Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Boneless Pork Rib Entree Recalled for Foreign Material

An Ohio company is recalling boneless pork rib entrée products after receiving consumer complaints about glass or hard plastic.  Close to 300,000 pounds of Boston Market branded product spanning approximately 4 months of production are included in the recall.  There have been no reported injuries to date.

USDA Recall Notice
Bellisio Foods, Inc. Recalls Boneless Pork Rib Frozen Entree Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Adulteration
Class II Recall 149-2015
Health Risk: Low Dec 22, 2015

En Español
Congressional and Public Affairs
Kristen Booze
(202) 720-9113 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2015 – Bellisio Foods, Inc., a Jackson, Ohio establishment, is recalling approximately 285,264 pounds of boneless pork rib shaped patty frozen entree products that may be adulterated with extraneous materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The Boston Market Boneless Pork Rib Shaped Patty with BBQ Sauce and Mashed Potatoes frozen entree items were produced on various dates between Sept. 09, 2015, and Dec. 14, 2015. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF Only)]
14-oz. boxed packages containing “Boston Market Home Style Meals Boneless Pork Rib Shaped Patty with BBQ Sauce and Mashed Potatoes” with Use By dates 09/09/2016; 09/22/2016; 10/08/2016; 10/30/2016; and 12/14/2016.

Justice Department Investigating Blue Bell Regarding Listeria Outbreak

Blue Bell is back in the news as CBS News is reporting that the US Justice Department has started an investigation into the conditions that led to the 2015 Listeria outbreak and what company executives knew and when they knew it.

Similar to what was seen with PCA Salmonella outbreak, there may be concern that the company knew of substandard conditions and Listeria contamination within the processing environment, and did not take sufficient action.

CBS News
Dept. of Justice investigating Blue Bell for deadly Listeria outbreak
By Jim Axelrod CBS News
December 29, 2015, 7:43 PM

The Department of Justice has started an investigation into Blue Bell after their ice cream was linked to a deadly Listeria outbreak earlier this year that killed three people.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Second Outbreak of E. coli Associated with Chipotle is Being Investigated

The FDA and CDC are investigating a second outbreak of a different Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) that is being linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants during December 2015. Based on DNA fingerprinting, this outbreak is different that a larger E. coli outbreak which occurred in November as was primarily located in the northwestern part of the country (53 people in 9 states).   To this point, 5 people have become infected in this second outbreak. 

Unfortunately, most of the corrective actions for system improvements probably came after this second outbreak occurred.  But a point many have made is that more should have been done sooner.  Delayed reaction, due in part to an underestimation of the event, allowed more issue to occur in the meantime.  This now looks bad in that more issues are popping up after the big proclamation of a company wide food safety enhancement.

An interesting point in the NY Time article below is that there has been difficulty in tracking because of record keeping.

FDA Outbreak News Release
FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants

December 22, 2015
On this page:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli infections.
Update: December 22, 2015
  • The FDA, CDC, and state and local officials are investigating a second, more recent outbreak of a different, rare DNA fingerprint of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants.
  • The CDC reports that five people have been reported with the new variant of STEC O26 from a total of three states: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3).
  • The Kansas and North Dakota cases ate at the same restaurant in Kansas. The three separate Oklahoma cases all ate at the same Chipotle restaurant.
  • As of December 18, 2015, 53 people infected with the previously reported outbreak strain of STEC O26 have been reported from nine states: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27).
  • The epidemiologic evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of both outbreaks.
  • The investigations are still ongoing to determine what specific food is linked to illness. .

Friday, December 18, 2015

FDA Concerned About Caffeinated Peanut Butter

Why put caffeine in peanut butter?   What are the risks?  That is what FDA is questioning about Steem Caffeinated Peanut Butter.  There is a 150MG per serving (2 tablespoons) which is equivalent to a 12 oz cup of coffee.   That can potentially be a lot of caffeine especially if you couple eating the peanut butter with drinking a cup of coffee.

FDA Web Site
Added Caffeine in Peanut Butter
FDA Statement on Added Caffeine in Peanut butter
December 17, 2015

The FDA is concerned about the marketing of a peanut butter, a food popular with many children, containing added caffeine. The company has indicated in recent media reports its desire to behave responsibly, but has not submitted to the FDA any information about the safety of its use of caffeine in its peanut butter product. On Tuesday December 15, 2015 the FDA sent a letter to the company, STEEM Peanut Butter, Inc., requesting they provide us with information about their use of caffeine in peanut butter. This information will help us determine whether their product meets applicable scientific and legal standards for the lawful sale in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

