Thursday, May 31, 2012

USDA Program Report indicates that pesticides on food are not a risk in US Food Supply

In a report on USDA’s monitoring program for pesticide residues in food, USDA states that pesticides do not pose a safety concern in foods. Pesticide usage is actively controlled by EPA, FDA and USDA. 

USDA Releases 2010 Annual Summary for Pesticide Data ProgramReport confirms that U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2012 -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted data from the 2010 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary. This information, along with an explanatory guide for consumers, can be found at The 2010 PDP report confirms that food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.

In May of 1991, USDA initiated the PDP to test commodities in the U.S. food supply for pesticide residues. Since passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), one of PDP’s focuses has been on testing foods that are most likely consumed by infants and children. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on selected foods. In implementing the FQPA, the EPA uses data from the PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2010, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, oats, eggs, catfish, baby food, groundwater, and treated and untreated drinking water. Similar to previous years, the 2010 report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the EPA. The report does show that residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.25 percent of the samples tested. For baby food – included for the first time in this report – the data showed that no residues were found that exceeded the tolerance levels. Some residues were found with no established tolerance levels but the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern.

Statement from EPA:
“The data confirms EPA’s success in phasing- out pesticides used in children’s food for safer pesticides and pest control techniques. The very small amounts of pesticide residues found in the baby food samples were well below levels that are harmful to children.”

Statement from FDA:
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration assesses whether pesticide chemical residues found on food may be unlawful under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and determines if followup is necessary under its own regulatory pesticide program. FDA is able to conduct its own tests, interpret the reported violations, and determine if additional testing is needed in order to take enforcement action, as appropriate. Based on the PDP data from this report, parents and caregivers can continue to feed infants their regular baby foods without being concerned about the possible presence of unlawful pesticide chemical residues.”

Statement from USDA:
“Age-old advice remains the same: eat more fruits and vegetables and wash them before you do so. Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet. This message is affirmed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released last year, in USDA’s My Plate, as well as federal nutrition guidance that urges people to make half their plate fruits and vegetables.”

Since its inception, the program has tested 105 commodities including fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, grains, catfish, rice, specialty products, and water. The data is a valuable tool for consumers, food producers and processors, chemical manufacturers, environmental interest groups, and food safety organizations. 

The findings of the Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2010 can be downloaded at Printed copies of it will be available later this year and can be obtained by writing to the Monitoring Programs Division, Science and Technology, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, 8609 Sudley Rd., Suite 206, Manassas, VA 20110; by faxing (703) 369-0678; by calling (703) 330-2300, Ext. 110; or by submitting an e-mail request to

'Meat glue' issue involves wide misunderstanding, expert contends

Penn State's Dr. Ed Mills on that which is called 'meat glue'.

