Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Potential Salmonella Contamination of Carob Powder Ingredient Results in Numerous Recalls

A series of recalls were issued when a supplier of organic carob powder notified its customers.  The supplier, Ciranda Inc, has no information on the Salmonella issue on its website, but the ingredient they sold resulted in a number of recalls nationwide.  There have been no illnesses.

The Plain Dealer
Salmonella in carob triggers recall of snacks nationwidehttp://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2014/07/salmonella_in_carob_triggers_r.html
By Brie Zeltner, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer
on July 29, 2014 at 12:36 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio-- A recall of organic carob powder that began last week due to salmonella contamination has expanded to include several brands of energy bars and snacks sold nationwide, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Five Things You Should Know About Food Safety on the Tavis Smiley Show

A light discussion on Food Safety with Tavis Smiley of The Tavis Smiley Show on PRI.
Five Things You Should Know About Food Safety.

Bread Company Retracts Recall After Negative Confirmation for Listeria monocytogenes

A Ohio bread company cancelled a recall after discovering that the Listeria organism they found was not the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

Why were they doing Listeria testing in the first place?  Listeria has not been shown to be a hazard in bread products.  The water activity is too low to support growth and the environment is not one that would be conducive to allow the organism to be a big concern.  Salmonella would be a better choice if you really wanted to do environmental testing.

Perhaps a customer requirement where the bread products would be used in premade sandwiches?  Or it was part of a third party audit requirement where some less-than-knowledgeable inspector told then they had to do Listeria testing.  (The latter would be a more likely case....always question auditors when they require you to do something that does not make sense). 

Why did they conduct a recall based on environmental testing results that were not confirmed?  This is another question that is difficult to figure out.  Before you begin testing for a pathogen in the environment, know the implications of what you will do when you find it.   First there is timing - in cases there a positive result can trigger a recall, be sure to use rapid tests that have a higher degree of differentiation.  Second - a program should be set up so that you are not just testing product contact surfaces (which is probably the only time where an environmental positive sample warrants a recall).  So were they testing product contact surfaces or plant surfaces? 

It seems the company had not put sufficient thought into the various scenarios that can occur when a positive is found.  Again, the company may have been doing this to comply with some audit requirement, rather than really understanding the real risks associated with their operation and the implications of positive test results.

It is also equally important to understand your supplier's testing programs.  If your supplier is doing testing, it is important that you know that they know what they are doing is correct.

Columbus Dispatch
Schwebel’s says recalled bread poses no health risk

By Lisa Abraham The Columbus Dispatch • Thursday July 24, 2014 2:35 AM 

With tests having determined that the bacteria found at Schwebel Baking Co.’s Youngstown bakery is not harmful, the plant is expected to resume full production today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

US Companies Facing Difficulties in China After Supply Chain Issues

It is not easy for US food companies to establish operations in China, as YUM and McDonalds found out. Both companies encountered issues two years ago when a chicken supplier was found to be using antibiotics. Both were sent reeling again as a meat provider was exposed for carrying out some unsanitary practices including "workers picking up meat from a factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh meat".

It is puzzling that the US companies catch such heat when it is the Chinese supply chains that cause them such issues.  Granted, companies need to secure their supply chains to ensure that upstream suppliers are following strict controls, however, one would thing that these suppliers are also providing other Chinese based companies their supplies as well.

Yum, McDonald's apologize as new China food scandal brews
By Adam Jourdan

SHANGHAI Mon Jul 21, 2014 5:55am EDT

Reuters) - McDonald's Corp and Yum Brands Inc are facing a new food safety scare in China, denting the fast food giants' efforts to shore up reputations and businesses that were hurt by a 2012 safety scandal in one of their biggest markets.

McDonald's and KFC-parent Yum apologized to customers on Monday after Chinese regulators shut a local meat supplier following a TV report that showed workers picking up meat from a factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh meat. The firms said they'll stop using the supplier.

Stone Fruit Recalled by CA Packer Due to Positive Listeria Results, Bakery Products Also Recalled

A California packing house is recalling various stone fruit (whole peaches (white and yellow), nectarines (white and yellow), plums and pluots) packed between June 1, 2014 through July 12,2014 after internal testing found positive Listeria results.  There have been no reported illnesses.

Wegman's then recalled bakery products that were made from the fruit.

