Thursday, July 30, 2015

Improperly Canned Potatoes Responsible for Botulism Outbreak in April, 2015

In April of  2015, a botulism outbreak occurred that was associated with food served at a Church Potluck Meal.  In this outbreak, 29 reported becoming ill.  This was the largest botulism outbreak in the last 40 years.

The source was home canned potatoes.  The potatoes were canned in hot water bath and not a pressure canner.  From the CDC:
The attendee who prepared the potato salad with home-canned potatoes reported using a boiling water canner, which does not kill C. botulinum spores, rather than a pressure canner, which does eliminate spores (2). In addition, the potatoes were not heated after removal from the can, a step that can inactivate botulinum toxin. The combined evidence implicated potato salad prepared with improperly home-canned potatoes, a known vehicle for botulism (3).
Unfortunately, we hear of too many who still use a hot water bath to can low acid foods.  Outbreaks like this remind us of the importance of following scientifically developed canning recipes, especially the use of a pressure canner for low acid foods.
CDC Morbidity and Mortality
Notes from the Field: Large Outbreak of Botulism Associated with a Church Potluck Meal — Ohio, 2015
July 31, 2015 / 64(29);802-803

Carolyn L. McCarty, PhD1,2; Kristina Angelo, DO2,3; Karlyn D. Beer, PhD2,3; Katie Cibulskas-White1; Kim Quinn, MS1; Sietske de Fijter, MS1; Rick Bokanyi, PhD1; Eric St. Germain1; Karen Baransi1; Kevin Barlow4; Gwen Shafer4; Larry Hanna4; Kelly Spindler4; Elizabeth Walz, MD5; Mary DiOrio, MD1; Brendan R. Jackson, MD3; Carolina Luquez, PhD3; Barbara E. Mahon, MD3; Colin Basler, DVM2,3; Kathryn Curran, PhD2,3; Almea Matanock, MD2,3; Kelly Walsh, MPH3; Kara Jacobs Slifka, MD2,3; Agam K. Rao, MD3 (Author affiliations at end of text)

On April 21, 2015, the Fairfield Medical Center (FMC) and Fairfield Department of Health contacted the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) about a patient suspected of having botulism in Fairfield County, Ohio. Botulism is a severe, potentially fatal neuroparalytic illness.* A single case is a public health emergency, because it can signal an outbreak (1). Within 2 hours of health department notification, four more patients with similar clinical features arrived at FMC's emergency department. Later that afternoon, one patient died of respiratory failure shortly after arriving at the emergency department. All affected persons had eaten at the same widely attended church potluck meal on April 19. CDC's Strategic National Stockpile sent 50 doses of botulinum antitoxin to Ohio. FMC, the Fairfield Department of Health, ODH, and CDC rapidly responded to confirm the diagnosis, identify and treat additional patients, and determine the source.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Study - Pesticide Levels on Produce Well Below Level for Health Concern

In a recently published study in the Journal of Food Contamination, a UCDavis researcher found that pesticide levels in foods are far below the level of concern for the period 2004 - 2005.  2240 food items were evaluated and that "All estimated exposures to the 77 pesticides were well below the chronic reference dose (RfD) – the EPA’s estimate of the maximum amount of a substance that a person could be exposed to daily without risk of harm over a lifetime".

Takeaways - You can't use pesticides as a reason to avoid eating fruits and vegetables.  The health benefit far outweighs any risk. 
- The primary reason people buy organic produce is pesticides.  Based on this data, is the added cost of organic justified?

Consumer exposure to pesticide residue far below levels of health concern
Posted on July 16, 2015 by admin

A new study published in International Journal of Food Contamination shows that pesticide levels in food are far below levels that would warrant health concern.

The author of the study, Dr. Carl K. Winter of the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California – Davis, used FDA data on pesticide residue findings collected between 2004 and 2005 on 2,240 food items. A total of 77 pesticides were detected in the samples. (Dr. Winter is a member of ACSH’s Scientific Advisory Panel).

All estimated exposures to the 77 pesticides were well below the chronic reference dose (RfD) – the EPA’s estimate of the maximum amount of a substance that a person could be exposed to daily without risk of harm over a lifetime. As Ross Pomeroy at Real Clear Science notes, “These doses are extremely conservative, often inflated by two orders of magnitude to ensure consumer safety.”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Small Food Establishment Forced to Recall Improperly Processed Products

A small Washington establishment is recalling canned pickles and sauces after it was determined that the pH was too high.  The company was selling their product at fruit stands and small shops.

