Monday, March 31, 2014

Country of Origin Labeling Requirement for Meat Moves Forward

 The US Court of Appeals is allowing the country of origin labeling requirement (COOL) to move forward despite the challenge by meat producers.

The law will require processors and retailers to list where the animals used in the product were born, raised and slaughtered.

While this will provide information to consumers, there is no doubt it will add costs to the system.  Just are important is that many countries such as Canada and Mexico will look at this as a trade barrier and may inflict retaliatory tactics to US trade.

Are the costs worth it?  Do consumers really care?

U.S. meat groups thwarted in bid to block country-of-origin labels

(Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected a challenge by meat producers to a federal regulation that specifies labeling requirements for certain meat products, a move applauded by rancher and consumer groups.

Fresh Express Recalls Packages of Salad Due to Listeria

 Fresh Express is recalling 10oz  and 6 oz packages of Italian Salad due to the potential to be contaminated with Listeria.  The product in question is already past its stated expiration date. 

There was no information on how the issue was discovered. 

FDA Recall Notice
Fresh Express Issues Recall of Limited Quantity of Already Expired Italian Salad Due to Possible Health Risk, No Illnesses Cited

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 28, 2014 - Salinas, California – Fresh Express Incorporated has issued a recall of a limited number of cases of 10 oz. and 6oz. Italian Salad with the already expired Use-by Date of March 26 and a Product Code of H071A11A due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall and no other Fresh Express products are being recalled.

Reaching Consumers with Product Safety Information - A Challenge for FSMA Regulation

On March 26th, FDA issued advanced notice of their proposed Implementation of the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act Amendments to the Reportable Food Registry Provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act(link). In summary, FDA is looking for a way to communicate food safety product notices (recalls) to consumers. The objectives are for companies to provide standardized information to FDA, FDA to develop a one-page recall notice regarding that food safety issue with a reportable food, and then that notice will then be distributed by the retail outlets, or grocery chains, to the consumers.
Sounds easy enough, however, there are many challenges in establishing a protocol that will work. Chiefly among them is the fact that consumers are not an easy group to reach with recall this type of information. So how do retailers do this to a point where it is not costly? And from a practical standpoint, will this mandated system have an impact compared to what currently happens today?
This has implications for the manufacturers, but more so for the grocery chains.
Here is a ‘quick’ summary, much taken directly from the seven page document published in the Federal Register.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two companies vie for Sunland Foods plant

The vultures move in to pick the bones of the Sunland Food company  - two companies are bidding for the food plant after Sunland went out of business due to a Salmonella related recall

Hopefully, the lucky buyer has done their due diligence to ensure that the Salmonella is out of the plant.

The New York Times
Canadian Firm Wins Bidding for Peanut Butter Plant


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge Wednesday approved a Canadian company's last-minute $26 million cash offer for an eastern New Mexico peanut butter plant that went bankrupt after a salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall.

But the fight for Sunland Inc. appears far from over.

Lawyers for Hampton Farms of Severn, N.C., which won a first round of bidding for the company last week, were laying the groundwork for an appeal throughout the new auction and hearing where the sale to Golden Boy Foods Ltd. was approved.

At Wednesday morning's bidding, Hampton Farms increased its offer to $25.1 million, but only after making it clear it was doing so under protest and without waiving its right to appeal the ruling that forced the second round of bidding. The hearing to approve the sale was also peppered with motions and testimony aimed at appeal.

Hampton Farms bid $20 million for the plant March 20. But just minutes before a court hearing Friday to approve the sale, Golden Boy Foods called the bankruptcy trustee, Clarke Coll, with a $25 million cash offer.

CDC's An Atlas of Salmonella

Plot a bunch of illness-causing strains of Salmonella over 4 decades onto the maps of the US and you get the Atlas of Salmonella.  There are those geeks out there (you know who you are) that will really stick their nose in this, and some that may even consider wall papering their bathroom with it, but for most others.....not really sure at this point.

