Monday, December 22, 2014

Nutrition Bars Recalled Due to the Potential to Be Contaminated with Salmonella

A California company is recalling nutrition bars after their testing found the product may contain Salmonella.  The product, labeled Perfect Bar, was distributed nationwide.  There have been no reported illnesses.

FDA Recall Notice
Perfect Bar & Company Recalls Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch Nutrition Bars Due to Possible Health Risk

Contact: Consumer: 866-628-8548, ext 3
Media: 619-316-8494

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 19, 2014 – SAN DIEGO, CA – After Perfect Bar’s routine product testing, the company is issuing a nationwide recall of specific lot numbers of its Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch flavor recipes due to potential contamination of Salmonella.

While no illnesses to date have been associated with any of the recalled products, Salmonella bacteria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Consumers with the above symptoms should consult their physician.

Perfect Bar’s recalled Peanut Butter and Cranberry Crunch products have packaging and/or wrappers with the expiration date and lot codes listed below. The recalled product has reached the distributor, retail and end user level.
Perfect BarPeanut Butter2.5 oz8-55569-00302-909-02-1502814
Perfect BarCranberry Crunch1.6 oz8-55569-00311-109-02-1502814
Perfect BarVariety Pack (Costco)1 lb 9.6 oz8-55569-00313-509-02-15

Consumers who have any products associated with this recall should dispose of them immediately. Consumers who have any questions about the recalled products are encouraged to contact Perfect Bar Monday through Saturday, 8:00AM – 5:00PM PST at 866-628-8548, extension 3. Consumers with questions or concerns about their health should contact their doctor or health care provider.

Media with questions regarding the recall can contact P.J. Roustan, Director of Marketing and PR for Perfect Bar, Monday through Saturday, 8:00AM – 5:00PM PST at 619-316-8494 or


Friday, December 19, 2014

Caramel Apples Linked to Listeria Outbreak, 5 Reported Deaths

Caramel Apples, commercially produced and prepackaged, are being linked to a Listeria outbreak that has caused 5 deaths and 21 hospitalizations in 10 states.

 While we have recently seen recalls related to Listeria being detected on apple slices, this is one of the first cases of a Listeria outbreak related to apples.  Considering that there are as many illnesses and deaths, this is the type of outbreak that will have a huge impact on fruit packers and processors.

At this point, there is little information on the circumstances, but certainly more will follow.

Melted caramel is liquid in the 125F to 150F range, so depending on how fast it cooled, Listeria could survive on the surface.  It also could be forced into the apple via the wooden stake.

At this point, it may be wise to avoid caramel apples.

Well here is a scenario….
  • Apples that were probably washed, but in less-than-sanitary quality water contaminates the apple, and most importantly the calyx.  
  • Apples were stored prior to adding caramel, providing a greater chance for biofilm formation at the calyx end.
  • The stick, when shoved into the calyx of the apple, drags the inoculum into the center of the apple.
  • The core, perhaps not having as low a pH compared to the cells in the pulp, may be more apt to support the growth of Listeria.
  • Growth is further supported by the storage of those apples at room temperature..and that temperature may even be higher in that those apples were dipped in the warm caramel.
  • If the processor used bulk storage apples, the conditions for supporting biofilm would probably be greater.
  • Caramel apples can have a sell-by-date as long as one month, and this will provide more opportunity for growth, even if that growth is slow.
Potential Controls for Consideration:
  • Using tree run fruit that is sorted for fresh sales.
  • Sanitizing apples followed by proper drying.  Sanitizer concentration must be controlled.
  •  Storage of fresh apples at refrigerated temperature in boxes with separators.
  •  Pre-dip the sticks in an acid sanitizing solution.
  •  Chilling apples after dipping in caramel,
  •  Storage of the caramel apples at refrigeration temperature.
  • Limit shelf-life of caramel apples.
  •  Can the calyx of the apple be removed?
We will need to see what the conditions for processing these caramel apples were to get a better idea of what happened.

CDC Outbreak Notices
Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Commercially Produced, Prepackaged Caramel Apples
Posted December 19, 2014 9:30 AM ET
  • Read the Advice to Consumers and Retailers>>(
  • CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.
  • The information CDC has at this time indicates that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria and may be causing this outbreak.
  • Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

As US Poultry Industry Braces for the Potential of Avian Flu, H5N2, People Not at Risk

Avian influenza has been found in wild birds on the US border.  USDA has not found it in in US poultry, but the strains H5N2 and H5N8 have been found in Canadian and European flocks.  While these strains are highly pathogenic to birds, they are not considered a risk to people.
Migratory birds such as ducks are a risk factor for spreading the virus to the US poultry population.  Once infected, the flock is often culled to eliminate further risk of spreading the virus.

Just this past year, the pork industry suffered the fate of the PED virus, or Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.  PEDV causes severe diarrhea in pigs and has a high lethality in piglets, but poses no risk to other animals or humans.   PED and Influenza are different types of viruses. PED is from the Coronaviridae family of enveloped, positive-stranded RNA viruses.  Influenza is an Orthomyxovirus.

H5N2, H5N8 avian flu viruses surface in US
Robert Roos | News Editor | CIDRAP News
Dec 16, 2014

US authorities today reported finding wild birds in Washington state infected with two different highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses, H5N2 and H5N8, raising questions about possible connections with recent H5N2 outbreaks across the border in Canada and with an Asian H5N8 strain that is now hitting European poultry farms.

In reports to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said H5N2 was found in a wild pintail duck, while H5N8 was found in a captive wild gyrfalcon that was fed on hunter-killed birds. Both birds were in Whatcom County, Washington, which borders the Abbotsford area of British Columbia, the site of recent H5N2 outbreaks in poultry.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Catered Office Party Is the Site of Staph Aureus Intoxication

Approximately 60 people became ill after attending an office party in Florida.  About 25 were taken to the hospital.  The catered event served turkey, ham, stuffing and green bean to some 700 people.   The caterer was identified as Kitchen Divas, which from the website, appears to be a legitimate operation.

The illness appears to be Staphylococcus aureus intoxication, and one would guess the level of toxin formed in the food would be pretty high because of the short duration from the time the product was eaten to the point when people become ill, and the fact they had to cart people to the hospital.

If this is the case, it would mean that one of the foods served was drastically temperature abused.

It sucks when staff parties turn into 'staph' parties.  We highlighted a similar event within the past month in North Carolina where more than a dozen postal workers become ill.  Makes you reconsider attending your company's holiday party, doesn't it?

WKMG Local 6 Orlando
Dozens sickened at office holiday party in Maitland
Officials say 30 taken to hospital for apparent food poisoning
Author: Shaun Chaiyabhat, Reporter,
Michelle Dendy, Web Editor,
Published On: Dec 10 2014 04:48:18 PM EST Updated On: Dec 12 2014 06:41:14 AM EST 


Authorities are investigating what caused nearly 60 people to fall ill at a large holiday party in a Maitland office building Wednesday afternoon.

