Monday, November 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Firm Press Release

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

FDA Developing New Micro Surveillance Sampling Approach

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Update on Salmonella Outbreak Associated with Cucumbers

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Survey Shows that Many Distrust Large Food Companies More than Small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feds Take Enforcement Action Against Unlawful Supplement Manufacturers

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Frozen Bagged Chicken Wings Recalled Due to Off Odor

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fast Food Worker in NY Positive for Hepatitis A

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

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

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

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

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

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

FSIS Updates Allergen Guidance with Focus on Incoming Ingredients

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

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

Cans of SpaghettiOs Recalled Due to Potential Choking Hazard

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Unpasteurized Apple Juice Leads to Two Outbreaks

Fresh apple cider in autumn...nothing better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China's 2015 Food Law - Understanding Import Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

 See more at:

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juice Processor Ordered to Cease Operations for Lack of Compliance

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

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