CDC Website
New! Public health scientists have tracked Salmonella infections in the United States since 1962. By identifying the structures on the bacteria’s surfaces, scientists can classify the many types of Salmonella into serotypes.
An Atlas of Salmonella in the United States, 1968-2011 Adobe PDF file [PDF - 248 pages] is the first-of-its-kind report that charts over 40 years of laboratory-confirmed surveillance data on 32 Salmonella serotypes. The report includes analyses by age, sex, season, and geography, down to the county level. This is the first time CDC has posted these data online in a downloadable format.

Additional egg products recalled in light of FSIS investigation

 Updated 4/1/14

USDA issued a public health alert for egg products due to the fact they were unfit for human consumption. This comes as FSIS investigates a recall that occurred by the Washington state company, Nutriom for a recall they had last month.

It has come to light in this notice that "FSIS issued the original recall because the company allegedly recorded false laboratory results. The company allegedly produced negative laboratory results for Salmonella when the results were actually positive, or reported that sampling had occurred when, in fact, no microbial testing was performed". 

This recall expands the previous recall by an additional 118,500 lbs from the original 226,710 lbs. However, the company refused to recall the additional amount and so now FSIS will remove it.

Based upon the letter written by Nutriom in response to the USDA, Nutriom disagreed with the USDA. Further, it indicates the record keeping irregularities were the responsibility of one individual who is no longer with the company. 

So it appears from that statement that this is not a system wide issue, but rather a rouge employee issue.

Nutriom produces a dried egg product using a new technology. Salmonella is an issue in egg products and in dried products, so it is important for the process to be sufficient to rid the eggs of pathogens like Salmonella, but it is also important to prevent recontamination of the eggs in the post process environment. Salmonella can survive in dry products and dry process environments for long periods of time, and so can become a environmental contaminate if not controlled.

Nutriom LLC Response to USDA-FSIS Announcement
Nutriom products found to be safe by USDA-FSIS laboratory

Lacey, WA (PRWEB) March 29, 2014

Nutriom LLC is a small, family-owned and operated company, founded by an immigrant who came to this country more than 30 years ago looking for opportunity. Nutriom has developed a new technology for dehydrating eggs using its unique, patent-pending drying technology. Nutriom produces a dehydrated egg (“Egg Crystals™”) that when mixed with water and cooked, functions and tastes just like fresh eggs. It is 100% all-natural, pure egg with no added chemicals or preservatives.

Homemade Mexican-style cheese results in numerous cases of salmonellosis

There appears to be a Salmonella outbreak in Illinois from what we would call 'homemade'  or 'black market' Mexican-style cheese.   The cheese is unlabeled and is sold in the untraditional channels...aka street vendors, workplace associates, back streets, etc....

You know the commercial......
Don't buy unlabeled cheese from a back alley vendor named Al  and wind up praying for death while lying on cold bathroom floor tile. 

Chicago Sun-Times
Health officials: Salmonella linked to unlabeled Mexican-style cheese
BY JORDAN OWEN Staff Reporter March 27, 2014 3:26PM

Updated: March 27, 2014 3:32PM

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning Thursday, saying 100 people have contracted salmonella linked to illegally manufactured Mexican-style cheeses.

Health departments in Cook, DuPage, Boone, Fayette, Kane, Lake, LaSalle, Macon, Marion, McHenry, Vermillion, Washington and Will counties have reported about 100 cases of salmonella believed to be associated with the cheese since July 2012, according to a statement from the department.

IDPH is working to identify the manufacturer of the contaminated cheese, according to the department.

Many cases have reported consuming Mexican-style cheese obtained from worksites, including factories, and at train stations, from street vendors and from relatives and friends, the department said. The cheese is not labeled and is often wrapped in aluminum foil.

NY Company recalls cheese spreads because of linkage to Parkers Farm product

Oscar's Smokehouse is recalling 11 cheese spreads due to the potential to be contaminated with Listeria.  This recall is linked to the Parkers Farm recall in that this company used the Parkers Farm product as the base for making their products.