USDA Finalizes Rule on Record Keeping for Ground Beef

USDA finalized its rule for record keeping requirements for retail and USDA regulated establishment needed for grinding ground beef.  Under this rule, FSIS will require that all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain these records:
  • The establishment numbers of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product;
  • All supplier lot numbers and production dates;
  • The names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next;
  • The date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced;
  • The date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.
These requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer’s request when new source materials are used.
USDA News Release
USDA Finalizes Rule to Enhance Consumer Protection, Ensure Retailers Can Track Sources of Ground Meats
Congressional and Public Affairs  Josh Stull, (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced a new measure that will improve the agency’s ability to determine the source of foodborne illnesses linked to ground beef, stopping foodborne illness outbreaks sooner when they occur. Based on lessons learned from previous outbreak investigations, FSIS is requiring that all makers of raw ground beef products keep adequate records of the source material, so that the agency can quickly work with the suppliers to recall contaminated product.

Beverage Drinks Recalled Due to Potential Bottle Breakage

Trader Joe's is recalling its Triple Ginger Brew product due to  'reports of unopened bottles potentially bursting."   This bottle uses a swing cap closure which is anchored into the glass.  If the product in the bottle becomes contaminated - either before closure or afterwards due to a poor seal (which can be the case if that rubber seal isn't seated properly against the glass during closure), then when that contamination grows, most likely in the form of yeast, the pressure formed due to the gas produced has a more difficult time releasing because of the metal clamp holding the cap down.

Another issue is when someone opens the bottle, takes a swig, and then clamps the lid shut.  They put the bottle on the counter and forget about it.  The problem is that they have introduced yeast into the bottle and those yeast go to town....multiplying and producing gas.  Again, with a clamp anchored into the glass, that pressure has no way to go but boom.

These closures are cool, popularized by Grolsh Brewery as well by home brewers who use this type of bottle with 'swing-cap-closure' because of ease of closing the bottle.  So it is easy to see why a commercial product trying to capture that 'home brewed' look would use this bottle.  But it appears now it may not have been a good choice for a product such as this.  If the cap cannot come off easily do to potential spoilage issues, then it probably shouldn't be used.

Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Brew

FDA Recall Notice
Trader Joe's Issues Voluntary Recall of Triple Ginger Brew
For Immediate Release
December 15, 2015

Raw-ish Pet Food Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

 Stella and Chewy, a Wisconsin Pet food company is recalling their frozen pet food after sampling from the Michigan Dept of Ag found Listeria in a sample.

This product is processed by high pressure processing which, if done correctly, would eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and even Listeria.   Having a high moisture level, and thus a high water activity level, the product must be frozen before packaging.  The product is tested to verify the absence of Salmonella and E. coli.  (results below) and those results are available on the company's webpage for each lot of product.

In this case, we would expect that the Listeria contamination would occur in the post-process environment, occurring after the HPP process and before packaging.  Listeria is an environmental risk for this type of product and this type of process where there is moisture and a good food source.  While we would not expect the organism to grow in the product while frozen, it would certainly grow when the product was set out at room temperature to thaw or during feeding.

So this organism would need to be controlled by the company in the post process environment.  And if you had to guess, if this lot shows contamination, other lots would show contamination if there is not a very active Listeria Control Program in place.

The company does not provide test results for Listeria.  They may be only looking at environmental samples (sponge samples from the processing environment) or not looking at all.  And even if testing was completed and shown on the lab test results, a 25 gram sample, as done for the Salmonella and the E. coli, may not be large enough to be meaningful.

FDA Recall Notice
Stella & Chewy's Voluntarily Recalls Frozen Dinner Morsel Products Due to Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 11, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Organic Tea Company Recalls Glass-Bottled Product Due to Glass Complaints

 Sweet Leaf Tea Company (a Nestle Waters own company) is recalling tea beverage in glass bottles due to four consumer complaints of glass in the product. 
Glass is a great food package for protecting the food, but the downside is breakage.  Companies packaging in glass must have tight control on glass breakage in the bottling plant - because glass breakage does happen.  Even the best designed lines, those engineered to prevent breakage, can still have breakage.  Detail standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be carried out anytime breakage occurs. 

FDA Recall Notice
The Sweet Leaf Tea Company Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Tea in Glass Bottles
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2015

Contact Consumers Sweet Leaf  1-877-832-5323
Firm Press Release

The Sweet Leaf Tea Company announced today that it is voluntarily recalling Sweet Leaf® Tea in 16 ounce glass bottles out of an abundance of caution because of the possible presence of glass fragments. This was the result of glass breakage during the filling process. Consumers could potentially be cut or injured if ingested. The company has received 4 complaints of glass in the product. No injuries were reported.

