Thursday, October 31, 2013

Children become infected with E. coli at a farms petting zoo

Three children, ages 15 months to 7 years, are ill from E. coli O157:H7 contracted through contact with farm animals at a pumpkin patch in MN. One of the children has been hospitalized with HUS, a very serious condition. Dehns Family Farm and Pumpkin Patch ( is your typical family farm that offers hay rides, a corn maze, wine tasting, and a small petting zoo with farm animals.

As we know, STEC E. coli, as well as other enteric pathogens such as Salmonella, can get onto the hides of farm animals such as cows, sheep, and goats, and these contaminants can be transferred to kids hands. Of course, when kids don’t wash their hands afterwards, those children can become contaminated during eating or just sticking their hands in their mouths.

Farms take on considerable risk when they provide this activity for children. CDC has a webpage and a detailed booklet that provides information on preventing such contamination events. Farms and other organizations should review these before considering whether to hold these animal interactive events such as petting zoos. In this case, the lawsuits are on the way. A hell of a way to lose the farm.

Minnesota Depatment of Health News Release
October 26, 2013

Health officials investigate E. coli O157 infections at pumpkin patch petting zoo

Three cases confirmed so far

Three Minnesota residents have become ill with confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections after contact with animals at Dehn's Pumpkins in Dayton, MN, the Minnesota Department of Health reported today.

The three cases were all children, ranging in age from 15 months to 7 years and are residents of the Twin Cities metro area. One child is hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of an E. coli infection characterized by kidney failure. The others were not hospitalized and are recovering. Routine monitoring by the health department identified the E. coli O157:H7 cases, which all have bacterial isolates with the same DNA fingerprint. These cases visited the farm on October 12 or 13, and became ill on October 16 or 18.

The Minnesota Department of Health is in the process of following up with any groups that visited the farm in order to help determine if more people have become ill. At this time, two additional people have reported symptoms consistent with E. coli O157:H7 infection and are currently being tested. These people visited Dehn's on October 18, raising concern that exposures also could have occurred after the weekend of October 12-13.

All of the cases reported having contact with cattle and/or goats at Dehn's. The farm owners have been cooperating fully with the investigation and public access to the cattle and goat areas is being prohibited. The rest of the farm, including the pumpkin patch, remains open for business.

E. coli O157:H7 is commonly found in ruminant animals such as cattle and goats, and this type of exposure is not unique to Dehn's Pumpkins. Outbreaks associated with contact with farm animals are documented virtually every year in Minnesota. Therefore, people who contact ruminants at any venue, public or private, are at risk for infection with E. coli O157:H7, as well as a variety of other germs. People typically become ill from contact with farm animals or their environment by getting bits of feces on their hands after touching the animals or contaminated surfaces, then swallowing the germs while eating, drinking or during other hand-to-mouth activities. Contamination can be present on the fur or in the saliva of animals, on the ground where the animals are kept, or on surfaces such as fence railings of animal pens.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Another recall of salad products due to the potential for Listeria

A Massachusetts manufacturer is recalling a variety of chicken salads due to the potential to contain Listeria. The contamination was found through testing conducted by New Hampshire and Massachusetts Public Health Departments. No illnesses were reported. The containers were primarily foodservice sized units. Distribution is limited to NH and MA.

This is the second recall announced within the last week for these salad based products, the other being the Reser’s recall

In September, Garden Fresh of Wisconsin also issued a recall for similar products (chicken and ham salads) .  On 10/25/13, that recall was expanded to include 103,000 additional pounds.

These items are problematic for two reasons…the amount of processing after the cooking step (chopping / slicing / blending) and the fact the products are stored and shipped refrigerated with presumably a long shelf-life. So if Listeria is there, the potential exists for the organism to grow at refrigeration temperatures during storage.

Many of us love those types of products – especially chicken and potato salad - but with these recalls, I think I will be searching out ‘freshly made’.

USDA Recall Notice
Massachusetts Firm Recalls USDA-Regulated Ready-To-Eat Products for Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 061-2013
Health Risk: High Oct 24, 2013

En Español

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 – Boston Salads and Provisions Company, Inc., a Boston, Mass., establishment, is recalling approximately 222,959 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products were produced between Aug. 23, 2013, and Oct. 14, 2013, and shipped to wholesalers for further distribution to retail locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The products subject to recall include: [label]
Complete List of Products

Sunland Foods, producer of contaminated peanut butter, goes out of business

Sunland Foods, the NM producer of organic peanut butter that was responsible for 42 cases of Salmonella in 20 states, closed its doors and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The financial costs of the peanut butter recall in conjunction with an FDA mandated shutdown (as part of FDA’s new powers granted them by FSMA) . The shutdown came after an FDA investigation that had some very troubling findings.

The recall began in September of 2012 when Trader Joe’s peanut butter was linked to a number of salmonellosis cases. While the company began some operations in January, 2013, it was not allowed to resume production of ready-to-eat items until May of 2013.
The insurance carrier for Sunland, is suing Sunland to get out its obligation for covering lawsuits that resulted from the contamination event.


Las Vegas Sun
NM peanut butter plant closes, files for Chapter 7
The Associated Press
Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 | 12:05 a.m.

