Thursday, August 27, 2015

CDC MMWR - An Increase in Strongyloidiasis Cases in LA

According to CDC's MMWR weekly report, there has been an increase in the number of cases of Strongyloidiasis in LA County, California.  While there were none in 2012, there were 14 cases in 2013 and 29 cases in 2014.

So what the heck is strongyloidiasis?  Just because you wanted to know.......

So, there you are out tending your garden (or whatever they do in LA where one has their hands in the soil), and this little parasitic worm burrows into your skin and then finds its way to your intestines where it creates a never-ending maternity ward for more parasitic worms.  Isn't that a pleasant thought.

Strongyloidiasis is a disease caused by a nematode, or a roundworm, in the genus Strongyloides. While there are a number of species of this roundworm that can infect birds, reptiles and such, Strongyloides stercoralis is the primary species that infects humans. The larvae are only about 1.5mm in length and are found in the soil. "When the larvae come in contact with skin, they are able to penetrate it and migrate through the body, eventually finding their way to the small intestine where they burrow and lay their eggs and these eggs hatch into larvae in the intestine. Most of these larvae will be excreted in the stool, but some of the larvae may molt and immediately re-infect the host either by burrowing into the intestinal wall, or by penetrating the perianal skin. This characteristic of Strongyloides is termed auto-infection. The significance of auto-infection is that unless treated for Strongyloides, persons may remain infected throughout their lifetime."
"The majority of people infected with Strongyloides are without symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms tend to have non-specific, or generalized complaints. Some people develop abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, intermittent episodes of diarrhea and constipation, a dry cough, and rashes. Rarely people will develop arthritis, kidney problems, and heart conditions."

"In the United States, Strongyloides has classically been associated with uniformed-service veterans who returned from tropical regions such as Southeast Asia and the South Pacific during World War II. Small domestic studies have shown locations of infection in rural Appalachia. The highest rates in the United States have been documented in immigrant populations."

Increase in Reports of Strongyloides Infection — Los Angeles County, 2013–2014
August 28, 2015 / 64(33);922-923
Curtis Croker, MPH1; Rosemary She, MD2

During the 1990s, reports of infection with the nematode (roundworm) Strongyloides stercoralis submitted to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) ranged from 40 to 50 per year, but by 2000, reports had decreased to five per year; in 2006, Strongyloides infection was removed from the LACDPH reportable disease list. Currently, it is only reported at the discretion of Los Angeles County clinicians and laboratories as an unusual disease occurrence. LACDPH currently only monitors case counts and does not investigate reported Strongyloides cases. During 2013–2014, an increase in Strongyloides cases occurred, with 43 cases reported.

Bread Recalled After Complaints of Broken Glass

A bread company is recalling loaves of bread after receiving complaints of broken glass on the outside of bread.  The company said the glass is from a broken light bulb.

In today's audit-ready world, having unshielded light bulbs is very uncommon, let alone to have one break in an area where product is exposed.  Being that the complaints state the glass was located on the outside of the loaves, the bulb breaking event would have had to occur after panning somewhere through baking on through to packaging.

Recognizing a bulb had broke in that area, immediate corrective action that would have included putting any product that had the potential for exposure, would have prevented this massive recall.

This is a great learning opportunity to be shared with employees on 1) keeping an eye open for anything that can present a hazard and 2) the importance of taking immediate action.

FDA Recall Notice
Bimbo Bakeries Voluntary Regional Recall of Certain Limited Breads Produced Under the Sara Lee, Great Value, Kroger, Bimbo, Nature’s Harvest and L’Oven Fresh Brands

Contact:   Consumer:  1-800-984-0989

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — August 26, 2015 — HORSHAM, PA — Bimbo Bakeries USA has initiated a voluntary regional recall of certain bread products under the Sara Lee®, Kroger®, Bimbo®, Nature’s Harvest®, Great Value and L’Oven Fresh® brands due to the possible presence of fragments of glass caused by a broken light bulb at one of its bakeries.

Frozen Green Beans, 2014 Pack Date, Recalled for Listeria

An organic frozen vegetable division of General Mills, Cascadian Farms, is recalling 2 lots of frozen cut green beans after a sample of the 18 month old product was found to be positive for Listeria.  There have been no reported illnesses.