Bravo Pet Food Recalled Due to Presence of Salmonella

 Bravo is recalling chicken blend cat and dog food product after product tested positive for Salmonella.  Along with this, they are recalling turkey based products as well.   The chicken blend product is called raw, but according to the website, the  product is high pressure processed.  This process uses high pressures to inactivate pathogenic bacteria rather than using a heat process.  So the product should be technically safe, but essentially raw in terms of sensory and nutrient attributes.
FDA Recall Notice
Bravo Recalls Select Chicken and Turkey Pet Foods Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk.
For Immediate Release
December 10, 2015
Consumers  (866) 922-9222
Media  (866) 922-9222
Firm Press Release
Bravo Pet Foods of Manchester, CT is recalling a select lot of Bravo Chicken Blend diet for dogs & cats with a best used by date of 11/13/16 due to concerns of the possible presence of Salmonella . Out of an abundance of caution, Bravo is also recalling three additional items that did not test positive for Salmonella , but were manufactured on the same day. Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Flaws in the Fundamental Food Safety System Plague Chipotle

Chipotle seems a lot like the Titanic, that early 20th century ship that sank after hitting an iceberg.  As we came to find out with the Titanic, issues in the fundamental structural, particularly poorly made rivets , were not able to hold when the impact occurred.

Similarly, we are seeing cracks in the fundamental food safety structure within Chipotle that go far beyond the E. coli outbreak which as been blamed on local supplier issues.  First, this E.coli outbreak looks to be more than a local issue when you see that cases have occurred across the country.  Then, this week, an outbreak of norovirus was linked to the Boston Chipotle outlet.  And yesterday, a store in Seattle was shut down due to numerous food safety violations.

Issues can occur, but you would think that after a major outbreak, an organization would be able to button down the hatches until the storm has passed.  But this has not been the case.  First, there was an under estimation with regard to the scope of the E. coli outbreak coupled with the fact that they have not been able to identify the source.  Then to have a norovirus outbreak on the other side of the country - clearly an issue with their personal hygiene program and illness control of employees.  Then back to the west coast where a store was shut down to food safety violations - lack of hand washing, poor temperature control.

Unlike the Titanic, Chipotle is expected to remain afloat.  However, more than a simple fix will be needed to get this ship sailing in the right direction.  Immediate corrective action seems to be needed across their 1700 establishments.  Continued issues, however small, will be broadcast far and wide now that the company is in the media and regulators crosshairs.  Talking about fixing is easy compared to actually fixing....and talking about fixing followed by further issues will completely erode public trust.  At what point do you shut them all down to take a real stand on food safety?  Fixing those rivets is a serious undertaking, but until its done correctly, the ship will continue to flounder.

CDC Outbreak News
 Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 Infections Linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants

December 4, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chipotle Tightens Produce Supplier Control, Will Impact Local Suppliers

Chipotle is tightening its produce supplier control program after getting slammed by a foodborne illness outbreak associated with produce.  The last outbreak, which was caused by E. coli 0126 contamination, affected 45 people in 6 different states.  (The earlier report had the number at 35).  This is the third major outbreak associated with this chain.

Chipotle's strategy was to utilize local growers wherever they could.  But increasing the supplier requirements may mean that some of the local growers/producers will need to adapt, and as indicated in this story, there may be some that will be challenged. Chipotle's overall food safety strategy has stumbled, costing them terms for having to shut down their stores in the northwest, and having their stock price fall by 23% .

It is great to use local suppliers, but regardless of location or of size of the supplier, the same standards must be met.

USA Today
Chipotle to tighten produce supplier rules after E. coli outbreak
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY 6:01 p.m. EST December 2, 2015
Chipotle Mexican Grill will soon have stricter guidelines for its suppliers that will mean the chain will be using local produce less often, a move the company is making in the aftermath of an E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens of customers in six states.

Raw Nut Spread Product Recalled After Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

An small Oregon food company is recalling their organic raw sprouted nut spreads after the product was linked to 11 cases of salmonellosis. 
 The process entailed sourcing organic almond nuts, sprout them, dry them, grind them, and add flavors inspired by 'superfoods'.  Sounds good, doesn't it.  But, no reduction step for Salmonella.  In fact, in sprouting the seeds, they may be encouraging growth.

Their website has all the key phrases...artisans, organic, yoga, and of course...SUPERFOODS.  The nuts....handselected, and "free from pesticides, gluten, dairy, soy and processed sugar".   (Oops, might be some Salmonella).

How would the consumers of this product recognize there may be risk?  Nuts are a know source for Salmonella.  But throw in some sprouting multiples the risk.  Drying does nothing to Salmonella, except to prepare it for the long journey in the jar until it reach's someone stomach.

FDA Website
JEM Raw Chocolate LLC Voluntarily Recalls Nut Butter Spread Products Due To Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 2, 2015

Contact Consumers JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC  (541) 728-3844
Firm Press Release
View Product Photos

JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC (JEM Raw) of Bend, Oregon announced a voluntary recall of its full line of all nut butter spreads within expiry because it has 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.