Thursday, April 30, 2015

Canadian Firm Recalled Sliced Apples Due to Listeria

A Canadian firm is recalling sliced apples after someone reported getting ill and CFIA test results.  The apples were distributed in Canada.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Food Recall Warning - Sliced apples and products containing sliced apples recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes

Recall date:April 29, 2015
Reason for recall: Microbiological - Listeria
Hazard classification:Class 1
Company / Firm:Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc.
Distribution:Possibly National
Extent of the distribution: Retail
Recall details

Ottawa, April 29, 2015 - Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc. is recalling sliced apples and products containing sliced apples produced in its Brampton, Ontario facility from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes should not sell or use the recalled products described below.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Packing Nuts....Controlling Salmonella?

Nuts and Salmonella.....over the month of April, there have been a number of recalls involving nuts.  The recalls are due to FDA testing and finding samples positive for Salmonella.  There have been no reported illnesses. 

FDA has a concern about salmonella in nuts, so companies packing nuts need to have controls in place or better be ready to use that recall plan.

FDA Recall Notices

Waymouth Farms, Inc. Recalls Raw Pine Nuts Because of Possible Health Risk - April 27, 2015 – New Hope, MN – Waymouth Farms, Inc. of New Hope, MN is recalling RAW PINE NUTS in various sizes, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella....
The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in a 4 ounce package.
Production of the Pine Nuts has been suspended while Waymouth Farms, Inc. continues their investigation as to the source of the problem.

Pasta Salad Recalled Due to Use of Recalled Frozen Vegetables

 Hy-Vee is recalling pasta salad due to the fact that they used recalled frozen vegetables in their salad items.  The frozen vegetables are potentially contaminated with Listeria and are part of the Inventure frozen vegetable recall.

Even though it states that the vegetables are to be cooked on the label, this retail store operation appears to be using the product as a fresh ingredient item.  An interesting question is to what agreement was made, if any, on the purchase of these vegetables for a ready-to-eat application.

Ingredients produced for ready-to-eat applications must be produced in a facility that is controlling to a higher level of safety, including strict sanitation and monitoring and the incorporation of high hygiene standards.

FDA Recall Notice
Hy-Vee Recalls Summer Fresh Pasta Salad
Hy-Vee pulls pasta salad from stores due to potential threat of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria contamination


Tara Deering-Hansen, Assistant Vice President

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 28, 2015 – West Des Moines, Iowa – On April 27, 2015, Hy-Vee, Inc. issued a recall for Hy-Vee Summer Fresh Pasta Salad that is sold in its stores' kitchen department cold cases and salad bars. The pasta was recalled after Hy-Vee was notified the frozen vegetables used to make the ready-to-eat pasta were potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The frozen vegetables were produced by Inventure Foods, Jefferson, Georgia.

Botulism Outbreak in Ohio Linked to Home Canned Potatoes, Confirmed Cases Now 21

The source of the botulism outbreak at the Ohio church potluck is most likely the home canned potatoes used to make the potato salad.  In this outbreak, the number of confirmed cases of botulism poisoning is now 21.

While potatoes can be safely canned (if done according to the directions provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation), it is important to use the right potatoes, the right size, and the use of a pressure canner.  While there has been no further information provided at this point related to the canning procedures used or issues seen on other containers processed that may be still in storage, potatoes can become an issue if not done correctly.  First, potatoes are low acid, so a pressure canner must be used.  Second, it is important the type and the size are correct to allow proper heat movement within the jar (convection heating).  If the size is too big or the potatoes break down during processing, the heating parameters within the jar will change, thus affecting the ability of heat to reach the cold spot of the jar. 

Another issue is the use of home canned foods for volunteer events.   Generally,  bringing home canned foods to volunteer events is discouraged.  In Penn State's Volunteer Food Safety Curriculum, Cooking for Crowds, it states in Chapter 4:
As a precaution, never accept any home-canned or home-preserved food [for volunteer events]. Life-threatening foodborne illness can occur from food that has been preserved incorrectly
 The same must be said for using canned foods as an ingredient in dishes that will be brought and served at group functions.  There are no regulations for these volunteer groups and their functions however and so it comes down to the individual groups to require training and to institute policies.