There are a number of interesting points to note:
  • The product was produced close to 18 months earlier, so it is curious why the product was just tested now. 
  • Beans would have been blanched, so it is likely this is a case of post-process contamination....either occurring during initial bulk packing or repacking.
  • The beans would have been from the 2013 harvest and frozen in bulk until repacked or the product was imported from another there would be a lot of handling.
  • This type of product would likely be cooked by the consumer.  The label would have instructions for cooking and provided those instructions were followed, then Listeria would be eliminated.
  • Now that product from this facility was found to be positive for Listeria, will additional product be tested, including more recent product (if it hasn't been so already) and will there be a surge of attention brought to this facility (as well as other facilities that pack similar product).
  • Frozen vegetables were also recalled in April after the facility had Listeria positive results for environmental samples. 
General Mills News Release
Aug 26, 2015
General Mills voluntarily recalls a limited quantity of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - General Mills today announced a voluntary Class I recall of a limited quantity of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans produced over two days in March 2014. The recall is being issued as a precaution after one package of finished product tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. No related illnesses have been reported in connection with this product.
This voluntary recall is limited to 10-ounce bags of frozen Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans with either of two “Better If Used By” dates printed on the package:
The recalled product was produced and packaged in 2014. No other varieties or production dates of Cascadian Farm products are affected by this recall.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Company Violates Federal Labeling Law for Mayo with No Egg

A small California company was producing a product that violated federal labeling standards.  The label used on their plant based product, 'Just Mayo', used the term mayo.  However, mayo is shorthand for mayonnaise, which is a egg based product.  Just Mayo has no egg. 

It is always interesting to read about the company in the hope to get a glimpse of how these mistakes can be made.  In the Business Day piece (below), they linked a Business Insider article that was written about the company and its owner.  A very unflattering picture of a company that appears more of a techno-business people than people I would want producing my food.  To be fair, the owner had written a response to the Business Insider piece, but still, it provides a picture.

Business Day
Just Mayo Spread Violates Mayonnaise and Label Rules, F.D.A. Says


The Food and Drug Administration has told Hampton Creek, a tiny company selling plant-based replacements for proteins derived from animals, that some of its Just Mayo products violate federal regulations related to standards for mayonnaise and proper labeling.

In a letter dated Aug. 12, the agency wrote that even the term “mayo” in the brand name and the logo, a minimalist egg “cracked” by a pea shoot, “may be misleading to consumers” by implying there are eggs in the products.

Farmers' Market Food Processor Cited for Improper Processing

Consumers in Michigan are being asked to check their farmers' market purchases for jars of food that may have been improperly processed.

Farmers' Markets can be considered the wild west for food processing.   Because of the ease of entry into this food sales channel, many want-to-be food processors can introduce most any concoction they dream up.  Luckily, as in this case, regulators are patrolling the sales tents and tailgates that populate the ever increasing number of farmers' markets.

It is one thing to sell the raw agricultural commodities, the anchor products for farmers' markets, but when people start to process and sell foods, there are additional regulatory requirements that must be met.   These requirements, such as licensure and certifications, help to ensure that budding processors are producing safe food.  Unfortunately, too many do not know the regulations, and more importantly, the principles and practices that these regulations require.

In this case, there is a reason why measure the pH during the acidification of a food.  If a food is not properly acidified, then the potential exists for the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the causative agent of botulism poisoning.  An issue in achieving proper acidification not only affects the consumer, but also the owner / operator that is selling the product who can be subject to a lawsuit.  So the rules protect the consumer as well as the seller.

Those shopping at farmers' markets would be wise to make sure the foods hey purchase were processed in a licensed/inspected facility.

 Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Release,4610,7-125-1660-363109--,00.html
Consumer Advisory: Consumers Warned to Not Consume Brandy & Dutch Weigand Products Due to Potential Health Risk
Agency: Agriculture and Rural Development

Turkey Bacon Recalled Due to Complaints on Spoilage

 Kraft Heinz is recalling Oscar Meyer turkey bacon after an investigation of consumer complaints about spoilage.  This was classified as a Class 2 recall since there is a low likelihood of illness.
USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
 Kraft Heinz Foods Company Recalls Turkey Bacon Products Due To Possible Adulteration
Class II Recall 113-2015
Health Risk: Low Aug 25, 2015 
Congressional and Public Affairs Benjamin Bell (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, August 25, 2015 – Kraft Heinz Foods Company, a Newberry, S.C. establishment, is recalling approximately 2,068,467 pounds of turkey bacon products that may be adulterated because it may spoil before the “Best When Used By” date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

CDC Report - Human Plague Cases in Western US

 There have been 11 cases of human plague with 3 deaths.  Cases are based in western US and are associated with the fleas, often those found on squirrels or other rodents.

"Plague circulates among wild rodents and their fleas in rural and semirural areas in the western United States (2). Transmission to humans occurs through the bite of infected fleas, direct contact with infected body fluids or tissues, or inhalation of respiratory droplets from ill persons or animals, including ill domesticated cats and dogs (3). The usual incubation period between exposure and illness onset is 2–6 days."

A 2012 case occurred in Oregon where a man wrestled a dead rat out of a cat's mouth.  From that posting: Yersinia pestis, a gram negative organism, is one of the most pathogenic organisms known. It can infect through lesions in the skin (such as a flea bite) where it infects the lymphnodes and then invades other organs where it causes massive tissue destruction. Gangrene often sets in on the dead tissue. It can also spread through inhalation of infective respiratory particles (pneumonia). Disease is initially characterized by development of one or more inflamed, swollen lymph nodes (buboes), and then chills and fever, lethargy and confusion. Historically, the fatality rate was greater than 50%, but now with antibiotics, it is 16% (below).

Human Plague — United States, 2015

Early Release
August 25, 2015 / 64(Early Release);1-2
Natalie Kwit, DVM1,2; Christina Nelson, MD2; Kiersten Kugeler, PhD2; Jeannine Petersen, PhD2; Lydia Plante, MSPH3; Hayley Yaglom, MPH3; Vicki Kramer, PhD4; Benjamin Schwartz, MD5; Jennifer House, DVM6; Leah Colton, PhD6; Amanda Feldpausch, MPH7; Cherie Drenzek, DVM7; Joan Baumbach, MD8; Mark DiMenna, PhD9; Emily Fisher, MD1,10; Emilio Debess, DVM10; Danielle Buttke, DVM11; Matthew Weinburke, MPH11; Christopher Percy, MD12; Martin Schriefer, PhD2; Ken Gage, PhD2; Paul Mead, MD2

Since April 1, 2015, a total of 11 cases of human plague have been reported in residents of six states: Arizona (two), California (one), Colorado (four), Georgia (one), New Mexico (two), and Oregon (one). The two cases in Georgia and California residents have been linked to exposures at or near Yosemite National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Nine of the 11 patients were male; median age was 52 years (range = 14–79 years). Three patients aged 16, 52, and 79 years died.

Consumer Reports Ground Meat Report - Hype versus True Risk

Consumer reports released a study of pathogenic bacteria found in ground beef titled – How Safe Is Your Ground Beef . The tag line – “If you don’t know how the ground beef you eat was raised, you may be putting yourself at higher risk of illness from dangerous bacteria. You okay with that?”

So Consumer Reports bought 300 packages of ground meat and tested for E. coli (including O157 and six other toxin-producing strains), enterococcus, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus. Plus they tested for antibiotic resistance.
Results –
· All samples contained indicator organisms – enterococcus and generic E. coli.
· C. perfringens – 20 percent of the samples.
· S. aureus – 10 percent of the samples
· Salmonella – 1 percent
· Beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows. 18 percent of conventional beef samples were contaminated with superbugs—the dangerous bacteria that are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—compared with just 9 percent of beef from samples that were sustainably produced.
· The rest of the article goes on to state why they believe sustainably produced is safer than conventional.

Agree – there are pathogens, namely Salmonella and STEC E. coli, that can be present in meat, and when that meat is ground, these pathogens are distributed throughout. So if you undercook ground meat (aka rare or medium rare), the pathogens, if present, can survive and then may cause illness. So it is important to cook ground meat to 160ºF. and of course, verify with a thermometer.