This is an example of the type of issue small businesses can run into when getting into producing foods when they do not know what they are doing.  Too many people want to make these type of products to sell at Farmers' Markets and roadside stands, but do not understand the importance of following the proper procedures for processing.  In this case, they had to recall product.  Worse, they could have made someone ill or worse.  Either way, issues like this can become a financial catastrophe for the establishment.

Penn State has begun a new training program to specifically address this need.  In Farmers' Market Food Safety Workshops, guidance is provided.  But this training opens the door to other training that is more specific to the operation and type of products being made.

FDA Recall Notice
Homemade recalls Pickles and Sauces because of possible health risk
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Juy 14, 2015 — Leavenworth, WA — Homemade of Leavenworth, Washington is recalling pickle and sauce products because they may have been improperly produced. Washington State Department of Agriculture routine sampling discovered that a bottle of Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles had a pH level high enough to allow the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Required records were not available to support that safe processing guidelines were followed on all sauce and pickle products produced at Homemade.

Home Canning Season is Here, A Q&A with Martha Zepp, Home Food Preservation Guru

Home canning season is here and Martha Zepp, our expert home canner, is here to provide advice.  There are few, if any, who can match her hands-on expertise. 

Lancaster Online
Q&A: Food safety expert helps home cooks preserve produce properly Martha Zepp, a consultant to Penn State's local Extension office, offers advice on canning produce
Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 11:39 am | Updated: 11:39 am, Wed Jul 15, 2015.

Q&A: Food safety expert helps home cooks preserve produce properly By MARY ELLEN WRIGHT | Staff Writer LancasterOnline

Home canning — processing food for storage in glass jars — is a great way to keep a bit of summer on your shelf year-round by preserving fresh Lancaster County produce. But canning must be done safely.

That’s where Martha Zepp, an expert in food preservation safety, comes in.

As a consultant to the local Penn State Extension office at the Farm & Home Center, Zepp is available to answer your food safety and food preservation questions most Wednesdays (her day in the extension office). She also gives demonstration workshops on home canning and goes to canning-equipment stores around the county to test the dial gauges of people’s pressure canners to be sure they’re in proper working order.

Capturing summer in a jar: Home canning season in full swing here

She does all these things so home cooks can preserve food without accidentally encouraging the growth of botulism or other organisms that could make them sick.

We asked Zepp these questions about safety in home canning.

Colorado Company Recalls Raw Breaded Chicken Products due to Salmonella

 Aspen Foods is recalling 2 million pounds of raw, stuffed breaded chicken products due to a link to a cluster of Salmonella infections.  This recall is related to the product being recalled by Barber Foods.

 Like the Barber Foods recall, the product is raw battered, stuffed chicken products.  It includes chicken cordon bleu and chicken kiev products.  The spreadsheet accessed through the USDA announcement, has over 2000 entries for lots/brand /sizes.

USDA News Release
Aspen Foods Recalls Frozen, Raw, Stuffed & Breaded Chicken Products Due to Possible Salmonella Enteritidis Contamination
Class I Recall 101-2015
Health Risk: High Jul 15, 2015
Congressional and Public Affairs  Gabrielle N. Johnston  (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2015 – Aspen Foods, A Division of Koch Poultry Company, a Chicago, Ill. establishment, is recalling approximately 1,978,680 pounds of frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken product that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken items were produced between April 15, 2015 and July 10, 2015 with “best if used by” dates between July 14, 2016 and October 10, 2016. To view a full list of recalled products, please click here (XLS). [View Labels]

Breaded Chicken Nuggets Recalled Due to Presence of Staph Enterotoxin

A PA company is recalling chicken nuggets after the CO Dept of Ag found that a sample of the product was positive for Staphylococcus enterotoxin.  There have not yet been any illnesses reported.

Staphylococcus growth and toxin formation is an issue in breaded/battered product. The main issue is with the hydrated batter before it goes onto the chicken.  In this scenario, the organism grows in the batter when the batter is not held at the proper temperatures.  When the organism reaches sufficient numbers, toxin is produced in the batter and then that toxin ends up on the food, in this case chicken piece, during the battering process.  In a typical batter operation, once the chicken is battered/breaded, then it is partially fried (par-fried) to set the coating.  This heat application (dipping in hot oil) kills the Staphylococcus organism, but does not destroy the toxin since the toxin is heat stable..

To prevent this, proper temperature control of the batter is needed.  FDA has recommended batter handling instructions (
Another possible scenario is that that the chicken nugget product, once fried, is not cooled properly and the organism grows on the temperature abused nuggets.