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Products called 'meat glue' commonly are used to connect pieces of fresh meat to make more uniform, attractive servings.
Products called 'meat glue' commonly are used to connect pieces of fresh meat to make more uniform, attractive servings.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The sticking point when it comes to the current furor over the use of products given the unappetizing name "meat glue" by critics of the food industry, is labeling, according to a meat expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Operators of meat-processing plants, out of necessity, adhere to a strict policy of accuracy when it comes to listing ingredients in products, said Edward Mills, associate professor of dairy and animal science. In facilities inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, truth in labeling is very serious business.
"In the current jargon, what is being called 'meat glue' is not a processing aide, but is an ingredient," said Mills, who teaches food science courses on the science and technology of meat, poultry and seafood. "If enzymes are used as binding agents, they must be listed on the label."
He explained that in a USDA-inspected plant, the labeling is reviewed by a government inspector, and the operator is not likely to risk being charged with fraudulent labeling. "The operator could face not only a product recall or having his plant shut down, but he could go to jail if he intentionally omitted ingredients from a label."
"Meat glues" -- generally two different products known by the trade names Activa or Fibrimex -- commonly are used to connect pieces of fresh meat to make more uniform, attractive servings. Activa, Mills said, is a white powder form of a natural protein cross-linking enzyme called transglutaminase.
The transglutaminase enzyme is found naturally in many biological systems, including the human body. The commercial form of transglutaminase, marketed as Activa, is derived from a microorganism. Fibrimex is a natural protein cross-linking system derived from pig or beef blood. Its natural function is to coagulate or clot blood in response to injury.
"In theory, you could use this stuff to reassemble any pieces of meat into a larger piece," he said. "But the reality is that there are only certain products where it is economically feasible to use it because it is fairly expensive. What is being called 'meat glue' largely is being used to make portion-controlled, fresh-meat cuts."
As examples, he cited the binding of beef or pork tenderloins. Because these pieces of meat have irregular shapes, connecting two together results in cuts yielding slices that are more uniform and attractive.
"One use that has found pretty wide acceptance is the making of what we call restructured or reformed filet mignon," Mills said. "A tenderloin at one end is large and round but tapers to a wide, flat shape. So what is done with some frequency is to take to two tenderloins, turn one around and apply Activa powder to the surface.
"Then the two cuts are put together, wrapped with plastic for few hours or overnight until the transglutaminase enzyme in Activa forms cross-links between the two protein surfaces. The result is a long cylinder of tenderloin that is the same dimension and shape from one end to the other -- yielding nice round slices of filet mignon."
Mills noted that a similar process is conducted with turkey breasts, which are notoriously irregular in shape. Generally these products are being sold in the restaurant, food-service and institutional markets, where uniformity of shape is very important, he said.
But meat glue is not used in boneless hams or most cold cuts, Mills stressed. Reports that meat glue is found in up to a third of products such as bologna and luncheon meats are wildly inaccurate, he contended.
"There are many restructured meat products available on the market, but the vast majority are formed using the natural tendency of the muscle to re-adhere due to protein coagulation upon cooking," he said.
"So essentially all boneless hams -- which are restructured products that consist of meat pieces bound together -- don't include meat glue, but rather salt-soluble protein as a binding agent that is extracted from the meat surface during a process called massaging, or tumbling."
There is one aspect of the debate about meat glue and restructured meats that Mills suggests is important for consumers to understand, and that is adequate cooking. Restructured meats should be cooked thoroughly -- like hamburgers and not like steaks -- which makes it critical that cooks and chefs read the labels and know the difference.
"When a meat such as filet mignon is reassembled or reformed -- when part of the surface becomes the center -- microorganisms are trapped inside," he said. "So it is really important that you be aware of what you're cooking and cook it appropriately."
Mills advises against cooking restructured meats to a very rare degree of doneness. He said such products still may be cooked to medium-rare (defined by USDA as 145 degrees Fahrenheit) safely, but they must be held at that temperature for four minutes before serving.
"When a chef or cook chooses to use restructured, fresh-meat cuts, he or she should adjust cooking procedures and make sure that others in the kitchen are aware of those changes to avoid the risk of foodborne infection," he said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuna exposed to radioactive contamination detected

By now, you have seen the reports that tuna exposed to radioactive debris from the Japan nuclear disaster, have migrated across the ocean to California.

Unfortunately, you might think it is much worse if you just read a headline, such as this one from a blog on the Wall Street Journal website: Swimming to a Sushi Shop Near You: Radioactive Tuna? (
But most all agree, including the authors of the study, that the levels of radioactivity pose little risk.

From Madigan, etal (2012) Pacific bluefin tuna transport Fukushima-derived radionuclides from Japan to California, PNAS (

“Radiocesium concentrations of post-Fukushima PBFT reported here were more than an order of magnitude below the recently changed Japanese safety limit of 100 Bq kg−1 wet wt (about 400 Bq kg−1 dry wt)….
Thus, even though 2011 PBFT [post reactor exposed fish] showed a 10-fold increase in radiocesium concentrations, 134Cs and 137Cs would still likely provide low doses of radioactivity relative to naturally occurring radionuclides, particularly 210Po and 40K.”

 Clearly, scientists will continue to monitor seafood including a larger study this summer. But this is no reason to stop eating tuna.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Avoid outdoor cooking mistakes that can make people sick

Friday, May 25, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- This time of year marks the migration of dining to the great outdoors -- truly summer grilling and picnicking remain a great American passion. But do it wisely, urges a food-safety expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, and avoid common mistakes that make people sick every year. Whether you are just cooking burgers on the grill or laying out an elaborate picnic spread, preparing and eating food outdoors can present opportunities for foodborne illness to spread, said Martin Bucknavage, Penn State extension food-safety specialist.

"If you are not careful handling and preparing food outside, you can make a mistake that might result in people getting sick," he said. "Just taking a few simple precautions will insure that you, your family and guests have a great outdoor dining experience."