Getting home preservers to follow scientifically developed recipes is not an easy.   Cases like this are reminders that improper canning procedures can lead to deadly consequences.

Source of deadly botulism outbreak in Ohio identified

April 28, 2015, 9:46 AM

LANCASTER, Ohio -- Health officials say the likely source of the botulism outbreak that killed one person and sickened many others at an Ohio church potluck dinner was home-canned potatoes used in a potato salad.

Frozen Vegetables Recalled for Non-Contact Listeria Positive Sample

Greystone Foods is recalling frozen vegetables due to the potential for Listeria.  This recall is connected to the Inventure Foods recall.

The interesting thing about this recall, at least what was written in the FDA Recall Notice (below), is that the Listeria was found on a non-contact surface.  In this section from the notice:
"The potential for contamination was noted after we were informed by our supplier that an area of their facility where the field peas with snaps were blended tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes on a non-food contact surface."
While there is no detail on what 'non-contact surface' was tested, there is no regulatory requirement (FDA Listeria Guidance) to recall based upon a positive finding on a non-contact surface.  Listeria can and often will be found in a facility, but as long as it is in control, more specifically, prevented from getting into food, the risk should be minimal.  Especially for products that have cooking instructions listed on the package. 

This has received a lot of attention in this sector of the industry.  Was it an overly cautious move, or were there other contributing factors?  One may be that many frozen vegetables are being used without cooking, including when used in salad or juice blends.

FDA Recall Notice
Greystone Foods, LLC voluntarily recalls Today’s Harvest Field Peas with Snaps, Silver Queen Corn, and Broccoli Florets due to possible health risk.

Contact: Consumer: 1-205-945-9099

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 24, 2015 — Greystone Foods, LLC voluntarily recalls Today’s Harvest Field Peas with Snaps, Silver Queen Corn, and Broccoli Florets with the sell by date 04/21/16 shipped to Publix Supermarkets warehouse in Lakeland, FL warehouse due to possible health risk.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Nylabone Recalls Puppy Treats Due to Positive Salmonella Sample

Nylabone Products is recalling their puppy starter kit due to the fact that sample product, tested by the company, was found to be positive for Salmonella.

Nylabones are those dog treats that seem to last forever.  They come in edible and inedible  (basically plastic) types.  In the Puppy Starter Kit package, there were both the edible and inedible types of bone.  So it can be assumed that the edible one was the one found to be positive for Salmonella. 
Here are the ingredients for the Bacon edible:
Bacon: Wheat starch, glycerin, cellulose, lecithin, potato starch, chicken powder, roast beef flavor, natural bacon flavor, natural flavor, oat fiber, calcium carbonate, soy flour and rosemary oil.
Vitamins: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B-6, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Biotin, Choline, Inositol and PABA.
Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Ferrous Carbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Copper Oxide, Manganese Oxide and Sodium Molybdate.
As we have seen with other recalls involving Salmonella in dry product, rarely is the recall  limited to one lot.  Rather, Salmonella as an environmental contaminate, can survive in these dry facilities for long periods of time and thus contaminate product over that period.  As an environmental contaminate,  Salmonella gets onto the product after the process rather than being present in the ingredients and surviving the process.  If this is the case, than other lots should be checked. (If instead, it is a processing issue and Salmonella from the ingredients survived the process, then this means a process deviation was missed).

FDA Recall Notice
TFH Publications, Inc./Nylabone Products Recalls Puppy Starter Kit Due To Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Contact: Consumer: 1-877-273-7527

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 22, 2015 - TFH Publications, Inc./Nylabone Products, of Neptune, NJ is recalling one lot of its 1.69 oz. package of the Puppy Starter Kit dog chews, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella can affect animals ingesting the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fruit and Vegetable Juice Blends - Reviewing the Risks and Their Control

Juice blends, the mixing of juice from different fruits and vegetables, are growing in demand. But some processors may not realize there can be a risk of foodborne pathogens if that juice operation does not handle and process the fruits and vegetables properly. This goes for both when serving juice fresh without any processing treatment, or fresh juice receiving a processing treatment that serves to reduce/eliminate pathogenic microorganisms (a 5 log reduction). According to the Food Code, if a processor does not use a microbial reduction process, that product must be labeled as such. (Consumers should know the difference between these two, because the non treated juice does have a higher risk for foodborne illness, especially when that juice is low acid, and/or stored for any time rather than consumed immediately).