The fact that ALL samples contained enterococcus and generic E. coli shows that ground meat is not sterile and because the indicators are present, we know that there is always the likelihood of pathogens being present. But it is important to point out, there was a very low levels of Salmonella and that no pathogenic E. coli were able to be isolated from their samples.

The study also looked at the prevalence (absence vs presence) for S. aureus and C. perfrigens as a indicator of safety.   First, these organisms only cause illness when the numbers are exceedingly high, so just being present is not as important as the number. These organisms are commonly found in the environment and in food at low numbers that have no health effect. Humans have a high prevalence of S. aureus in their nasal passage and C. perfringens in their intestines.

The antibiotic resistance numbers were not clear cut in that there are many variables. This is not anything different than has been found before.   However, the prevalence of the two most important pathogens in beef related illnesses (STEC E.coli and Salmonella) were too low, so nothing could be said with regard to that.   And there was no differentiation on which antibiotics (those used for humans, those used for animals, and those not really used).   

Unlike studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals, this study is not peer reviewed.  Also, it would have been better to look at numbers for S. aureus and C. perfringens rather than prevalence.

The other issue is determining what is more sustainable....that is, what provides the lowest carbon footprint while being able to feed a growing population.

Take home– if you want to buy organic or grass fed beef because you think it tastes better, great....if you are willing and able to pay the higher price.  But saying it is safer based upon these results may be more hype than true risk.  But of course the main stream media will push the hype.

Regardless, it is important to cook ground meat to the proper temperature and to handle it properly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Coriander Powder Recalled Due to Sample Testing Positive for Salmonella

A New Jersey company is recall 14.1 oz containers of coriander powder after FDA testing found a sample positive for Salmonella.  No injuries have been reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Chetak New York L.L.C. Recalls 14.1 oz. Jar of "Deep Coriander Powder" Because of Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer: 1-973-835-1906

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 20, 2015 – Edison, NJ – Chetak New York L.L.C. of Edison, NJ is recalling 300 jars of 14.1 oz "Deep Coriander Powder", Lot# LE15152, because they have 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.

The recalled "Deep Coriander Powder" jars were distributed nationwide in retail store from July 30, 2015 to August 13, 2015. The product comes in a 14.1oz clear plastic jar marked with the UPC number on the rear of the package. The lot number can be located on the bottom of the jar.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in Salmonella and Campylobacter

The FDA released its 2012-2013 National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Integrated Report.  The results are mostly encouraging.  From the report:
  1. About 80% of human Salmonella isolates are not resistant to any of the tested antibiotics.
  2.  Salmonella multi-drug resistance (resistance to three or more classes of antibiotics) in human, cattle, and chicken isolates has not changed (~10%) in the last decade, and the numbers of multi-drug resistant Salmonella isolates in retail chicken have gone down (~3%).   
  3. But two types of Salmonella do show some increases.  Multidrug resistance (MDR) in human isolates of a common Salmonella serotype (l 4,[5],12:i:-) continues to rise. Resistance has more than doubled from 18% in 2011 to 46% in 2013.  And anincrease in MDR and ceftriaxone resistance was also observed in Salmonella serotype Dublin isolated from cattle and human sources.
  4. Campylobacter jejuni resistance to the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin, the most common antibiotic used to treat human C. jejuni illness, was at its lowest level in retail chicken to date (11%).
 FDA News Release
FDA Releases 2012 and 2013 NARMS Integrated Annual Report; Finds Some Improvement in Antibiotic Resistance Trends in Recent Years
August 11, 2015
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released its 2012-2013 National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Integrated Report. This report replaces FDA’s annual NARMS Executive Summary report and highlights antimicrobial resistance patterns in bacteria isolated from humans, retail meats, and animals at slaughter. Specifically, the report focuses on major foodborne pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics that are considered important to human medicine, and on multidrug resistant pathogens (described as resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics).

Sprouter Issues Third Recall Notice Due to Listeria

A Virginia company has issued a recall for soybean sprouts and mung bean sprouts after the samples of the product were found to be positive.  The testing was conducted by Virginia Laboratory Services.

This is the third recall issued by this producer, with earlier recalls coming in May and June.  Do you think they have a problem?  One could also wonder what was required of this company before they were allowed to begin producing again.