Bucknavage cited a few common errors people make:

--Not using a thermometer to check if foods are properly cooked. "The most reliable way to see if a hamburger or piece of chicken is cooked is to use a thermometer," he said. "Unfortunately, folks often rely on color to see if a burger is done, and this will not work.

"Each year, people get infected by E. coli or Salmonella because the food was not cooked to a temperature that kills these organisms."

First, buy a good digital thermometer. Then insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to determine if it has reached the proper temperature. For hamburgers, cook to an internal temperature of at least 160 F; for chicken or other poultry, such as turkey, cook to an internal temperature of at least 165 F.

--Not keeping food cold. When you go on a picnic, be sure to keep perishable foods cold, including sandwiches, sliced tomatoes, cut lettuce and sliced melons. When it is 80 or 90 degrees outside, bacteria can grow very rapidly. Put all perishable foods in a cooler with ice packs or bags of ice.

"Staphylococcus aureus is one organism, if present, that will grow and produce a toxin causing you to become extremely ill," Bucknavage explained. "By keeping foods at a temperature below 40 F, we can minimize potential issues."

--Not keeping raw and cooked foods separate. This one is vital but is often overlooked, Bucknavage warned. When packing a cooler, it is important to keep raw foods -- especially raw meats -- in a separate cooler from ready-to-eat foods (foods that will be eaten without any further cooking).

"Too often, we try to pack everything in one cooler, and the juices from the raw meats leak onto fruits, cans of soda or buns," he said. "These raw meat juices often contain pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, and can cause infection when you consume foods or beverages that have become contaminated."

Along with this, keep utensils that have been used to handle raw meats separate from those used for ready-to-eat foods.

--Not properly washing hands. "This one sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed at how often hands are a source of contamination in outdoor food preparation -- if only because it is sometimes difficult to find a place to thoroughly wash them using soap," Bucknavage said.

If you directly handle raw meats, or if your hands touch unclean surfaces, you must wash them before touching other foods or utensils. "So, be sure to have a means for washing hands if they become soiled, especially from handling raw meats," he said. "If away from home, have a source of water available along with some soap. And don't just count on antiseptic wipes."

While wipes can help, they cannot be counted on solely to remove the material that can harbor bacteria.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bags of Organic Baby Spinach Recalled due to Salmonella Positive Test

Bags of organic baby spinach produced in California are being recalled due to a positive test result for Salmonella. The test was conducted by US Department of Ag. There are no known illnesses at this point. Product was packed under tow different brands and those shipped to over 20 states.

Interesting, the packer of the spinach, Taylor Farms, was the pioneer of Smartwash.
Smartwash, a produce washing system, was developed to reduce the level of pathogenic bacteria that can become associated with produce such as spinach in the field (think birds).  There is an original formula and an organic formula.

Salmonella test leads to Taylor Farms spinach recall
The Packer 05/23/2012 9:26:49 AM
Mike Hornick

Taylor Farms Retail Inc. is voluntarily recalling organic baby spinach after a random sample tested positive for salmonella by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The product appeared in 5-ounce clamshells under the Private Selection label and 10-ounce clamshells with the Marketside label. Best-by dates are May 25, according to a news release.

No illnesses have been reported. The recalled items shipped from Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms Retail Inc., on May 9 and May 10, according to the release.

The brands are private labels: Wal-Mart has Marketside and Kroger Co. has Private Selection.

The Private Selection product was distributed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The UPC numbers are 0-11110-91128-5; package codes are TFRS 130B 1503 KT34 and TFRS 130B 1803 KT34.

The Marketside product was distributed in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The Universal Produce Code is 6-8113132900-2; the package code is TFRS 130B16.

The company is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration and California Department of Public Health on the recall, according to the release

FDA Recall – Firm Press Release

Salinas Firm Initiates A Voluntary Recall Because Of Possible Health Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 22, 2012 - Taylor Farms Retail, Inc. is initiating a voluntary recall of Organic Baby Spinach with the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella following a random test conducted on a finished package of spinach by USDA.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may experience fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), and abdominal pain. In rare cases the organism can get into the bloodstream and cause more serious complications.

The items subject to the recall include:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pet treats linked to illness in dogs?

In an MSNBC report, 1,000 dogs have become sickened by jerky pet treats made in China. Numerous other news outlets have written reports based upon the MSNBC report (USA Today news release below). At this point there are no associated recalls.