Low acid / high pH juices are the result of using a high proportion of low acid produce such vegetables, including spinach or kale, in the blend These low acid juices, as compared to the higher acid juices, are a bigger concern in that they better able to support the growth of pathogenic bacteria if present (as compared to more acidic juices like apple juice.) When these low acid receive a processing treatment, such as those processed by ultraviolet light (UV) or by high pressure processing, Clostridium botulinum is a risk.

What are the concerns related to juice:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Inventure is Recalling Frozen Vegetables and Juice Blends Due to Potential for Listeria Contamination

Inventure's Georgia facility is recalling fresh frozen vegetables and  smoothie kits after the company discovered Listeria in that Georgia processing facility.  There have been no reported illnesses to date.

While Listeria in smoothies can be a risk, specifically since the product is considered ready-to-eat.  The vegetables on the other hand, do have cooking instructions.  However, there is a risk if the consumer undercooks the product or if they use it in the preparation of vegetable juice blends.

The other interesting point is that this action is being taken for positive environmental sample, not a product sample testing positive.  There is no indication as to the location in the environment of the positive sample or whether product was actually tested.  Since two product lines were recalled, either these lines shared the same pieces of equipment, or there were more than one positive samples.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NY Company Recalls Fresh Cheese Due to High S. aureus Levels

 A New York Company is recalling a Queso Fresco or Fresh Cheese after the NY State Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services tested and found the product to have a high level of Staphylococcus aureus in the product.  While Staph aureus may be naturally present on our skin and in our nasal passages, it is can be an issue when in high levels in food products.  When S. aureus reaches high levels, it produces an enterotoxin that can cause serious vomiting.

How high is high?  Generally we don't expect to see any, but may see low levels, 10 cfu or less per gram, and up to 100/gram may be acceptable on fresh cheese.  So if one had to guess, the numbers here would probably be above this level.

FDA News Release
Contact:  Joe Morrissey 548-457-0752
Dave Bullard 315-487-7711 x 1377

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 20, 2015 — State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today warned consumers not to consume La Clarita Queseria Queso Fresco “Fresh Cheese” made by Queseria La Poblanita, Inc., 216 E. 117th St., New York, NY, 10035, due to possible Staphylococcus aureus contamination. To date, no illnesses are known by the Department of Agriculture and Markets to be associated with this product.

Spinach Recalled after Sample Tests Positive by Michigan Dept of Ag

Taylor Farms of Salinas CA is recalling institutional sized units of fresh spinach after the Michigan Department of Ag had a positive Salmonella result in a sample they tested.  No illnesses have been reported.

 Schnuck's issued a recall notice for their pasta salad because they used that spinach.

The Produce News
Taylor Farms recalls foodservice spinach in response to Michigan testing
by Joan Murphy | April 22, 2015

Salinas, CA-based Taylor Farms has notified foodservice companies of a spinach recall after Michigan inspectors detected pathogens in foodservice product during routine testing.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development’s Geagley Laboratory tested spinach that was pre-packaged and ready for institutional use and stored in a food warehouse facility as part of the state’s routine food-safety assurance program.

Over 20 Cases of Botulism with one death from Food at Church Potluck

One death and 23cases of botulism are being reported after the individuals ate at a church potluck in Lancaster. Ohio.

Antitoxin has been administered to the victims, which can reduce severity of the illness. 

The food has not yet been identified.

Botulism is the disease caused when the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is ingested.   The toxin is produced by the organism as it grows in a food. Generally we do not see many cases of this deadly disease, but it can be a risk when certain foods are not properly prepared. 
  • Improperly processed low acid canned foods like green beans that are not properly pressure canned and then those cans are stored on the shelf..  
  • Heated foods likes soups and stews when those foods are not properly cooled or are stored at the elevated temperatures (not refrigerated).
  • Vacuum packaged cooked foods that are not stored at the right temperature.
 Clostridium botulinum is a spore-forming organism, and these spores can survive normal cooking.  If conditions are right, then the spores germinate and the organism grows in the food.  Conditions include a notorious food, warm to high temperatures, non-acidic pH, and low oxygen level.