Further, this shows how Listeria can be difficult to eliminate once it becomes established.

FDA Recall Notice
Good Seed Inc. Recalls Soybean Sprouts & Mung Bean Sprouts Due To A Possible Health Risk

Contact:  Consumer:  (703) 392-0075

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 3, 2015 – Springfield, VA – Good Seed Inc. of Springfield, VA is voluntarily recalling all packages of soybean sprouts and mung bean sprouts because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections to individuals 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 infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

MMWR - Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water - 2011-2012

 We generally regard drinking water safe, and rightfully so.  For the amount of water that is consumed each day, there have been relatively few issues.  An MMWR article reports that in the two year period reviewed, 2011-2012, there have been 32 water related outbreaks resulting in 431 cases of illness, 102 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths.

The biggest culprit was Legionella and this was primarily related to drinking water in hospitals affecting at-risk patients.  While we hear of Legionella in air conditioning systems, such as the current issue in NY where over 100 have become ill and 12 have died (Legionella grows in the cooling water systems and then is inhaled through the water vapors), evidently Legionella is an issue in hospitals (along with other HAIs (hospital acquired infections) including Clostridium difficile, MRSA, etc).  "Legionella outbreaks are particularly challenging to prevent and control, in part because the organism lives and multiplies in building plumbing systems, which usually fall outside water utility and regulatory oversight (6,7). One Legionella outbreak occurred in a hotel that used point-of-entry water filters, which effectively dechlorinated all water entering the building, and illustrates the importance of maintaining sufficient residual disinfectant in plumbing systems."

EPA has a publication on Legionella in drinking water.

The other issue was non-community water systems.  "All five noncommunity outbreaks originated from groundwater sources. Specifically, four occurred in outdoor camp or work settings where a source spring was contaminated directly or by inflow from a stream, and the fifth occurred at a meeting facility where a well was contaminated with septic tank overflow."  In these cases, Norovirus, non-Legionella bacteria, and Giardia (a parasite) were responsible.   (You are probably wondering how you ever made it through summer camp as a kid considering the pond water where you swam and that nasty spigot you drank from....and you are also then wondering why your parents sent you there.)

Here, an elk enjoys a drink of water from a spigot used for filling water bottles at Grand Canyon National Park (photo courtesy of Nika Bucknavage).

Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water — United States, 2011–2012

August 14, 2015 / 64(31);842-848
Karlyn D. Beer, PhD1,2; Julia W. Gargano, PhD2; Virginia A. Roberts, MSPH2; Vincent R. Hill, PhD2; Laurel E. Garrison, MPH3; Preeta K. Kutty, MD3; Elizabeth D. Hilborn, DVM4; Timothy J. Wade, PhD4; Kathleen E. Fullerton, MPH2; Jonathan S. Yoder, MPH, MSW2

Advances in water management and sanitation have substantially reduced waterborne disease in the United States, although outbreaks continue to occur (1). Public health agencies in the U.S. states and territories* report information on waterborne disease outbreaks to the CDC Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance System ( For 2011–2012, 32 drinking water–associated outbreaks were reported, accounting for at least 431 cases of illness, 102 hospitalizations, and 14 deaths. Legionella was responsible for 66% of outbreaks and 26% of illnesses, and viruses and non-Legionella bacteria together accounted for 16% of outbreaks and 53% of illnesses. The two most commonly identified deficiencies† leading to drinking water–associated outbreaks were Legionella in building plumbing§ systems (66%) and untreated groundwater (13%). Continued vigilance by public health, regulatory, and industry professionals to identify and correct deficiencies associated with building plumbing systems and groundwater systems could prevent most reported outbreaks and illnesses associated with drinking water systems.