FDA Recall Notice
Oscar’s Smokehouse, Inc. Recalls “Eleven Varieties (11) Of Cheese Spreads” Because of Possible Health Risk
Jerold Quintal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 26, 2014 - Oscars Smokehouse Inc. of Warrensburg, New York is recalling eleven (11) of its 7-oz. “CHEESE SPREADS” varieties marked with 3 digit lot numbers ranging from” 719-959” because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Canadian company recalls cheesy bread due to Listeria

A Canadian company is recalling breaded items with cheese after the product was found to have Listeria.  There have been no  illnesses associated with the bread items.

This is an interesting case because it is rare that we find a bread item with microbiological pathogen issues, especially Listeria.   However, since this is a bread item with cheese, this is what makes it different than regular bread.  Being that the Canadian recall notice is chock full  of information...not really, we can only guess how the issue occurred.  From looking at the pic, it appears the bread was cooked, sliced, and then layered with cheese.  Then, to fix the cheese to the top of the bread, it was surface heated to a point where the cheese sticks on the bread but the bread is not reheated.   So if this is the case, either the cheese was contaminated before application (either as an incoming ingredient or by the application equipment) and then the organism survived because the fixing heat was no sufficient heat to destroy the organism.  If the cheese did receive sufficient heat, then there could have been a post-process contamination event where the cheese, now on the bread, was exposed to Listeria within the environment.  Perhaps the cheese wasn't heated at all, and was just added to warm bread, making the contamination event easier to  explain.

It is hard to see this as a high risk product from the standpoint that one would expect the water activity (Aw) or available moisture of the cheese to be high enough to support growth.
One question was whether this was frozen or refrigerated?  Freezing will prevent growth of Listeria and would also mean the product would have to probably be heated before eating.  Refrigerated cheesy bread would allow growth, but would also have a limited shelf-life.  
How did they find the contamination...were they testing, and if so, why?
Would love to hear any feedback on this one.

This has implications for retail and foodservice operations who make similar breaded products (or even RTE refrigerated pizza), store it and then sell it

CFIA Recall Notice
Food Recall Warning - Co-op and Market Town Co-op brands bakery products recalled due to Listeria
Recall date:    March 21, 2014
Reason for recall:    Microbiological - Listeria
Hazard classification: Class 1
Company / Firm:   Federated Co-Operatives Ltd.
Distribution: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan
Extent of the distribution: Retail
Reference number: 8723
Recall details

Minnesota Company Recalls Refrigerated Products Due to Listeria

Parkers Farm, a Minnesota company, is recalling a number of refrigerated products, including peanut butter, cheese, salsa, and spreads, after some of the product tested positive for Listeria. No illnesses have been reported.

According to the FDA recall notice, products are distributed nationwide under the Parkers Farm, Parkers, Happy Farms, Central Markets, Hy-Top, Amish Classic, Say Cheez, Win Schuler, and Bucky Badger labels. These products were sold at several retail stores including but not limited to Hy-Vee, Cub, Rainbow, Byerly’s, Lunds, Target, Whole Foods, Price Chopper, Nash Finch, Costco, ALDI, Wal-Mart, and Brookshire stores.

What we can surmise: the company produced a line of refrigerated products including peanut butter – yes, refrigerated peanut butter, and cheese spreads. While it could be expected that Listeria would not grow in peanut butter because of low water activity (Aw), peanut butter could have become contaminated if that product was produced using shared equipment (that was not properly cleaned) or through bad handling and processing practices that led cross contamination. One would guess that the cheese spreads would also be unlikely to support the growth of Listeria (low Aw) and the same could be guessed about the salsa (low pH). But Listeria could be brought into the facility from the ingredients used to make the cheese products, or through other means, and then survived in a niche within the processing environment, especially f there was build-up of residual cheese ‘stuff’ in the processing environment or on the equipment. This notion is supported by the fact that this is the second recall due to Listeria (the last in 2010….of course this begs the question to what degree was the company putting the effort towards control).