The toxin is a neurotoxin and stops vital functions including breathing.

Columbus Dispatch
Botulism death tied to Lancaster church potluck
Wednesday April 22, 2015 9:33 AM 
One person has died and at least 20 others were hospitalized as of late last night with suspected botulism that health officials are linking to a potluck on Sunday at a Lancaster church.

Cooked Chicken Sausage Product Recalled Because of Plastic Pieces

A Massachusetts company is recalled cooked chicken sausage due to the potential to have small plastic pieces.  The recall was done after two consumer complaints were  received about small pieces of plastic.

Product was sold at Trader Joe's.

Surprisingly, this was labeled a Class 2 recall (This is a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product), versus a Class 3(This is a situation where the use of the product will not cause adverse health consequences).  Complaints of injury may be the reason, although not stated in the USDA release.  Perhaps this explains the reason for the necessity of a recall on such a few complaints.
USDA Recall Notice
Kayem Foods Recalls Sausage Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 066-2015
Health Risk: Low Apr 20, 2015
Congressional and Public Affairs  Alexandra Tarrant   (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2015 – Kayem Foods, a Chelsea, Mass., establishment, is recalling approximately 59,203 pounds of fully cooked chicken sausage products that may be contaminated with pieces of plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Salmonella Cases from Raw Tuna Sushi in CA

Raw tuna used in sushi has been linked to 25 cases of Salmonella infection with most of the cases occurring in California.

By regulation, fish sold to be used for sushi, must be frozen for a set period of time to get rid of parasites, but this will not destroy bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella.  To prevent this, processors must utilize good handling techniques including sanitation.

LA Times
Raw fish linked to Salmonella outbreak in California
April 20, 2015
 Public health officials say raw fish could be responsible for Salmonella outbreak in California. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
By Veronica Rocha contact the reporter

Raw tuna in sushi could be to blame for a Salmonella outbreak that has already sickened 25 people from California and elsewhere.

Blue Bell Ice Cream Recalls All Products, Additional Cases Linked Through Retrospective DNA Matching

The CDC is reporting that 10 Listeria related illnesses dating back to 2010 have been attributed to Blue Bell Ice Cream.  While 8 cases had been reported, the additional 2 cases were identified through a 'retrospective analysis' using DNA data (verified via whole genome sequencing) to match isolates to different illness cases.
Blue Bell had recalled all of its products at all of its facilities.  A very bold move done due of the uncertainty of findings in the facility and inability to find the exact source.
CDC News Release
Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Blue Bell Creameries Products
Posted April 21, 2015 11:45 AM ET
Read the Advice to Consumers, Institutions, and Retailers>>(
Read the Information for Health Professionals>>(
On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all of its products currently on the market made at all of its facilities, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and frozen snacks, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Blue Bell announced this recall after sampling conducted by the company revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17, 2015 and March 27, 2015 contained the bacteria.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Baby Food Recalled After A Complaint for Glass in Product

Beech-nut is recalling  1920 lbs (estimated 7680 jars) of baby food - Stage 2 Beech-Nut CLASSICS sweet potato & chicken” in 4 oz jars after receiving a complaint about glass in a jar, and it appears that this resulted in injury.

Baby food issues get extensive media.  Even this one glass complaint in baby food can cause a great stir.  The resultant recall has already received national coverage.

Baby food manufacturers go to great lengths to prevent glass from getting into their baby food, but when packing in glass, it remains a significant hazard that must be controlled from the time the glass is made until the time it is filled and closed/sealed.  The greatest area of control is from the time the glass is washed through filling and to closure.