An eastern New Mexico peanut butter plant involved in a nationwide salmonella outbreak last year has closed its doors and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Update on Cyclospora outbreak in produce

In August, CDC had reported a Cyclospora outbreak in the US that affected over 600 and indicated that it was actually two different cases, one centered in Iowa and Nebraska, and the other centered in Texas. ( The CDC has updated their information regarding the second case. While the outbreak in Iowa and Nebraska was linked to contaminated bagged lettuce produced by the Mexican subsidiary of Taylor Farms, the second case is being linked to Mexican cilantro, but no company has been identified at this point. In all, there were approximately 643 illnesses in 25 states.

CDC Outbreak Update
Investigation of an Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in the United States
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reser's Recalls Salad Items Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

Update 10/26/13
Reser's is expanding the recall of chicken, ham and beef products to include all products produced between Sept 5 and Oct 9, 2013 in the Topeka KS facility.

Reser’s Fine Foods is recalling over 100,000 cases of refrigerated salads (including potato salad, cole slaw, pasta salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and ham salad) as well as dips due to the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. There have been no reported illnesses, the contamination was discovered by testing conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and from the USDA news release, it appears that FDA confirmed the presence of the pathogen on food contact surfaces in the manufacturing facility. The facility is located in Topeka, Kansas. Product was distributed in 27 different states.

The products were packaged under a number of brand names, and based on the package size, it appears that most of this product is destined for the food service / institutional channel. So if this is the case, there will be further handling by these foodservice providers and thus the potential for additional cross contamination issues within those operations. This is especially troublesome if these foodservice providers cater to high risk groups (elderly care facilities, etc).

FDA Recall Notice
Reser’s Fine Foods, Inc. Recalls Refrigerated Ready-to-Eat Products Due to Potential Health Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 22, 2013 - Reser’s Fine Foods of Beaverton, Oregon is recalling approximately 109,000 cases of refrigerated ready-to-eat products because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is an organism which can cause serious and sometime fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and individuals with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may suffer only short term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant woman.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jensen brothers plead guilty, look to sue auditing firm

Two interesting stories in The Packer (below) – the Jensen brothers arrested as part of the outbreak related to Listeria in cantaloupes (, plan to plead guilty to the charges. Additionally, they are looking to sue the auditing firm who gave them a 96 out of 100. 

The last point is interesting in that they are basically looking to blame the firm for not giving them a harder audit, and for mot have a complete understanding their entire process. I wonder if the auditing firm was involved when they made the decision to use a potato washer for cleaning and cooling cantaloupes….probably not. As we say, 3rd party audits are snapshots of the operation, but are not designed to do microbiological evaluations of an operation unless there are blatant issues. Processors need to know their processes better than the inspectors, and if they are relying on inspectors to tell them how to process, they need not to be in business.

Costco issuing a recall for cooked Foster Farms chicken

Costco is recalling over 20,000 units of rotisserie cooked chicken product because the product may have been connected to some of the illnesses related to the Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak. While Costco reports to cook chicken to 180ºF, investigators are suggesting that cross contamination may be the issue.

The number of illnesses related to Foster Farms contaminated with Salmonella is now reported to be 317 cases Foster Farms has not yet conducted a recall. Some are predicting that this may face higher liabilities due to their inaction. It has already had an impact on their sales. FSIS did issue an FAQ (included below), but it would have been nice if they specifically answered the question why they did not request a recall.

This will be an interesting case to follow in that Costco has issued a recall, but Foster Farms has not.

USDA News Release

California Wholesale Store Recalls Rotisserie Chicken Products Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2013 – Costco’s El Camino Real store in San Francisco, Calif., is recalling an additional 14,093 units of rotisserie chicken products that may be contaminated with a strain of Salmonella, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. This is in addition to the 9,043 units that were recalled on Oct. 12.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Alert issued on raw chicken after 278 cases of salmonellosis

FSIS issued a public health alert on Foster Farm raw chicken after the chicken had been associated with 278 cases of salmonellosis. A recall was not issued in that FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period. Products were distributed on the west coast (CA, WA, and OR), with illnesses in some 18 sates.
Of course, properly cooking chicken (to 165ºF) as well as handling in a way that would prevent cross contamination would prevent foodborne illness. But we cannot blame the consumer. Reading through the comments section of each of news outlet’s articles, we can find a number of different people to blame.
  • Congress - for furloughing government workers (although USDA inspectors are still on the job and this outbreak began months ago.
  • Meat eaters – if people didn’t eat meat, they wouldn’t get Salmonella from chickens, except if we kept the chickens as pets.
  • USDA – If they did their job, Salmonella would simply not exist on chickens. Although USDA has worked with processors for years, dropping the incident rate over the past few decades, Salmonella is still present although at a much lower incident rate (See graph below).
  • The Industrial Processor – growing chicken in cramp quarters, washing them in chlorine baths, ,etc, is bound to have more Salmonella than that raised by the local farmers. Although work done here at Penn State found that it is probably not the case. (Story below or link at
 Certainly, poultry processors do want to ensure that the levels of Salmonella are as low as possible to help ensure that small mistakes made by consumers is less likely to result in foodborne illness.
USDA News Release
 FSIS Issues Public Health Alert for Chicken Products Produced at Three Foster Farms Facilities