Friday, November 22, 2013

Updates on Sliced Apple Recall, Jensen Brother Lawsuit against Auditors, and Foster Farm Salmonella Outbreak

Here are some quick updates of food safety issues of ongoing food safety issues.

Sliced Apple Recall Due to Listeria - As reported by the Packer (link/story below) FDA did not find any deficiencies at the sliced apple facility that produced the pack of apple slices that tested positive for Listeria. Further, samples taken by FDA and the state were all negative. This indicated either a very low level contamination on the product. Or, should it be considered that there was the potential for lab error at the state lab?
Jenson brothers and Lawsuit Against Auditing Firm – The Packer (link/story below) is reporting that the Jensen’s have signed over a lawsuit they filed against Primus Labs to the victims. It is probably easier for the victims to extract money from the auditing firm that it is for the convicted brothers.

Foster Farms outbreak of Salmonella – CDC is reporting (link/story below) that as of November 15, 2013, a total of 389 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico. USDA did not push for the company to conduct a recall.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't overlook safe turkey-handling practices for a happy holiday

Penn State News - November 20, 2013

 UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Thanksgiving is a time for sharing: good food, family time, friendship and memories. But one thing you don't want to share, warns a food-safety expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is pathogenic bacteria.

"As you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner, it is important to remember some key food-safety rules when it comes to cooking and serving turkey," said Martin Bucknavage, extension food-safety specialist. "We don't want to spread pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter."
He offers some advice to keep cooks, helpers and guests safe when preparing a turkey:

--There is no need to wash the outside of your turkey. Proper cooking will take care of any pathogenic bacteria that may be present.

"The only thing you will achieve by washing the outside of the turkey is spreading bacteria in your kitchen. This can occur as the water splashes or drips across your kitchen counter, potentially carrying bacteria with it," Bucknavage said.

--Clean as you go when handling raw turkey.

"As people move the raw turkey around in the kitchen, they treat it more like a football than a raw piece of meat, in that it touches a lot of surfaces including the hands," he said. "Because of this, there is the potential to get pathogenic bacteria on our hands, on the counter and on the cutting board. Therefore, clean these surfaces immediately after coming in contact with the raw bird."

-- Cook it to the right temperature. UDSA suggests that the bird gets to at least 165 F, (best if over 172 F for chewing). So Bucknavage recommends the use of a thermometer to monitor the temperature.

"Check the temperature of the bird in a number of spots, including the breast meat and the thickest part of the thigh," he said. "Allow time for further cooking if the temperature is not met."

-- Cook your stuffing separately. If you stuff the bird, the temperature of the stuffing must also get to 165 F.

"In order to get the stuffing to the right temperature, the bird will reach much higher temperatures, often over 185 F, making it very dry. Too often, people will stop cooking once the bird is at the right temperature, but unfortunately, they end up having undercooked stuffing," Bucknavage said.

"Because this stuffing was inside the raw bird, it absorbed turkey juice potentially carrying pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Undercooking the stuffing lets those bacteria survive. It is much better, and safer, to cook them separately. You will get the right temperature in the turkey without having to overcook it, and you'll get the right temperature in the stuffing."

If you want the look of a stuffed turkey on your table, stuff it before serving, after both have been properly cooked, he advised.

-- Handle leftovers immediately after dinner. Do not allow the turkey to sit on the table for hours after everyone is done eating.

"Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus can grow on meat items if left out for a long period of time," Bucknavage said. "To prevent that from occurring, it is important to handle leftovers right away. Cut up the turkey, put it in a container or sealable bag, and then refrigerate or freeze."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sliced Apples Recalled Due to Potential for Listeria After State Lab Finds Positive Sample

A Washington state company is recalling sliced apples due to the potential for Listeria contamination. The contamination was discovered by testing conducted by Minnesota Health Department. A sample tested was found to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

There have been no know Listeria outbreaks associated with sliced apples, however sliced apple product had been recalled in the 2012. Perhaps this is why MN Dept. of Health decided to pull this sample…perhaps it was just somebody pulling samples. Was the level of contamination significant? Studies have shown that Listeria can survive on apples and that it has grown on sliced apples when that product was temperature abused.

