Friday, March 29, 2013

Frozen Meals Recalled Due to Link to E.coli Outbreak

UPDATE May 31, 2013

CDC issused the final update on this outbreak.

A total of 35 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) were reported from 19 states.
  • 82% of ill persons were 21 years of age or younger.
  • 31% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths were reported.

UPDATE April 4, 2013

Rich Foods expanded the recall of various heat treated, not fully cooked frozen food items.  The recall will encompass what appears to be 10 months of production.

Rich Foods is recalling close to 200,000 lbs of frozen chicken quesadilla and other frozen products due to a potential link to an outbreak of E.coli O121. In this outbreak, at least 24 people in 15 states have become ill. Product did test positive for the strain, per NY Department of Health.  According to CDC, 78% of those ill are 21 years old or less.  33% are hospitalized, and 1 has HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome).

This product does have validated cooking instructions (bottom of page), so this product would not be considered a fully cooked product. However the company is recalling product.

The responsible E. coli strain, O121, produces a shiga toxin like the O157:H7 strain that is associated with ground meat, so infection with this organism can result in bloody diarrhea as well as kidney damage.

USDA Recall Notice

New York Firm Recalls Frozen Mini Quesadilla, Pizza, Cheese Steak and Other Snack Products Due To Possible E. Coli O121 Contamination 
Recall Release




WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 – Rich Products Corporation, a Buffalo, NY firm, is recalling approximately 196,222 pounds of frozen chicken quesadilla and various other heat treated, not fully cooked frozen mini meals and snack items because they may be contaminated with E. coli O121, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following products are subject to FSIS recall: [
View Labels (PDF Only)]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Food Fraud - Horse Meat, Seafood, Honey, etc

With the recent discovery of horse meat in beef sold in Europe, there is an increased awareness of food fraud, the illegal substitution of one food item for another for economic gain. In some cases, it is a straight substation, while in others, it is addition of a filler. In some cases, it may be removal. (Removal would be used when there is chemical that would otherwise render the product unusable such as the removing of antibiotics from honey).
While there are been minimal food safety risks to this point, it does raise concerns about traceability and even food defense. Certainly an exception to this was the melamine contamination of wheat gluten that was used in pet foods. In this case, the industrial chemical melamine was added to wheat gluten to increase the level of ‘detectable protein’.  
Last month an advocacy group reported that up to 1/3 of seafood sold in restaurants may be mislabeled. One interesting example was that the fish species Escolar was being labeled as white tuna. Problem is that Escolar is the Ex-lax of the seafood world and can result in explosive diarrhea when eaten in large quantities. 
Other products that are subject to food fraud include 
USP has a Food Fraud Database that links to numerous studies.
Food Fraud: Are Your Ingredients At Risk?
 Wed, 03/06/2013 - 2:17pm
 Lindsey Jahn, Associate Editor, Food Manufacturing
 Food fraud is on the rise across the globe, and it is impacting all forms of products — from milk and olive oil to seafood and beef. While some cases of food fraud are due to the efforts of unscrupulous processors, some honest food companies are unknowingly producing items containing fraudulent ingredients.
Europe’s meat industry has been in crisis mode since Ireland announced that at least one-third of frozen “beef” burgers produced in the country contained traces — or sometimes much more than traces — of horsemeat. Since then, horsemeat has been detected in many European meat products, from Ikea’s signature Swedish meatballs to prepared meals produced by Nestle.
So far, no horsemeat has been detected in the U.S. food supply. But the U.S. food industry is no stranger to other types of food fraud. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) maintains a Food Fraud Database which identifies cases of food fraud occurring in the U.S. The USP in January released its most recent update to the database, which added almost 800 new records of food fraud, increasing the total number of records published in the database by 60 percent.

Can Seal Issue Results in Recall

Bumble Bee Tuna is recalling 5 oz cans of tuna due to loose seals . While there have been no illnesses, a loose seal can lead to product contamination, especially if the can is jostled sufficiently to provide a micro leak through the seal area. The products were distributed for retail sale nationwide between Jan. 17 and March 6 of this year. They have 'best by' codes ranging from Jan. 14, 2016 to March 6, 2016.

We do not normally see recalls for loose seals. In general, the double seam inspection is one of the most important food safety checks in a canning facility. To close a can, a lid is placed on top of the can and a series of rollers press the lid and can together to form a double seam.