It would be interesting to see if this was the same Listeria strain found in both recalls. I would be willing to bet it is the same strain. Work done at Penn State has shown Listeria’s ability to form a resistant state that can survive for long periods of time. In other recall situations, whole genome sequencing has verified that the same organism, outside of a few changes of base pairs in the whole genome, can re-emerge after years within that same processing environment.

So while none of the finished products may be viewed as risky for the growth of Listeria (due to low Aw or low pH), this does not preclude the organism from being present on the product. And here again, we have a scenario where a positive product test triggers a recall on what would probably be viewed as a lower risk product.

FDA Recall Notice
Recall -- State Press Release

FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and safety alerts from states as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA is not responsible for the content of these notices.

Parkers Farm Acquisition, LLC Issues Voluntary Recall of Products Due to Listeria Contamination

Margaret Hart,,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 22, 2014 - The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is alerting consumers to avoid eating certain peanut butter, cheese, salsa, and spreads produced by Parkers Farm Acquisition, LLC of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, after state agriculture department product sampling determined some of the finished products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

There have been no reports of illness associated with consumption of the products. Parkers Farm Acquisition, LLC is cooperating with the MDA investigation and has issued a voluntary recall of all products with the “sell by” dates listed below. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to return them to the place of purchase or discard them.

The list of recalled products includes:

Florida company recalls fresh basil due to Salmonella

A Florida company is recalling packaged fresh basil for potential Salmonella contamination.  A product sample was found to positive for Salmonella during FDA routine random sample testing.  Additional product testing conducted at the request of the packer was negative.  The product was shipped to 7 states  in the southeast US and is distributed by Trader Joe's.  There have been no reported illnesses.

It is conceivable that the basil, which is grown outdoors, may come up with that random positive sample of Salmonella while subsequent sampling results are negative.  Decontamination after harvesting is difficult since the product is highly perishable.  Normally the consumer should wash it immediately before use, especially when used in fresh applications.

This is not the first time basil has been found to be positive for Salmonella.  In 2011, an Indiana company recalled basil after FDA testing found a positive sample.

FDA Recall Notice

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.

Infinite Herbs, LLC Voluntarily Recalls One Lot of Basil Organic Clamshells Because of Possible Health Risk


Amy Philpott
(703) 472-6615

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 14, 2014 - Infinite Herbs LLC of Miami, Florida is voluntarily recalling one lot of its 2.5 ounce packages of Organic Basil because of potential contamination with Salmonella. Salmonella is an organism that 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.

The recall only affects one specific lot of Infinite Herbs brand Organic Basil packaged in 2.5 ounce clamshell bearing the "Date Packed 02/21 20422". The "Date Packed" information can be found on the back side label below the country of origin statement. The product was only distributed to Trader Joe's stores located in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Virginia and Tennessee.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Backyard chickens and the higher risk of Salmonella infection

Research published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) discusses the increase trend of Salmonella cases related to chickens in kept and raised in the home environment or backyard.  Many of these chickens come from mail-order hatcheries.

People, most those who are new to owning chicken, do not realize the risk with regard to the higher prevalence of Salmonella.  People often treat chickens as pets, and this can be problematic  when people fail to wash their hands afterward.  This is especially a problem in young children who are more susceptible and less likely to wash their hands afterwards.

Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID)
Backyard Poultry Flocks and Salmonellosis: A Recurring, Yet Preventable Public Health Challenge
Patricia M. Griffin, Section Editor Casey Barton Behravesh1, Denise Brinson2, Brett A. Hopkins3, and Thomas M. Gomez4 + Author Affiliations
1Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging Zoonotic and Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta
2United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Poultry Improvement Plan, Conyers, Georgia
3International Technical Animal Production and Processing Solutions (iTAPPS), Overland Park, Kansas
4Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA, Atlanta, Georgia
Correspondence: Casey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, MS-A38, Atlanta, GA 30329 (


Poultry are well recognized as possible carriers of Salmonella species. As part of the local foods movement, backyard poultry flocks have increased in popularity in recent years. Between 1996 and 2012, 45 outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to live poultry from mail-order hatcheries were documented. This review examines the history of live poultry–associated salmonellosis in humans in the United States, the current status of the issue, and what can be done to help prevent these illnesses. An integrated One Health approach involving the mail-order hatchery industry, feed stores, healthcare providers, veterinarians, and backyard flock owners is needed to help prevent live poultry–associated salmonellosis.

