Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Boneless Pork Rib Entree Recalled for Foreign Material

An Ohio company is recalling boneless pork rib entrée products after receiving consumer complaints about glass or hard plastic.  Close to 300,000 pounds of Boston Market branded product spanning approximately 4 months of production are included in the recall.  There have been no reported injuries to date.

USDA Recall Notice
Bellisio Foods, Inc. Recalls Boneless Pork Rib Frozen Entree Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Adulteration
Class II Recall 149-2015
Health Risk: Low Dec 22, 2015

En Español
Congressional and Public Affairs
Kristen Booze
(202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2015 – Bellisio Foods, Inc., a Jackson, Ohio establishment, is recalling approximately 285,264 pounds of boneless pork rib shaped patty frozen entree products that may be adulterated with extraneous materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The Boston Market Boneless Pork Rib Shaped Patty with BBQ Sauce and Mashed Potatoes frozen entree items were produced on various dates between Sept. 09, 2015, and Dec. 14, 2015. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF Only)]
14-oz. boxed packages containing “Boston Market Home Style Meals Boneless Pork Rib Shaped Patty with BBQ Sauce and Mashed Potatoes” with Use By dates 09/09/2016; 09/22/2016; 10/08/2016; 10/30/2016; and 12/14/2016.

Justice Department Investigating Blue Bell Regarding Listeria Outbreak

Blue Bell is back in the news as CBS News is reporting that the US Justice Department has started an investigation into the conditions that led to the 2015 Listeria outbreak and what company executives knew and when they knew it.

Similar to what was seen with PCA Salmonella outbreak, there may be concern that the company knew of substandard conditions and Listeria contamination within the processing environment, and did not take sufficient action.

CBS News
Dept. of Justice investigating Blue Bell for deadly Listeria outbreak
By Jim Axelrod CBS News
December 29, 2015, 7:43 PM

The Department of Justice has started an investigation into Blue Bell after their ice cream was linked to a deadly Listeria outbreak earlier this year that killed three people.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Second Outbreak of E. coli Associated with Chipotle is Being Investigated

The FDA and CDC are investigating a second outbreak of a different Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) that is being linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants during December 2015. Based on DNA fingerprinting, this outbreak is different that a larger E. coli outbreak which occurred in November as was primarily located in the northwestern part of the country (53 people in 9 states).   To this point, 5 people have become infected in this second outbreak. 

Unfortunately, most of the corrective actions for system improvements probably came after this second outbreak occurred.  But a point many have made is that more should have been done sooner.  Delayed reaction, due in part to an underestimation of the event, allowed more issue to occur in the meantime.  This now looks bad in that more issues are popping up after the big proclamation of a company wide food safety enhancement.

An interesting point in the NY Time article below is that there has been difficulty in tracking because of record keeping.

FDA Outbreak News Release
FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants

December 22, 2015
On this page:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli infections.
Update: December 22, 2015
  • The FDA, CDC, and state and local officials are investigating a second, more recent outbreak of a different, rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.
  • The CDC reports that five people have been reported with the new variant of STEC O26 from a total of three states: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3).
  • The Kansas and North Dakota cases ate at the same restaurant in Kansas. The three separate Oklahoma cases all ate at the same Chipotle restaurant.
  • As of December 18, 2015, 53 people infected with the previously reported outbreak strain of STEC O26 have been reported from nine states: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27).
  • The epidemiologic evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of both outbreaks.
  • The investigations are still ongoing to determine what specific food is linked to illness. .

Friday, December 18, 2015

FDA Concerned About Caffeinated Peanut Butter

Why put caffeine in peanut butter?   What are the risks?  That is what FDA is questioning about Steem Caffeinated Peanut Butter.  There is a 150MG per serving (2 tablespoons) which is equivalent to a 12 oz cup of coffee.   That can potentially be a lot of caffeine especially if you couple eating the peanut butter with drinking a cup of coffee.

FDA Web Site
Added Caffeine in Peanut Butter
FDA Statement on Added Caffeine in Peanut butter
December 17, 2015

The FDA is concerned about the marketing of a peanut butter, a food popular with many children, containing added caffeine. The company has indicated in recent media reports its desire to behave responsibly, but has not submitted to the FDA any information about the safety of its use of caffeine in its peanut butter product. On Tuesday December 15, 2015 the FDA sent a letter to the company, STEEM Peanut Butter, Inc., requesting they provide us with information about their use of caffeine in peanut butter. This information will help us determine whether their product meets applicable scientific and legal standards for the lawful sale in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

USDA Finalizes Rule on Record Keeping for Ground Beef

USDA finalized its rule for record keeping requirements for retail and USDA regulated establishment needed for grinding ground beef.  Under this rule, FSIS will require that all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain these records:
  • The establishment numbers of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product;
  • All supplier lot numbers and production dates;
  • The names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next;
  • The date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced;
  • The date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.
These requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer’s request when new source materials are used.
USDA News Release
USDA Finalizes Rule to Enhance Consumer Protection, Ensure Retailers Can Track Sources of Ground Meats
Congressional and Public Affairs  Josh Stull, (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced a new measure that will improve the agency’s ability to determine the source of foodborne illnesses linked to ground beef, stopping foodborne illness outbreaks sooner when they occur. Based on lessons learned from previous outbreak investigations, FSIS is requiring that all makers of raw ground beef products keep adequate records of the source material, so that the agency can quickly work with the suppliers to recall contaminated product.

Beverage Drinks Recalled Due to Potential Bottle Breakage

Trader Joe's is recalling its Triple Ginger Brew product due to  'reports of unopened bottles potentially bursting."   This bottle uses a swing cap closure which is anchored into the glass.  If the product in the bottle becomes contaminated - either before closure or afterwards due to a poor seal (which can be the case if that rubber seal isn't seated properly against the glass during closure), then when that contamination grows, most likely in the form of yeast, the pressure formed due to the gas produced has a more difficult time releasing because of the metal clamp holding the cap down.

Another issue is when someone opens the bottle, takes a swig, and then clamps the lid shut.  They put the bottle on the counter and forget about it.  The problem is that they have introduced yeast into the bottle and those yeast go to town....multiplying and producing gas.  Again, with a clamp anchored into the glass, that pressure has no way to go but boom.

These closures are cool, popularized by Grolsh Brewery as well by home brewers who use this type of bottle with 'swing-cap-closure' because of ease of closing the bottle.  So it is easy to see why a commercial product trying to capture that 'home brewed' look would use this bottle.  But it appears now it may not have been a good choice for a product such as this.  If the cap cannot come off easily do to potential spoilage issues, then it probably shouldn't be used.

Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Brew

FDA Recall Notice
Trader Joe's Issues Voluntary Recall of Triple Ginger Brew
For Immediate Release
December 15, 2015

Raw-ish Pet Food Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

 Stella and Chewy, a Wisconsin Pet food company is recalling their frozen pet food after sampling from the Michigan Dept of Ag found Listeria in a sample.

This product is processed by high pressure processing which, if done correctly, would eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and even Listeria.   Having a high moisture level, and thus a high water activity level, the product must be frozen before packaging.  The product is tested to verify the absence of Salmonella and E. coli.  (results below) and those results are available on the company's webpage for each lot of product.