Of course, it is best to go to the original source, which is the FDA report. FDA indicates that extensive testing was done on these treats, but they have not found anything associated with these products that could cause illness to this point. Upon further reading of the FDA news release, one may get the sense that an issue may be related to overfeeding a protein dense product such as jerky. Think about it, if you ate enough jerky to constitute a high proportion of your daily food intake, your kidneys and liver would be getting a serious workout, and after a few days, you would be in a serious world of hurt. And like many dog owners, including myself, we have a tendency (or need) to give our dogs that extra treat, or two, or three…….

While FDA continues to analyze products (and perhaps something will show up), it is important to follow the FDA recommendations (below).


Questions and Answers Regarding Chicken Jerky Treats from China
 Why did FDA issue a cautionary update in November 2011?In 2011, FDA saw an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China.
FDA previously issued a cautionary warning regarding chicken jerky products to consumers in September 2007 and a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December of 2008. The number of complaints being received dropped off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010. However in 2011, FDA once again started seeing the number of complaints rise to the levels of concern that prompted release of our earlier warnings.
Since the issuance of the CVM Update on November 18, 2011, the agency has received numerous additional complaints regarding chicken jerky products.
What are the products involved?The cautionary update specifically refers to chicken jerky products that are imported from China. These dried chicken jerky products, intended for dogs, may also be sold as tenders, strips or treats.
What are the signs of illness that are being reported?The signs that may be associated with chicken jerky products include decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination. These signs may occur within hours to days of feeding the products.
Laboratory tests may indicate kidney problems, including Fanconi-like syndrome. Although many dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

FDA continues to investigate the problem and its origin. Some of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky.
What is FDA testing for?Since 2007, FDA has been actively investigating the cause of illness in pets reported in association with the consumption of chicken jerky products. Samples have been tested by FDA laboratories, by the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (Vet-LRN), and by other animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S for multiple chemical and microbiological contaminants.

Product samples were tested for Salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine and related triazines) and were screened for other chemicals and poisonous compounds. DNA verification was conducted on these samples to confirm the presence of poultry in the treats. Samples have also been submitted for nutritional composition (which includes glycerol concentrations), vitamin D excess and enterotoxin analysis. Some samples from recent cases (2011-2012) have been submitted for multiple tests and we are awaiting results. More samples are in the process of being collected for testing.
What are the results of testing?Samples collected from all over the United States have been tested for a wide variety of substances and to date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses.
Has there been any indication that metal contamination in chicken jerky products may be the cause of illness in dogs?FDA’s previous testing of chicken jerky product samples did not show toxic levels of metals. In addition, results from March 2012 toxic metal analyses, which included tests for heavy metals, have again shown samples of chicken jerky products to be negative for toxic metals.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A metal bristle from a grill brush, an example of a metal hazard

As reported by CBS News New York, a man swallowed a metal bristle and caused a severe laceration of his intestine. The bristle, off the grill cleaning brush, had become embedded in the steak and was unknowingly swallowed as the man ate his steak. As it moved through the intestine, it pierced the intestine, leading to a life threatening infection.

When evaluating hazards in food, there is a tendency to minimize the seriousness of metal hazards. This is a great example of how a piece of metal can be missed during chewing as well the type of damage it can cause.

New Jersey Man Recovering After Eating Metallic Bristle From Grill Brush

RIVER EDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Think twice before you put the metal to the barbeque this grilling season.

A New Jersey man’s brush with death last week was apparently due to a grilling tool.

Michael DeStafan went to
Hackensack University Medical Center thinking he had appendicitis after experiencing excruciating pain in his stomach.

Doctors conducted tests and found a 1 ½-inch-long metallic object had pierced the 54-year-old’s large intestine.  Doctors thought he had swallowed a nail, fish hook or paper.

DeStafan’s wife figured out one of the metal bristles on his grill brush broke off, got stuck to the grill grate and embedded itself in the shell steak her husband had cooked and eaten days before visiting the hospital.

Doctors performed emergency surgery to remove the wire and repair the hole that it made in DeStefan’s large intestine.

“”There was an infection, they just didn’t know how big the infection was, or how much of a hole it had torn inside my intestines, and they didn’t know that until they went in,” DeStafan said. “When I went under he told me I have to do this immediately, because we don’t know what we’re going to find, and there’s a chance that you might not make it.”

