Friday, June 12, 2015

CDC Issues Final Report on Blue Bell, and the Response to FDA

CDC issued the final report on the Blue Bell / Listeria outbreak.  In the final report, 10 people in 4 states had contracted listeriosis.  Blue Bell has recalled all product from the marketplace.

All of the FDA inspection reports can be found here.  Included in this is the response to the FDA 483 report.  Blue Bell informed FDA of their plans to introduce tough measures to control Listeria.

While the organism was found in two of the facilities, it was not found in the Texas facility even though product from that facility was linked to illness.   This can be the case with Listeria in that it only surfaces once in a while.  Because of this, vigilant control measures are needed.

So you can think of what they had in terms of setting some mouse traps in your house.  The set some mouse traps around and in a few traps they caught a mouse.  They cleaned up a bit and reset the trap and caught another mouse.  Cleaned again, reset the trap.  No mouse.  Done?  Not really.  The problem is that when you catch a mouse, you have to understand the potential for mice in other spots, especially around your food (zone 1).  Determination have to be made on where the mouse came from and whether that mouse got into your food.  With this, you have to put measures in place to prevent the mouse from getting anywhere in your house.

Houston Chronicle
Blue Bell can't identify listeria source at Brenham plant

By Mark Collette

June 10, 2015 Updated: June 10, 2015 11:04pm

Blue Bell may never learn how listeria got into the ice cream at its Brenham plant, according to documents released Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the company plans to introduce some of the toughest bacterial control measures in the industry.

Brenham is the largest of Blue Bell's three plants and its sheer size may have hampered the hunt for contamination points. FDA inspectors swabbed 186 surfaces in the plant in March and didn't find any listeria species. That's despite ice cream from the plant being definitively linked to illnesses.

Write That Complaint Letter

After having a bad experience with retail food purchases, too many people don't complain to the retailer where they bought the food.  Rather, as a recent survey shows, people will take their business elsewhere (and they are likely to complain to everyone they know).  In the end, it is likely that this consumer will never return.

For consumers, it is important to complain to store management about any bad experience.  This provides the store or the company making the food a chance to improve.  And in many cases, the store may refund your purchase or provide other incentives to keep your business.  

For retailers or processors, it is important to make it easy for people to file complaints and to even incentivize those complaints.  Lost business is difficult to recover and can result in substantial losses over the long run.   Plus, management is better off getting that complaint rather than having people turn to government agencies.  This has become much easier - has a reporting portal for filing complaints.  As you know, complaints to a regulatory agency may result in visit from the inspector.

Having systems for collecting complaints is the first part.  It is important that systems are in place for reviewing complaints as well as making any needed corrections to the operation.

I have never had an issue filing a complaint.  It gives me a chance to blast some poor son-of-a-gun who had nothing to do with the issue...but they listen and politely apologize.  In the end, it helps the consumer vent and the at-fault organization improve.

Progressive Grocer
Dysfunctional Customer Experiences Risk Billions in Retail Losses: Survey
New data from Loyalty One, Verde Group
June 2, 2015, 02:57 pm

More than eight in 10 shoppers don’t give retailers the chance to fix a poor customer experience, says a new study.

Approximately half of 2,500 U.S. consumers polled in March reported experiencing a problem on their last shopping trip, according to a collaborative survey of dysfunctional retail touchpoints by LoyaltyOne and Verde Group with Professor of Marketing and Psychology, Dr. Deborah Small, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Of those polled customers, 81 percent decided not to contact the retailer about the issue. Among these silent shoppers, 32 percent said they were unlikely to recommend the retailer to friends and family, putting these shoppers at-risk of decreasing their spending with the retailer.

Egg Shortage - US Opens Door To Imported Eggs

The bird flu outbreak has caused an egg shortage in the US.  According to reports, some 47 million birds, 35 million hens have been affected.   To keep egg prices down and eggs available for commercial use, the US has permitted the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Spain and France (in Europe), and Chile and Argentina (in Latin America) to ship egg products to the US.

 Wall Street OTC
US Food Producers Trying to Defuse Egg Crisis with Dutch Imports

Jun 12, 2015 By David Warren

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had given the approval to five egg producers from the Netherlands to sell egg products to the U.S. amid efforts to alleviate egg shortage caused by the recent bird flu outbreak.

It is the first time in nearly two decades the U.S. decides to imports egg products from Netherlands. The only non-domestic egg supplier for food processors and bakeries considered safe by the USDA was Canada. Yet, egg shortage resulted in a jump in prices, so the federal government is looking for alternate solutions.