Pouches of Dehydrated Sliced Fruit Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

Oregon Freeze Dry in cooperation with Costco is recalling pouches of dehydrated sliced fruit due to the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.  The product, packed exclusively for Costco under the Kirkland brand, was shipped to over 35 states.  While the potentially contaminated product had been removed from Costco, there is the possibility that consumers may still have suspect product.  There have been no reported illnesses.

FDA Recall Notice
Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit Recalled Due to Possible Health Risk

Pat Walsh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 13, 2014 – ALBANY, OR. – Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. of Albany, OR has voluntarily recalled 59,780 cases of Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit, produced exclusively for Costco Wholesale Stores. In cooperation with Costco, the company issued the recall after determining the product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Precautionary recall measures began on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Consumers who may have purchased the product were contacted by phone and US. Mail, and a letter regarding the voluntary recall was posted on the Costco website. Furthermore, the affected product was removed from Costco floors. No confirmed cases of Salmonella poisoning from consumption of this product have been reported at this time, Any Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit that is currently available for purchase has been rigorously tested and is safe for consumption. No other products made by Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. are affected.

Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit is sold in a red and white case containing 20 pouches of freeze-dried snacks. Consumers who have purchased Kirkland Signature Real Sliced Fruit with the following “Best Before Dates,” listed on the upper left corner of the front panel of the case, are urged to return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Best Before Date: FEB 14 2015 - MAR 11 2015 (which reads FEB142015 - MAR112015)

Dole Fresh Vegetables Recalls Bagged Salad Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalled bagged salad product due to the potential to be contaminated with Listeria.  The issue was discovered after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) found Listeria in a single random sample of product.  The limited number of cases were shipped to 15 different states and 3 Canadian provinces.   No illnesses have been reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Dole Fresh Vegetables Voluntarily Recalls Limited Number of Bagged Salads Due to Possible Health Risk
William Goldfield

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 13, 2014 - Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of bagged salad. The products being recalled are Dole Italian Blend (UPC 7143000819), Fresh Selections Italian Style Blend (UPC 1111091045), Little Salad Bar Italian Salad (UPC 4149811014) and Marketside Italian Style Salad (UPC 8113102780) coded A058201A or B, with Use-by date of March 12, 2014 due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. Dole Fresh Vegetables is coordinating closely with regulatory officials. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

The product code and Use-by date are in the upper right-hand corner of the package; the UPC code is on the back of the package, below the barcode. The salads were distributed in 15 U.S. states (Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia) and 3 Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Ontario & Quebec).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FDA Shuts Down Delaware Cheese Plant

FDA shut down the Roos Foods cheese plant, that had recently recalled product linked to a Listeria outbreak, after FDA found a number of findings in their investigation.
From the FDA report, the findings included:
  • the roof leaking so badly that water was raining down into the cheese processing room, including onto the cheese processing equipment and storage tanks;
  • standing water on the floor throughout the cheese curd processing room in proximity to the cheese vats and in the storage rooms;
  • metal roof/ceiling and metal supports exhibiting a rusted appearance with metal flaking precluding effective cleaning and sanitizing;
  • food residues found on equipment after cleaning had been performed;
  • openings to milk storage tanks and transfer piping were not capped to prevent contaminants from entering or contaminating food contact surfaces; and
  • floors, wall, and equipment that were deteriorated and in bad repair, including processing equipment and storage vats with rust holes and floors with rough concrete deterioration.
The conditions found in the inspection were sure issues for Listeria contamination....leaks contributing to excessive moisture into the processing environment and being a source of contamination, poor cleaning practices that allow for growth of Listeria within that environment, poor operating equipment that allows access of that contamination to the product, and finally the facility was in bad condition which prevented that contamination from being removed.  The
In short, Listeria contamination had access into the facility and to the product, the conditions within the plant supported growth of the organism and bad facility conditions prevented good cleanup.
It is also important to note that this is the second time that FDA used its new powers granted by FSMA to remove a facilities registration and thus shut down that facility.  The first case was the peanut butter facility that had Salmonella contamination.  After about a number of months of working with FDA, that peanut butter facility ended up closing for good.  If this is an indication, this cheese facility will have a long road to get to the point of reopening, if they survive at all.