DeStafan is hoping his brush with death serves as a warning to others.

“I hope no one will have to go through that,” DeStafan said. “I want people to be aware of the fact that something as simple and innocent as going outside and grilling steaks and hamburgers for your family and friends could potentially be life-threatening.”

The Record reports half a dozen similar cases have been documented in Rhode Island.

DeStafan has since ditched the brush and instead uses a stone to clean the grill.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Update on Salmonella in Ground Tuna

 As of 5/17/12, there are now 316 reported Salmonella infections linked to raw ground tuna product.  The number of states where illnesses have occurred indicate how widespread the contamination must have been within the lots of product produced.  In other words, this was not a one time contamination event for the food processor.

Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Bareilly and Salmonella Nchanga Infections Associated with a Raw Scraped Ground Tuna ProductCDC News Relase Posted May 17, 2012 2:00 PM ET

Raw Scraped Ground Tuna

May 17, 2012Case Count Update

A total of 316 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Bareilly or Salmonella Nchanga have been reported from 26 states and the District of Columbia. The 58 new cases are from Alabama (1), California (2), Colorado (1), Georgia (3), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Louisiana (1), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (6), New Jersey (1), New York (10), North Carolina (6), Pennsylvania (5), Tennessee (2), Texas (3), Virginia (6), and Wisconsin (3).

Three hundred and four persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly have been reported from 26 states and the District of Columbia. The number of ill persons with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (3), Arkansas (1), California (4), Colorado (1), Connecticut (9), District of Columbia (2), Florida (1), Georgia (13), Illinois (27), Indiana (1), Louisiana (4), Maryland (27), Massachusetts (33), Mississippi (2), Missouri (4), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (26), New York (48), North Carolina (10), Pennsylvania (25), Rhode Island (6), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (4), Texas (7), Virginia (22), Vermont (1), and Wisconsin (19).
Twelve persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Nchanga have been reported from 5 states. The number of ill persons with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Nchanga identified in each state is as follows: Georgia (2), New Jersey (2), New York (6), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (1).

Among 316 persons for whom information is available, illness onset dates range from January 28 to May 3, 2012. Ill persons range in age from <1 to 86 years, with a median age of 30. Fifty-nine percent of patients are female. Among 217 persons with available information, 37 (17%) reported being hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after April 17, 2012, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Investigation Update

Laboratory testing conducted by state public health laboratories in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin has isolated Salmonella from 53 (96%) of 55 samples taken from intact packages of frozen yellow fin tuna scrape from Moon Marine USA Corporation or from sushi prepared with the implicated scrape tuna product. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis results are available for Salmonella isolates from 41 of the 53 positive samples. Thirty-six samples yielded the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bareilly, and 12 samples yielded the outbreak strain of Salmonella Nchanga. Seven samples yielded the outbreak strains of both Salmonella Bareilly and Salmonella Nchanga.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Underweight meat items results in fine

Kraft recently received some bad publicity for selling packages of food that were deemed underweight by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. One can be certain that the company was not trying to take advantage of the consumer. Rather, issues happened during processing that impacted pack weight, in this case, the product may have been cooked a little more and thus drove off more moisture.

Each year, a company of two will be caught selling underweight units and then publicly chastised by the press. Each case occurs in roughly the same way. State officials, who regulate retail, pull a dozen or so product units from the store shelf and then weigh the contents of the package to see if those packages meet label weight. In this case, a number of units were below weight.   

In general, the companies try to minimize the give-away (weight above the stated label weight). Weight loss must be factored in (moisture loss through the package, purge, etc). Process variation must be calculated. Taking all this into account, a target weight is determined. Now there will be a few packages that are underweight, but in general, these conditions must be met. For any sample lot (a dozen or so units from a lot), the average weight must exceed label weight, the number of containers at or above weight must be greater than the number of units below weight, and no containers must be more than the MAV (maximum allowable variance).

Those who package food should be aware of Handbook 133 (good document to download and keep on file)

Kraft fined for underweight Oscar Mayer packages

MADISON, Wis. (AP)–Kraft Foods Group has paid a fine of nearly $37,000 to settle allegations of short-weight Oscar Mayer meats found in Wisconsin stores.

State inspectors found 24 packages of Oscar Mayer meats that were below their stated weight. The packages were found in Wisconsin stores between last August and this February.