Both companies acted out of an abundance of caution.  Research published in the Journal of Food Protection (abstract below) shows that Listeria, while it can attach to the exterior surface, does not grow, let alone survive.  The only issue would be if the contamination at the source allowed a high level of the organism to attach, which would be, according to the  publication "it is unrealistic to assume that such artificially high levels of contamination would occur when basic good agricultural practices are followed."

In terms of the bakery products, baking would eliminate the pathogens.  It would only be a concern if the fruit was added to the bakery items after cooking in a 'fresh application'.  Even then, the fruit would be washed and peeled, and that process would serve as a reduction step.

FDA News Release
 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.

Wawona Packing Co. Takes Precautionary Step of Voluntarily Recalling Fresh, Whole Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, and Pluots Because of Possible Health Risk

Contact: Consumer: 1-888-232-9912
Media: Amy Philpott 703-472-6615

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 19, 2014 - Wawona Packing Company of Cutler, Calif is voluntarily recalling certain lots of whole peaches (white and yellow), nectarines (white and yellow), plums and pluots packed between June 1, 2014 through July 12,2014 due to the potential of the products being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Wawona Packing has notified retailers of the specific lots being recalled. No other products are impacted by this recall. No illnesses have been linked to this recall to date.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eggs from Free Range Chickens - No Sunny Side Up

It is the scene from Rocky....he is preparing for the big fight, and he starts his day by knocking back a half dozen raw eggs in a glass.   Well, hopefully those where conventionally produced eggs and not eggs from free range chickens.

In a study published in Food Control, chicks were separated after hatch...some went to live the life on the open range while the other half were stuck in conventional cages.  And as you might predict, the eggs from free range chickens had higher levels of Salmonella (2.6% vs 0 for conventional) and Campylobacter (26.1% versus 7.6% for conventional).  This is because free range chickens are more apt to come into contact with biological contaminants and pass those contaminates to the eggs.  (Additionally, conventional eggs are washed with a high pH solution, which would further reduce the level of contamination.)

This is not a beat down on Free Range eggs, but people need to recognize the higher risk for eggs from free range chickens, which are often purchased at farmers's markets, farm stands, and such.  If buying eggs that are not conventionally produced, you can reduce the risk of illness by properly cooking (over hard or scrambled) and proper handling the eggs.

Food Control 
Volume 47, January 2015, Pages 161–165
Microbiological contamination of shell eggs produced in conventional and free-range housing systemsM.A. Parisia, J.K. Northcutta, , , D.P. Smithb, E.L. Steinberga, P.L. Dawsona

Implementing a Preventive Maintenance Program (PMP)

I thought this was a great article on implementing a preventive maintenance program. A lot of small processors are tasked with implementing a preventive maintenance program in order to pass a third party audit.  They go out and buy some fancy software and then begin the arduous task of implementing it.  But they soon realize that it is overly burdensome and that their overall operations costs have increased because of higher costs of managing the program are not being offset by improvements in efficiency.  Instead of the PM program working for them, they are working for the PM program.

Sometimes a simpler approach is needed.  Figure out the most important assets and focus your efforts on them.  Don't over maintain, but understand what is going to improve overall performance of you operation taking all costs, including energy, into account.

4 Things to Know Before Implementing a Predictive Maintenance Program
7/15/2014 9:02:00 AM
It is not a commonly drawn linkage, but the correlation between how we manage our assets and overall sustainability metrics could not be clearer.

However, it's one thing to want a predictive maintenance model, and quite another thing to actually implement it in a manufacturing environment. At times it can seem overwhelming. We have so much data to draw on, and between the rise of Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT), it can be overwhelming to consider how to achieve true predictive maintenance, above and beyond the preventive maintenance we widely practice.

With that, let's look at four key things we can do as we strive to implement a predictive maintenance approach across our organization, and at the same timein the spirit of our previous messageconsider how these ideas correlate to overall sustainability performance.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Minnesota E. coli Outbreak Sickens 13 People

Thirteen people have become ill from E. coli O111 in Minnesota, and this is being linked to salad served at Applebees because 7 of the 13 ate at one of five different Applebees.  This indicates it is probably a supplier issue, most likely produce related.

Of course this doesn't stop the Applebees pile-on.  It was hard to find a supporting news story that did not contain Applebees in the title.

Twin Cities News

Minnesota E. coli bacteria sicken 13; experts search for link
By Christopher Snowbeck
Posted: 07/14/2014 12:01:00 AM CDT
Updated: 07/15/2014 06:32:12 AM CDT

Thirteen people have been sickened, including four who were hospitalized, with food-borne illnesses linked to E. coli bacteria, state health officials said Monday.