Imported egg products would be used in processed foods and bakeries, and states hope that imports would prevent prices from further rising. In Texas, a supermarket even put a limit to shell egg purchases.

Ground Tuna Linked to Salmonella Paratyphi Outbreak

An investigation of an outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B has been linked to ground tuna used in sushi type products.  In this outbreak, 53 people from nine states have become ill.

In 2012, ground tuna used in sushi was the source of Salmonella that infected 150 people.

Is there a difference in ground tuna?  Certainly the grinding step can be a point of proliferation and dissemination through product.  Another issue may be that for the ground product, they are using small scraps that may not have been handled in a sanitary manner.

While I like sushi, I will be adding ground tuna products to the 'avoid' list.

CDC Notice
Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) Infections
As of June 4, 2015, a total of 53 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) have been reported from nine states. Ten ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
  • This outbreak is caused by Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) bacteria, formally known as Salmonella Java.
  • The illness caused by this bacteria typically includes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after an exposure. Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) does not cause paratyphoid fever, enteric fever, or typhoid fever.
  • Most ill people in the outbreak reported eating sushi made with raw tuna in the week before becoming ill.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

FDA Researches Relationship Between Pets, Foodborne Pathogens, and Human Health

In 2006 / 2007, an outbreak of salmonellosis occurred because of contaminated pet food (CDC report below).  In this outbreak, close to 80 people became ill, most of them children.  This is not the only case of contaminated pets or pet food (2015, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2013, 2012, etc).  Salmonella is often the hazard of concern, but Listeria has been an issue in raw pet foods as well.

FDA has been researching on the relationship between pets, owners, and foodborne pathogens.  So far, a few things that can be said:
  •  Overall, a very small percentage of pets (about 3%) were found to carry pathogens
  • In most of the cases when the pets were positive, they had been fed raw pet food.
  • About half of the dogs found to be positive, did not show any signs of being ill.
So if little Champ is going to sleep in your bed...or lick your face,  no raw pet food.

FDA News Release
FDA Research Helps Keep Pets and Humans Safe
You may not be aware that pet foods and treats, when contaminated with harmful bacteria, can make your pet sick. These bacteria also can spread from an animal to its owner, and you can get sick simply from handling contaminated pet food.
But how often does pet food make a cat or dog sick? Does your pet carry the harmful bacteria without showing any symptoms and, if so, for how long? And what precautions can you take to keep you and your family safe?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Decreases in the Rates of Foodborne Illness....States Reporting Less?

A decrease in the number of reported foodborne illnesses cases....could that mean our food safety systems are improving.....not according to CSPI....they suggest  that states are reporting less.  Certainly there are differences in state-to-state variability, but one would probably think that variation would exist year-to-year.  However, taking that variation into account, decreases or increases year-to-year across all the states should say something about overall trends.

Center for Science in the Public Interest
States Vary Widely at Reporting Foodborne Illness Outbreaks to CDC

June 8, 2015

States vary widely in how well they detect, investigate, and report outbreaks of foodborne illness, according to a new 50-state analysis from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. And states are reporting fewer outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2009 to 2012, the average number of reported foodborne outbreaks decreased by about one-third compared to the six preceding years, according to the report, All Over the Map: A 10-Year Review of State Outbreak Reporting.

CSPI found widely different outbreak reporting rates even among adjacent states with similar populations. Florida, for instance, reported five times the number of outbreaks as Alabama when controlled for population, and Maryland reported four times the number of outbreaks as West Virginia. A high outbreak reporting rate actually can prevent illnesses, as it indicates state and local public health officials are looking for outbreaks and are more likely to identify contaminated foods or offending restaurants.

Friday, June 5, 2015

California Company Recalls Meat Products Because They Illegally Added USDA Mark of Inspection

LQNN of Garden Grove, CA has expanded a recall of meat products  because they were producing meat products without USDA inspection, and worse yet, illegally applied the mark of inspection (the USDA seal) to the product.  The retail arm of the business, Lee's Sandwiches, has an expanding business in the western states.  The founder, Chieu Le, started his business as a food truck and now has over 50 locations

 So while the company stands by the wholesomeness of their food, it is awful to think that they jeopardized their business to skirt around USDA regulations.

