Friday, April 26, 2013

Cucumbers linked to 73 becoming ill from Salmonella

UPDATE 5/8/13  CDC  - 81 people  infected from 18 states with 29% hospitalized.

CDC is reporting that 73 people have become ill from eating cucumbers contaminated with Salmonella. The cucumbers are from one Mexican producer, and that producer has been put on an import alert by FDA.

According to the CDC report (below): A total of 73 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported from 18 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (9), California (28), Colorado (1), Idaho (2), Illinois (3), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (8), Nevada (1), New Mexic0 (2), North Carolina (1), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), South Dakota (2), Texas (6), Virginia (2), and Wisconsin (2).

Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul Infections Linked to Imported Cucumbers

Posted April 25, 2013 12:30 PM ET

· Read the Advice to Consumers »
· A total of 73 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul have been reported from 18 states.
o 27% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
· State public health officials are interviewing ill persons to obtain information regarding foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before illness.
o Preliminary information indicates that consumption of imported cucumbers is the likely source of infection for the ill persons.
· On April 24, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiac├ín, Mexico on Import Alert .
o Cucumbers from these two firms will be denied admission into the United States unless the suppliers show that they are not contaminated with Salmonella.
· Currently, there is no evidence that contaminated cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse are still on the market.
o Due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, additional ill persons may be identified.
o Consumers and retailers should always follow safe produce handling recommendations
· CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview ill persons about foods eaten with before becoming ill. 

Reporting the Risks of Foodborne Illness

This past week, two reports relating to the topic of food risk were issued resulting in a media frenzy. 

One of those reports was CDC’s annual Trends in Foodborne Illness in the United States 2012 (below). CDC analyzes data from FoodNet, a system that tracks foodborne illness in roughly 10 states, and then projects these numbers for the entire country. News stories that were issued, including this Time article (, point out that the rates of foodborne illness have largely remained unchanged.   

Salmonella still remains one of the most common causes of foodborne illness and the number of cases remained roughly the same.

The report indicated that there was an increase in the rate of Campylobacter infection I think it can be argued however, that this may be the result of increased testing for Campylobacter and that the methodology for testing has improved. Campylobacter has traditionally not been an easy organism to culture, so as methodologies have improved, one would guess that labs will find it more often.  

Raw poultry is a main source of Campylobacter, and while the industry is working to reduce levels on poultry, at this time there is no magic bullet for eliminating it from poultry at the processing level. So it comes down to the consumer controlling it through proper preparation (cooking it to the right temperature), as well as proper handling (preventing cross contamination of food items with the raw product).

Vibrio is another pathogenic organism that has seen an increase. The primary vehicle for Vibrio is raw oysters. There are not many cases reported, probably because there are not many people who eat raw oysters. If consumers ate raw oysters as much as they ate bagged leafy greens, the numbers for Vibrio infections would dwarf all others.

So have the numbers of foodborne illness changed? We know that there are foods that are risky (raw oysters), and that practices for handling and preparing food need to improve throughout the food chain from the farm to the table, but perhaps we can look for a sign from the businesses that aid victims of foodborne illness - the food illness lawyers. According to a posting by one of the preeminent firms from that group….business is down.

The other report that garnered media attention, Risky Meat: A CSPI Field Guide to Meat & Poultry Safety (, was issued by Center for Science in the Public Interest. I think the title of this should have been title….Meats that Pose a Risk for Those Who Fail to Properly Cook and Clean. The strength of the CSPI report is that it reminds us that raw meat has the potential to carry pathogenic bacteria. But the sound bite heard over and over in the media was that chicken and hamburger are high risk meats. Well, these meats are only risky if they are not properly handled and prepared.

While the meat and poultry industry works to reduce the levels of pathogenic microorganisms on raw meat products, those items still have the potential to carry pathogenic microorganisms. But the risk is for people who mishandle or improperly prepare them. CSPI did provide guidance on proper handling and preparation.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Winn Dixie Recalls Apple Juice Because of Patulin

Winn-Dixie, a southern supermarket chain is recalling organic apple juice because of patulin, a mycotoxin (toxic fungal metabolite). Patulin is produced by certain mold species, including Penicillium, Aspergillus and Byccochlamus and can be found in fruit, most often apples. FDA has a limit of 50 ug/L in apple juice. 

At high does, it can be acutely toxic, but at lower levels, there is concern it may be a carcinogen, although studies are inconclusive. It is controlled through the prevention of using rotten apples from being processed into products like apple juice. This is accomplished through good pre and post-harvest practices, and the removal of any moldy or rotten fruit prior to processing.

Winn-Dixie Issues Voluntary Recall On Winn-Dixie Organic 100% Apple Juice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -April 12, 2013 - Winn-Dixie today announced an immediate voluntary recall of 64 FL OZ Winn-Dixie Organic 100% Apple Juice. The product is being recalled as a precaution because it could have levels of “patulin” that exceeds FDA limits. Winn-Dixie has received no reports of any issues associated with Winn-Dixie Organic 100% Apple Juice consumption.

Patulin is a mycotoxin, a by-product of some molds that can grow in fruits and vegetables. The possibility of adverse health consequences resulting from this product is very remote. However, the FDA has determined that products made from concentrate with a patulin level of over 50 parts per billion are subject to a voluntary recall.

Out of an abundance of caution for customers, Winn-Dixie is immediately recalling “64 FL OZ Winn-Dixie Organic 100% Apple Juice from Concentrate with Added Ingredient.” The recall is companywide for Winn-Dixie stores in the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.