Staphylococcus enterotoxin is fast acting, causing severe vomiting in an hour to 6 hours after consumption. The symptoms will last a day or so.  When it is a batter contamination issue as described above, there would be no indication to the consumer that the product was contaminated, and no prevention.  Again, cooking by the consumer would not destroy the toxin.

USDA News Release
Murry’s, Inc., Recalls Chicken Products Due to Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Contamination
Class I Recall 100-2015
Health Risk: High Jul 15, 2015

Congressional and Public Affairs  Whitney Joy  (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2015 – Murry’s, Inc., a Lebanon, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 20,232 pounds of gluten-free breaded chicken nugget product that tested positive for Staphylococcal enterotoxin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Barber Foods Expands Recall of Chicken Kiev After Additional Illnesses Reported

Barber Foods is expanding its recall of frozen Chicken Kiev after 2 more cases of salmonellosis were reported.  The initial recall was for 58320 lbs.  This recall is for 1.7 million lbs.

While this is raw chicken and there are cooking instruction on the box,  but stated in the notice, "Some case-patients reported following the cooking instructions on the label and using a food thermometer to confirm that the recommended temperature was achieved. Therefore, FSIS advises all consumers to treat these products like a raw chicken product."

USDA News Release
Barber Foods Recalls Stuffed Chicken Products Due To Possible Salmonella Enteritidis Contamination
Class I Recall 096-2015
Health Risk: High Jul 12, 2015

Congressional and Public Affairs Gabrielle N. Johnston (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2015 – Barber Foods, a Portland, Maine establishment, is recalling approximately 1,707,494 pounds of frozen, raw stuffed chicken products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The chicken products were produced between February 17, 2015 and May 20, 2015. To view a full list of products recalled as part of this expansion, please click here (XLS). [View Labels]

Since the original recall on July 2, 2015, two more case-patients have been identified. The scope of this recall expansion now includes all products associated with contaminated source material.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Food Safety Update for July 10, 2015

Avian Influenza Outbreak in birds has come to a halt with no new cases reported since June 17th.  It has been one of the most devastating outbreaks of bird flue with approximately 48 million birds affected.  According to reports, there is a lot of room for improvement in responding to such a serious outbreak.
In Texas, there are an increased number of illnesses due to the parasite Cyclospspora.  There have been 151 cases reported.  (Story/link below).
In North Carolina, one restaurant has been linked to 267 cases of salmonellosis.  Bad BBQ.  (Story/Link below)
In a recent study, it was found that farmers should wait for 24 hours after a rainfall or irrigating before harvesting.  The research was based upon the presence of Listeria.

Summary Data for Beef and Veal Carcass Baseline Survey

In USDA's Constituent Update, July 2, 2015,  FSIS provides a summary of preliminary data for the first six months of the Beef and Veal Carcass Baseline Survey (B-VCBS) that looks at the prevalence of Salmonella and E.coli on carcasses, - after removing the hide, and after cleaning the carcass (before it goes into the chiller - pre-chill).  FSIS is collecting swab samples from steers, cows, bulls, dairy cows, heifers, and veal carcasses in order to estimate the level of these organisms and to see whether  and to evaluate the pre-evisceration and pre-chill dressing procedures and slaughter controls.  From the document:

What do can be taken away from this:
1) The interventions used by the industry accomplish a big reduction in the level of pathogenic organisms on the meat.
2) Pathogens are present on the meat.  As pointed out in the release, additional interventions may occur after chilling,, so the number of percent positive purchased by the consumer will probably be lower (and have been shown to be lower).  However, consumers must still consider the fact that pathogens can be present.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Blue Bell to Conduct Trial Production Run in AL Facility

After ceasing operations in April / May to clean up their operation in light of product being linked to cases of Listeriosis, Blue Bell Ice Cream will run a trial production run in their Alabama facility.

The costs of this contamination event will be tremendous.  First and foremost, are the people who contracted Listeria and their associated costs.  Then the legal fees.  The cost to the people who were laid off or furloughed (roughly 1,400 in each category).  The company also has the cost of the recall and the lost revenues for 4 months of product.  Then there will be costs associated with resuming production....costs of improvements to the operation, retraining of employees, conducting trial runs, etc.  Getting back into the market place will not be cheap....regaining freezer shelf-space (you don't think those retailers let that space go empty for 4 months), restarting a distribution system, etc.  And then regaining sales....the loyal will be back, but many other will be hesitant or leery, while others have moved on to other brands....the lost customer is very difficult, if not impossible to recover.

And what if they find it again....certainly this has been the case in a number of facility-related contamination events......