Investigators haven't linked the cases to a particular food item, according to an announcement Monday from the Minnesota Department of Health. But all the illnesses were caused by the same genetic strain of E. coli O111, the department said.

USDA Proposal for Increased Record Keeping Requirements for Grinding of Raw Meat

 USDA is proposing a rule that will require official establishments and retail stores to keep records on the meat they grind.
"Official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products for sale in commerce must keep records that will fully and correctly disclose all transactions involved in their businesses subject to the Act (see 21 U.S.C. 642). This is because they engage in the business of preparing products of an amenable species for use as human food, and they engage in the business of buying or selling (as meat brokers, wholesalers or otherwise) in commerce products of carcasses of an amenable species. These businesses must also provide access to, and permit inspection of, these records by FSIS personnel."
The goal is to improve traceability in a product that can come from many sources.  Traceback has been an issue when there are outbreaks of E. coli STEC associated with ground meat.

Another Step Forward in Food Safety – What You Need to Know About Grinding Logs
Posted by Marie Bucko, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Public Affairs Specialist, on July 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM -


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing a requirement for official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products to keep detailed and in-depth log record systems.

The proposed grinding log rule is now available for public review at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules.

What are the benefits?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Using Food Thermometers - Dial Versus Digital

By Megan Lane, Penn State Food Science Undergraduate Student

In a recent study published in the July/August 2014 edition of Food Protection Trends, Instant-read Food Thermometer Accuracy in Measuring End-point Temperature in Ground Beef Patties Prepared by Three Methods, researchers evaluated the dial and digital food thermometers for measuring cooking temperature in ground beef patties. While both types of thermometers demonstrated to be useful in determining the temperature of foods, the digital food thermometer proved to be the better choice for multiple reasons.

First is the sensor area. Dial food thermometers have a sensor spanning from the tip of the probe, two to three inches up the stem of the probe. Digital food thermometers have a sensor located in the tip of the probe, measuring to be about one centimeter in length. Because the length of the sensor is much shorter in digital thermometers, it’s useful when measuring thin pieces of meat or foods like hamburgers.

Second is the accuracy. Dial thermometers are a lower grade of technology, so they need to be calibrated upon their initial use and then on a regular basis after that. If it’s not calibrated, dial thermometers will not be as accurate as they could be. Digital thermometers, on the other hand, do not need to be calibrated, making them more accurate to begin with and easier to use. In this study, investigators found that dial thermometers were ± 2°C to 6°C (without calibration), while digital thermometers were ± 1°C compared to the standard.

Third is the time it takes to get the reading. Even though both types of thermometers are advertised to be “instant-read food thermometers,” these readings are not instant. It is important to note that both types need time for readings to stabilize in order to provide accurate results. In this study, it was found that a dial thermometers response time ranged from 18 – 55 seconds, whereas a digital thermometers response time ranged from only 16 – 40 seconds.

Lastly is the price. Dial food thermometers are cheaper than digital food thermometers, but the increased price of digital thermometers provides more benefits (faster stabilization time, no need for calibration, the ability to be used in thinner products, and finally, more accurate readings).

This study also evaluated the process of measuring temperature in ground beef patties. A key point of the study showed that as the meat cooks, a temperature gradient exists at different points within the meat patty and decreases the accuracy of thermometer readings. The accuracy of the readings was also varied by the frequency of patty flips and whether or not the patties had toppings on them. Researchers suggested that in order to reduce variation, burgers be flipped frequently and that they be plain. The problem with this recommendation is that constant flipping dries burgers out and people do like to add toppings during cooking. Therefore, consumers should take this into account to ensure burgers reach the proper temperature.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

FAO Releases Top Ten Parasite List

The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) released a "Top Ten" list identifying the food-borne parasites of greatest global concern.  Fortunately, there are only four that have any importance in the US and Canada.  Most cases of parasitic infection have been isolated cases.  The fout include:
  • Toxoplasma
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Cyclospora
  • Giardia

The risk, although small, increases with consumption of produce from developing countries.  Such as the case with Cyclospora in raspberries, lettuce, and basil.  Washing in potable water is a common practice that helps to mitigate this risk.

Contaminated water and produce irrigated with contaminated water has been an issue that has contributed to Cryptosporidium and Giardia outbreaks.

According to the report "Taxoplasmosis is a recognized concern of physicians for women during pregnancy, but emphasis is placed on potential contamination from cats rather than from foodborne infection".

Trichinellosis cases are still seen, but primarily limited to undercooked game meat (bear, wild boar, and marine mammals).  Taenia, primarily Taenia solium (tapeworm associated with undercooked pork) have been seen in a few cases, primarily associated with people who have immigrated from Central and South America.

Undercooked seafood have been a source of a number of parasites (Anisakis ssp, Dipyllobothium, Echinostomidae, Nonophyetes, Opisthorchis, Clonorchis, Paragoniumus, Pseudoterranova), but there have been very few cases of each over the last 30 or 40 years.

Moldy Yogurt Can Make You Sick

In September of 2013, a manufacturer of Greek yogurt recalled product in September of 2013 due to the fact that consumers were complaining of mold in the product.  While it was claimed to be a spoilage mold, there were reported illnesses. 

Researchers discovered that the mold found in yogurt, Mucor circinelloides f. circinelloides, can cause illness.  While this organism is traditionally looked upon as a opportunistic pathogen, it can survive through the GI tract, as was seen in mice studies.  The researchers also indicated the potential to produce harmful metabolites, although Mucor circinelloides has not been known to produce mycotoxins.  According to the report, "This study demonstrates that M. circinelloides can spoil food products and cause gastrointestinal illness in consumers and may pose a particular risk to immunocompromised patients."

Now, it is hard to tell from this report whether there was an gastrointestinal  infection associated with these cases or people are just reacting to the metabolites produced by the mold.  Generally in past cases where infections have occurred in people, there have normally been underlying health issues in the person.  

So from a more simplistic viewpoint, when one eats food that has mold that shouldn't be there, there is a good possibility it is going to give one an upset stomach, at the least.  Molds will produce metabolites within the food, or even in the gut, that can cause an adverse reaction.  Certainly some molds will be worse than others...some can produce really bad metabolites, some that have been categorized as mycotoxins, while others can cause infections, especially in high risk individuals.

It is interesting to point out, that manufacturer of the yogurt product has been critical of this report.

Consumers - Don't eat food that has mold that shouldn't be there, especially if you are in a high risk group.
Producers and processors - prevent food from unwanted mold...most of this can be prevented through good sanitation, but processing controls may also be needed.

Analysis of a Food-Borne Fungal Pathogen Outbreak: Virulence and Genome of a Mucor circinelloides Isolate from Yogurt

Monday, July 7, 2014

Foster Farms Recalls Chicken Produced in March

Foster Farms issued a recall for chicken part products produced from March 7 to March 11 with sell by dates that range from March 7 to March 31st.  Most of this chicken will have already been used unless it was frozen.  The recall was issued due to the positive link of a Salmonella Heidelberg illness on June 23, 2014, that was associated with the consumption of a boneless skinless chicken breast product in California with an illness onset date of May 5, 2014.

CDC reports that as of July 2, 2014,a total of 621 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 29 states and Puerto Rico, since March 1, 2013.  36% have required hospitalization.

FSIS News Release
California Firm Recalls Chicken Products Due to Possible Salmonella Heidelberg Contamination
Class I Recall 044-2014
Health Risk: High Jul 4, 2014

Congressional and Public Affairs
Adam Tarr (202) 870-0810 or (202) 720-9113

EDITOR’S NOTE: The release is being reissued July 4 to update the distribution, production dates, and “Use or Freeze by” and “Best by” date ranges, as well as to provide an updated product list.

WASHINGTON, July 4, 2014 – Foster Farms, a Livingston, Calif., based establishment, is recalling an undetermined amount of chicken products that may be contaminated with a particular strain of Salmonella Heidelberg, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. FSIS requested Foster Farms conduct this recall because this product is known to be associated with a specific illness.

The recalled product includes fresh chicken products sold by retailers under Foster Farms or private label brand names, with varying “use or freeze by”dates ranging from March 16 through March 31, 2014, and frozen Sunland Chicken products with “best by” dates from March 7 through March 11, 2015. The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P6137,” P6137A” or “P7632” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The chicken products were produced from March 7 through March 13, 2014. These products were shipped to Costco, Foodmaxx, Kroger, Safeway and other retail stores and distribution centers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The list of products subject to recall can be accessed here. We will continue to update the list as more information is available. FSIS and the company want the public to be aware that the products are most likely no longer available for purchase, but may be in consumers’ freezers.