USDA Recall Notice
LQNN, Inc. Recalls Poultry, Beef and Pork Products Produced Without the Benefit of Inspection and Misbranded With Unauthorized Use of the USDA Mark of Inspection
Class I Recall 081-2015
Health Risk: High May 20, 2015
Congressional and Public Affairs   Gabrielle N. Johnston  (202) 720-9113 
EDITORS NOTE: Details of this recall were updated on June 3, 2015 to reflect a change in pounds, products and production dates of recalled products.
WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – LQNN, Inc., a Garden Grove, Calif. firm, added additional items to the recalled products list, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The added products should have been part of the original 213,192 pounds of chicken, beef and pork products that were recalled on May 20, 2015. The new total recalled poundage is 465,483 pounds. The products which were moved and sold in commerce, included the unapproved use of another facility’s mark of inspection, which has been identified as Establishment number 18995. LQNN, Inc., operating as Lee’s Sandwiches, has been processing products from federally-inspected establishments and re-packaging them without the benefit of inspection. Products produced without inspection present potential of increased human health risk.

Veggie Burgers Recalled Because Labeling Missing Soy Ingredient

A NJ company is recalling veggie burgers because of an allergen labeling issue.  The product label did not list soy in the ingredient listing even though the product had always been made with soy in it.  I thought that this was odd that they could miss soy on the label.  Looking at the company website, they have a number of different products with varying ingredients.  Label review at receipt of the packaging is probably one of the critical steps that was missed.  That, and review of the label when it was developed and whenever modified.  When the label hits the floor, it should be right, but label review at that point would have helped as well.  

A little more label paranoia could have prevented this.  We see too often that companies do not put in sufficient controls for labeling - in development of labels and when modifying labels, at label receipt, and when applying labels.  Why?  Perhaps label review is not viewed as that important so we allocate insufficient resources to the task?  Or we count on our purchasing people to get it right (or even marketing / sales people...yikes)?

FDA Recall Notice
Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Issues Allergy Alert for Gluten Free California Veggie Burger Due to Undeclared Soy

Contact: Consumer: 201-703-1300
Media: Austin Blythe, Maxwell PR 503-231-3086

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — June 3, 2015 — ELMWOOD PARK, NJ. — Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods is recalling 950 retail cases of the Gluten Free California Veggie Burger because it may contain undeclared soy. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to soy run the risk of serious or life threatening allergic reactions if they consume this product. Dr. Praeger’s Gluten Free California Veggie Burger has contained soybeans since its introduction in 2007 and is safe for consumption by those who do not have soy allergies.

Food Safety Quick Hits - Hyperlinks for June 5, 2015

A Colorado meat company is recalling ground elk meat after analysis conducted by the company showed the product was positive for E. coli O157:H7.   The product was packed in 205 eight pound cases containing 8 one pound packages and was shipped to NC, SC, and VA.

A Michigan company is recalling close to 50,000 lbs of pork sausage due to potential contamination of foreign material.  The notice said the issue was discovered during verification testing. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

CDC Release 2013 Foodborne Illness Report

CDC released 2013 Report – Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks United States. 2013: Annual Report.
The main findings as listed in the report:
  • In 2013, 818 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported, resulting in 13,360 illnesses, 1,062 hospitalizations, 16 deaths, and 14 food recalls. 
  • Outbreaks caused by Salmonella increased 39% from 2012 (113) to 2013 (157). Outbreak-associated hospitalizations caused by Salmonella increased 38% from 2012 (454) to 2013 (628). 
  • Fish (50 outbreaks), mollusks (23), chicken (21), and dairy (21, with 17 due to unpasteurized products) were the most common single food categories implicated in outbreaks.
  • As reported in previous years, restaurants (433 outbreaks, 60% of outbreaks reporting a single location of preparation), specifically restaurants with sit-down dining 351, 49%), were the most commonly reported locations of food preparation. 
818 foodborne outbreaks impacting 13360 people. Not too bad when you consider there are 320 million people in the US eating hopefully 3 meals a day, 365 days/year...not bad unless you are one of those poor souls who happens to get ill, then really bad is what you are feeling.  And if you take the 48,000,000 as the real number for number of cases, then the vast majority of cases must not be reported. 
Salmonella is tops among bacteria, but Norovirus is still the leading etiological agent. I know we like to blame those commercially processed foods, but in the end, a restaurant or a banquet hall is a more likely place for contracting illness. For foods, seafood and mollusks…and there are a lot of cases due to mollusks especially if we could see the rate (number of cases/number of people eating). So if you can combinine a few of these…how about eating fish or mollusks (ie raw oysters) in a restaurant?  
As far as rates of foodborne illness per state, the average was 3.3 outbreaks per million people. Nice to see that our fair state of PA rates below this average. Ohio and Minnesota, not so good.