Cyclospora Update - 457 reported cases

As of August 11, 2015, CDC is reporting that there have been 457 cases of Cyclospora infection.  Cilantro has been identified as a potential source.
CDC News Release
Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Investigations — United States, 2015
Last Updated August 11, 2015 4:00 PM EDT
Read the related statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.
  • As of August 10, 2015 (3pm EDT), CDC had been notified of 457 ill persons with confirmed Cyclospora infection from 29 states in 2015.
  • Most of these persons—275 (60%) of 457—experienced onset of illness on or after May 1, 2015, and did not have a history of international travel within 2 weeks before illness onset. These 275 persons were from the following 22 states: Arkansas (2), California (2), Connecticut (3), Florida (11), Georgia (22), Illinois (6), Iowa (1), Kansas (2), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (9), Michigan (2), Missouri (1), Montana (3), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (6), New Mexico (1), New York (excluding NYC) (8), New York City (21), Texas (157), Utah (1), Virginia (3), Washington (2), and Wisconsin (10).

Raw Whole Pigs Recalled Due to Link to Salmonella Outbreak

A Washington slaughter facility is recalling raw whole pig carcasses due to the fact they were tied to a number of salmonellosis cases which now stands at 134.
While we know raw pig can contain Salmonella, this recall was probably issued due to the number of cases as well as the uniqueness of the Salmonella strain.  The questions that will hopefully be answered - what was the level of Salmonella present, was there any contributing factors that provided opportunity for the organism to proliferate within the facility, and what can said about the virulence of this particular strain of Salmonella.

USDA News Release
Kapowsin Meats Recalls Pork Product Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination
Class I Recall 110-2015
Health Risk: High Aug 13, 2015

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

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2015 – Kapowsin Meats, a Graham, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 116,262 pounds of whole hogs that may be contaminated with Salmonella I 4, [5],12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The whole hogs for barbeque item were produced on various dates between April 18, 2015 and July 27, 2015. The following products are subject to recall:
Varying weights of Whole Hogs for Barbeque

Friday, August 7, 2015

FDA Listeria Sampling at Cantaloupe Packing Houses

In a recent sampling of cantaloupe packing houses, FDA testing results found that while Listeria was present, there was little risk in the facilities.  Of 17 facilities, 8 had Listeria species present and only one had Listeria monocytogenes, (but probably not food contact).  The FDA found some problems:
  • food contact surfaces that were not cleanable, often due to construction with damaged, corroded, or porous materials;
  • build-up of debris, dirt and damaged plant material on equipment;
  • hand washing facilities in inappropriate locations; and
  • drain valves left open during work hours allowing water drained from a dump tank to pool outside adjacent to a partially-enclosed packinghouse.
But these would be typical issues seen in packing houses.  The concern of course, relates back to the 2011 Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupes.  In that case, unsanitary equipment lead to a buildup of Listeria in the wash water which subsequently contaminated the surface of the cantaloupes.  
Facilities have been taking corrective action, but clearly, more work is needed.  And with Listeria, continual vigilance is needed in order to control.  One never completely rids a facility of the presence, rather it is kept in check.

The Packer
FDA reports on cantaloupe safety inspections
By Coral Beach August 06, 2015 | 2:04 pm EDT

After inspecting 17 operations, federal officials report that fresh cantaloupe packinghouses are generally following good agriculture practices even though tests at nine of the companies showed listeria contamination.

The inspections by the Food and Drug Administration were part of the agency’s follow-up efforts after a 2011 cantaloupe-related listeria monocytogenes outbreak that sickened more than 150 nationwide and killed more than 30.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Recent Listeria Outbreaks In Ice Cream and Carmel Apples - Time to Reassess Food Safety Systems

From time to time, there are unfortunate food related outbreaks that cause food establishments to reassess their food safety systems.   The cantaloupe-Listeria outbreak was one such case that caught many off guard and prompted a new look at Listeria in fresh produce.  The Salmonella outbreak associated with chicken pot pies was another case that resulted in the need to validate microwave cooking instructions for frozen food.

Along with these, we can add the Listeria in Ice Cream and Listeria in Carmel Apples.

To this point, much of the focus of Listeria was on products that would support growth.  Ice cream, a frozen pasteurized product, was not viewed as risky as refrigerated products such as deli meats, or refrigerated products containing dairy like coleslaw or cheese.  So while indications are that the levels of Listeria in the ice cream were low, two factors come into was that the ice cream impacted individuals with underlying health issues, and that the ice cream was used to make shakes and those shakes could have been held at room temperature for some time.  Research is ongoing and may provide more insight.