USDA News Release
Beech-Nut Nutrition Recalls Baby Food Product Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 061-2015
Health Risk: High Apr 14, 2015

En EspaƱol
Congressional and Public Affairs  Katherine Scheidt (202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2015 – Beech-Nut Nutrition, an Amsterdam, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 1,920 pounds of baby food products that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The baby food product was produced on December 12, 2014. The following product is subject to recall: [View Labels]
4-oz. glass jars containing “Stage 2 Beech-Nut CLASSICS sweet potato & chicken”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

FDA Warning Letter Issued to Vegetable Juice Processor

In a recent post, the risks associated with fresh vegetable smoothies was discussed.  But there are also issues when the juice is processed, such as with high pressure processing (HPP).   In an FDA warning letter released this week, FDA sent a letter to a juice processor on processed vegetable smoothies that points out the risk associated with that type of product.

In this warning letter, a company was sited for not addressing the risk associated with the product.
"we note that your 100% juice blends, made from purees of kale, celery, spinach, cucumber, parsley, chard, etc., are all low acid juices, and the pertinent microorganism for these juices is Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum). HPP is not effective to control C. botulinum spores in low acid juices (i.e. pH above 4.6) and therefore, controls for C. botulinum in these low acid juice ingredients used in any juice blend or beverage is pH. We acknowledge that your firm appears to monitor pH of your juice products as a final quality specification; however, your use of low acid juice ingredients that are susceptible to the growth of C. botulinum and toxin formation unless pH is controlled necessitates a critical control point for pH."

So basically, using vegetable blends will make low acid juice (a pH above 4.6).  The juice is processed using high pressure processing, but this process is not adequate to destroy the spores, and so this product can be a Clostridium botlulinum risk if pH is not controlled through sufficiently lowering pH.

FDA Warning Letters - 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Listeria Contamination of Ice Cream and Hummus - What Can Be Learned

As reported by the news, the Blue Bell Ice Cream facility that produced the ice cream with Listeria contamination had a stellar inspection.  Inspections are good for determining that procedures are being followed, the facility is clean, as well as other things that can be ascertained in a snapshot view of an operation, but low levels of contamination in these type of production facilities may not likely to be seen, and may even be hard for the facility to detect unless they were specifically looking...hard.

In many of the Listeria contamination issues we encounter, the issue is with post-lethality exposure of the product to the environment, or where the product receives no thermal treatment, but rather a wash (apples or cantaloupes).  Listeria is a environmental pathogen that establishes itself in processing facility drains, in cooler air handling systems, in conveyor rollers, in washing flumes, and weighing equipment.  A facility controls Listeria through good sanitation and verifies that cleanliness through monitoring the environment by environmental sampling/testing for Listeria.

But in the case of humus or ice cream, they are primarily closed systems.  That is, after heating, the product is pumped through pipes, cooled to some degree, and filled.  The product has little exposure to the external environment, except for perhaps open hoppers or at the filler.  (This would not be a hazard of concern in hot filled product because the hot product provides lethal treatment all the way to the container).

Let's take a look at the hummus - Listeria issue.  If you look at the process of making hummus (a video of the process, not Sabra, but probably similar), the opportunities for cross contamination are limited.  Looking at this video, the facility may not look sterile, but it is more important however that the pipes, transfer hopper, and filler are clean and sanitized, and that there are no niches where Listeria could gain a foothold.   Thus, the fact that this product was found to be positive for Listeria probably indicates this type of in-line contamination.  If that is the case, then it could either be improper cleaning of the process lines after a contamination event, or some niche developed within the line or at the filler (worn or torn gaskets in the filler or in the pumps, etc).  Under-processing could also be an issue, but at least with the hummus, if this were the case, the product would be subject to spoilage.

Because these are closed systems, many facilities do not focus their testing as much on Listeria in finished product.  They may test finished product to verify the pasteurization process is working properly,  using general plate counts such as APC or coliforms, and maybe even Salmonella.  But these will probably not necessarily give an indication of Listeria contamination.  If Listeria is tested in the finished product, it is probably done using a small sample size, unlikely to detect a low level contamination issue.  As for environmental testing, again the focus would probably be on verification of cleanliness by using ATP (an indicator used for microorganisms) or even general bacterial counts such as APC (aerobic plate count).  Listeria testing, if done in the environment, would probably focus on non-contact surfaces.  The presence or absence of Listeria in areas such as the drain may not raise a flag for indicating a contamination issue in finished product.