An official of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection calls the shortages "very significant."

None were packaged at the Madison factory of Oscar Mayer, which is based in Madison.

A Kraft spokeswoman tells the
Wisconsin State Journal some oven heat changes and other manufacturing changes "resulted in unplanned and unwanted variances." She says corrections have been made.

As part of the civil forfeiture agreement, Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft did not admit to violating any Wisconsin laws.

Updates on Salmonella Linked to Tempeh and Pet Food and the Importance of Supplier Control

Here are updates for two ongoing outbreak investigations/recalls. Interestingly, both cases indicate the importance of supplier control – in the case of tempeh, it was an ingredient bought from an on-line supplier, and with the pet food, a co-packer has impacted other retail brands.
Salmonella in Tempeh (original post -

The number of Salmonella cases associated with contaminated tempeh has increased to 63 according to the NC Department of Ag. In testing, it was found that the starter culture used was responsible for the contamination. The company who sold the starter culture was Tempeh Online, which one can guess is a small, web-based company. (If we think about Supplier Control – it can be difficult for one buying an important component on the web from a unknown entity, where there is limited opportunity to investigate the supplier. Starter culture is an ingredient that needs tight process control in that if the process is contaminated, that contaminate, in this case Salmonella, may grow right along with the designated culture, or can contaminate the culture through cross contamination if handling procedures are not good).

Salmonella-tainted culture shipped from Maryland company
 Test confirms tempeh salmonella source

Salmonella News Update 5/10/12
 On Thursday, May 10, Buncombe County Department of Health received final test results from the NC Department of Public Health laboratory confirming that the unopened bag of culture that was added to the tempeh tested positive for the matching strain of Salmonella Paratyphi B linked to the current disease outbreak.
The US Food and Drug Administration is already involved in tracing the origin of the ingredient to identify source of contamination as well as the potential for other Salmonella outbreaks in the US.
As of May 10 at 2 PM, Buncombe County Department of Health reports 58 cases associated with salmonella outbreak. Please keep in mind that this number does not include cases being reported in other counties or states.
NC Department of Public Health reports 63 cases, which includes cases in NC and other states; however there is a slight delay in reporting.
To listen to information, call the HOTLINE: 828.250.5300 (English, Spanish and Russian).
 To report symptoms of Salmonella Paratyphi B, call Communicable Disease Nurses: 828.250.5109.

Pet Food and Salmonella (Original Post -

As of 5/11/12,CDC reports there are now 16 related illnesses.

A total of 15 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis have been reported from 9 states. Additionally, one ill person has been reported from Canada.
  • The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (2), and Virginia (1). One new ill person was reported from Pennsylvania.
  • Among the 10 patients with available information, 5 (50%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported
  • Multiple brands of dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have been linked to some of the human Salmonella infections.

The FDA news releases state that additional companies are recalling product made by Diamond Pet Food. The pet food has been linked to 14 cases of Salmonella. Companies that use Diamond to co-pack product must now react in the event that their product to may be linked to Diamond. Here again, another supplier control issue. Co-packing is an important part of the food supply chain. Many retailer branded products are produced by co-packers and must rely on these companies food safety systems. If there is an issue with co-packer produced product, and it may be a different brand such as in this case, it may result in a major blow to the retailer’s brand as well. 

From the FDA Recall notice.

May 9, 2012
Diamond Pet Foods has expanded its recall of some brands of dry dog and cat food manufactured in its Gaston, South Carolina facility between December 9, 2011 and April 7, 2012 because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are collaborating to investigate cases of human illness linked to some brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at the South Carolina facility.

Consumers should check the company’s website, Diamond Pet Foods Recall Information6 , for information on how to read lot codes and “best by” dates involved in the recall, as well as specific states where the following products were distributed:

· Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
· Country Value
· Diamond
· Diamond Naturals
· Premium Edge
· Professional
· 4Health
· Taste of the Wild
· Apex (distributed only in the state of South Carolina)
· Kirkland Signature (Costco)
· Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain (Costco)
· Canidae
Several other companies with products manufactured at the Gaston, S.C. facility have issued voluntary recalls, since some of their products were produced at the Gaston facility during the time frame of the recalls and have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Those companies include:
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance7
Apex Pet Foods8
Canidae9, Wellpet LLC10
Solid Gold Health Products for Pets11

Diamond Pet Foods continues to work directly with distributors and retailers where the recalled products are carried to remove them as quickly as possible from the marketplace. FDA will provide updates on the recall and the investigation as new information becomes available. Complete information on the recalled products, including photos, lot numbers, and distribution information on each is located at Diamond Pet Foods Recall Information.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reusable grocery bag responsible for transferring norovirus in Oregan outbreak

A reusable grocery bag was found to be the carrier of norovirus that was responsible for girls on an Oregon soccer team getting ill. Investigators conducted tests on the bag and found norovirus on the sides of the bag, below the handle.