How we view risk of an item may not be constant over time.  This was the case with cantaloupes, where Listeria was probably not on the radar of those conducting a risk analysis, until the Jensen related outbreak in 2011. And so now for companies packing fresh apple slice, they too will need to include Listeria as part of their hazard analysis, and with this, they will need to implement environmental control measures in the processing environment.

The Packer
Crunch Pak recalls apple slices

 11/15/2013 10:10:00 AM  Coral Beach

Possible listeria contamination spurred Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash., to voluntarily recall almost 5,500 cases of apple slices that had been distributed nationwide.

A random sample of a 14-ounce package of Crunch Pak brand Tart Apple Slices that was collected by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture tested positive for listeria monocytogenes, according to Crunch Pak spokeswoman Amy Philpott.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FDA Issues 2013 Food Code

The FDA issued the new 2013 Food Code, the model for handling and preparation of food offered to consumers. This model establishes the most up-to-date food safety practices based on current scientific thinking The Food Code applies to retail and foodservice operations and the agencies who inspect those facilities. The food code is adopted in full or in part the states and local jurisdictions in developing their own regulations. Pennsylvania adopts the entire Food Code as it is updated. The Food Code is also used by the food processing industry in that it provides support documentation for practices used within FDA food operations (cooking, cooling, etc). Click here for summary of changes.

There are only a few significant changes from the 2009 version, however there are many minor changes that update the language of the previous version.

  • Language changes include:
o PHF or Potentially Hazardous Food is now Temperature Control for Safety Food (TCS), and the Potentially Hazardous Foods is completely eliminated.
o Defines Shiga Toxin Producing E. coli (STEC) to include all E. coli that are capable of producing Shiga toxin. 
  • One of the biggest changes is the inclusion of non-typhoidal Salmonella in the list of reportable illnesses. In the past versions, from all the Salmonella species, only the highly contagious Salmonella typhi was considered in the list. So now all species of Salmonella that cause illness are reportable, and thus require to be addressed in employee health controls (exclusion from the operation, return to work requirements, etc). (In Annex 3 – Table 2-20112 provides a table on exclusion and return to work for this and the other reportable pathogens).
  • A section was added to provide provisions for refilling containers brought from home from refill. (Of course, this would cover the refilling of growlers).
  • Section 3-501.11 requires that frozen fish package in ROP packaging be removed from that packaging PRIOR to starting the thawing process.
  • With regard to ROP packaging - All TCS foods packaged in ROP packaging require a HACCP plan, but only TCS food that is ROP packaged that do not control for growth of and toxin formation by C. botulinum and growth of Listeria monocytogenes needs a variance. Note that ROP packed non-TCS foods are not included (so if one is vacuum packing hard candy or dried beans, no requirement for a HACCP plan...outside of FSMA).
  • More on ROP Packaging - Section 3-502-12 Reduced Oxygen Packaging without a Variance – Criteria - this whole section discusses ROP packaging and should be referenced by anyone who is planning to vacuum pack product. Additional support information is provided in Annex 3 - Section 3-502-12 . Along with 3-502-12, section 8-201.14 requires the permit holder to submit a properly prepared HACCP plan before engaging in processing Reduced Oxygen Packaging foods.
In FDA's Constituent Update, there post some additional changes.
These include
  • Restaurants and food stores must post signs notifying their customers that inspection information is available for review.
  • Revisions to the minimum cooking temperatures associated with procedures such as non-continuous cooking and circumstances under which bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods is permitted.
  • Stronger requirements for cleaning and sanitizing equipment used in preparing raw foods that are major food allergens.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Baby Food Pouches Recalled Due to Spoilage Issues

Plum Organics, a California company, is recalling its baby food pouch products due to the spoilage issues. The reason for the spoilage was blamed on a manufacturing issue and resulted in swollen pouches. The product has national distribution including distribution through outlets such as Target. 

While this is not claimed to be a pathogen issue, eating spoiled product can still result in gastrointestinal distress (diarrhea, stomach pain, etc), which can be especially troublesome in infants and preschool-aged children. 

Looking at the variety of products in pouches, there may be some difficulty in determining which pouches are affected. Click here for a listing / pictures of the affected products.

The company also issued a recall in 2009 when it was determined the proper acidity was not achieved thus resulting in a Clostridium botulinum risk. 

Plum organics is a subsidiary of Campbell Soup Company.