There is a sealing compound on the lid that gets squeezed, and the final double seam will ensure the can seal is ‘hermetically sealed’, so that no air, or microorganisms can pass. Measurements are taken, often hourly, to ensure that the measurements of the seal are correct (the overlap, the length, the width, etc). For those that do it, they know what a tedious task it is. Each product line may have multiple seamers, each with multiple heads, all which must be checked.

A seal that is evaluated as loose is a food safety hazard . If multiple days of production are implicated for having loose seals, that result in an extremely costly recall, especially considering canning lines run in the range of 1000 cans/minute or higher.  2 months of product is a lot of cans of tuna.

FDA Recall Notice

Bumble Bee Foods Expands Voluntary Recall on Specific Codes of 5-Ounce Chunk White Albacore and Chunk Light Tuna Products Due to Loose Seals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - SAN DIEGO - March 7, 2013 -- Bumble Bee Foods, LLC, is expanding a voluntary recall on specific codes of 5-ounce Chunk White Albacore and Chunk Light Tuna products. The recall has been issued because the products do not meet the company's standards for seal tightness.
Loose seals or seams could result in product contamination by spoilage organisms or pathogens and lead to illness if consumed. There have been no reports to date of any illness associated with these products.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

No Horse Meat in US Beef Supply

Some people seem to worry too much about US food supply, but unlike Europe, there has been no horse meat detected in our beef supply. A few interesting notes:
  • Horse meat does not pose a food safety risk, but is more of a perception issue by consumers.
  • From a food safety perspective, the EU horse meat scandal is more of a ‘traceability’ issue for those companies involved.  
  • In Europe, there were many suppliers and many middleman involved as meat was sourced from various countries in Europe. The testing of meat continues. A table of test results - 
  • It is once again legal to slaughter horses in the US, but currently, no US facilities are doing so. And FSIS does not allow imported horse meat. 
  • In 2010, some 137,000 horses were sent from the US to Mexico and Canada to be slaughtered.
  • Meat testing is done primarily by DNA testing using PCR methodology. ELISA technology (using antibodies) is also used, but is not as effective for processed meat products.
U.S. officials: No horse meat in our beef
 The U.S. has not become embroiled in the horse meat scandal in Europe
Elizabeth Weise7:42p.m. EST March 1, 2013 USA Today
The horse meat scandal in Europe keeps getting bigger but U.S. officials say it's unlikely there's any horse meat hidden in U.S. meat products.
Genetic tests have found ground horse meat in beef in Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. On Friday Taco Bell outlets in Britain found traces of the meat in what was supposed to be 100% beef. The company has removed all beef products from its menu in the United Kingdom.
There is no link between Taco Bell suppliers in Europe and the United States, the company said.
How the horse meat entered the European food supply is unknown.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Allergy Advice for Children

A recent paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that introducing allergenic food to babies may help to prevent food allergies from developing. The WSJ article below states that while more research is needed, observational studies show that kids with early exposure have lower allergy rates. If true, parents who shield thier children from 'germs' or certain types of foods, may actually be doing thier children a diservice.
Food Allergy Advice for Kids: Don't Delay Peanuts, Eggs
WSJ On-Line YOUR HEALTH Updated March 4, 2013, 8:00 p.m by Sumathi Reddy

Parents trying to navigate the confusing world of children's food allergies now have more specific advice to consider. Highly allergenic foods such as peanut butter, fish and eggs can be introduced to babies between 4 and 6 months and may even play a role in preventing food allergies from developing.

These recommendations regarding children and food allergies—a rising phenomenon that researchers don't fully understand—come from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in a January article in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology: In Practice. The AAAAI's Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee outlined how and when to introduce highly allergenic foods, which include wheat, soy, milk, tree nuts, and shellfish.

The recommendations are a U-turn from 2000, when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines that children should put off having milk until age 1, eggs until 2 and peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and fish until 3. In 2008, the AAP revised its guidelines, citing little evidence that such delays prevent the development of food allergies, but it didn't say when and how to introduce such foods.

Food allergies affect an estimated 5% of children under the age of 5 in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of a food allergy for children under 18 increased by 18% from 1997 to 2007.

"There's been more studies that find that if you introduce them early it may actually prevent food allergy," said David Fleischer, co-author of the article and a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Health in Denver. "We need to get the message out now to pediatricians, primary-care physicians and specialists that these allergenic foods can be introduced early."