vacuum sealed environment.  Commercial operations that use sous vide processing are required to have tight controls on cooling and refrigerated or frozen storage.  Will consumers do the same?  Fish is a particular concern because the risk of low-temperature growing Clostridium botulinum.

Photo courtesy of Zach Lampich

Consumer Reports
Sous Vide Tools That Up Your Game in the Kitchen

Consumer Reports put the Anova and Joule sous vide cookers to the test to find out if slower really is better