FDA News Release
Plum Organics Voluntarily Recalls a Range of Pouch Products

Plum Organics Consumer Hotline:

Kara Flynn
Plum Organics

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE —November 8, 2013 – Plum Organics is voluntarily recalling pouch products within its Baby Stage 2, Tots Mish Mash and Kids lines after discovering a manufacturing defect that may cause spoilage in some pouches. Recalled products can be identified by the “Best By” dates ranging from 08/05/14 to 12/08/14 and the letters “AT.” Consumers can find a list of affected products at

RTE Salad and Sandwich Wrap Products Recalled Due to Potenial Link with an E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

UPDATE 11/13/13 - From CDC (below), as of 11/10/13, there are a total of 26 cases of people infected with E. coli O157:H7 with 2 cases of HUS.  Traceback analysis conducted by government agencies indicates that Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken produced by Glass Onion and sold by Trader Joe's is the likely source.

Initial Report 11/11/13
USDA and FDA are reporting that a California company is recalling approximately 180,000 lbs of ready-to-eat salad and sandwich wrap products due to being linked to an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak (news releases below). FDA and CA Dept of Health have identified a cluster of 26 cases of E.coli infection where patients had consumed pre-packaged items produced by Glass Onion Catering / Atherstone Foods. The recalled product was produced from Sept 29 through Nov 6. This product was shipped to distribution centers in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Texas. This company co-packed product for brands including Trader Joe's and Super Fresh which are included in the recall.  Retailers included Walgreen and Whole Foods.
A few interesting items to note:
  •  The company produces salad items with and without chicken. E. coli O157:H7 has not been an issue with chicken. Produce items have been linked to E. coli outbreaks in the past (including the 2007 spinach outbreak). The question regarding the chicken is whether they were they cooking their own chicken or was the chicken purchase precooked from another company that could have handled other meat products. Also, the recall was issued based upon an epidemiological field investigation that showed a high correlation to consumption of this company’s product, but at this point, there has not been test positive product samples with the pathogen.
  • Glass Onion Catering is a growing business, recently expanding operations, purchasing and retrofitting a 42,500 sq ft facility in 2011, so have only been producing from that facility within the last year or two. The facility was previously owned by a manufacturer of paper rolls (non-food). It will be interesting to see if facility issues had any impact in light of the fact that the operation was retrofitted for food production. Along with moving into a new facility, there is also the rapid expansion in the operation to meet a growing market. When small companies rapidly increase production volume, such as when they pick-up national accounts (in this case, Trader Joe's), an important question is whether they have the necessary systems in place to control quality and ensure safety?
  • As for Trader Joe's, here again we have another small co-packing facility (Glass Onion) whose food safety issues have impacted the Trader Joe's brand. Two previous issues where co-packers have negatively impacted the Trader Joe’s brand were peanut butter with Salmonella and frozen chicken dinners with Listeria. While many retailers, including Trader Joe’s, have a model for finding those unique products made by small companies and then bringing those products to a larger market, there can be increased risk to their brand if these smaller companies have a food safety issue.

CDC News Release
Posted November 12, 2013 7:00 PM ET
  • As of November 10, 2013, a total of 26 persons infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from three states.
  • The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (1), California (22), and Washington (3).
  • 28% of ill persons have been hospitalized. Two ill persons have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths have been reported.
  • The STEC O157:H7 PFGE pattern in this outbreak is new to the PulseNet database.
  • Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of two ready-to-eat salads, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, produced by Glass Onion Catering and sold at Trader Joe’s grocery store locations, are one likely source of this outbreak of STEC O157:H7 infections.
  • On November 10, 2013, Glass Onion Catering voluntarily recalled numerous ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products that may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7.
  • Read the list of recalled products regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
  • Read the list of recalled products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Consumers should check their homes and refrigerators for recalled ready-to-eat salad products and wraps.
  • Do not eat the recalled products and dispose of any remaining product.
  • People who have eaten a recalled product should look for signs of STEC infection.