In this case, we would expect that the Listeria contamination would occur in the post-process environment, occurring after the HPP process and before packaging.  Listeria is an environmental risk for this type of product and this type of process where there is moisture and a good food source.  While we would not expect the organism to grow in the product while frozen, it would certainly grow when the product was set out at room temperature to thaw or during feeding.

So this organism would need to be controlled by the company in the post process environment.  And if you had to guess, if this lot shows contamination, other lots would show contamination if there is not a very active Listeria Control Program in place.

The company does not provide test results for Listeria.  They may be only looking at environmental samples (sponge samples from the processing environment) or not looking at all.  And even if testing was completed and shown on the lab test results, a 25 gram sample, as done for the Salmonella and the E. coli, may not be large enough to be meaningful.

FDA Recall Notice
Stella & Chewy's Voluntarily Recalls Frozen Dinner Morsel Products Due to Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 11, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Organic Tea Company Recalls Glass-Bottled Product Due to Glass Complaints

 Sweet Leaf Tea Company (a Nestle Waters own company) is recalling tea beverage in glass bottles due to four consumer complaints of glass in the product. 
Glass is a great food package for protecting the food, but the downside is breakage.  Companies packaging in glass must have tight control on glass breakage in the bottling plant - because glass breakage does happen.  Even the best designed lines, those engineered to prevent breakage, can still have breakage.  Detail standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be carried out anytime breakage occurs. 

FDA Recall Notice
The Sweet Leaf Tea Company Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Tea in Glass Bottles
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2015

Contact Consumers Sweet Leaf  1-877-832-5323
Firm Press Release

The Sweet Leaf Tea Company announced today that it is voluntarily recalling Sweet Leaf® Tea in 16 ounce glass bottles out of an abundance of caution because of the possible presence of glass fragments. This was the result of glass breakage during the filling process. Consumers could potentially be cut or injured if ingested. The company has received 4 complaints of glass in the product. No injuries were reported.

Bravo Pet Food Recalled Due to Presence of Salmonella

 Bravo is recalling chicken blend cat and dog food product after product tested positive for Salmonella.  Along with this, they are recalling turkey based products as well.   The chicken blend product is called raw, but according to the website, the  product is high pressure processed.  This process uses high pressures to inactivate pathogenic bacteria rather than using a heat process.  So the product should be technically safe, but essentially raw in terms of sensory and nutrient attributes.
FDA Recall Notice
Bravo Recalls Select Chicken and Turkey Pet Foods Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk.
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2015
Consumers  (866) 922-9222
Media  (866) 922-9222
Firm Press Release
Bravo Pet Foods of Manchester, CT is recalling a select lot of Bravo Chicken Blend diet for dogs & cats with a best used by date of 11/13/16 due to concerns of the possible presence of Salmonella . Out of an abundance of caution, Bravo is also recalling three additional items that did not test positive for Salmonella , but were manufactured on the same day. Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Flaws in the Fundamental Food Safety System Plague Chipotle

Chipotle seems a lot like the Titanic, that early 20th century ship that sank after hitting an iceberg.  As we came to find out with the Titanic, issues in the fundamental structural, particularly poorly made rivets , were not able to hold when the impact occurred.

Similarly, we are seeing cracks in the fundamental food safety structure within Chipotle that go far beyond the E. coli outbreak which as been blamed on local supplier issues.  First, this E.coli outbreak looks to be more than a local issue when you see that cases have occurred across the country.  Then, this week, an outbreak of norovirus was linked to the Boston Chipotle outlet.  And yesterday, a store in Seattle was shut down due to numerous food safety violations.

Issues can occur, but you would think that after a major outbreak, an organization would be able to button down the hatches until the storm has passed.  But this has not been the case.  First, there was an under estimation with regard to the scope of the E. coli outbreak coupled with the fact that they have not been able to identify the source.  Then to have a norovirus outbreak on the other side of the country - clearly an issue with their personal hygiene program and illness control of employees.  Then back to the west coast where a store was shut down to food safety violations - lack of hand washing, poor temperature control.

Unlike the Titanic, Chipotle is expected to remain afloat.  However, more than a simple fix will be needed to get this ship sailing in the right direction.  Immediate corrective action seems to be needed across their 1700 establishments.  Continued issues, however small, will be broadcast far and wide now that the company is in the media and regulators crosshairs.  Talking about fixing is easy compared to actually fixing....and talking about fixing followed by further issues will completely erode public trust.  At what point do you shut them all down to take a real stand on food safety?  Fixing those rivets is a serious undertaking, but until its done correctly, the ship will continue to flounder.

CDC Outbreak News
 Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants

December 4, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chipotle Tightens Produce Supplier Control, Will Impact Local Suppliers

Chipotle is tightening its produce supplier control program after getting slammed by a foodborne illness outbreak associated with produce.  The last outbreak, which was caused by E. coli 0126 contamination, affected 45 people in 6 different states.  (The earlier report had the number at 35).  This is the third major outbreak associated with this chain.

Chipotle's strategy was to utilize local growers wherever they could.  But increasing the supplier requirements may mean that some of the local growers/producers will need to adapt, and as indicated in this story, there may be some that will be challenged. Chipotle's overall food safety strategy has stumbled, costing them terms for having to shut down their stores in the northwest, and having their stock price fall by 23% .

It is great to use local suppliers, but regardless of location or of size of the supplier, the same standards must be met.

USA Today
Chipotle to tighten produce supplier rules after E. coli outbreak
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY 6:01 p.m. EST December 2, 2015
Chipotle Mexican Grill will soon have stricter guidelines for its suppliers that will mean the chain will be using local produce less often, a move the company is making in the aftermath of an E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens of customers in six states.

Raw Nut Spread Product Recalled After Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

An small Oregon food company is recalling their organic raw sprouted nut spreads after the product was linked to 11 cases of salmonellosis. 
 The process entailed sourcing organic almond nuts, sprout them, dry them, grind them, and add flavors inspired by 'superfoods'.  Sounds good, doesn't it.  But, no reduction step for Salmonella.  In fact, in sprouting the seeds, they may be encouraging growth.

Their website has all the key phrases...artisans, organic, yoga, and of course...SUPERFOODS.  The nuts....handselected, and "free from pesticides, gluten, dairy, soy and processed sugar".   (Oops, might be some Salmonella).

How would the consumers of this product recognize there may be risk?  Nuts are a know source for Salmonella.  But throw in some sprouting multiples the risk.  Drying does nothing to Salmonella, except to prepare it for the long journey in the jar until it reach's someone stomach.

FDA Website
JEM Raw Chocolate LLC Voluntarily Recalls Nut Butter Spread Products Due To Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 2, 2015

Contact Consumers JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC  (541) 728-3844
Firm Press Release
View Product Photos

JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC (JEM Raw) of Bend, Oregon announced a voluntary recall of its full line of all nut butter spreads within expiry 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), endocarditis and arthritis.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bagged Celery / Salad Items Recalled after Linked to E. coli in Costco Chicken Salad

UPDATE 12/8/15 - FDA was not able to culturally confirm the E. coli in the Taylor Farms Product that was associated with the Costco Chicken Salad Product.   While the PCR results were positive, the FDA was not able to isolate the organism and confirm that it was actually there (cultural confirmation).  So basically, certain genes were present, but the organism was not able to found.