FDA News Release
FDA Investigates presence of Listeria in some Hispanic-style Cheeses
Posted March 12, 2014 
The FDA suspended the food facility registration of Roos Foods Inc.2 of Kenton Delaware on March 11, 2014 after the FDA determined there was a reasonable probability of food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by Roos Foods causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans.
The FDA ordered the suspension after an investigation by the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local partners linked a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis to cheeses found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and manufactured by the company. Food facility registration is required for any facility engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States, and if the registration of a facility is suspended, no person shall introduce food from such facility into interstate or intrastate commerce in the United States. The FDA inspected the company’s facility from February 18 – March 4, 2014. During the inspection, FDA investigators found insanitary conditions including:
  • the roof leaking so badly that water was raining down into the cheese processing room, including onto the cheese processing equipment and storage tanks;
  • standing water on the floor throughout the cheese curd processing room in proximity to the cheese vats and in the storage rooms;
  • metal roof/ceiling and metal supports exhibiting a rusted appearance with metal flaking precluding effective cleaning and sanitizing;
  • food residues found on equipment after cleaning had been performed;
  • openings to milk storage tanks and transfer piping were not capped to prevent contaminants from entering or contaminating food contact surfaces; and
  • floors, wall, and equipment that were deteriorated and in bad repair, including processing equipment and storage vats with rust holes and floors with rough concrete deterioration.
Additionally, the FDA collected environmental samples from different areas of the facility, including the cheese processing room and various pieces of equipment. FDA's testing identified 12 swabs that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis showed that 11 of those swabs had the same Listeria monocytogenes "DNA-fingerprint" as the outbreak strain.
In response to evidence collected during the investigation by the FDA, CDC, and state officials, the state of Delaware’s Division of Public Health issued a Cease and Desist Production and Distribution order to the firm on February 28, 2014.
The FDA will vacate the suspension order and reinstate Roos Foods’ facility registration when the FDA determines that food manufactured, processed, packed, or held at the facility no longer has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Canned and Frozen Fruits and Vegetables - Cost Effective Nutrition

When you hear anything on proper nutrition, fresh fruit and vegetables are always part of that message.  But for many, fresh produce is not always available, or affordable.  But what about canned and frozen produce?  A recent study shows that canned and frozen are a nutritious and cost effective option, and need to be included in the choices for those families looking to prepare healthy meals.

Are there downsides - sure, some canned foods may have higher sodium levels.  There are also impacts on some of the heat sensitive vitamins and other bioactive components....but these will also be impacted by the consumer's handling and preparation practices.  However, in a world where the food dollar does not go as far, and we look to become more sustainable, canned and frozen produce are important options.

Medical Daily
Canned Fruits And Vegetables May Be As Nutritious As Their Fresh Counterparts

By Matthew Mientka | Mar 8, 2014 01:30 PM EDT

No one can deny the beauty of the native tomato. Yet in feeding a hungry world, canned fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh or frozen produce, and in some cases even better, according to a new study.

Researchers at Michigan State University found that canned tomatoes deliver more B vitamins as well as lycopene, a carotene loosely tied to a lowered cancer risk. The canning process also makes fiber more soluble in vegetables such as beans, providing a value-added for the food staple.

Canned vegetables offer consumers a more affordable option at 20 percent of the cost of fresh vegetables — and half as much as frozen.