USDA News Release
 California Firm Recalls Grilled Chicken Salad Products Due To Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination
Class I Recall 065-2013
Health Risk: High Nov 10, 2013
Congressional and Public Affairs
Richard J. McIntire
(202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, November 10, 2013 – Glass Onion Catering, a Richmond, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 181,620 pounds of ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products with fully-cooked chicken and ham that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

FDA Issues Risk Analysis of Spices and the Related News Stories from the Mass Media

With the release of FDA’s Risk Analysis of Imported Spices document, the vast majority of news outlets released similar eye catching headlines stating ‘12% of Imported Spice Contaminated’.

Should consumers worry when they are putting pepper on their hamburger, pizza, or as for me, everything – NO, there is essentially no risk when purchasing branded spices from the grocery store.

From a consumer standpoint, are these news articles misleading? – while it is correct in that imported spices sampled by FDA do have contaminates, it is misleading in that FDA was evaluating spices at the point of entry and not at spices at the supermarket. The branded spices that the consumer purchases has been treated and then tested for safety by processors such as McCormick. 

The FDA data was based on bulk imported product at the point of entry. Companies purchasing these products for sale will treat before packaging. As posted on McCormick’s website as well as detailed in the NPR piece below, McCormick who has been importing spices for more than a century, has had little to no issues. This is spice companies, including McCormick, clean and treat their spices to eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella. Then those spices are extensively tested to verify safety.

But the report poses an important risk to consider for food companies who are directly importing spices, especially for use in applications where these spices are applied to RTE product without any further processing. In these cases, spices treated oversees may not have the level of safety needed for application, especially in to RTE applications – whether the foreign supplier does not adequately treat/clean the spice, or the spice is contaminated after treatment. Foodborne disease outbreaks have occurred in a few instances when food companies have used contaminated imported spices on RTE spices. They failed to verify safety of those spices before using. Examples – salami with Salmonella contaminated pepper and snack chips with a contaminated seasoning.

Washington Post
Filth taints 12 percent of imported food spices, FDA reports

By Anna Edney and Bloomberg News, Published: November 4

Insect fragments and animal hairs taint 12 percent of imported spices, the Food and Drug Administration said last week.

The FDA said it looked at the safety of spices after outbreaks of illness involving the seasonings. The agency also found pathogens in the spices, including salmonella, and suggested that the spice industry look at training that stresses preventive controls.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reser's Expands Salad Recall Again

Reser’s is again expanding its recall of refrigerated salad items due to the potential for Listeria contamination to include products made up include product made between Oct 10 and Oct 25,. The initial recall on October 23rd/26th, included product made between Sept 5 and Oct. 9.

Both FDA and USDA issued recalls in the the responsible plant in Kansas is a dual jurisdiction facility (having both FDA and USDA related products). Affected brands include Safeway, Sysco, US Food Service, and Walmart, and encompass both retail and foodservice sizes. 

Like other recalls, there seems to be this ever on-going reissuance of the recall to include additional product. In defining the time limits of what production dates should be included in this recall, initially there must have been sufficient evidence to say after October 9th, conditions were different that would have prevented contamination on product made on October 10th and after. Was something found that refuted that and thus additional product also posed a risk…or was the decision based upon other factors? Regardless, continual reissuance of the recall had kept the company’s negative issue in the news.

USDA Recall Notice
Kansas Firm Recalls Chicken, Ham and Beef Products Due To Potential Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination

Class I Recall 059-2013
Health Risk: High Nov 4, 2013
Distribution List PDF

WASHINGTON, Nov. 04, 2013 – Reser’s Fine Foods, a Topeka, Kan. establishment, is expanding its recall of chicken, ham and beef products to include all products produced between Oct. 10 and Oct. 25, 2013. The company previously expanded its recall on Oct. 26, 2013, to include product produced between Sept. 5 and Oct. 9, 2013. This is in addition to the 22,800 pounds of product recalled on Oct. 22, 2013. The products are being recalled due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The company announced that these products are being recalled in conjunction with other foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A full list of products being recalled in this expansion can be found on FDA’s website here. Products regulated by FSIS bear the establishment number “EST. 13520” or “P-13520” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Only products made at the Topeka, Kansas salad facility, also designated by the plant code #20 after the code date “Use By Nov 03 13 #20” are affected by this recall. No other Reser’s facilities are involved in this action.

USDA Product Recall List This release is being reissued to reflect additional products produced on dates not included in the Oct. 22, 2013, or Oct. 26, 2013, releases.
FDA Product List

The products were distributed to retailers and distributors nationwide.