Taylor Farms is recalling a number of celery and other bagged lettuce items after chopped celery those items were identified as the source of E. coli O157:H7 in the Costco chicken salad E. coli outbreak.  There have been at least 19 cases reported with two of those developing HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure).

Taylor Farms prepares these ready-to-eat salad items for retail as well as foodservice use.  Operations such as Costco use bagged chopped celery in their food preparation area rather than having to wash and chop their own celery.  Taylor Farms would be responsible for ensuring the safety of the items, often utilizing multiple wash steps with some type of sanitizer.

FDA Recall Notice
Recall: Firm Press Release
Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. Recalls Celery Products Because Of Possible Health Risk

For Immediate Release
November 26, 2015
Contact  Consumers  Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc.  (209) 830-3141

Firm Press Release

Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, CA, is recalling the products listed below because they may include celery which could potentially contain E. coli 0157:H7. The products listed below are being recalled out of an abundance of caution due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli 0157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The Celery and Onion Diced Blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chicken Salad Recalled Due to Potential Link to E. coli Illnesses

 Costco is recalling chicken salad in several western states due to a state health department E. coli outbreak investigation that is focusing on chicken salad purchased in its Colorado stores.

While E. coli O157:H7 has not been associated with chickens, cross contamination can occur in facilities that also handle higher risk items such as beef.  It can also be found in produce items that were subject to contamination.

Colorado Department of Public Health
Chicken salad pulled from Colorado Costco shelves for E.coli
Mark Salley| 303-692-2013 |
DENVER – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working with other western states and the CDC to investigate illnesses due to E. coli O157:H7 from chicken salad purchased at Colorado Costco stores in late October.

FDA Developing New Micro Surveillance Sampling Approach

FDA published notice of its sampling program.  "Under the new sampling approach, the FDA is collecting a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over a shorter period of time—12 to18 months—to ensure a statistically valid amount of data is available for decision making."  FDA has  been sampling since 2014, but looks to increase this surveillance, especially for items considered higher risk.

Companies should have a plan in place for the event product is sampled, whether that is in the market, or during an inspection.  If FDA samples product or the environment during an facility inspection, consider:
- Holding product.
- Stopping production and conducting a complete sanitation.
- Pulling duplicate samples and having them tested.
One of the difficulties is the delay that can occur with FDA getting back to a facility with results.  The longer the period, the more exposure in terms of extent of product distribution.

A proactive approach is always best - developing and implementing a sampling program to understand and control potential risks.

FDA Website - Sampling
Sampling to Protect the Food Supply
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is based on preventing problems before they happen, rather than solely responding to outbreaks of foodborne illness. But in order to develop prevention-based systems, you need data and other information to help identify hazards that need to be addressed and minimized.
That is why sampling is an important part of this preventive approach and why the FDA is developing a new microbiological surveillance sampling model designed to identify patterns that may help predict and prevent future contamination by disease-causing bacteria.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Update on Salmonella Outbreak Associated with Cucumbers

CDC updated the information regarding the outbreak of Salmonella related to contaminated cucumbers that began in July.    There have been 838 cases of Salmonella reported in 38 states with 165 hospitalizations and 4 deaths.
 Graph showing People infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona, by date of illness onset - as of November 18, 2015 
CDC Recall Update
Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Poona Infections Linked to Imported Cucumbers 
Posted November 19, 2015 11:45 AM ET
 At A Glance
Deaths: 4
Hospitalizations: 165
Recall: Yes
What's New?
  • Since the last update on October 14, 2015, 71 more ill people have been reported from 23 states.
  • Connecticut and New Hampshire were added to the list of states with ill people, bringing the total number of states to 38.
  • The number of reported illnesses has declined substantially since the peak of illnesses in August and September; however, it has not returned to the number of reported illnesses that we would expect to see (about 5 every month). The investigation into the source of these illnesses is ongoing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Survey Shows that Many Distrust Large Food Companies More than Small

A survey conducted by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) shows that people have more trust in smaller, more entrepreneurial companies than in larger food companies.  In general, the larger the company, the more likely the belief that those companies will put profit ahead of principle.  This despite the fact that larger companies normally have much more resources (people, access to technology, established procedures, etc) to produce products more safely and efficiently compared to small companies

This is not surprising. Certainly this goes hand-in-hand with the increased demand for less processed foods, going for foods that appear fresher and with less preservatives.  Here again, the reality is that fresher, less processed foods can actually represent a higher risk.

Where does this skepticism come from?  There are probably a number of reasons, but here are a few.
One is the press that has come from past product issues where large companies hid information or provided misleading information.  There is big tobacco and information on linkage with cancer.  Or we can look at the most recent recall of Volkswagen cars after the company mislead consumers on emission testing.  Being large companies, these issues receive national press coverage and with that, garner public outrage.

Another reason is food related ingredients or chemicals that got bad press regardless of whether they were used incorrectly or at all.  One of the biggest controversies which was a major factor for the organic food movement was alar, the chemical added to orchards to help regulate apple maturing.   Another controversy was the use of mechanically recovered meat (pink slime).  This recovered meat product was painted as a big company way of adding a cheap alternative into our food (as opposed to a more sustainable method for protein recovery).

I believe another issue is that the public has been conditioned to view large corporate entities and government institutions negatively through movies and television shows watched every day.  How many times do we see a big company as the villain?  And the Federal government receives gets a worse rap.  The Lego Movie.  Jurassic World.  Wolf of Wall Street. Here is a list. Then of course there are the movies that directly smack the industry  such as Food, Inc or Super Size Me.
The bigger the food company, the less consumers trust it, reveals new research

By Elaine Watson+Elaine WATSON, 18-Nov-2015

Big food companies are consistently trusted less than small, entrepreneurial ones, even though their scale and resources arguably mean they are able to produce products more safely, efficiently and sustainably than their smaller, sexier, counterparts, according to new research.

Feds Take Enforcement Action Against Unlawful Supplement Manufacturers

 The US Justice Department along with other Federal Departments announced that they are filing cases against a number of supplement manufacturers that "make health or disease treatment claims that are unsupported by adequate scientific evidence".  

It is about time.  There are too many of these modern day snake oil salesmen who are taking advantage of people's wanting to find that secret cure / silver bullet answer to their medical woes.  Not only are claims false, but in some cases, these drugs can be dangerous.

If you had to bet, there are more out there.  While these are probably the worst of the worst, others will continue to sell products that provide little or no benefit to consumers.

Department of Justice - News Release
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Justice Department and Federal Partners Announce Enforcement Actions of Dietary Supplement Cases
Criminal Charges Brought against Bestselling Supplement Manufacturer
As part of a nationwide sweep, the Department of Justice and its federal partners have pursued civil and criminal cases against more than 100 makers and marketers of dietary supplements. The actions discussed today resulted from a year-long effort, beginning in November 2014, to focus enforcement resources in an area of the dietary supplement market that is causing increasing concern among health officials nationwide. In each case, the department or one of its federal partners allege the sale of supplements that contain ingredients other than those listed on the product label or the sale of products that make health or disease treatment claims that are unsupported by adequate scientific evidence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Frozen Bagged Chicken Wings Recalled Due to Off Odor

Tyson is recalling  approximately 52,000 lbs because of consumer complaints they received about an off odor.  This covers two day codes - Sell by October 24, 2016 and October 25, 2016.  There have been no illnesses reported.

USDA News Release
Tyson Foods Inc. Recalls Chicken Product Due To Possible Adulteration
Class II Recall 141-2015
Health Risk: Low Nov 17, 2015
Congressional and Public Affairs  Gabrielle N. Johnston   (202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2015 – Tyson Foods Inc., a Pine Bluff, Ark. establishment, is recalling approximately 52,486 pounds of chicken wing product that may be adulterated because of having an “off odor” scent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fast Food Worker in NY Positive for Hepatitis A

A McDonald's worker in Seneca, NY has been diagnosed with Hepatitis A and may have spread that virus to coworkers and patrons during the time before the diagnosis.

Seneca County NY News Release
Hepatitis A Confirmed in Seneca County Food Worker

 The Seneca County Health Department has confirmed a case of Hepatitis A in a food service worker employed at the McDonalds located at 2500 Mound Rd. Waterloo, NY. Public health officials are stressing there is a low risk of contracting illness, however, individuals who have not been previously vaccinated for Hepatitis A and who consumed food/drink from McDonalds on the following dates should consider treatment. 

FDA Releases FSMA Rules on Produce, Foreign Suppliers, and Third Party Auditors

FDA released three new rules as past of the Food Safety Modernization Act. 
  • The Produce Safety Final Rule focuses on requirements for farm activities associated with growing and harvesting produce.
  • The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) rules sets requirements for those importing food into the US to ensure that those suppliers are following the same requirements as US food manufacturers.
  • Associated with FSVP, there is the Accredited Third Party Audit Certification Rule which sets up a program for certifying third party auditors who will evaluate foreign suppliers.

FDA Website
FDA Releases Groundbreaking Rules on Produce and Imported Foods to Modernize and Strengthen Food Safety System
Constituent Update
November 13, 2015
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today took major steps to prevent foodborne illness by finalizing rules that establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms, and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards. The agency also issued a rule establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities.

FSIS Updates Allergen Guidance with Focus on Incoming Ingredients

FSIS issued an updated version of their Allergen Control Guidance.  Allergen issues remain on the leading causes for recalls.  According to FSIS:
What is causing undeclared allergen recalls?
  • New Ingredient
  • New Supplier
  • Misprinted Label
  • Product in Wrong Package
  • Product Reformulation
  • Ingredient Reformulation
 A focus of this update involves ingredient related allergen issues. Inspectors are discovering issues as they evaluate incoming ingredients and a company's formulation. 
"FSIS has found that many of these recalls occurred because of a change in product formulation by the establishment or a change in a supplier’s ingredient formulation that was not reflected on the labeling of the finished meat or poultry product. "
A noted change was an explanation of a Letter of Guarantee (LOG) and a Certificate of Analysis (COA). Too many rely on a LOG to protect them against a supplier related allergen issue, but a LOG cannot be counted on to prevent allergen issues.
"An establishment should review and update the LOGs regularly to ensure that the decisions made in the hazard analysis are supported and to ensure that any formulation changes made by its suppliers are detected prior to incorporating the associated ingredient into the production process. Generally, an annual LOG will not be sufficient to support decisions made in the hazard analysis."
One of the nice additions is Appendix 6 - Allergenic Ingredients in Foods.  In this appendix, there is a list of common ingredients that contain specific allergens that may be missed.  This is a nice reference.  (For example, marzipan may contain eggs).
FSIS Website
FSIS Compliance Guidelines 
Allergens and Ingredients of Public Health Concern: Identification, Prevention and Control, and Declaration through Labeling 
November 2015

[from the document - page
This document provides guidance to assist establishments in addressing the hazard posed by allergens in their products. In doing so, establishments must comply with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) and labeling regulations. 

Cans of SpaghettiOs Recalled Due to Potential Choking Hazard

Campbell soup is recalling one code date of SpaghettiOs (14.2 ounce cans of SpaghettiOs Original) due to a potential choking hazard posed by pieces of red plastic found in a small number of cans. This plastic material is from parts of the can lining which may peel off.

 FDA News Release
SpaghettiOs Original 14.2oz Cans Recalled Due to Potential Choking Hazard
For Immediate Release
November 12, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Unpasteurized Apple Juice Leads to Two Outbreaks

Fresh apple cider in autumn...nothing better.

But unfortunately, contamination on apples can make its way into the cider unless preventive controls are taken.  So far this season, there have been two examples of contamination in fresh cider.

A small California farm stand, High Hill Ranch, was linked to seven cases of E. coli illness among  residents who consumed the unpasteurized apple juice from High Hill Ranch in mid-October.
In an statement issued by the owners of the farm, it appears that they are missing the point (below).
E. coli is more likely to be picked up from ground apples (wind fallen apples, drops, or whatever you want to call them).

A second case in Illinois may be a case of cryptosporidium, a parasite often originating from a contaminated water source, such as contaminated wash water or irrigation water.  Again, apples off the ground can be an issue.

Many folks like to have that fresh juice, however having it processed can eliminate any potential risk.  This is the reason the Juice HACCP regulation of 2001 was implemented.  There are other means of having it process that do not impact the flavor as much as heat pasteurization.  One is UV treatment and the other is high pressure processing.  These two methods impact flavor less but can help retain that fresh

County of El Dorado
High Hill Ranch Issues Voluntary Recall of Unpasteurized Apple Juice

Department: Public Health Contact: Creighton Avila  Phone#: (530) 621-5153
Date: October 23, 2015

High Hill Ranch, located in the community of Camino in El Dorado County, has initiated a voluntary recall of its unpasteurized apple juice following notification from local health officials of suspected contamination with bacteria, likely Escherichia coli (E. coli.). El Dorado County health officials are warning consumers to not drink and dispose of any unpasteurized apple juice purchased from High Hill Ranch on or after October 6, 2015.

China's 2015 Food Law - Understanding Import Challenges

There is a nice piece in National Law Review on China's recently enacted 2015 Food Law and some of the challenges they face.  While the law was made to look like US law, there are many differences in components that are not easily regulated - " lacked the right enforcement devices.  Part of the food safety regime in Western countries relies on active consumer groups, industry self-enforcement, and media scrutiny.  China does not have these mechanisms."

While the 2015 law tries to encourage better 'local regulatory enforcement, food industry associations, and media oversight' there is little detail on how this can be done.  Add to this the fact the food industry is very fragmented with many smaller processors, it can be difficult to provide oversight.

Still, China is currently the third largest importer of food into the US.  With the soon to be released FDA's Foreign Supplier Verification Rule, additional attention will be required by companies and brokers importing food.

National Law Review
Food Supply Chain Issues in China (Or, China’s New Food Safety Act) (Or, Running the Gauntlet in China)
posted on: Monday, November 2, 2015

Food trade between the U.S. and China is on the rise. According to the most recent statistics, China is the third largest exporter of food and agricultural products to the U.S., behind only Canada and Mexico. And, the U.S. is China’s biggest source of foreign food and agricultural products. Under the current state of trade, the U.S. sends approximately five times the food products to China that China sends to the U.S. But in any event, with the coming into force of China’s newest Food Safety Law on October 1, 2015, food supply chain relationships between the U.S. and China are taking on additional significance.