Reusable grocery bags have increased in usage as people look try to become more ‘green’. It is important however, that these bags be recognized as a potential source of contamination. Much concern with reusable grocery bags is usually directed to the potential contamination from raw meats (purge from raw meats dripping onto the bags, carrying potential pathogens such as Salmonella or STEC E. coli along with it). Thus it is important to wash afterward. In this case however, a sick individual transferred norovirus to the bag and then the norovirus was transferred from the bag to other individuals who became ill. 

Norovirus has a low infectious dose (it does not take a lot of viral particles to make one ill) and is relatively resistant to normal environmental conditions (it has been shown to survive for weeks on carpets, so it probably would be the same with grocery bags). Typical symptoms of norvirus infections are vomiting (acute onset) diarrhea and stomach cramps.  Symptoms can occur within 18 to 48 hours of exposure.

Oregon norovirus traced to reusable grocery bagUSA Today 5/10/12

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)–Oregon investigators have traced an outbreak of norovirus to a reusable grocery bag that members of a Beaverton girls' soccer team passed around when they shared cookies.

The soccer team of 13- and 14-year-olds traveled to Seattle for a weekend tournament in October 2010.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Diamond Pet Foods Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

For Update (

CDC reports that there are 14 cases of Salmonella linked to dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods. People become ill from handling the pet food itself and from interaction with the pet who ate the food (yes, and there are probably a few people who may take a little bite themselves).

From the CDC information, it appears that cases could have been seen as early as late 2011, but cases have been coming in sporadically over a 5 or 6 month period. FDA released the first recall notice by Diamond on April 6, ( but indicated no illnesses were reported. Diamond expanded the recall again on April 26th ( and again on April 30th ( to include puppy formula, but in both recall notices did not indicate whether people were affected. Much of this delay is probably related to the low level of cases that occurred over the last 5 months in that connecting illnesses to a product becomes difficult. Couple that with the slow movement of pet food from manufacture to store shelf to purchase to use and to illness. The company started the recall when they got test results back from Michigan Department of Ag , but that expanded the recall as Ohio Dept of Health found Salmonella in product during an illness investigation.  It appears then that CDC had sufficient information to link illnesses with product.

From past incidents with Salmonella in dry dog food such as the Mars Pet Foods in 2008, Salmonella can establish itself in pet food plants and be very difficult to eliminate. This Mars facility that was linked to the Salmonella outbreak was eventually shuttered. If one had to determine how this occurs, Salmonella comes in on the raw materials, and ross contaminates (through air movement via dust particles, personnel movement, etc) the post process side or finished product side of the operation (after the heating step known as extrusion). Once there, Salmonella can make its way into the nooks and crannies and slowly be released into the final product. This can be seen in the Diamond Pet Foods case because there is not just one product implicated, but rather a number of products.

If consumers have Diamond Pet Foods, they should cease use and return to store or dispose.  

Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Infantis Infections Linked to Dry Dog Food
CDC News Release Posted May 3, 2012 5:15 PM ET

· A total of 14 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis have been reported from 9 states.

· The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1).
· Among the 9 patients with available information, 5 (56%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
· Multiple brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have been linked to some of the human Salmonella infections.
· Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Has Artisanal Become the New Natural for Food Products?

In an article by Jillian Eugenios, she asks the question, “Does ‘artisanal’ even mean anything anymore?”. ( It is in reference to a lawsuit filed against Dunkin Donuts and their new ‘artisan’ line of bagels. The lawsuit claims that this term should be limited to “products produced by hand, using traditional methods in small quantities”. My guess is that each Dunkin Donuts shop is not hand making bagels in the back of the store.

However, if I indeed want bagels made by hand in small batches, I will go to a family owned bakery. The term ‘artisinal’ in of itself, will not drive my purchase. My other guess is that the DD ‘artisanal’ bagels are probably pretty good. And if they were called by another name, say ‘really good bagels’ , they would still be pretty good bagels, regardless of the name.