Orange County Fire Rescue, Seminole County Fire Rescue and Winter Park Fire Department were called to the office building at 2301 Lucien Way roughly two hours after the building-wide catered luncheon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Report - Increased Outbreaks Associated with Raw Milk

In a survey looking at illness related to raw milk over a 5 year period, researchers concluded that the number of illnesses associated with raw milk has increased.  Basically, it is because more people are drinking raw milk.  There are now more states that allow for the sale of raw milk (currently 30).

There is a higher risk of foodborne illness from drinking raw milk.  If one chooses to drink raw milk, they should know that.

Emerging Infectious Disease

Volume 21, Number 1—January 2015
Increased Outbreaks Associated with Nonpasteurized Milk, United States, 2007–2012


Within this 6-year period, the number of outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk increased. The number of outbreaks caused by Campylobacter spp. nearly doubled. The average number of outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk was 4-fold higher during this 6-year period (average 13.5 outbreaks/year) than that reported in a review of outbreaks during 1993–2006 (3.3 outbreaks/year) (4). This increase was concurrent with a decline in the number of states in which the sale of nonpasteurized milk was illegal, from 28 in 2004 to 20 in 2011 (79) and with an increase in the number of states allowing cow-share programs (from 5 in 2004 to 10 in 2008) (8,9). The decision to legalize the sale of nonpasteurized milk or allow limited access through cow-share programs may facilitate consumer access to nonpasteurized milk (5). The higher number of outbreaks in states in which the sale of nonpasteurized milk is legal has been reported elsewhere (4).

The legal status of nonpasteurized milk sales in 1 state can also lead to outbreaks in neighboring states. In a 2011 outbreak of Campylobacter spp. infections associated with nonpasteurized milk in North Carolina, where sales of this product were prohibited, milk was purchased from a buying club in South Carolina, where sales were legal. Another outbreak of Campylobacter spp. infection in 2012 implicated nonpasteurized milk from a farm in Pennsylvania, where sales are legal; cases from this outbreak were reported from Maryland, West Virginia, and New Jersey, all of which prohibit sale of raw milk (10). All patients residing outside Pennsylvania had traveled to Pennsylvania to purchase the milk (10).

Outbreaks associated with nonpasteurized milk continue to pose a public health challenge. Legalization of the sale of nonpasteurized milk in additional states would probably lead to more outbreaks and illnesses. This possibility is especially concerning for vulnerable populations, who are most susceptible to the pathogens commonly found in nonpasteurized milk (e.g., children, senior citizens, and persons with immune-compromising conditions). Public health officials should continue to educate legislators and consumers about the dangers associated with consuming nonpasteurized milk; additional information can be obtained at In addition, federal and state regulators should enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of nonpasteurized milk.

Report - Phthalates and IQ Levels in Children

A published study claims a link between lower IQ levels in children with higher levels of phthalates in their mothers during pregnancy.  But there have been other linkages to issues associated with development and reproductive health.  The chemical does not bioaccumulate in the body and does break down in the environment..

Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills, gelling agents,  adhesives and glues, detergents, packaging, children's toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are also frequently used in soft plastic fishing lures, sex toys, caulk, paint pigments, shower curtains, vinyl upholstery, adhesives, floor tiles, food containers and wrappers, and cleaning materials. Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.  Items made of PVC and cosmetics may be the primary contributors.

 So it is easy to see that people are commonly exposed to phthalates.  In one study, CDC has found that people had the metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine.

From the FDA webpage on the topic:
FDA reviewed the safety and toxicity data for phthalates, including the CDC data from 2001, as well as the CIR conclusions based on reviews in 1985 and 2002. While the CDC report noted elevated levels of phthalates excreted by women of child-bearing age, neither this report nor the other data reviewed by FDA established an association between the use of phthalates in cosmetic products and a health risk. Based on this information, FDA determined that there wasn’t a sound, scientific basis to support taking regulatory action against cosmetics containing phthalates.
Here is the link to the CDC website on the topic.

Like BPA, there is controversy around the real risk associated with phthalates.  And so what we can say is that where possible, we avoid risk.  This is not always easy because many of the items where phthalates are used, do not have regulations that require them on the label.  So on cosmetic items, especially fragrances, look for 'phthalate free'.  Use plastic with recycling codes 1, 2, and 5.  Throw out old plastic toys (pre-2010) or don't let little kids play with them (for you 'collectors').  Do not heat food in plastic containers.  Sex toys....won't go there.

Prenatal exposure to chemicals tied to lower IQ at age 7
By Kathryn Doyle

Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:20pm EST

(Reuters Health) - Children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of phthalates, common chemicals in consumer products, in late pregnancy tend to score lower than other kids on intelligence tests at age seven, according to a new study.

Some soaps, nail polish, hairspray, shower curtains, raincoats, car interiors and dryer sheets contain phthalates, which are used as so-called plasticizers, or softening agents.

At present, the Food and Drug Administration does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk, but six types of phthalates are currently banned from children’s toys, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Does BPA increase Blood Pressure? The BPA Controversy Continues

In the ongoing controversy on BPA, that chemical used in the lining of cans and in plastic containers, a Korean research team claims that BPA increases blood pressure. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) countered and said the study "inappropriately concerns and confuses consumers" in that the claim "is a gross overstatement of the findings, an incredible disservice to public health, and runs contrary to years of research by government scientists".

Huffington Post
BPA In Cans Tied To Increased Blood Pressure
Posted: 12/08/2014 4:31 pm EST Updated: 12/08/2014 5:59 pm EST
By Andrew M. Seaman

(Reuters Health) - People have small increases in blood pressure after drinking from cans lined with material that includes a common chemical, South Korean researchers say.

When can linings contained bisphenol A - more commonly known as BPA - systolic blood pressure (the top number) went up by about 5 millimeters of mercury (mm/Hg), researchers found.

"I would like to recommend consumers use fresh foods or glass bottled foods rather than canned foods," said Dr. Yun-Chul Hong, the study's senior researcher from the Seoul National University College of Medicine. "I also hope manufacturers develop and use healthy alternatives (instead) of BPA for inner lining of the can containers."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Increasing Demand for Organic Food Challenges Certifying Inspector Capacity

USDA estimates that the double digit growth in organic food will reach $35 Billion in sales this year.

According to a report in the WSJ,  this has created challenges for the inspectors who certify those farms as organic.  There are 81 accredited agencies who certify farms and according to the report:

40% of these 81 certifiers have been flagged by the USDA for conducting incomplete inspections; 16% of certifiers failed to cite organic farms’ potential use of banned pesticides and antibiotics; and 5% failed to prevent potential commingling of organic and nonorganic products

It is  not an easy task....farms must keep accurate records in order to show compliance with numerous restrictions.  And these records must be maintained over a number of years to demonstrate that the food can be called organic.

But for the consumer, they are willing to pay more than double for organic foods.