“Canned fruits and vegetables provide high quality nutrition to Americans regardless of income level and geography,” researcher Steven Miller said in a statement. “By increasing accessibility to key nutrients many Americans need, canned foods are a year-round solution to help families prepare healthier, balanced meals.”

Is Produce Safe from Pesticides? USDA Releases Pesticide Residue Testing Data

The USDA released its annual pesticide residue testing data for 2012.  In the report, over 99% of the products sampled had results that were within EPA tolerances.

Of course, 99.47% is not 100%, and there were a few samples that were above the established tolerance.    From a blog by Steve Savage who took the time to analyze the few high results.
The only crops with any significant number of above-tolerance detections were snap peas (32 from among 743 samples) and cherry tomatoes (24 from among 744 samples). However, even these unusual incidences were not enough above tolerance to be of major concern. For the snap peas, 97% of the samples with those higher detections were imported either from Guatemala, Peru or Mexico. For the cherry tomatoes, 83% of the above-tolerance samples came from Mexico. If the "group project" was divided into a US farmers team and a importers team, their respective "scores" would be 99.88% and 98.76% - different, but both still A+ grades.
 It is important to note that the tolerance levels that are set have a 100X or so safety factor.

So traditional produce purchased from your supermarket is safe (extremely low risk).  Of course, there are those who will continue to pay more for 'organic'.  Is it worth the added price?  This data suggests it is not. 

One issue I have is that USDA should provide a discussion of 'out of tolerance' samples in their report rather than just glossing it over.  They did issue "What Consumer Should Know".
What Consumers Should Know
2012 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary
  • This PDP data shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pose no safety concern.
  • Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2012, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, wheat, butter, baby food, and water.
  • PDP data reflect actual residues present in food grown in various regions of the U.S. and overseas.
  • EPA makes a safety evaluation for pesticides considering all possible routes of exposure through food, water, and home environments when setting the maximum residue (tolerance) level of pesticide that can remain in or on foods.
  • Before a pesticide is available for use in the U.S., the EPA must determine that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Alton Brown with Food Safety Tips in the Kitchen

While food celebrity Alton Brown is big proponent of food safety in the kitchen, his Today Show presentation melds the lines between food spoilage and food safety.  Granted, we do not want to eat food that is spoiled, but that does not necessarily indicate that food pathogens are present.  And food can look and smell good, and even taste normal, and still contain pathogens that can make you ill.  So it is important to rely on safe handling and storage procedures to keep food safe.

Regardless, Alton gives a number of helpful hints for safely storing and handling food in the video clip.

Smelly, sticky or slimy? Food safety rules you shouldn't ignore
Linda Carroll TODAY contributor

March 5, 2014 at 11:17 AM ET

When it comes to figuring out whether the food in your cupboards and fridge are spoiled, it’s best to trust your gut.

Your eyes, nose and fingers can tell you if food has spoiled, according to Alton Brown, host of the Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

“We all have the senses to know when food has gone bad,” Brown said. “Smell it. If it smells bad, odds are you shouldn’t eat it. Touch it. If it’s slimy or sticky, don’t eat it. If you look at a piece of meat and it’s got splotches of green on it, you shouldn’t eat it.”

Each year one in six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food. The best way to avoid becoming one of those stats is to take care in how you store and handle your food — and trust your senses.

Foods will last longest in a refrigerator kept below 40 degrees F. But many refrigerators aren't as cold as they need to be, even at the lowest setting. Invest in a thermometer so you know it really is cold enough.

How you pack your foods in the fridge makes a difference, too.

“Stack it so you’re keeping the foods that could be dangerous away from everything else,” Brown said.
Place meats in the bottom compartments. Meats produce a lot of fluid and you don’t want those juices to drip onto cooked foods or veggies and fruits contaminating them. Beyond that, in most refrigerators, the lowest temperatures are in the bottom shelves.

Store fish on ice, even if it’s in the refrigerator. That’s because fish goes bad faster than any other meat.
Eggs be stored in the meat compartments rather than on the shelves in the door.