Camel apples weren't even on the radar.  There was concern with sliced apples, where Listeria could grow on the cut surface albeit slowly, but this was whole apples.  However in this case, the stick may have caused a similar action (surface damage) within the apple as the stick was inserted that may have provided conditions more apt to support growth.  Or high levels of the organism were forced into the apple.  Here again, research into this outbreak is ongoing.

So for products that support little or no growth potential for Listeria in their original state, we need to ask:
1) Will the level of Listeria contamination on a ready-to-eat product be high enough to impact the health of those with severe underlying health issues?  Then, maintaining a clean environment is needed prevent contamination regardless of whether the product supports growth.
2) Will the properties of the product change where those changes can support growth?  Such changes can occur anywhere downstream including other food operations, foodservice or retail establishments, or even by consumers.
3) Will the item be used as an ingredient in other products where those other products are more apt to support the growth of Listeria.  So if apples will be added to a slaw type of salad, what will be the impact in the slaw if a small level of listeria are present on the apples?

Of course one other thing that is important to consider - will product be tested by the customer, a government agency, or some other interested party.  Many recalls are started when someone tests product and find something that can be considered dangerous...including Listeria.  And it could be a strain of LM that is not overly pathogenic.

Wall Street Journal
Ice-Cream Recall Sends Chill Through Food Industry
Blue Bell’s problems prompt rethinking of measures to prevent bacteria contamination

By Jesse Newman

Updated Aug. 2, 2015 7:28 p.m. ET  63 COMMENTS  

As Blue Bell Creameries LP prepares to resume production of its ice cream after a sweeping recall, its mistakes are fueling broader rethinking of how to keep ice cream and other foods free of deadly bacteria.

Federal records show that Blue Bell failed to follow practices recommended by government and industry groups that might have prevented listeria contamination of ice cream at all three of its main plants. At the same time, some food-safety professionals say the crisis is indicative of insufficient attention, beyond Blue Bell, of the risks of listeria.

“It’s really been a wake-up call for the food industry, and not just for dairy but for other companies as well who thought they were in good shape but are now asking, could this happen to me,” said Joe Stout, a food-safety consultant who was previously a senior manager at Kraft Foods.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Cider Product Recalled Due to Post-Bottling Fermentation

Angry Orchards is recalling bottled cider after two lots began undergoing post-bottling fermentation.  The fermentation produces gas which can cause product to overflow when opened, in some cases the caps to pop, or may even result in broken bottles.

FDA Recall Notice
Angry Orchard Cider Company Announces Voluntary Recall of Select Cases of Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider

Contact: Consumer: 1-800-362-7110
Media: Jessica Paar, Angry Orchard Cider Company 617-368-5060

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 4, 2015 – Cincinnati, Ohio – Angry Orchard Cider Company, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, today announced that it is conducting a voluntary recall of select cases (24/12oz bottles), 12-packs and 6-packs of Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider.

The precautionary action comes after the Company received inquiries from consumers that had experienced broken bottles or bottles overflowing when opened. After conducting follow-up quality testing, the Company determined that the affected cider is limited to two batches, produced on June 15 and June 29, 2015.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Was Salmonella Invited to the Pig Roast?

Going to a pig roast or even hosting a pig roast?  Well guess what.....pork can contain Salmonella so make sure those who are cooking the pig and then handling the cooked meat do it properly.  There have been 8 illness clusters with approximately 90 reported cases in Washington State that have been associated with pig roasts.

So you get invited to a pig roast....don't be afraid to ask questions.....
Who the heck is cooking it, and have they cooked pigs before?   Dr. Campbell, PhD Meat Scientist or Hogs Galore, pig-cooking specialists...great.  Jimmy, lawn boy, first time pig roaster....maybe not.
Do they have equipment?  A BBQ pit specifically built for cooking pigs....excellent.  Jimmy's dug-out-pit in his back yard....yikes...
How big is the pig and how long are they cooking it?  Jimmy is picking up the pig in the morning and serving it that afternoon....seriously?
What kind of beverages are they serving?  Because if things don't look right when you get there (no thermometers being used, uncleaned surfaces, etc), be sure there are some tasty beverages........that may be all that you want to consume.

USDA Release
FSIS Issues Public Health Alert for Pork Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

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

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella that may be associated with pork products, specifically whole pigs used for pig roasts.