Wall Street Journal - Business

Organic-Farming Boom Stretches Certification System
USDA Farms Out Inspections, but Thoroughness Is Questioned
Caelainn Barr Dec. 9, 2014 12:53 p.m. ET

The $35 billion organic-food industry has nearly tripled in size in the past decade, challenging the Agriculture Department’s ability to monitor the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock.

Sliced Apple Product Recalled Due to Positive Listeria Test

Del Monte is recalling approximately 3000 units of packaged sliced apples after the Ohio Department of Health found Listeria in testing retail product.  No illnesses have been reported.  The product identified in the recall is past its expiration date.

While the risk of a Listeria outbreak from sliced apples may be considered low due to lack of an associated outbreak, there have been recalls of sliced apples due to Listeria.  One recall occurred at a Washington company in 2013 and also at a New Jersey company in 2012.  Listeria has been shown to grow on sliced apples when those apples are temperature abused, or when certain spoilage organisms grow and cause fruit rotting (Conway, eta. 2000).  So while the shelf-life on this product is relatively short (approximately 12 days), there theoretically can be an issue in certain situations.


Business Wire
Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Fresh Cut Fruit Containing Gala Red Apple in a Few States in North East US Because of Possible Health Risk

December 10, 2014 12:39 AM Eastern Standard Time

CORAL GABLES, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. (“Del Monte Fresh”) announced today the voluntary recall of fresh cut fruit containing Gala red apples grown in Pennsylvania. The affected product was distributed to a limited number of customers in a few States in North East US and is being recalled because these apples have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Monday, December 8, 2014

E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Linked to Cucumbers (Colorado, 2013)

A 2013 outbreak of  E. coli O157:H7, where 9 individuals were infected, appears to be linked to eating sandwiches containing cucumbers.  All ill patrons ate at different shops of the same restaurant chain which all used the same lot of cucumbers.

From the report:

Prior to this outbreak, there have been no documented E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with cucumbers in the United States, per a literature search conducted by CDPHE and by searching for outbreaks on CDC’s Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (, which captures foodborne outbreak reports generated by local and state health departments and the CDC from 1998 through 2012. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with consumption of cucumber salad (consisting of cucumbers, hard-boiled egg, and vinaigrette dressing) affected school-age children from England who were visiting France in 2002 (5). The investigators hypothesized that the cucumbers became contaminated in the growing field. There is evidence that cucumbers can support the growth of E. coli O157:H7 based on a 1993 study by Abdul-Raouf et al (6). The researchers inoculated sliced cucumbers with E. coli O157:H7 and found that the bacteria load increased when storage temperatures were at 21 degrees Celcius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Mukherjee et al conducted microbiological analyses of fresh cucumbers produced by organic and conventional farmers in Minnesota and were not able to isolate E. coli O157:H7 but did find that cucumbers are often contaminated with coliforms, an indicator of fecal contamination (7).

For this particular investigation, it is not clear how the cucumbers could have been contaminated. It is very unlikely that contamination occurred within the 3 implicated Jimmy John’s locations, as no major food handling violations were noted during the environmental assessments and no ill food handlers were discovered. It is more likely that the implicated stores received contaminated cucumbers. Our investigation found no evidence that would support that the cucumbers became contaminated at the Denver-based produce distributor (Colo-Pac Produce, Inc.) or during shipment to the implicated Jimmy John’s locations. 

But it is easy to see that cucumbers can be a source. They are on the ground when harvested, and if not washed sufficiently, that contamination can be transferred to the slice when cut.
 Marler Blog / Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
 Outbreak #2013-00-006 - Escherichia coli O157:H7 Outbreak Associated with Cucumbers Consumed at a Sandwich Restaurant Chain – Colorado, October 2013

 CDPHE and several Denver metropolitan area public health departments investigated an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) that occurred in October 2013. Nine cases were identified, including 1 probable case and 8 laboratory-confirmed cases with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) patterns from E. coli O157:H7 isolated from stool. All 9 cases reported eating sandwiches at Denver-area Jimmy John’s locations in early October 2013. The outbreak investigation consisted of case finding and interviews, 2 separate case-control studies, environmental investigations, produce traceback, and laboratory testing. The results of this investigation indicate that consumption of Jimmy John’s sandwiches containing cucumbers imported from Mexico was the likely cause of the outbreak. To our knowledge, this is the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with cucumbers reported in the United States. Public health and food safety officials should be aware that cucumbers may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, which could cause sporadic E. coli O157:H7 infections as well as outbreaks. As of the date of this report, no other cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the PFGE pattern combination seen in this outbreak were reported in Colorado.

Hepatitis Outbreak in NJ Sends People Running to Get Vaccinated

A Hepatitis A infected kitchen worker at a New Jersey restaurant has caused hundreds to get vaccinated.  However, at this point, the only person to  be diagnosed is that employee.

CBS Philadelphia
Health Officials Rule Out Possible Second Case Of Hepatitis A In Hamilton Township, NJ
December 4, 2014 5:10 PM

By Cleve Bryan

HAMILTON Twp., NJ (CBS) – Fear of contracting hepatitis A drove hundreds of people to a vaccination clinic Thursday after learning a kitchen worker at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering is severely ill from the virus and may have been contaminating customer’s food for weeks.

Yogurt Recall - FDA Claims State Inspectors Knew of Issue Prior to Recall

Last year, Chobani recalled yogurt due to extensive mold contamination. The recall was issued after numerous consumer complaints.  According to the FDA Inspection report (page 6 if you really want to see), the Idaho Department of Agriculture knew about the mold issue 2 months before the recall.   Idaho DofA denies this claim.
State Knew Chobani Yogurt was Tainted Months before Recall, FDA Says

December 05, 2013 2:00 am • By Joe Cadotte -

TWIN FALLS • The Idaho Department of Agriculture saw moldy yogurt during a routine inspection at Chobani two months before the company issued a voluntary recall, says a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report obtained by the Times-News under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The state denies the FDA claim.

Virginia Company Issues 2nd Recall for Sprouts Due to Listeria

A Virginia company is issuing another recall after the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found Listeria in the samples they had tested.  This is the 2nd recall for this company, the other recall occurring in 2012.

The Packer

Sprout investigation — 32 months and counting

12/04/2014 01:41:00 PM
Coral Beach

Criminal charges may be the next step in Virginia’s efforts to protect the public from Henry’s Farm, a fresh sprout grower that has been on officials’ food safety radar because of listeria since April 2012. Courtesy Virginia Department of AgriculturePositive tests for listeria in fresh sprouts from Henry's Farm, Woodford, Va., spurred recalls in April 2012 and November this year. A warning letter from FDA states the labels on the packages violate federal law.

Frozen Enchiladas Recalled Due to Potential Of Salmonella Due to Cilantro Ingredient

A California Company is recalling their frozen chili cheese enchilada product due to the potential for Salmonella.  The recall came after the supplier of the organic cilantro ingredient used in the product notified the producer that they had found Salmonella in their routine testing of the cilantro.