The biggest danger in your refrigerator is from contamination. “This may sound odd, but contaminated food will make you sick, but spoiled foods won’t necessarily make you sick,” Brown said.

When it comes to fruits and veggies, it’s OK to store them in the plastic bags you packed them up in at the store.

To keep them freshest, Brown suggests packing a paper towel in the bag before putting it into to the fridge. The towel will absorb any moisture from produce respiration.

When it comes to thawing meats, whenever possible it should be done in the refrigerator, Brown said. And put them in a plastic container so they don’t drip all over everything eIse.

If you need a quick thaw then put the meat in a plastic bag in the sink and run a thin stream of cold water over it.

Another important tip: Always wipe down food preparation surfaces. Brown suggests using a solution of ¼ teaspoon of bleach in a cup of water.

And when you’re prepping fruits and veggies always rinse with cold water. If the surface is bumpy, then use a brush to get them clean, Brown said.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Roos Cheese Recall Expanded Again

Roos Foods is expanding the recall of their cheese products for the third time.   The initial recall was shortly followed by an expansion.  And within a week, it has been expanded yet again.

We have seen the 'ever-expanding recall' in the past when there is a Listeria contamination issue.   In these cases, company officials failed to understand the extent of the Listeria contamination in their plant and on their products.

 Listeria is an environmental contaminate for food processing plants.  Without control, or adequate control, it can really spread out across a facility, from floors and drains to processing and packaging equipment.  For facilities that manufacturer RTE meat and cheese products,  control is essential.  Part of a Listeria Control Program for a facility is monitoring.  This is done through testing for Listeria in the processing environment. 

When facilities have expanding recalls, it is often an indicator that they did not truly understand the extent of the contamination.  With a stout environmental testing program, they would have understood the extent of the contamination....well, hopefully they would have seen and corrected the issue long before it got to this point.

It is also important to note that the product this company produced had increased risk factors: 1) they were producing soft cheeses - items more prone to Listeria growth, and 2) they were  shipping these products long distances - which may provide more opportunities for temperature abuse and indicates that product has a longer shelf-life, which provides more opportunity for Listeria to grow.

FDA Recall Notice
UPDATE) EXPANDED - Roos Foods Voluntarily Recalls Variety of Cheeses (listed below) Due to Possible Health Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 1, 2014 - Update: On February 23 and 25, 2014 Roos Foods issued press releases for the recall of our cheese products. This recall has been expanded to include all product sizes and containers of Santa Rosa de Lima Queso Duro Blando (hard cheese), and Mexicana Queso Cojito Molido. This update also serves as additional clarification that ALL sizes and containers of the cheese products previously identified are being recalled (Amigo, Anita, Mexicana, and Santa Rose de Lima brands of: Cuajada En Terron, Cuajada/Cuajadita Cacer, Cuajada Fresca, Queso Fresco Round, and Queso Duro Viejo (hard cheeses), Requeson, Queso de Huerta and Quesco Fresco. These cheeses were packaged in various sized clear plastic wrapped Styrofoam trays, clear plastic wrapped, clear plastic vacuum package, and clear rigid plastic containers.

Roos Foods of Kenton, DE is voluntarily recalling the above products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and still births among pregnant women.

Out of an abundance of caution, Roos Foods is also recalling all product sizes and containers of Santa Rosa de Lima Crema Salvadorena Cultured Sour Cream, Santa Rosa de Lima Mantequilla de Bolsa Tradicion Centroamericana, Crema Pura Mexicana Cultured Sour Cream, La Chapina Crema Guatemalteca Guatemalan Style Cream, and Amigo Brand Crema Centroamericana Cultured Sour Cream. These sour creams were packaged in various sized white plastic tubs, clear plastic bags, clear plastic pouches, and clear plastic jars.

Products were distributed through retail stores in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington, DC.

Customers should destroy all lots of the above listed brand named products. If you have any further questions please contact Virginia Mejia phone number 302-653-0600, Monday thru Friday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM EST.

Virginia Mejia
Roos Foods
Kenton, DE 19955