Walnuts, Spices, Raw Pet Food and Sushi-Grade Seafood Recalled Due to Positive Salmonella Tests

What do nuts, spices, raw pet food, and chunk/ground seafood used for sushi have in common - recalls.  Clearly, government agencies are paying some attention to these items by sampling and testing.

Fisher brand chopped walnuts are being recalled due to Salmonella.  The recall was issued after FDA routine testing found a sample to be positive.

Kroger recalls spices due to Salmonella - The store is recalling Kroger Ground Cinnamon, Kroger Garlic Power, Kroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper and Kroger Bac'n Buds after FDA testing found the products positive for salmonella.

 Raw pet food recalled due to Salmonella - Two companies, Nature's Variety and Bravo, are both recalling raw pet food after government testing found product from both companies positive for Salmonella. (Just so it is said - if there are kids in the house, feeding your dog a raw diet may not be a good idea.)

 Osamu Corporation of Gardena, CA is recalling Frozen Yellow Fin Tuna Chunk Meat (Lot #68568) after the sampled product was found to be positive for Salmonella by the Minnesota Department of Health. The product, sold to AFC Corporation, was sourced from one processing plant in Indonesia. 

Stories and links below:

Ongoing Cyclospora Outbreak, Cilantro Identified as Potential Source

CDC is investigating an outbreak of the parasite Cyclospora.  There have been 358 confirmed cases in 26 states so far in 2015.  Symptoms of cyclospora infection or  cyclosporiasis last for an average of 7 days, but can range from 2 days to longer than 2 weeks after ingestion of sporulated oocysts (the infective form of the parasite).  Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include: watery diarrhea (most common), loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue.

Cilantro has been identified as a potential source.  FDA has issued an import alert for cilantro imported from Puebla, Mexico.  A potential scenario is that the cilantro becomes contaminated from contaminated water used for irrigation or washing, or from contaminated workers handling the fresh product.  The fresh cilantro is then added to flavor items such as fresh salsa and consumed, so there are no processing steps that would eliminate the parasite.

CDC Outbreak Investigation
Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Investigations — United States, 2015

Last Updated July 31, 2015 1:00 PM EDT

CDC and federal, state, and local public health partners are investigating an increase in reported cases of Cyclospora infection.

Read the related statement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Read the Advice to Consumers
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.
As of July 30, 2015 (11am EDT), CDC had been notified of 358 ill persons with confirmed Cyclospora infection from 26 states in 2015.
Most (199; 56%) ill persons experienced onset of illness on or after May 1, 2015 and did not report international travel prior to symptom onset.

Kraft Cheese Product Recalled Due to Packaging Choking Hazard

Kraft Heinz is recalling packs of individually wrapped cheese product due to the fact the wrapping for the cheese slice does not completely come off in one motion...that is, a strip of plastic film  can be missed by the consumer when then unwrap the cheese product slice.  The wrapping deviation is only found in the 3lb and 4lb packages.  There have been 10 complaints and 3 reports of consumer choking.

One would wonder if this hazard had considered prior to this event and was it included on the facility's hazard analysis?  Certainly now it would be need to be added along with some type of control.   This is a good point of discussion for any facilities that have wrapping that adheres directly to the product, especially individually wrapped - single-serve units.

FDA Recall Notice
The Kraft Heinz Company Voluntarily Recalls Select Varieties of Kraft Singles Products Due to Potential Choking Hazard
Only 3-Lb. and 4-Lb. Packages of Kraft Singles Included in Recall

Contact:  Consumer:  1-800-432-3101
 Media:  Jody Moore  847-646-4538,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 31, 2015 – Northfield, Ill. – The Kraft Heinz Company is voluntarily recalling select code dates and manufacturing codes of Kraft Singles individually-wrapped slices due to the possibility that a thin strip of the individual packaging film may remain adhered to the slice after the wrapper has been removed. If the film sticks to the slice and is not removed, it could potentially cause a choking hazard.

The recall applies to 3-lb. and 4-lb. sizes of Kraft Singles American and White American pasteurized prepared cheese product with a Best When Used By Date of 29 DEC 15 through 04 JAN 16, followed by the Manufacturing Code S54 or S55.