This frozen product appears to be cooked by the processor, at least partially.  Although we can't tell whether the cilantro was added before or after the thermal process.

Another item to notice is that the package has cooking instructions that direct the consumer to fully cook this product before consuming.  These process steps would help to lower the risk of Salmonella in the product, however, if an issue were to arise, then it be a disaster for the manufacturer.  The likelihood of under cooking by the consumer must also be taken into account.

FDA Recall Notice - Dec 3, 2014
Recall -- Firm Press Release
FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company.

Overhill Farms Voluntarily Recalls Open Nature Chile Cheese Enchiladas Sold At Safeway Stores Nationwide Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination

Contact: Consumer: 1-323-582-9977

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — December 3, 2014 — Overhill Farms, Inc. of Vernon, California is voluntarily recalling the frozen food product Open Nature Chile Cheese Enchiladas due to potential Salmonella contamination. The supplier for the organic cilantro contained in such product notified Overhill Farms that the organic cilantro may have Salmonella contamination based on routine testing conducted. The product is sold nationwide at all Safeway-owned stores, including Safeway, Carrs, Genuardi’s, Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Vons.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Raw Sprouts Linked to Salmonella Outbreak, 87 in 11 States

Update - As of 12/2/14, CDC reports 87 cases in 11 states.

Raw bean sprouts have been linked to 63 cases of Salmonella Enteritidis infection.  The bean sprout product was produced by Wonton Foods, based in Brooklyn, NY.  According to CDC, about 1/4 of those infected have been hospitalized.  The cases have been seen in 10 states, mostly in the Northeast and New England.
Bean and seed sprouts are considered high risk food items.  While beans and seeds are normally sanitized prior to beginning the sprouting process, any remaining pathogens on the beans or seeds, such as Salmonella or STEC E. coli, can grow under the conditions that are used to allow the beans or seeds to sprout and grow.
There have been a large number of outbreaks related to sprouts (clover sprouts and E. coli - June, 2014bean sprouts and E. coli, 2011sprouts and Salmonella, 2011 to name just a few).
No recall was conducted because the product was past the shelf-life date.

CDC Outbreak Notice
Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis Infections Linked to Bean Sprouts

Posted November 21, 2014 9:00 PM ET

Read the Advice to Consumers and Retailers »
As of November 21, 2014, a total of 63 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 10 states.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Controversy Over the Safety of Reusable Food Containers

 A battle has begun between the corrugated container provides and the reusable plastic container (RPC) providers with regard to safety for handling produce.  The corrugated container people cite two studies (that they paid for) that show contains can carry bacteria, while the RPC cite a history of use where there has been no documented cases of food safety issues related to these reusable plastic containers.

I guess my approach is more simplistic.  If food surfaces are contaminated, they can be the source of contamination to the food the carry.  That contamination can be pathogens or even spoilage organisms depending upon the application.  So if you are willing to properly clean those containers, then that is great, but you better be able to validate that cleaning process.  If not, there is the possibility of issues (depending on the application of use).  Or you can consider using one-time-use corrugated containers that eliminate the risk.

 Having worked in the industry for many years, I have seen reusable plastic containers that are down right disgusting.  And I think the RPC industry is doing itself a disservice by not stating that these containers need to be properly cleaned and sanitized, especially in applications where that contamination can be harmful (for example, in refrigerated RTE applications where Listeria biofilm formation can lead to contamination).

In a world where sustainability is becoming a necessity, reusable containers will become an important part for reducing waste.  But we cannot give those containers a pass because they are considered 'more sustainable'.  For operations that wish to go in this direction, part of that investment must be the means for cleaning and sanitizing.

Even done to the consumer level where people have used reusable plastic containers for storing food.  One company is selling reusable zip lock bags (bottom).  That is great, as long as the consumers can adequately clean them.

The Packer

RPC, corrugated groups spar over food safety

11/19/2014 11:56:00 AM
Tom Karst 

Two recent studies of bacteria on reusable plastic containers — both sponsored by corrugated carton groups — question the cleaning process used on RPCs before they enter the supply chain again. RPC supplier IFCO and the Reusable Packaging Association has countered that no foodborne illness outbreak has been traced to RPCS. Keith Warriner, professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said the study of RPCs — commissioned by the Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association — was an extension of one he performed in 2013. The first study tested 50 RPCs, while the 2014 study involved 160 RPCs. In the 2014 study, RPC samples from five Canadian packing facilities were pulled from different lots of trays that had been delivered on pallets wrapped with plastic film. Corrugated cartons from those facilities were not tested for comparison, Warriner said.

Taco Seasoning Product Recalled for Peanut Allergen Due to Supplier Error

This is a great example where a supplier's poor allergen control program can lead to a recall by the company purchasing that used that contaminated ingredient in their products.  In this case, a Mexican food processor purchased spice that was contaminated by peanut allergens that originated in the supplier's operation. 
When purchasing ingredients, companies must rely on their supplier for controlling allergens, especially when that supplier handles a wide range of  allergen containing ingredients.  Spice and flavoring companies are two types of ingredient suppliers that often fit this description, but this can also includes most companies that have multiple ingredients (breading, processed meat products, etc),  Purchasers need to know the types of allergens their suppliers are handling and the ability to control those allergens within their operation.  In this particular case, peanut is a type of allergen where even a little amount can be very harmful to a person how is allergic. 

FDA Recall Notice
B&G Foods Issues Allergy Alert On Undeclared Peanut And Almond In Product

Consumer: 877-929-2576
Media: Ernest DelBuono  202-973-1318
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 14, 2014 – B&G Foods announced today it is voluntarily recalling certain Ortega Taco Seasoning Mix, Ortega Taco Sauce, Ortega Enchilada Sauce and Ortega Taco Kit products and certain Las Palmas Taco Seasoning Mix and Las Palmas Taco Sauce products after learning that one or more of the spice ingredients purchased from a third party supplier contain peanuts and almonds, allergens that are not declared on the products’ ingredient statements. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts and almonds run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products. There is no health risk associated with these products for individuals without an allergy to peanuts or almonds.

This recall affects the following products: See List

The recalled products were distributed in retail stores and foodservice outlets nationwide.

This recall does not apply to any other sizes or varieties of Ortega Seasoning Mix or to any Ortega Seasoning Mixes in canisters, all of which are correctly labeled. For example, this recall does not include Ortega Fajita Seasoning Mix, Ortega Fish Taco Seasoning Mix, Ortega Chili Seasoning Mix, Ortega Chipotle Seasoning Mix or Ortega Burrito Seasoning Mix, all of which are correctly labeled. This recall also does not include any Las Palmas Enchilada Sauce, which is correctly labeled.