Blue Bell To Begin Trial Runs In July
July 8, 2015 1:34 PM 

FORT WORTH (KRLD/CBSDFW.COM) – After a nearly four month absence from store shelves, Blue Bell ice cream could make a comeback before summer’s end.

The company will begin trial runs at its Sylacauga, Alabama plant during the week of July 20, as part of its plan to get the ice cream back in grocer’s freezers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bottle Water Recalled Due to E. coli

On June 23rd, a Canadian company recalled bottled water produced at two Pennsylvania bottling facilities.  These plants produced a number of store brands for various retail customers.

Bottling water seems easy, but any manufactured food or beverage product must be produced with adequate food safety systems in place.

In this case, generic E. coli were found, which are not necessarily pathogens.  But the presence of these organisms indicates the potential for enteric pathogens, and at the least, that unsanitary conditions exist.  Companies use E. coli testing because it is a good indicator and is a relatively simple analysis.

Huffington Post
14 Brands Of Bottled Water Voluntarily Recalled Due To Potential E. Coli Contamination
By Alena Hall 
Posted: 06/22/2015 5:51 pm EDT Updated: 06/23/2015 11:59 am EDT

A water bottling company that is responsible for 14 different brands issued a voluntary recall on Monday after discovering that one of their spring water sources tested positive for E. coli bacteria.

“E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes," a representative of Niagara Bottling LLC said in a statement. "Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly and people with severely compromised immune systems."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Four Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Backyard Chickens

Backyard chickens...there is an increasing trend for towns to allow for backyard chickens.  Even State College, PA permits people to have backyard chickens, although there are rules.  However, 4 recent outbreaks of Salmonella associated with backyard chickens remind us that there is a risk.

If raising chickens in the backyard, keep them in the backyard.  Letting them in the house, cuddling with them, or smooching them is not a good idea.  Wash hands after handling poultry.  This is especially true for children.
CDC Outbreak Report
Four Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks
July 1, 2015
CDC, public health, veterinary, and agriculture officials in many states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) are investigating four multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry.
  • As of June 29, 2015, 181 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 40 states.
  • 33 ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings have linked these four outbreaks of human Salmonella infections to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live poultry from multiple hatcheries.

Monday, July 6, 2015

High Pressure Processed Pet Food Recalled Because of Listeria

A Wisconsin pet food company is recalling non-thermally processed pet food after the Maryland Department of Agriculture's testing found that the product was positive for Listeria.

There are those that feel feeding dogs raw meat is better.  To provide this product, this company processed meat using HPP (High Pressure Processing) to eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella.  Unfortunately, during post-processing handling, probably packaging, the product was contaminated with Listeria.

 Interesting, on the company's website, they provide access to test results for each lot of product.  The results are for the testing of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella - two pathogens associated with raw beef, but not Listeria, which while can be associated with raw beef, is a pathogen commonly encountered in processing facilities.
Dog and cat food recalled over Listeria fears
July 6, 2015

A pet food company is recalling 11 of its products nationwide after Listeria was found during a routine test.

Stella & Chewy's was ordered by Maryland Department of Agriculture to stop sale Saturday on its Chicken Freeze-Dried Dinner Patties because the dog dinners tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the company said in a release.

The Milwaukee-based company then issued a voluntary recall for those meals as well as others that did not test positive but may have been exposed to the lot "as a precautionary measure."

No pet or human illnesses have been reported.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Recall Summary for July 2, 2015

Here is a summary of recent recalls.

FDA Recall Notice
Boulder Dog Food Company, L.L.C. Voluntarily Recalls Seven Bags of Turkey Sprinkles, 3 oz with A "Best By" Date of "05/18/16, 05/28/2016 and 05/30/2016" Due to Possible Salmonella Health Risk
July 2, 2015

7 bags of turkey sprinkles were recalled after FDA testing found a positive test for Salmonella. So what is a turkey sprinkle?….Well it is an item you add to dog food to make it tastier for ole Chopper....well being a sprinkle, I guess it is developed for Sparkles.

USDA Recall Notice
Barber Foods Recalls Kiev Stuffed Chicken Product Due to Possible Salmonella Enteritidis Contamination
July 2, 2015
Barber Foods of Maine is recalling 58,320 lbs of its frozen Chicken Kiev because of a link to Salmonella illnesses. Here is a product that looks like it is fully cooked, but it is not.

A stream of recalls related to nuts due to Salmonella because of FDA sampling found product positive….a big surprise.