And who is to decide what is ‘artisinal’? If a chain of family owned bagel shops makes bagels in the back of each store, can they call that artisanal? What if they centralize production to reduce costs and improve quality by making these same bagels in one location and then distributing them to the other shops…is this still ‘artisinal’? We have the same issue with term ‘organic’, and there are actually federal rules on what is considered, ‘organic’.

At this point, ‘artisanal’ is destined to become the new ‘natural’, or the new ‘gourmet’. We probably should spend more time on finding that quality product we like, or establishments we choose to buy from, rather than on what we call it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Outbreak of Salmonella paratyphi B linked to Organic Tempeh

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A North Carolina company, Smiling Hara Tempeh, is recalling unpasteurized Tempeh (fermented bean product) which has tested positive for Salmonella and linked to at least 34 cases of salmonellosis. The company has taken complete responsibility for this outbreak, and is recalling the product.  The product was produced in a shared commerical kitchen of a food incubator.

I think this case shows that no matter the size of the company, or the image they have (see website excerpt below), there is the potential for foodborne illness if all necessary preventive measures are not enacted. Too often, companies that are local, or that claim organic status, or that process foods in a traditional way consider themselves as being inherently safer than larger or conventional companies. Many consumers believe this as well. Salmonella does not read the internet, nor does it care about where those food products are made. If there is an opening, whether it is a processing error, less than hygienic personnel pracitces, or contaminated raw materials, Salmonella will simply take advantage of it.

The strain responsible for this illness was Salmonella paratyphi B which causes an illness similar to Typhoid Fever. It is a very serious infection with symptoms that include a high, sustained fever, headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and enlarged liver or spleen. Symptoms can last up to a week or longer, and patients are usually treated with antibiotics. There is also a longer incubation period (time of consumption to the time symptoms are seen) of 7 to 14 days or longer. (Because of this, there may be additional cases.)

Some people eat tempeh raw, but it is normally cooked, often through frying cubes cut from the block.   One would expect the cause to be either cross contamination (raw product contaminating clean surface or other food item) or through undercooking of the product.

Excerpt from Smiling Hara Tempeh website:
Smiling Hara(meaning “happy belly”) was created in 2009 and spawned from a passion to provide Western North Carolina with an organic, GMO-free, UNpasteurized, local source of Tempeh. We are committed to providing the most nutritious and fresh Tempeh possible, giving our customers the healthiest option and at the same time providing a market for local, organic farmers. We have developed a unique line of Tempehs, including not only the traditional soy Tempeh, but also a variety of legumes such as Black Bean and Black-Eyed Peas! We produce our Tempeh fresh every week right here in Asheville, NC.
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or omnivorous, do your body a favor and incorporate local, unpasteurized Tempeh into your regular diet.
 A Intro to Tempeh From Wikipedia

Tempeh (English pronunciation: /ˈtɛmpeɪ/; Javanese: témpé, IPA: [tempe]), is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty.

Tempeh begins with whole soybeans, which are softened by soaking and dehulled, then partly cooked. Specialty tempehs may be made from other types of
beans, wheat, or may include a mixture of beans and whole grains.

A mild
acidulent, usually vinegar, may be added in order to lower the pH and create a selective environment that favors the growth of the tempeh mold over competitors. A fermentation starter containing the spores of fungus Rhizopus oligosporus is mixed in. The beans are spread into a thin layer and are allowed to ferment for 24 to 36 hours at a temperature around 30 °C (86 °F). In good tempeh, the beans are knitted together by a mat of white mycelia.
 Salmonella traced to Asheville tempeh
Tests confirm bacteria in Smiling Hara product as outbreak worsens
10:08 PM, Apr. 30, 2012
Joel Burgess

ASHEVILLE — A local maker of fermented bean product confirmed Monday evening that its product tested positive for salmonella. as an outbreak caused by the bacteria worsens.

Smiling Hara Tempeh, which makes a soy, black bean and black-eyed pea version of the product, according to its website, had pulled the food from shelves earlier Monday.

Tests by the N.C. Department of Agriculture confirmed the bacteria was present in a sample collected from a routine inspection by the Food and Drug Protection Division, according to a statement from Smiling Hara Tempeh. Further testing is being done, it added.