“The safety of our consumers is our number one priority. We are committed to providing safe, quality products while observing the highest ethical standards in the conduct of our business,” said William Wright, Executive Vice President of Quality Assurance and R&D at B&G Foods. “The core values that we’ve embodied since the company was founded in the 1800s — honesty, integrity and accountability — guide our actions as we take the appropriate measures to address this issue.”

This recall was initiated in consultation with the FDA after it was discovered that ingredients from a single supplier used in the affected products were contaminated with peanut and almond allergens. B&G Foods has since terminated its relationship with this supplier and is receiving these ingredients from other sources in anticipation of resuming production shortly.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company’s recall hotline at 877-929-2576 from 8:00 a.m. ET to 8:00 p.m. ET, or visit for additional information.

About B&G Foods

B&G Foods, Inc. (NYSE: BGS) and its subsidiaries manufacture, sell and distribute a diversified portfolio of high-quality, branded shelf-stable foods across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Based in Parsippany, New Jersey, B&G Foods’ products are marketed under many recognized brands, including Ac’cent, B&G, B&M, Baker’s Joy, Bear Creek Country Kitchens, Brer Rabbit, Canoleo, Cary’s, Cream of Rice, Cream of Wheat, Devonsheer, Don Pepino, Emeril’s, Grandma’s Molasses, JJ Flats, Joan of Arc, Las Palmas, MacDonald’s, Maple Grove Farms, Molly McButter, Mrs. Dash, New York Flatbreads, New York Style, Old London, Original Tings, Ortega, Pirate’s Booty, Polaner, Red Devil, Regina, Rickland Orchards, Sa‑són, Sclafani, Smart Puffs, Spring Tree, Sugar Twin, Trappey’s, TrueNorth, Underwood, Vermont Maid and Wright’s. B&G Foods also sells and distributes two branded household products, Static Guard and Kleen Guard.

Bratwurst Recalled for Allergen Mislabeling Due to Soy Lecithin

Earlier this week, USDA posted a recall notice for a Pennsylvania company that was using soy lecithin as a processing aid and did not have the allergen claim on the label.  Now another Pennsylvania company has issued a recall for doing the same thing -  using a releasing agent containing soy lecithin and not claiming it on the label.

When the dog is on a scent, he's going to keep huntin'.  That is, now that USDA sees that there is an issue here that is not being properly addressed, those inspectors are going to be looking for it.  My bet is that this is not the last recall for soy lecithin mislabeling.

USDA News Release
Pennsylvania Firm Recalls Pork Products Due To Misbranding and Undeclared Allergens

Class II Recall 080-2014
Health Risk: Low Nov 19, 2014
Congressional and Public Affairs   Felicia Thompson   (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2014 – K. Heeps, Inc., an Allentown, Pa., establishment is recalling approximately 2,902 pounds of Bratwurst and Bangers sausage products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The products contain soy lecithin; a releasing agent used on contact surfaces during production and is a known allergen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fifteen Postal Workers Ill from Potluck Leftovers

Potlucks are one thing, but leftovers from potlucks.....  In this case, 15 postal workers become ill after consuming leftovers from a potluck dinner held for 200 to honor veterans. 

What was the issue?  While the news reports are light on information, we can make a pretty good guess.  First, no one got sick from the initial offering, but rather it was the nightshift workers who became ill after consuming the leftovers.  The symptoms of vomiting and nausea were noted and it occurred about 6 hours or so after their shift began.  The short duration from consumption to onset of the illness  in conjunction with the symptoms of vomiting and nausea would indicate a Staphylococcus aureus intoxication.  If that is the case, we could guess that some of the leftovers were not properly refrigerated.

USA Today

15 hospitalized after suspected food poisoning

CHARLOTTE — Fifteen people were taken to hospitals Thursday morning after becoming sick at a U.S. Postal facility in west Mecklenburg County, N.C.

Pretzel Dogs Recalled Due to Use of Soy Lecithin Not Listed on Label

A Pennsylvania firm is recalling pretzel dogs due to the fact that soy lecithin was not included on the label.  In this case, the soy lecithin was used as a processing aid, more specifically a release agent (like Pam).  But the need to claim soy lecithin, when used as a processing aid, was not always clear cut.
From the Food Allergy Research and Resource Center (FARRP website link below),
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in the U.S. requires the labeling of soy lecithin when used in any capacity, including use as a processing aid.

But in the past, it was not as clear with regard to soy lecithin.  More from FARRP:

Additionally, on February 25, 2013, the FDA withdrew its May 2, 2006 guidance entitled "Guidance on the Labeling of Certain Uses for Lecithin Derived from Soy Under Section 403(w) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act" which originally indicated a willingness by FDA to use "regulatory discretion" in dealing with the labeling of soy lecithin in circumstances where soy lecithin is used as a stick-release or pan-release agent, a common processing aid use in the food industry. The FDA now requires source labeling of soy lecithin when used as a release agent applied directly to the food contact surfaces or as a direct ingredient in the product formulation, with the exception of the specific
Another thing that FARRP points out is that the level of allergen present on the product when used as a processing aid may be well below the limit that will cause anyone to have a reaction.  However, there may be that one case.

It is important that food operations review their use of processing aids.  If allergens are present such as soy lecithin, it needs to be included on the label.

USDA News Release
Pennsylvania Firm Expands Recalls Pretzel Dog Products Due To Misbranding and Undeclared Allergens
Class I Recall 079-2014-EXP  Health Risk: High Nov 18, 2014 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Norovirus Outbreak on Cruise Ship Affects Over 170

An outbreak of Norovirus occurred on a cruise ship a few days after leaving port where over 170 people, including both passengers and crew members, became ill.  The trip was scheduled for a one month long trip.  Because Norovirus can spread so quickly, the boat was docked to allow the sick passenger's to disembark.

Norovirus is highly contagious and can spread quickly within a captive population such as passengers on a cruise ship, or students in a dormitory.  It is also a hardy virus, surviving for long periods of times on surfaces and withstanding normal sanitizer concentration.  Because of this, disinfection requires detail cleaning 
using higher sanitizer concentrations (up to/over one cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water).

It is interesting that this boat had an earlier outbreak 6 months prior. So was something missed on a earlier cleaning, or did a passenger get on board already carrying the virus?

For a nice print out sheet on cleaning up diarrhea and vomit, click on this link.

      Clean-up and Disinfection for Norovirus (“Stomach Bug”)

Los Angeles Times

Princess Cruises ship docks in San Pedro after outbreak of norovirus

By Esmeralda Bermudez, Hugo Martin 11/16/14

A Princess Cruises ship docked in San Pedro early Sunday after nearly 170 people on board fell ill in the ship's second outbreak of norovirus this year, officials said.

Passengers began to show signs of the gastrointestinal sickness a few days into the month-long voyage to Hawaii and Tahiti. All the ill passengers and crew were treated on the ship. None required hospitalization when the ship, the Crown Princess, reached port, according to cruise officials.

Concession Stands at KC Professional Sports Stadiums Cited for Food Safety Issues

Health inspectors discovered a number of food safety issues when conducting inspections of the two professional stadiums in Kansas City.  

Concession operations that are used infrequently (at least not every day) need to take into account that they have a flurry of activity for 4 to 6 hours and then are not used for days or weeks afterwards.  Items that are not cleaned will sit around for days, attracting pests such as cockroaches or mice.  Another issue they face is that the people who work there may be temporary workers or even volunteers.  Getting these people up to speed on food safety fundamentals in an hour or so can be a challenge, especially if there is high turnover from event to event and/or there is lack of long term worries by the employee.

These issues can increase the risk that something will not be done correctly including improper clean-up after the event is over, or mishandling food during the event by the less-than-knowledgeable workers.  In the end, this can make the chance of food contamination higher, resulting in consumers contracting foodborne illness or a poor health inspection.  These will lead to bad publicity for the organization, even if that organization had no involvement in making the food.  In this case, the KC Chiefs or Royals.  Further, in light of the high food prices paid at these events,  consumer backlash can be great, and revenue loss even greater (see attached story below).

It is important for any operations that operate temporary food events to have tight controls over handling and clean-up.  Self-inspections during and after the event by facility managers is important in ensuring compliance.

Kansas City Star
Health inspections find problems at Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium

By MARK DAVIS   The Kansas City Star
11/14/2014 6:29 PM    11/14/2014 9:23 PM

Kansas City health officials were concerned and disappointed by conditions they found at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums during recent food safety inspections.

Reports itemized 37 critical violations of food safety among 26 concession stands and the main kitchens inside the two parks on Nov. 3, the Monday after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the New York Jets.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Man Requires Surgery After Consuming Pizza Contaminated With Wire Bristles

As reported on the Marler Blog, a man required surgery to remove two small pieces of wire that had become lodged in his intestines, one of them piercing the intestinal wall.  The wire pieces came from a pizza he ate, originating from a wire brush that was used by the pizza shop. 

As sited in the article, investigators inspected the shop and  “Observed a wire brush with food debris between the wires. Wires on the brush were bent and pointing in different directions and did not maintain its original design. Employee stated they had another brush that was used to clean the oven but was discarded last week. Person in charge stated the outside of the oven is cleaned every night and the inside of the oven is cleaned once a month using the brush.”

This is not the first issue involving wire bristles from an overused wire brush.  In another recent case, a man required surgery when a wire bristle was inadvertently consumed via a steak from the grill. (

Operations must consider the risks of using metal bristled brushes, and where possible, look for alternatives.  If they are used, care must be taken to ensure that bristles are not shed onto the equipment surface and that those brushes are replaced regularly, certainly if it is expected that the wires can become dislodged.

Wire Brush and Pizza – Not a Good Mix Posted

By Bill Marler on November 13, 2014

 On the evening of Friday, September 19, 2014 Diane Norman bought pizzas at Domino’s Pizza located at 2800 Milton Way in Milton, Washington. She took the pizzas home for her family to consume. Michael Norman chose two slices of Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza and took a bite of one slice. He swallowed and immediately felt something sharp in his throat. He started to choke and dashed to the sink to drink water to help clear his throat. At this point he felt a sharp tearing at his throat and drank a glass of cranberry juice. His throat felt scratched and to relieve his pain he ate a slice of bread. Although this action eliminated the feeling that food was lodged in his throat, Michael felt a dull pain in his stomach. Since he was no longer felt hungry, he did not eat any more pizza. Diane Norman froze the remaining leftover pizza. Sometime later she examined the frozen pizza slices and found a wire in a piece of the pizza she had saved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Applying the Drug Guidance "Circumstances that Constitute Delaying, Denying, Limiting, or Refusing a Drug Inspection" to Food Operations

FDA recently issued a guidance for drug related companies titled "Circumstances that Constitute Delaying, Denying, Limiting, or Refusing to Permit Drug Inspection". Some have suggested that this type of guidance may be extended to food processing facilities that fall under FDA jurisdiction.

It is stated in this guidance:
It is a prohibited act under sections 301(e) and 301(f) of the FD&C Act to refuse to permit entry or inspection or refuse to permit access to or copying of certain specified records.10 New section 501(j) of the FD&C Act, as added by FDASIA section 707, now deems a drug to be adulterated if "…it has been manufactured, processed, packed, or held in any factory, warehouse, or establishment and the owner, operator, or agent of such factory, warehouse, or establishment delays, denies, or limits an inspection, or refuses to permit entry or inspection."
 Basically, if they can't see what they want, when they want, that product is adulterated.

The categories defined in the guidance include 1) Delay of inspection (pushing back an inspection, holding up during an inspection, delaying of getting records), 2) Denial of inspection, 3) Limiting an inspection (limiting access, limiting photography, limiting access to records or the copying of those records, and limiting or preventing the collection of samples, and 4) Refusal to permit entry.

It may be worth the time to gain an understanding of this guidance and what constitutes the definitions in preventing access.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sausage Product Recalled Due to Temperature Abused Rice Ingredient

A Texas company is recalling a Boudin, a sausage product made with cooked rice, after USDA found that the company did not properly handle the cooked rice from a temperature control standpoint.

Boudin is a Cajun type product that is a mixture of cooked rice, pork, and seasonings.  It may contain onions and green peppers.  The mixture is ground and stuffed into a sausage casing.    

One of the primary risks associated with temperature abused rice is Bacillus cereus.  B. cereus can cause illness when people ingest B. cereus cells (diarrheal syndrome) or by the toxin it produces (emetic syndrome).  In this particular case, the concern would be the emetic syndrome.  With this, the spore-forming organism is not destroyed when the rice is cooked, and then grows in the temperature-abused cooked rice.  As it grows to high numbers, it produces the toxin.  When the toxin containing food is eaten, it results in severe vomiting.  This toxin is heat stable..

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Industrial Oil Recalled after Being Used in Feed.

An Ohio company is recalling Soyoil containing Lascadoil, industrial processing waste oil, which was intended for non-food product or bio-fuels but may have been used as a feed ingredient.  Use of it in feed may have resulted in the deaths of some turkeys.

Interesting is the fact that this comes as FDA looks to implement preventive control for feed for animals as a part of the FSMA regulation.

Shur-Green Farms is basically a recycler of food waste.  The website (excerpt below) positions itself as a green company taking waste and putting it to best use.  Certainly that is admirable.  But you can imagine that waste streams may be challenging.  While not sure in this case, but if a person inadvertently contaminated a waste product, and then sent it to this company for recycling, and the assumption is made that it can be used in feed...then there can be issues.

FDA Recall Notice
Shur-Green Farms Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Lascadoil/Soyoil Due to Possible Lasalocid Contamination


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — October 23, 2014 — Shur-Green Farms LLC(Ansonia, OH) has voluntarily recalled loads of Soyoil containing Lascadoil, industrial processing waste oil, which was intended for non-food product or bio-fuels but may have been used as a feed ingredient. This voluntary recall is the result of death in turkeys.