 FDA Recall Notices

Natural Grocers® issues recall on 10oz. Caribbean Nut & Fruit Mix due to possible health risk
July 1, 2015

Grand BK Corp. Recalls Goodies By Nature Raw Cashews, Net Wt. 9oz Because Of Possible Health Risk
June 27, 2015

Rocky Mountain Foods, Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Free Range Snack Co. Brand 16 oz. Island Fruit and Nut Trail Mix and Bulk Macadamia Nuts Because of Possible Health Risk

Whole Foods Market Voluntarily Recalls Packaged Raw Macadamia Nuts Due To Possible Health Risk
June 25, 2015

2015 Update to the 2013 Food Code

Every four years, the FDA reissues the new version of the food code, and two years after, revisions are made. The FDA just released it’s 2015 update to the 2013 US Food Code. In the news release, the FDA issued these bullet points summarizing the changes:
  • Expand the duties of the Person in Charge in a food establishment to include overseeing the routine monitoring of food temperatures during hot and cold holding.
  • Expand and clarify the type of information that should be included when a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plan is required by a regulatory authority.
  • Emphasize that cleaning and sanitizing agents should be provided and available for use during all hours of operation.
  • Clarify the difference between Typhoid Fever and nontyphoidal Salmonellosis with regard to the reporting of illness and the exclusion and restriction of ill food employees.
  • Suggest that regulatory authorities ensure that inspection staff has access to the necessary training and continuing education.
So the regulatory-review minions took a look to see if any of these updates will have an impact.
In the end, there is no major changes, but more clarifications.  Listed below are the key points.

The FDA document listing all changes can be found here, starting on page 13 -
Section 2-201.11
 Duties were added to those designated to the person in charge. While these may have been assumed to be under that person’s responsibilities, now it is in writing. The implications is that the person with certification…the person in charge, would be responsible for on-going safety during operation, including for monitoring of temperatures, sanitizing of services, avoiding bare hand contact with RTE food, reporting of health issues. 
(I) EMPLOYEES are properly maintaining the temperatures of TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOODS during hot and cold holding through daily oversight of the EMPLOYEES’ routine monitoring of FOOD temperatures; Pf

J) CONSUMERS who order raw or partially cooked READY-TO-EAT FOODS of animal origin are informed as specified under § 3-603.11 that the FOOD is not cooked sufficiently to ensure its safety; Pf

K) EMPLOYEES are properly SANITIZING cleaned multiuse EQUIPMENT and UTENSILS before they are reused, through routine monitoring of solution temperature and exposure time for hot water SANITIZING, and chemical concentration, pH, temperature, and exposure time for chemical SANITIZING; Pf

(L) CONSUMERS are notified that clean TABLEWARE is to be used when they return to self-service areas such as salad bars and buffets as specified under § 3-304.16; Pf

(M) Except when APPROVAL is obtained from the REGULATORY AUTHORITY as specified in ¶ 3-301.11(E), EMPLOYEES are preventing cross-contamination of READY-TO-EAT FOOD with bare hands by properly using suitable UTENSILS such as deli tissue, spatulas, tongs, single-use gloves, or dispensing EQUIPMENT; Pf

(N) EMPLOYEES are properly trained in FOOD safety, including FOOD allergy awareness, as it relates to their assigned duties; Pf

(O) FOOD EMPLOYEES and CONDITIONAL EMPLOYEES are informed in a verifiable manner of their responsibility to report in accordance with LAW, to the PERSON IN CHARGE, information about their health and activities as they relate to diseases that are transmissible through FOOD, as specified under ¶ 2-201.11(A); Pf and

(P) Written procedures and plans, where specified by this Code and as developed by the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT, are maintained and implemented as required. Pf
Section 201.13
 Changes were made in this section to further differentiate Salmonella Typhi and nontyphoidal Salmonella. Now, they designate Typhoid Fever (Salmonella Typhoid) as the reportable illness and call the regular strains of Salmonella as Salmonella (nontyphoidal) instead of nontyphoidal Salmonella. This will help in the education since there is a distinct difference in the types of illnesses each cause. While we do not see many cases of Typhoid Fever, it is a much more serious illness than your garden strains of Salmonella.
Section 4-303.11
This addition makes sure that cleaning chemicals are available during all hours of the operation.

4-303.11-Cleaning Agents and Sanitizers, Availability
(A) Cleaning agents that are used to clean EQUIPMENT and UTENSILS as specified under Part 4-6, shall be provided and available for use during all hours of operation

(B) (B) Except for those that are generated on-site at the time of use, chemical SANITIZERS that are used to sanitize EQUIPMENT and UTENSILS as specified under Part 4-7, shall be provided and available for use during all hours of operation.
Section 8-201.14
This section titled Contents of a HACCP Plan was updated to list the items needed as part of a HACCP plan for a retail establishment.