There are many who avoid doing finished product testing to any great degree for organisms like Listeria.   But this is the type of organism, if present in a niche within this type of closed system, can grow due to the product / process type and serve as an ongoing contamination issue.  To eliminate such a contamination, proper cleaning and sanitizing are critical, along with the removal of any niches including replacing gaskets and seals, filling cracks, etc.

To detect low level contamination, small sized samples (25 gram) may not be sufficient to accomplish detection.  Large size samples (300 gm or 375gm) composited over the production run, or focused at the end of the run will be better for detection of such an issue.  Another method, often cited by our good friend Dr. Steve Goodfellow, is to collect waste samples for analysis.  Waste sample analysis uses the drips and drops that accumulate on the floor or on the exterior of the equipment throughout the production run.  These can provide a worst-case-scenario for product and can be useful in determining a contamination issue.

Swabbing potential in-line harborage sites may also be helpful.  This would include pinch points, dead ends in pipes, gaskets, seals, and filler nozzles.  The downside of this is that contamination may emerge until the process has been running for a number of hours.

These two events are a reminder that Listeria contamination can be an issue where there is little to no environmental exposure of the product, and that detection of low level of contamination can be an issue.

Note - This supposition is based upon general practice and may not reflect the actual practices of the facilities mentioned.
Inspection found no problem at Oklahoma ice cream plant
By DAVID WARREN and JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press : April 9, 2015 : Updated: April 9, 2015 7:26pm

DALLAS (AP) — Days after a foodborne illness was linked to Blue Bell ice cream products, a state inspection of an Oklahoma plant later tied to the infection praised the facility for having no violations and doing a "great job," according to a copy of the inspection report.

Inspectors had no reason to check for listeria during the routine March 18 review as no problems were detected and the facility didn't have a history of issues linked to the illness, said Stan Stromberg, director of the food safety division for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry..

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sabra Classic Hummus Recalled After a Retail Sample Tests Positive for Listeria

Sabra Dripping Company is recalling its hummus product after the Michigan Dept. of Ag reported a positive Listeria result from an item collected during their routine sampling.   No illnesses have been reported.  The recalled product is their Classic Hummus and come in varying sizes (10oz, 17oz, 30oz, and 32oz) and was distributed nationwide.

FDA Recall Notice
Sabra Dipping Company Issues Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Select SKUs of Its Classic Hummus

Contact: Consumer: 888-957-2272
Media: Ilya Welfeld 201-478-6360

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 8, 2015 — Colonial Heights, VA — Today Sabra Dipping Co., LLC announced that it is voluntarily recalling approximately 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This measure is limited to five SKUs of Classic Hummus sold nationwide. To date, no other Sabra product is affected by this recall.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

FDA Proposes Exempting More Food Establishments from Required Food Safety Plans

FDA has proposed a rule change that will exempt more food establishments from registration requirements and thus the FSMA Preventive Controls rule.  This will primarily affect farms that sell food directly to the consumer.
A retail food establishment is currently defined as an establishment that sells food products directly to consumers as its primary function. .............The proposed rule would clarify that, in determining the primary function of an establishment, the sale of food directly to consumers from an on-farm establishment includes sales by the establishment at such direct sales platforms as roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.
HACCP based systems can be used by any sized business for better ensuring the safety of the food they make and sell.  While it would be good for FDA in having less establishments to visit, it means that there will probably be a few less companies taking that step to better understanding safe food processing.  Of course we know....small local businesses always make safe food and don't need no stinkin' new fangled food safety plans.

FDA News Release
FDA Proposes to Amend Regulation on Registration of Food Facilities; Changes to Definition of Retail Food Establishments Would Expand Exemption
Constituent Update

April 8, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing a proposed rule to amend and update its regulation on registration of food facilities. The proposed rule would provide for improvements to the food facility registration system, and would also implement certain provisions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which adds new provisions to the requirements for food facility registration.

Under the current regulation, food facilities that manufacture/process, pack, or hold food for consumption in the United States must register with FDA. Notably, establishments that are “retail food establishments,” farms, restaurants, and certain other entities are exempt from the requirement to register. The proposed rule would amend the definition of a retail food establishment in a way that would expand the number of establishments that are considered retail food establishments, and that are therefore not required to register.