The recall includes load sold on or before September 17, 2014.

NJ Company Recalls Cashew Pieces for Potential Salmonella Contamination

A NJ food company is recalling bags of cashew pieces after FDA testing found the potential for Salmonella. There have not yet been any reported illnesses.

It is hard to see from the notice whether the product actually tested positive "The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing conducted by the FDA."   Never comes out to say 'A sample of the product tested positive for Salmonella',


FDA Recall Notice
Chetak New York L.L.C. Recalls 7 Oz., 14 Oz., & 28 Oz. Packages of "Deep Raw Cashew Pieces" Because of Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer:  1-973-835-1906

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — October 27, 2014 — Edison, NJ — Chetak New York L.L.C. of Edison, NJ is recalling its 5560 packages of 7oz., 3840 packages of 14oz., & 1920 packages of 28oz. "DEEP RAW CASHEW PIECES" because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Baby Wipes Recalled Due to Bacterial Contamination

 A PA firm is recalling baby wipes after tests showed that the product contains Burkholderia cepacia. This gram negative bacteria is considered more of a secondary pathogen in that it only causes infection in individuals with underlying health issues, especially those in hospitals. According to the CDC, B. cepacia is a hardy organism in that it is more resistant to common antibiotics. It has also been found to be more resistant to antiseptics. This might be a reason why it was found in this product, and is also a good reason for conducting a recall in that it will have exposure to a high risk group...babies.

FDA Recall Notice
Nutek Disposables, Inc. Issues Alert Due to Potential Bacteria in Baby Wipes

Consumer: 1-855-646-4351
Media: Sean Wood 1-212-445-8310
Hallie Bozzi 1-212-445-8276

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Oct. 25, 2014 — MCELHATTAN, PA — Nutek Disposables, Inc. of McElhattan, PA has initiated a nationwide voluntary product recall at the retail level of all lots of baby wipes that it manufactured under the brand names Cuties,, Femtex, Fred's, Kidgets, Member's Mark, Simply Right, Sunny Smiles, Tender Touch, and Well Beginnings, because some packages may contain bacteria. These wipes were distributed by Nutek prior to October 21, 2014 to the following retail stores: Walgreens, Sam's Club, Family Dollar, Fred's, and

Monday, October 27, 2014

Breaded Chicken Product Recalled After Linked to Cluster of Salmonella Illnesses

A Chicago based firm is recalling partially prepared breaded chicken breast product - Chicken Kiev after that product was linked to cluster of Salmonella illnesses.

Although this product is partially cooked by the processor (in order to set the breading), it still needs to be further cooked by the consumer as per the cooking instructions.

But it is easy to see where consumer issues can occur regarding undercooking.   For one, the product is frozen, so when the consumer begins with frozen product, they may not cook it long enough in order to achieve the proper internal temperature. Along with this, many people do not use a thermometer in order to ensure that temperature is met. 

Another issue can be related to the fact that breaded products often look like they are fully cooked. This is because the par-cooking that sets the breading gives it a finished cooked appearance.

Salmonella enteritidis is a strain most often associated with eggs, although we can see it in chicken meat as well.
USDA News Release
Illinois Firm Recalls Chicken Products Due to Possible Salmonella Enteritidis Contamination
Class I Recall 073-2014
Health Risk: High Oct 24, 2014
Congressional and Public Affairs  Benjamin Bell   (202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, October 24, 2014 – Aspen Foods Division of Koch Meats, a Chicago, Il., based establishment, is recalling 28,980 pounds of chicken products that may be contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella Enteritidis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. FSIS requested Aspen Foods conduct this recall because this product is known to be associated with a specific illness cluster.

Breaded Chicken Product Recalled Due to Presence of S. aureus Enterotoxin

A Pennsylvania firm is recalling breaded chicken product after the Colorado State Department of Agriculture discovered Staphylococcal enterotoxin present in the product during routine testing.  There have been no reported illnesses.

As you know, when Staphylococcus aureus grows to high levels in food, it can produce an enterotoxin.  A person suffers the illness when they eat the food with the toxin, not the bacteria.  The symptoms. vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea, are seen in 1 to 4 hours after consuming, but can be within 30 minutes up to 10 hours after consumption.

The toxin is heat stable, and will survive any cooking done by the consumer.

S. aureus does not grow at refrigeration temperatures, so generally, growth and toxin production is seen in temperature abused products.  The level of S. aureus to get levels of toxin needed for illness is >10E5.

In this particular case, we can assume the product was battered, breaded and then par-fried to set the breading.  Following that thinking, the organism would have either grown in the batter (which is a common issue when batter is not properly temperature controlled), or in the finished product, if that product was temperature abused.  In the first case where it formed in the batter, par-frying would have eliminated the vegetative organism leaving only the toxin.  If it formed on the finished product, again because if that finished product had been temperature abused, we would expect to see the organism as well as the toxin on the frozen product.   We are not able to tell from this report which was more likely the case.

Is Staph enterotoxin a routine test for regulatory laboratories? Not sure.

USDA News Release
Pennsylvania Firm Recalls Chicken Products Due to Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Contamination
Class I Recall 074-2014
Health Risk: High Oct 25, 2014

Congressional and Public Affairs  Megan Buckles  (202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2014 – Murry’s Inc., a Lebanon, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 31,689 pounds of gluten free breaded chicken products that may be contaminated with Staphylococcal enterotoxin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is Poor Nutrition Linked to Children's Bad Behavior?

In this month's Food Technology (October, 2014), the feature article A Diet for a Kinder Planet lays out some of the research that indicated a link between poor nutrition and bad behavior. 

It states that omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc and tryptophan may be essential for mental balance.  These are often lacking in the diets of children.  Because of this, they suggest that be a cause of antisocial behavior.

The omega-3 fatty acids an important component in brain tissue (considering the 60% of the brain's composition is fat....I guess it is not bad to be called a fat head).   "In particular, the omega-3 fatty acid docasohexaenoic acid (DHA) makes up a significant proportion of nerve-cell membranes and synapse in the central nervous system.."  One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fish.

The article admits that the studies to this point only demonstrate a positive correlation and do not indicate causation.  This is an interesting read.

Food Technology (October, 2014)
A Diet for a Kinder Planet Toni Tarver | October 2014, Volume 68, No.10

Considered essential for good health, a wholesome diet and good nutrition may also help improve the behavior and mood of society at large.

Good nutrition is a prerequisite for proper development of the human body after conception, and it is considered a crucial factor in the prevention of chronic disease. It is widely accepted that cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and other manifestations of chronic inflammation can be controlled or averted with a nutritious diet. Consequently, the food and nutrition policies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other wealthy countries have focused almost exclusively on how diet affects physical well-being, recommending proper caloric and nutrient intakes for a healthy heart and healthy teeth, bones, and weight. However, these policies make little or no reference to the human brain, which is the most complex part of the body.

The brain regulates the functioning of vital bodily organs, is the center for intelligence and emotional response, and consumes approximately 20% of the body’s caloric energy. The brain is also responsible for the expression of personality, mood, and behavior—all of which define humanity. Yet wealthy countries with diverse and extensive food and nutrition policies focused on healthy bodily functions and physical well-being have largely ignored the importance of proper brain function and behavioral well-being. As a consequence, Westernized countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have experienced a precipitous rise in aggression, irritability, impulsivity, and other antisocial behaviors. Are these displays simply a consequence of the extensive free will enjoyed by Americans, Britons, and others, or is something else at play? A fascinating field of research suggests that depression, aggression, impulsivity, and other displays of antisocial behavior may be the result of nutrient deficiencies in the brain and that certain foods and the nutrients they contain may curtail the expression of antisocial behavior.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Serrano Chile Peppers Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

 A North Carolina Company is recalling Serrano Chile Peppers after they received notice that the Michigan Department of Agriculture found a positive Salmonella sample in a lot. No illnesses have been reported.

Salmonella on peppers can be an issue because these peppers are often raw when making fresh salsa. Case in point is the 2008 Salmonella Saint Paul Outbreak where the CDC stated "the investigation showed that jalapeño peppers were a major source of contamination and that serrano peppers also were a source".  In this case, it is believed that the diced tomatoes served to support the growth of the Salmonella when that salsa was held at room temperature.

FDA Recall Notice
Bailey Farms Inc. Recalls Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers Because Of Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer:  1-888-820-2545

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — October 21, 2014 — Bailey Farms, Inc. of Oxford, NC is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditic and arthritis.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Opinion - Ebola in Dallas Gets Off Easy Compared to Food

This past week Ebola got a running start in the US because it was not quarantined well enough, resulting in two health workers becoming ill with the life threatening infection, and now the potential for contamination on a cruise ship. Could you imagine the level of outrage there would have been if a similar situation occurred in a food facility where an infected food worker contaminated a food that resulted in two life threatening illnesses? Could you imagine the media generated public beating food executives would have taken if this company had overlooked symptoms that were presented to them?

Perhaps those of us who work with the food industry are a bit sensitive. And this is not to say there have not been issues, because here has. But I don’t see the onslaught of press releases condemning CDC or hospital officials, especially from the lawyer types who are so skilled in getting their news releases into the mass media channels regarding foodborne illness outbreaks. Where is the Bill Marler equivalent for the healthcare industry? Where are the proposals for enhanced regulations with stricter environmental control in hospital settings?

A case in point is environmental control for nosocomial infections being linked to food. In a recent PBS Frontline series on infections caused by antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, the focus was on whether food related transfer was responsible for the increasing number of antibiotic resistant infections.  

I do not have a problem with trying to understand the risk of this link between antibiotic usage on the farm and how it is related to infections of the general public, but where is the investigation on whether those specific strains may be originating in the hospitals and health care facilities…places where those specific antibiotics are used , where there are plenty of high risk individuals, and where environmental control is not at the same level as we see in food plants.

In this Frontline report, a young epidemiologist travels to Central PA to study how MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is related to pig farms. The woman put up a map showing the number of cases in relation to the location of pig farms. The match was far from perfect, but there was some overlap. However, It would have been interesting to see the overlap between MRSA cases and individuals that visited area hospitals. Or the link between wrestling teams and those cases reported. (Yeah, there is some big time wrastlin’ in Central PA….unfortunately a sport that is conducive to the spread of MRSA).

Certainly the technology exists now, especially with whole genome sequencing, to traceback these cases seem in the general population to order to discover more definitive links. But rather, there seems to be a tendency to speculate, especially where that speculation can wrangle up some big news stories. Unfortunately, the food and food related industries, they seem to be the low hanging fruit for the picking.  

Fortunately, unlike some of these antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens, Ebola is not a very hardy environmental pathogen and thus has not been linked to food…..yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NM Peanut Farmers Still Impacted by 2012 Peanut Butter Recall

The economic impact resulting from the 2012 Peanut Butter Salmonella outbreak is still being felt by the regional peanut farmers in New Mexico.  Farmers in this region had grown Valencia peanuts to supply to the Sunland Plant.  After the outbreak, the plant was shut down as the company went bankrupt. The plant was subsequently sold to another company, but the plant has yet to reopen.  And so the farmers have had to plant lot less peanuts, and have moved on to other crops.

These outbreaks go far beyond the cost of the recall.  There are the people who suffered from the Salmonella illness, plant workers who lost their jobs,  the transportation/warehouse providers who lost business, the impact on local businesses were the workers shop, and the suppliers, including in this case, the farmers, who lost their customer.

US News and World Report

New Mexico peanut industry slow to rebound following 2012 salmonella outbreak, production down
Associated Press Oct. 15, 2014 | 4:27 p.m. EDT
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — There will be significantly fewer peanuts pulled from the ground in eastern New Mexico this harvest season because of lingering fallout from the bankruptcy and sale of a peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a 2012 salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall.

Peanut farmers are expected to bring in 6 million pounds less this year, according to forecasts released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That represents nearly a 30 percent drop in production in New Mexico from the year before.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola virus - A Short Primer on Virus Survival and Disinfection

Here is a short primer on Ebola - condensed from information from the CDC website - focusing on disinfection and survival in the environment.
Survival in the Environment
According to the CDC, under ideal conditions where there is organic material (such as blood), the Ebola virus was show to survive up to 6 days in the environment.  But these viruses are susceptible to drying, UV and disinfectants.  (I is important to point out that there have been limited studies.)
That said, without organic material, it will die off quickly, so it is not likely to be present on doorknobs and light switches or other items that people simply touch (without blood or other organic residue).

How does this compare to Norovirus which can survive in the environment for weeks to months?  There are two categories of viruses - non-enveloped and enveloped.  All viruses are comprised of by genetic material within a protein structure or capsid....but enveloped viruses also have a lipid envelope surrounding that protein capsid while the non-enveloped virus do not.  Ebola is an enveloped virus, and that outer lipid layer, so important for attachment and entry to the cell, is more subject to environmental conditions.  Norovirus, a non-enveloped virus, is more resistant.
According to the CDC, Use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered hospital disinfectant with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus (e.g., norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, poliovirus) to disinfect environmental surfaces in rooms of patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus infection. Although there are no products with specific label claims against the Ebola virus, enveloped viruses such as Ebola are susceptible to a broad range of hospital disinfectants used to disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces.
Basically, if it is good against the more hardy viruses like Norovirus, it will be fine against Ebola.

From the CDC Website (below)
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola 
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
  • Fever (greater than 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Recovery from Ebola depends on good supportive clinical care and the patient’s immune response. People who recover from Ebola infection develop antibodies that last for at least 10 yrs