 See more at:

CDC - Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks — United States, 2010–2014

In MMWR, the CDC published an analysis of data in the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System from 2010 - 2014. The document can be found here.
What were the important results:
  • During this 5-year period, 120 multistate foodborne disease outbreaks (with identified pathogen and food or common setting) were reported to CDC.
  • These multistate outbreaks accounted for 3% (120 of 4,163) of all reported foodborne outbreaks, but were responsible for 11% (7,929 of 71,747) of illnesses, 34% (1,460 of 4,247) of hospitalizations, and 56% (66 of 118) of deaths associated with foodborne outbreaks. [Listeria accounted for the largest percentage of deaths - 86%]
  • Salmonella (63 outbreaks), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (34), and Listeria monocytogenes (12) were the leading pathogens.
  • Fruits (17), vegetable row crops (15), beef (13), sprouts (10), and seeded vegetables (nine) were the most commonly implicated foods.
  • Imported foods were linked to 18 multistate outbreaks.
It is interesting to read the headlines that follow this release.
Big and deadly: Major foodborne outbreaks spike sharply (Washington Post) goes on to say that major foodborne outbreaks in the United States have more than tripled in the last 20 years.
Well, our improvement in being able to see outbreaks has improved in the last twenty years.  With Pulsenet, CDC can work with states to find outbreaks.  This system came online 20 years ago and has continued to improve, especially with the development of whole genome sequencing.  So of course we see more outbreaks than we saw 20 years ago, but that does not mean they didn't exist.  And if you had to guess, you would say that there were more 20 years ago then there are today.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nebraska Establishment Recalls 167,000 lbs of Ground Beef After E. coli Positive Test Result

A Nebraska meat establishment is recalling approximately 167,000 lbs of ground meat after USDA found a positive sample in their 'in-commerce' testing.  There have been no reported illnesses.

USDA News Release
All American Meats, Inc. Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination
Class I Recall 135-2015
Health Risk: High Nov 1, 2015

Congressional and Public Affairs   Kristen Felicione  (202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 01, 2015 – All American Meats, Inc., an Omaha, Neb. establishment, is recalling approximately 167,427 pounds of ground beef products that may be adulterated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Chipotle Shuts West Coast Locations After Linked to E. coli Outbreak

UPATE - 12-21-15 - CDC reports that a total of 53 people have become infected in 9 different states.  From the CDC report - "The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27)."

Update - 11/4/15 - Reports have the total number of cases at 35 (as of Tuesday, 11/3) for those infected by E. coli O26.   

Chipolte restaurants closed 43 west coast restaurants because of a potential link to E. coli outbreak.  As of the Oct 31st, there were 22 reported illnesses.  The ingredient source of E. coli has not yet been identified.

This is the third major outbreak associated with the chain. In September, a California location was involved in a Norovirus outbreak where 80 individuals become ill.  In the same month, 22 locations were linked to 64 cases of Salmonella infection.  In this case, tomatoes were pinned as the source.

This has had a impact on the business as the stock price has dropped to a 4 month low.

Reuters Business News
Chipotle shuts Seattle, Portland stores after E. coli outbreak

Sun Nov 1, 2015 10:59pm EST
Related: Health, Mexico
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES | By Ransdell Pierson and Lisa Baertlein
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc said on Sunday it had closed all its restaurants in two West Coast markets due to a reported outbreak of E. coli bacteria that is being investigated by the company and health authorities.

Juice Processor Ordered to Cease Operations for Lack of Compliance

An Idaho juice processor was ordered to cease production after not complying  with FDA regulations.  The juice processor was not heat pasteurizing, and according to juice regulations, there must be validated reduction steps in place.  Normally, juice processors use heat pasteurization to accomplish this.  It is unclear what, if anything, this processor was doing.

FDA News Release
FDA orders juice manufacturer to cease operations
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Apples Recalled Due to Positive Screen for One of Three Pathogens

A MN firm is recalling apples because a test indicates the presence of Listeria or Salmonella or E.coli.  So basically, they don't know which because who ever did the test ran a screen which looks for indicator genes for each of the three.

The recall was probably based upon a positive reaction of the test without the isolation of the actually pathogenic organism.  This is the problem with a screen - not sure which organism or it is just a false positive result.

FDA Recall Notice
Northstar Produce Inc. Recalls Granny Smith Size 175 Apples Because of Possible Health Risk

For Immediate Release  October 26, 2015

Contact Consumers Mike Abernathy 763-286-0110
Firm Press Release

Northstar Produce Inc.of St. Louis Park, MN the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and / or Enterohemorrhagic E. coli. is recalling 33 cases of Granny Smith Size 175ct apples, because a test performed on a sample of the apples indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and / or Enterohemorrhagic E. coli.

Bagged Edamame Recalled Due to Allergen Labeling Deficiency...Contains Soy

Giant Foods is recalling frozen edamame because the allergen statement is not there...Contains Soy.   Of course edamame is soy, just the immature version still in the pods.  But some may not recognize this, and by regulation, the common name must be stated.

From the FDA Guidance Q&A document
Packaged foods that are made using soybeans as an ingredient or as a component of a multi-component ingredient (e.g., soy sauce or tofu) should continue to use the word "soybeans" as the appropriate common or usual name for this ingredient to identify properly the ingredient (e.g., "soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt)").

 Centre Daily Times
Giant announces edamame recall
By From CDT staff reports
October 30, 2015

Caution: soybeans contain soy.

A warning like this was left off some edamame, causing a Pennsylvania food chain to pull the product from shelves.

Giant Food Stores, LLC and Martin’s Food Markets announced Friday that it was removing Nature’s Promise Organic Edamame products because they contain soy, but it is not listed on the labels as containing the ingredient, which can cause problems for people with a specific allergy.

Man Sentenced to 51 Months for Sales Scam - Industrial Bleach as a Miracle Drink

A Washington man was sentenced to 51 months in prison for selling an industrial chemical as  Medical Miracle Solution, MMS.  The solution, as detailed by the authorities, was sodium chlorite.  According to reports, the directions had the consumer add citric acid to this which creates chlorine dioxide, a very strong oxidizing solution.  This type of mixture is used in a number of industrial applications including use as a sanitizing solution for food contact surfaces.  But not for direct consumption.  A number of people had reported becoming ill.

Peanut Butter Recalled Due to Potential Metal Pieces

Hormel is recalling 153 cases of 16.3 oz jars of Skippy Peanut Butter due to a potential for metal.  Metal pieces were found on an in-line magnet, which probably raised concern that some could have made its way to the jars. 

The interesting thing to note is that product was already shipped given that sufficient metal was found to raise concern.  Also 153 cases, about 3 pallets of product, would probably represent less than an hour of production.  These types of issues can arise for a number of reasons...just in time shipping where product is being shipped as it is made.   Another reason can be inadvertent shipping of product placed on hold because of fact there was an equipment malfunction where that product was placed 'on hold' because the malfunction resulted in metal pieces being generated as indicated by the in-line magnet. An indicator that this may have been the case is the production code / Best if Used By date...if this product had just been made, the code would probably be further out than next December.

FDA Recall Notice
Recall: Firm Press Release
Hormel Foods Sales LLC Voluntarily Recalls a Limited Number of Jars of Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread Due to Possible Metal Pieces
For Immediate Release
October 29, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015

Grocery Chain Recalls Deli Salad Items Due to Listeria Positive Samples

Whole Foods recalled various deli salads including chicken and pasta salad made at their central kitchen in Massachusetts.  Product was made on the 16th with a sell-by-date of the 23rd.
At the time of the recall, the product had already reached its expiration date.

A few things to note - the notice states that a sampling of the products tested positive which indicates more than one product.  Whether or not that is the case, they do have Listeria within the facility and there should be a question of whether it is under control.  Commissary operations may or may not do extensive testing for Listeria, mainly because the shelf-life is so short.  Since this product is one day beyond the Food Code limitation of 7 days (day one is the day product is made), there should be controls in place.  Also, since this is a dual jurisdiction plant (both FDA and USDA have oversight), from a USDA perspective of a facility with RTE product and post-lethality exposure, some testing should be taking place.

When Listeria is found on product, there is a high probability that it will still be in the environment unless there is a good explanation why contamination was limited to that day.  Hopefully before this facility restarts, they conduct ample cleaning and verification testing prior to starting production.

No illnesses have been reported...yet.  With Whole Genome Sequencing, further analysis of the LM found in the facility can now be matched against cases of Listeria infection that have occurred throughout the region.

USDA Recall Notice
Whole Foods Market Recalls Curry Chicken Salad Product Due To Possible Listeria Adulteration
Class I Recall 131-2015
Health Risk: High Oct 24, 2015

En Español
Congressional and Public Affairs  Julie Schwartz   (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2015 – A Whole Foods Market establishment located in Everett, Mass. is recalling approximately 234 pounds of curry chicken salad products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The chicken curry salad was packaged on Oct. 16, 2015, and was sold prepackaged, in salad bars, in store's chef's cases, and in sandwiches and wraps prepared in the stores. The following products are subject to recall: [Labels (PDF Only)]

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oregon Cannery Documentation Issue Leads to Cascading Recall

 Skipanon Brands, also known as the Oregon Ocean Seafood processing plant, issued a recall for their canned foods due to lack of documentation and possible under-processed products discovered during an FDA audit.  There were no reported illnesses.

The plant, identified on their own website as a micro-cannery, packed product for many other labels. The initial recall on October 9th caused a cascade of recalls by companies who used Skipanon as a co-packer to pack their branded product.
A few things to note"
A co-packer issue can impact a number of brands.  So it important to make sure the company co-packing product is compliant with standards, especially FDA Low Acid Canned Food Regulations.

With the first recall issued on the 9th, it took close to 2 weeks for companies to issue recalls.  Had there been illnesses, this delay could have had resulted in a much bigger disaster, especially if it had been a Clostridium botulinum issue.

The list of recalls follows:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CDC Report - 2014 Case of Ciguatera Toxin in Florida After Consuming Naturally Contaminated Black Grouper

In a CDC report, in 2014, a Florida woman contracted ciguatera fish poisoning after eating black grouper in a restaurant.  Five additional cases were also reported, also associated with black grouper from the same international supplier.

About 7 hours after eating black grouper, the woman experienced acute onset of neurological symptoms including paradoxical temperature perception (burning sensation like dry ice), paresthesias (tingling or pricking or “pins and needles”, in the peripheral nerves), extremity numbness, a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, arthralgia, and myalgia.

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP), occurs when predatory reef-dwelling fish harboring ciguatoxins is ingested.  Ciguatoxin is stable to both freezing or cooking.   The naturally occurring toxin originates in several dinoflagellate (algae) species.  That toxin accumulates in the meat of preparatory reef fish as they eat smaller fish that have eaten the toxic algae.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Use of Surveillance Systems in Detection of a Ciguatera Fish Poisoning Outbreak — Orange County, Florida, 2014
October 16, 2015 / 64(40);1142-4
Benjamin G. Klekamp, MSPH1; Dean Bodager, MPA2; Sarah D. Matthews, MPH1

California Restaurant Source of Shigella - Number of Cases Continues to Climb

UPDATE (10/23/15)- Within a few days, the number of Shigella cases linked to a California restaurant continues to climb.  Reports now have the number at 110 cases in 4 different California Counties.

A California restaurant is being held responsible for up to 80 people becoming infected with Shigella with about a dozen becoming hospitalized.  Because this is a highly contagious bacterial infection, a number of secondary infections are beginning to arise. (People who are contracting the disease from someone who ate at the restaurant).
Shigella causes severe diarrhea, sometimes bloody, as well as fever and abdominal pain. Symptoms will occur within a day or two after infection and will last 5 to 7 days.  It is highly infectious, only requiring less than 20 cells to cause infection.  It spreads through contact with food or person to person which can be problematic when someone has profuse diarrhea and does not wash their hands or washes their hand insufficiently. 
Glove usage handling ready-to-eat foods would help...but that is not a law in CA.  In 2014, California repealed the law requiring glove usage to prevent bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food.

Getting sick workers to stay home is another issue.  Many people will still go to work even if they are ill.
Rod-shaped, drug-resistant Shigella bacteria 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bottles of Sparkling Beverage Recalled Due to Potential for Glass Fragments

Martinelli, a California bottler of sparkling fruit juice is recalling certain lots of Martinelli’s 8.4 oz. mini glass bottles of cider and sparkling grape juice due to the possibility of small glass chips at the top of the bottles occurring when opening the bottle, which could possibly enter the beverage and cut or injure the consumer.
The company discovered the issue through their own internal testing.

 FDA Notice - Recall: Firm Press Release
Notice of Voluntary Recall of Certain Martinelli's 8.4 oz. Sparkling Beverages Due to Potential for Glass Fragments

For Immediate Release
October 15, 2015

Contact Consumers  S. Martinelli & Company   1-800-662-1868

S. Martinelli & Company of Watsonville, California, today announced a voluntary nationwide recall of certain lots of Martinelli’s 8.4 oz. mini glass bottles of Gold Medal Sparkling Cider, Sparkling Cider Northwest Blend, Sparkling White Grape, and Sparkling Red Grape, due to the possibility of small glass chips at the top of the bottles occurring when opening the bottle, which could possibly enter the beverage. Consumers could potentially be cut or injured if a chip occurs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fresh Whole Apples Recalled Due to Positive Listeria Test

Del Monte Fresh Produce is recalling apples for potential Listeria contamination after a customer tested fresh apples and found a sample to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Listeria has not been an issue in whole fresh apples, and would be considered low risk. But caramel apples have been linked to an outbreak and sliced apples have been recalled due to the presence of Listeria.  In a recent study, Listeria was shown to grow only minimally on whole apples with caramel (no stick) and no growth when those caramel apples (no stick) were stored at refrigeration temperatures.  Even sliced apples shows minimal growth especially at refrigeration temperatures. 

FDA Notice - Recall: Firm Press Release
Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc., Recalls Limited Quantity of Fresh Apples Due to Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release October 14, 2015

Contact  800-659-6500

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc., (“Del Monte Fresh”) is initiating a voluntary recall of Granny Smith green apples 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, stuffiness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Research Findings on Listeria Growth in Caramel Apples

The Listeria outbreak associated with caramel apples has raised questions regarding how the Listeria was able to grow in an acidic fruit.  Researchers have found that inserting the stick in the apple was an important factor as well as also storing at room temperature.  So when the stick is inserted, it drives the organism into the apple, and the stick causes cellular damage to the apple, creating conditions that allow the Listeria to grow sufficiently when stored at room temperature.

It would be wise for those selling caramel apples to store them at refrigeration temperature and limit the shelf-life to less than 28 days.

The other point made by the researchers in this study is the concept of microenvironments existing at interfaces in food, in this case, the interface of stick and the apple.  When inserted, the stick changes the apple matrix enough to allow Listeria to grow.  Normally, the apple pH would be too low to support the growth of Listeria.

It is easy to overlook microenvironments that exist in food.  They can arise in multicomponent foods with particulates, in foods at the packaging interface, or in foods that allow moisture migration to surface changing the moisture content.  The interaction at these interfaces can impact preventive factors such as pH,  water activity (Aw), or preservative concentration.
MBio - American Society of Microbiology
Growth of Listeria monocytogenes within a Caramel-Coated Apple Microenvironment
+ Author Affiliations
Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Address correspondence to Kathleen Glass,
Editor Stefan H. E. Kaufmann, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology
A 2014 multistate listeriosis outbreak was linked to consumption of caramel-coated apples, an unexpected and previously unreported vehicle for Listeria monocytogenes. This outbreak was unanticipated because both the pH of apples (<4.0) and the water activity of the caramel coating (<0.80) are too low to support Listeria growth. In this study, Granny Smith apples were inoculated with approximately 4 log10 CFU of L. monocytogenes (a cocktail of serotype 4b strains associated with the outbreak) on each apple’s skin, stem, and calyx. Half of the apples had sticks inserted into the core, while the remaining apples were left intact. Apples were dipped into hot caramel and stored at either 7°C or 25°C for up to 11 or 28 days, respectively. Data revealed that apples with inserted sticks supported significantly more L. monocytogenes growth than apples without sticks under both storage conditions. Within 3 days at 25°C, L. monocytogenes populations increased >3 log10 in apples with sticks, whereas only a 1-log10 increase was observed even after 1 week for caramel-coated apples without sticks. When stored at 7°C, apples with sticks exhibited an approximately 1.5-log10 increase in L. monocytogenes levels at 28 days, whereas no growth was observed in apples without sticks. We infer that insertion of a stick into the apple accelerates the transfer of juice from the interior of the apple to its surface, creating a microenvironment at the apple-caramel interface where L. monocytogenes can rapidly grow to levels sufficient to cause disease when stored at room temperature.

Bags of Spinach Recalled Due to Sample Testing Positive for Salmonella

Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling bags of Spinach after testing conducted by the Michigan Dept. of Ag detected a sample positive for Salmonella.  Only two lot codes - A27409B & A27409A, with an Enjoy By date of October 15 and UPC 7143000976, are being recalled.  There have been no reported illnesses.

 Dole Spinach

FDA Recall Notice
Dole Fresh Vegetables Announces Precautionary Recall of Limited Number of Spinach Salads

For Immediate Release
October 13, 2015

Contact Consumers   Bil Goldfield   (818) 874-4647
Consumer Response Center  (800) 356-3111
Firm Press Release

Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling a limited number of cases of bagged salad. The product being recalled is Dole Spinach coded A27409B & A27409A, with an Enjoy By date of October 15 and UPC 7143000976 due to a possible health risk from Salmonella. Dole Fresh Vegetables is coordinating closely with regulatory officials. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

CDC Announcement - October 15th is Global Handwashing Day

While many may scoff, or even mock, those federal officials for putting such effort into creating a 'day' for such a menial task as handwashing, perhaps this is an opportunity to remind all those who handle food of the importance of handwashing.  You may even want to go as far as having a handwashing retraining event....A Handwashing Celebration Extravaganza!


CDC News Release
Announcement: Global Handwashing Day — October 15, 2015
October 9, 2015 / 64(39);1124

October 15, 2015, marks the 8th annual Global Handwashing Day. This observance increases awareness and understanding of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent disease around the world.

Gluten Free Cheerios Recalled Due to Transportation Error that Caused Contamination

General Mills is recalling 1.8 million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios after FDA received 125 complaints from people having an adverse reaction, primarily gastrointestinal issues associated with celiac disease, an extremely painful disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten.

According to the report - "The company said Monday the foul-up occurred when the Lodi plant lost rail service and its gluten-free flour was transferred from rail cars to trucks.....General Mills said oat flour was contaminated when bulk rail cars full of the stuff were offloaded into bulk trucks, Foster said. The bulk trucks were believed to recently have carried wheat, she said."
An incredible error for a product purchased specifically because it is supposed to contain no gluten.

It is important to see how a monumental error can occur when responding to a crisis. In this case, people worked around the loss of rail service only to contaminate product by not considering the gluten issue in the stopgap measure - off loading into uncleaned transport vehicles.

Untrained logistics/transportation people?  This is a reminder of ensuring that all people within the organization are trained in food safety - both general food safety as well as the food safety issues specific to the activities that with which they are tasked.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

Star Tribune
FDA says it received 125 complaints about gluten-free Cheerios before recall
General Mills said it knows how the gluten got into its flour and has taken steps to prevent it.

Federal food regulators said Tuesday they have received 125 reports of adverse health effects — mostly gastrointestinal problems — from consumers who ate gluten-free Cheerios.

After hearing of such complaints, General Mills Inc. on Monday recalled 1.8 million boxes nationwide of gluten-free Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, concluding they inadvertently contained wheat, which contains gluten.

Whole Foods Roquefort Cheese Recalled Due to Listeria Positive Sample

Whole Foods is recalling Papillon Organic Roquefort Cheese after FDA sampling found the whole uncut wheels of cheese positive for Salmonella.

Papillon is a brand of cheese made in France and imported into the US.

FDA Recall Notice
Whole Foods Market Voluntarily Recalls All Cut, Wrapped And Weighed Papillon Organic Roquefort Cheeses Because Of Possible Health Risk

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Is Quat Binding Making Your Sanitizer Ineffective?

Quat binding or quat absorption is a phenomena that occurs when storing cotton wash cloths in buckets of sanitizer strength quaternary ammonia, and the cotton material inactivates the quat to a point where it is not longer at the proper strength.  So while you think you are sanitizing a surface, you are essentially just wiping it with water.  Same thing can occur with mops or common rags.

Two solutions are to spray apply the sanitizer to the surface and then wipe.  Or you can use microfiber cloths that will have less of an inactivating effect.
What Is Quat Binding And Why It Must Be Prevented
 BY Becky Mollenkamp
Posted 6/25/15

The science behind quat binding and how it can be prevented

Quaternary ammonium chloride (quat) is an active ingredient in disinfectants that are used widely throughout the industry. These disinfectants are popular because of their effectiveness against germs, bacteria and viruses; their relatively low toxicity at proper dilution; low odors and; long shelf life.

When used properly, quat disinfectants can be very effective. But if used incorrectly, quat binding can occur, drastically reducing the cleaning efficacy.

Quat binding, also known as quat absorption, is still a relatively new and misunderstood issue in the jan/san industry. It is garnering more attention, however, because of its potential to negatively impact cleaning results. The phenomenon of quat binding occurs when the active ingredient (quaternary ammonium chloride) becomes attracted to and absorbed into fabrics. The science behind how this happens is simple: Quats are positively charged ions and cotton and other natural textiles are negatively charged; positive attracts negative.

Acidified Food Processor Cited for Improper pH Monitoring - FDA Warning Letter

A Warning Letter was issued by FDA to a acidified food processor for not verifying equilibrium pH.  (Equilibrium pH is measuring the pH after 24 hours to ensure that low acid components within the finished product are below 4.6 in order to prevent Clostridium botulinum growth).

Along with this, there was the lack of production and processing records showing adherence to scheduled processes, lack of a recall procedure, and they were not documenting the calibration of pH meter or the accuracy checks of thermometers and were using expired buffer solutions for pH meter calibration.  
There are many small processors who focus on acidified foods.  With FSMA, more of these processors will fall under FDA jurisdiction / regulations.

For someone looking for co-packing, it is critical to review a companies capabilities beyond what is on the website.  Looking at this company's website, you would think that these folks were operating correctly.  This includes looking at audit reports, and of course, any FDA warning notices.

FDA Warning Letters
Backwoods Food Mfg Co Inc 9/15/15
September 15, 2015

Danielle (NMI) Coursey, President, Co-Owner  Michael R. Coursey, Vice-President, Co-Owner
Backwoods Manufacturing, Inc
591 Main Parkway
Tahlequah, OK 74464

Dear. Ms. Coursey,

On March 24-26, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted an inspection of your facility located at 591 Main Parkway, Tahlequah, OK, where you manufacture a variety of acidified foods. The inspection revealed serious violations of the regulations for acidified foods (Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 108, Emergency Permit Control (21 CFR Part 108) and Part 114, Acidified Foods (21 CFR Part 114)). Accordingly, we have determined that your acidified food products are adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)], in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health. You can find the Act and the Acidified Food regulations through link in FDA’s home page at

Number of Cucumber Related Salmonellosis Cases Rises

There have been an addition 61 cucumber linked cases of salmonellosis since the September 29 CDC outbreak update. This brings the total to 732 people.  With a relatively short shelf-life of 14 days, CDC anticipates that there should not be too many more, if any, additional cases.
It is surprising the lack of outrage in the media.  732 cases.  4 deaths.  Let's compare that to the Salmonella outbreak associated with Foster Farms raw chicken, a product that is supposed to be cooked.  In that outbreak , CDC reported that "a total of 634 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg were reported from 29 states and Puerto Rico from March 1, 2013 to July 11, 2014.  38% of ill persons were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported."   Have we become desensitized?  Or are there less deep pockets to access?
Certainly the scope is huge.  35 states.  This demonstrates the impact of one initial supply hub in moving product across the county. 
It also shows the inability to track an outbreak related to produce.  3 months is a long time for such a short shelf-life product.
  Epi Curve Multisate Salmonella outbreak for Imported Cucumbers - Poona
CDC Outbreak
Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Poona Infections Linked to Imported Cucumbers
Posted October 6, 2015 4:00 PM ET
What's New?
  • Since the last update on September 29, 2015, 61 more ill people have been reported from 24 states. Given the 14-day shelf life of cucumbers and the gap between when someone gets sick and when that illness is reported to public health, it is not unexpected to continue to see illnesses reported after the recalls.
  • A death has been reported from Oklahoma, bringing the total number of deaths to four.
  • Maryland was added to the list of states with ill people, bringing the total number of states to 35.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Another Brand of Raw Dog Food Recalled - Presence of Listeria and Salmonella

If products are made from raw meat, they can contain pathogens unless treated in a way to eliminate those pathogens.  While holding that product at cold temperatures helps prevent growth, it does not eliminate it. 

When someone is into the 3rd day of uncontrollable loss of bodily fluids, my guess is they won't really be trying to determine if that food made Barky's coat more shinny.

FDA Recall Notice
K-9 Kraving Dog Food Has Announced a Voluntary Recall of Their Chicken Patties Dog Food Shipped Between July 13th - July 17th, 2015 Because The Product May Be Contaminated With Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes
Contact:   Consumer:   1-800-675-1471

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 2, 2015 – Baltimore, MD – K-9 Kraving Dog Food has announced a voluntary recall of their Chicken Patties Dog Food shipped between July 13th - July 17th, 2015 because these products may be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Question - Are Transportation Companies Preparing for Food Safety Requirement per FSMA

Are your transportation companies preparing for upcoming FSMA regulations?  The FSMA Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food was enacted to help maintain the safety of both human and animal food during transportation by establishing criteria, e.g., conditions and practices, training and record keeping, for the sanitary transportation of food.

According to the article in Bulk Transporter - probably not.  But they should begin.....getting an organization in the habit of executing food safety controls will take time.

A few highlights from the article:
  • Carriers must develop and implement procedures that describe how they will comply with provisions for temperature control and how they will provide this information to shippers and receivers.
  • Drivers will need to be trained on temperature management and reporting requirements, and temperature records for each shipment must be retained for one full year.
  • Food shippers must specify in writing to carriers the sanitary requirements for transport vehicles and temperature control systems for all shipments of “Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food” (TCS food).
  • Food receivers must carry out loading and unloading operations under conditions that will prevent TCS food from reaching unsafe temperatures.
  • Condensation inside a refrigerated or tank trailer may get more attention.
  • Carrier personnel must be trained.
So it would behoove you to ask the question of your logistical provider.

Bulk Transporter
Bulk food haulers need to prepare in advance for the FDA’s comprehensive food transport requirements
Oct 5, 2015 Charles Wilson | Bulk Transporter
NEW RULES covering food transportation and distribution will begin to take effect starting in June. However, there is growing concern that many food transporters still are not ready to deal with these new rules.
The lack of preparedness was a key point addressed during a panel discussion that took place during the 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

Company Issues Another Recall for Green Beans After Listeria Positive Sample is Detected

Cascadian Farms, an organic division of General Mills, is recalling frozen green beans after a product sample was found to be positive for Listeria.   This comes after Cascadian Farms issued a recall back in August for product produced in 2014 when that product was found to be positive for Listeria.

Proper cooking of the green beans by the consumer will eliminate the Listeria, but there is a concern that people will not follow cooking instructions.  There have been no illnesses associated with this product.

The most likely source of Listeria contamination is in the processing environment.  Generally, green beans are blanched by the processor before freezing.  This blanching would eliminate the organism.  however, Listeria is problematic in that it can establish itself within moist, cool processing environments such as those used to make green beans.  Facilities work to prevent Listeria contamination through following practices such as good sanitation, controlling movement in and out of more critical areas (post blanch - freezing - packaging), and then monitoring those areas.

Freezing the product does not allow the organism to grow, but freezing will not eliminate it.

Wall Street Journal Business
General Mills Recalls Another Batch of Green Beans Due to Listeria
Company says it found a pack of Cascadian Farm Cut green beans with listeria; it had seen another in August
By Josh Beckerman Oct. 2, 2015 3:47 p.m. ET

General Mills Inc. GIS 0.39 % is voluntarily recalling a small amount of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans after a package tested positive for listeria, the second listeria-related recall for this brand of green bean this year.

The recall involves green beans produced on one day in June and is limited to 16-ounce bags with a “Better If Used By” date of 29JUNE2017.

General Mills said no related illnesses have been reported.