USDA Releases 'FoodKeeper' App for Food Storage Information

 USDA released a smart phone app dubbed 'FoodKeeper'.  The app provides insight on food - how long it can be stored, how it can be cooked, and some FAQs for food preparation.  One noble goal for the app is to reduce food waste.

Initially a bit skeptical, I went through a number of items and found that it was decent.  While it is always difficult to capture all situations, the ball park numbers provided can be useful for those who provide information to consumers.  Of course, there are limitations.   There are a number of different package types that will impact how long product can be held.  Additionally, the ingredients, including preservatives, and how the product was processed will come into play.  But for ball park estimates on shelf-life, it is worth the download.  And coming from USDA, it can be considered validation support.  (But nothing matches the support of a good Extension professional).

Shelf Life Advise is another good on-line resource for shelf life information.

USDA News Release
USDA Announces 'FoodKeeper' Application in Advance of World Health Day
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2015 – The U.S. Food Waste Challenge calls on organizations and businesses across the food supply chain to join the fight against food waste. In advance of World Health Day on April 7th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reaffirming its commitment to reduce food waste with the launch of a new food application.

Blue Bell Creamery Expands Recall, Suspends OK Operation

Blue Bell Creamery shut down their Oklahoma operation and expanded their recall in light of FDA test that indicated additional products produced on the same manufacturing line had Listeria.  As of 4/8/15, the CDC  reports that 8 individuals have become infected, 3 additional illnesses in Texas to those 5 that have already been reported in the hospital related illnesses that started the investigation.  A number of samples have been found to be positive for Listeria.

One question that can be asked is why all product from that production line was not recalled initially.   If a manufacturing line has contamination for Listeria, one can bet that the contamination will have a good likelihood of being in a little of all product produced on that manufacturing line.  Like so many other Listeria recalls that have occurred in the past, companies issue the first recall, and then a second and even third recall expanding the scope of the recall to eventually get all product produced in that facility.  

FDA Recall Notice
Blue Bell Creameries Expands Recall of Products Produced in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Due to Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer: 979-836-7977
Media: Gene Grabowski 202-270-6560

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 7, 2015 — Brenham, TX — Blue Bell Creameries is expanding its recall of products that were produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to include Banana Pudding Ice Cream pints which tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and additional products manufactured on the same line. These items have the potential to be young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Increased Number of Shigella Cases Occurring in US

CDC is reporting that there has been an increase in the number of Shigella infection cases in the US.  Of the 243 cases,  45 cases were reported in Massachusetts. California had 25 cases and there were 18 cases in Pennsylvania.   The strain is resistant to the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin, a second generation antibiotic, which does cause the medical community a little concern.

Shigella causes diarrhea, sometimes bloody, that can last for 5 to 7 days.  It is highly infectious and is spread from a person who is sick to another person via the fecal oral route.  So hand washing is important.  It is considered a foodborne pathogen, so food that has been handled by someone with Shigella can serve as a vector.
Keys to prevention - Exclusion of people who have the symptoms or who have been diagnosed, and proper hand washing.
US News and World Report
Drug-Resistant Stomach Bug Spreading Across the U.S.
By Kimberly Leonard April 2, 2015 | 5:26 p.m. EDT
Travelers are infecting Americans when they return home.
A recent, rapid spread of a diarrhea-causing bug that is immune to medicine has caused government health officials to issue a warning to travelers about their hygiene.

Allergen Control - USDA Increasing Scrutiny

 In March, USDA announced (7230.1) that they will be stepping up their attention on allergens within establishments.....starting April 12, 2015.
FSIS will begin an ongoing, monthly verification task beginning April 12, 2015, to determine whether establishments accurately control and label the "Big 8" food allergens
Indeed, allergen issues have triggered a number of recalls of both USDA and FDA regulated products.  For USDA regulated establishments, conducting a reassessment of the allergen control program may be a good measure to ensure issues are discovered and corrected before the inspector does.

Tightening control of allergens should get increased focus regardless.  Extra control can be a huge cost savings compared to having to conduct a recall.

 There are a number of good resources to assist: