Friday, May 27, 2016

Recalls Continue for Sunflower Seed Contaminated with Listeria

A number of companies have issued recalls in light of the finding and subsequent recall of sunflower seeds for Listeria by SunOptima.  (SunOpta’s recall Information):

C. J. Dannemiller Co. Annouces Recall of "Sunflower Kernels, Roasted and Salted" and "Sunflower Kernels, Roasted No Salt" Because of Possible Listeria monocytogenes
May 24, 2016
C. J. Dannemiller Co. is recalling SunOpta 50# bags and 30# cases of roasted sunflower kernels roasted and salted, and sunflower kernels roasted no salt because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others 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.

Antibiotic Resistant E. coli Superbug Found in US

A strain of E. coli with resistance to the antibiotic Colistin, considered the last-line defense against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, was found in a Pennsylvania woman.  This is the first case here in the US.  It was found when she was being treated for a urinary tract infection.

This superbug had been earlier found in China in a few people , in pigs, and pig meat, and then a little later in Europe.

Washington Post
The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S.

For the first time, researchers have found a person in the United States carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort, an alarming development that the top U.S. public health official says could mean "the end of the road" for antibiotics.

FDA Report on 5th Annual Review of Reportable Food Registry

FDA released their 5th annual report from entries into Reportable Food Registry.

The Reportable Food Registry (RFR or the Registry) is an electronic portal to which reports about instances of reportable food must be submitted to FDA. "A reportable food is an article of food/feed for which there is a reasonable probability that the use of, or exposure to, such article of food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals."

The findings in this report provide a summary of the issues experienced within the food supply chain. These issues are seen in the many recalls reported.

Highlights from Report:

  • Overall, the 50 primary reports for Salmonella in Year 5 remained similar to the 58 primary reports observed in Year 4.
  • Data from the fifth year of operation of the RFR indicates that spices and seasonings account for the majority of Salmonella-related reports.
  • The largest decrease in Salmonella was observed in the animal food/feed (including pet food) commodity, with a total of 6 primary entries in Year 5 compared to 18 entries in Year 4, representing 31% of Salmonella entries in Year 4 and decreasing to 11.8% of total Salmonella entries in Year 5.

FDA Releases Final Rule on Food Defense - Preventing Intentional Contamination of Food - Summary

The rule, titled Mitigation Strategies To Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration, applies to domestic and foreign food companies that are registered with the FDA to address hazards that may be introduced with the intention to cause wide scale public health harm. . Basically, if you are producing food for sale and have registered your facility with FDA, then you have to have a food defense plan. There are a few exemptions to who has to apply.

Commentary - this is very broad/open and care must taken when preparing this program  A concern would be claiming too many vulnerabilities and then having to correct too much (and the expense of that).

Below is a summary of the major sections of the document.

Requirements - "Each covered facility is required to prepare and implement a food defense plan. This written plan must identify vulnerabilities and actionable process steps, mitigation strategies, and procedures for food defense monitoring, corrective actions and verification. A reanalysis is required every three years or when certain criteria are met, including mitigation strategies that are determined to be improperly implemented. " .

1.  You must prepare, or have prepared, and implement a written food defense plan.
This includes:

Friday, May 20, 2016

FDA Updates Nutrition Facts Labels for Food Products

It is time to begin updating the nutrition facts labels on food packages.  FDA is updating their requirements for the nutrition facts label in order to "consumers have updated nutritional information for most packaged foods sold in the United States, that will help people make informed decisions about the foods they eat and feed their families."

While about half or more of the people say they look at labels, research has show that very few actually look at the label.  But some are very excited:
“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”
Well, it will be good business for the labeling companies and those who do the nutritional determinations.

The compliance date is July 26, 2018 for most companies, and for smaller companies with less than $10 million in sales, the date is extended to July of 2019.

FDA News Release
FDA modernizes Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods
Refreshed design and relevant information will help consumers make healthy food choices
For Immediate Release
May 20, 2016

SunOptima, Source of Sunflower Seed Recall for Listeria, Expands Original Recall, Forces Downstream Packers to Expand Recalls

SunOptima is expanding their sunflower seeds w/ Listeria recall. The initial recall was produced at their Minnesota facility in the month of February. The time frame of production recall now extends from February through April 21, the date at which the plant was closed.
It never seems to be a Listeria recall without having an expansion of that recall. This occurs when companies realize that they did not have real control of the organism, whether that is a contaminate within the processing environment or within purchased raw materials. Since sunflower seeds are roasted and de-hulled, it would lead one to believe it was post roasting contamination.
The process of making sunflower seed is similar to other processing of nut. For a nice review of the process, you can visit 'How Products are Made.  Here are the highlights from that review"
Sunflower seed production begins in early spring when the fields are prepared and the seeds are planted.
  1. Sunflowers are ready to harvest when the black part of their heads turns brown. In the United States this is generally in late September or October. A special device collects the sunflower heads          
  2. The seeds are rapidly dried to under 10% moisture content and then stored in grain elevators.
  3. At the processing plant, they are emptied onto wire screens and shaken to remove dirt, inspected, and further cleaned.
  4. The seeds are then passed on to sizing screens which separate them by size.
  5. Large sized seeds go to snack food sunflower seeds are transferred through large ovens to dry roasted, reducing the moisture level in the seed further. The medium sized seeds are first sent through de-hulling machines which remove their shells. They are then roasted in oil
  6. The seeds are then flavored as desired. This can be done by an enrobing process - running the warm seeds from the roasters into a large, rotating container where combined with oil the flavoring ingredients.
  7. The seeds are then packaged with a focus on reducing oxidation that would promote rancidity.
The interesting thing is that one would expect that this would be a dry process, not noted for being the typical environment where Listeria would be found.
FDA Recall Notice
Expanded Recall Period of Certain Sunflower Kernel Products Due to Possible Contamination By Listeria monocytogenes
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2016

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Salmonella Outbreak in MN Linked to Bagged Salad

Bagged salad produced by Taylor Farms are being linked to a Salmonella outbreak in Minnesota where six people have been infected.  The illness occurred in the month of April and product had been pulled from the store where purchased (Sam's Club).   The strain of Salmonella enteritidis was identified by a unique DNA fingerprint.

The Packer
Taylor Farms linked to salmonella outbreak
By Andy Nelson May 19, 2016 | 4:45 pm EDT

A salmonella outbreak has been linked to bagged salads shipped by Taylor Farms.

In early May, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture alerted the Food and Drug Administration about salmonella infections it had linked with Organic Kale Medley Power Greens bags shipped by Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms and sold at Sam’s Club stores in Minnesota, according to an FDA spokesperson.

FDA Investigation Report for Frozen Produce Facility at Center of Recall

The FDA released the inspection report of the CRF facility that was responsible for the massive frozen vegetable recall.  The inspection, conducted in March and transcribed below, found no blaring issues cited, but just some basic hits to the equipment and utensils used.  Surprising?  Not really, because a visual inspection is not going to identify low level contamination issues, such as what we expect was the case at CRF.   While you can find signs of sanitation lapses in an inspection that can lead to harborage issues or indicators of overall poor sanitation, it is really microbial sampling that will provide an idea of control.  Another important inspection is a review of the sampling being conducted by the facility - are they sampling for Listeria, how many samples, what are the results, is there corrective action, when are they sampling, who is doing the testing, how are they sampling, etc. In the end, is the facility really trying to find it, or are they doing testing just to say they are doing testing.

The transcription of the report:

Harvard Article on Food Safety Economics

Saw this piece on food safety economics released by Harvard Business Schools, and thought it might be worth the read.  In the end, meh..nothing we didn't know. 

To save you time - basically, there can be a huge economic cost of food safety lapses, such as that experienced by Chipotle.  There are a number of challenges - small producers and global sourcing where food safety systems may not be all they need to be, and news reports that highlight foodborne illness outbreaks which bring a lot of attention to these food safety lapses.  They also discuss how a company did their own testing when they could have saved money by outsourcing (my guess is that this was the focus of the research and the story was written around it). 

On the testing topic, there is more than just cost that has to be considered.

Harvard Business School
Food Safety Economics: The Cost of a Sick Customer

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Food Trucks and Food Safety Challenges

In this LA Times piece, the food safety performance of food trucks is discussed.  It seems that in LA, food trucks have more sanitary issues than the average restaurant.  There are a number of challenges on food trucks that make managing food safety more difficult....small space with more opportunity for cross contamination, temperature control issues, etc.

LA Times
The dark side of trendy food trucks: A poor health safety record
Ben Poston, Caitlin Plummer and Michael Radcliffe
May 18, 2016

It’s a daily culinary performance that plays out across Los Angeles: Top food truck chefs whipping up gourmet meals in spaces no bigger than a restaurant’s stockroom or walk-in freezer.

But even as the trucks have become a popular staple of the local food scene, with Twitter followers and long queues, they have been lagging behind restaurants and even sidewalk food carts in one important category -- health safety, a Times data analysis found.

About 27% of food trucks earned lower than A grades over the last two years, according to a Times review of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data. By comparison, slightly less than 5% of brick-and-mortar restaurants and about 18% of food carts fell below that mark.

Final Rule Issued on Requirement to Label Mechanically Tenderized Beef

The final rule has been issued that requires cooking instructions for mechanically tenderized beef. It covers  needle- or blade-tenderized raw beef products product destined for household consumers, hotels, restaurants, or similar foodservice operations.  The label must say the meat is "mechanically tenderized," "blade tenderized," or "needle tenderized" and  a description of the beef component in the product name along with validated cooking instructions (minimum internal cooking temperatures and hold times).
 This has been in the works for some time and it is good to see that it is ready to be put in place.  The issue is that in the tenderization process, bacteria can be forced into the meat.  Because of this, the temperatures for cooking are more similar to that of hamburger than for intact steaks.

 USDA News Release
USDA Finalizes Rule to Require Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products
New labels and cooking instructions will give consumers information they need  to safely enjoy these products
WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced new labeling requirements for raw or partially cooked beef products that have been mechanically tenderized. Consumers, restaurants, and other food service facilities will now have more information about the products they are buying, as well as useful cooking instructions so they know how to safely prepare them.

Poultry Products Recall Expanded (for 3rd Time) Due to Foreign Objects

Pilgrim's Pride has expanded its recall for cooked poultry products because of foreign material.  This is the third expansion of that recall that started on April 7,  and then was expanded on April 26.
This recall coordinator is just not catching a break.
USDA Recall Notice
Pilgrim's Pride Corp. Expands Recall of Poultry Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 027-2016 expansion-3
Health Risk: High May 13, 2016

Recall Cascade Continues for Frozen Produce, Walnuts, and Sunflower Seed Due to Listeria

The cascade of recalls continues...for Listeria in frozen produce, for Listeria in sunflower seeds, and Listeria in Walnuts.


Updated: Ajinomoto Windsor Recall of Products Related to CRF Frozen Vegetable Recall
Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. is voluntarily recalling various Not-Ready-To Eat frozen food items due to the potential for these products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This voluntary action is being undertaken in cooperation with the US Food and Drug Administration because the recalled products contain vegetables that are part of the recent CRF Frozen Foods recall.

Updated: Stahlbush Island Farms, Inc. Recalls IQF Green Beans Because of Possible Health Risk
Stahlbush Island Farms, Inc. (SIFI) of Corvallis, Ore., is voluntarily recalling 10 oz. Stahlbush® IQF Green Bean retail packages because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes

Hy-Vee Voluntarily Recalls Frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and Frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice Due to Possible Health Risk
Hy-Vee, Inc., based in West Des Moines, Iowa, is voluntarily recalling its frozen Hy-Vee Vegetable Fried Rice and frozen Hy-Vee Chicken Fried Rice products across its eight-state region due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.
The potential for contamination was discovered after Ajinomoto Windsor, Hy-Vee’s supplier, announced they were recalling specific frozen foods due to the potential for Listeria monocytogenes.

Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods, Inc. Announces Voluntary Recall of Various Dr. Praeger's and Ungar's Products Related to CRF Frozen Vegetable Recall for Possible Health Risk
Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling various not-ready-to-eat frozen food items due to the potential for these products to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This voluntary action is being undertaken in cooperation with the US Food and Drug Administration because the recalled products contain vegetables that are part of the recent CRF Frozen Foods recall.

Voluntary Recall on Piggly Wiggly Brand Yellow Cut Corn
As part of the CRF Frozen Foods recall, McCall Farms Incorporated is notifying consumers that it is recalling Piggly Wiggly brand frozen Yellow Cut Corn due to the potential risk that it may contain Listeria monocytogenes. McCall Farms was notified by its supplier, CRF Frozen Foods, of this potential contamination. No other McCall Farms products have been affected by this recall.


HMSHost Recalls Multiple Brands of Cape Cod Cranberry Trail Mix Because of Possible Health Risk
HMSHost of Bethesda, Maryland is recalling multiple brands of trail mix, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. HMSHost was recently notified by one of its snack manufacturers, Woodstock Farms Manufacturing, that during their routine testing, the presence of Listeria monocytogenes was revealed in two lots of walnuts used in one of its trail mixes


The Quaker Oats Company Issues Voluntary Recall of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars Due to Possible Health Risk
The Quaker Oats Company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., today announced a voluntary recall of a small quantity of Quaker Quinoa Granola Bars after an ingredient supplier was found to have distributed sunflower kernels that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono).

National Academy of Science Finds GMOs Generally Safe

GMO or Genetically Modified Foods....a very controversial topic.  Well, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that this food is generally safe.  In their report "no substantiated evidence that foods from GE [genetically engineered] crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops,".  Still, they are not the panacea.

Even the Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) was not overly hostile to the this announcement, and posted this:
CSPI supports the report’s call for transparency and public participation in the oversight of GE crops and for the federal agencies to do more to communicate their regulatory decisions to the public. However, it is disappointing that the report does not recommend that FDA’s oversight change from a voluntary to a mandatory process. That would have been consistent with the report’s acknowledgement that federal oversight is important to ensure both safety and public confidence.

As for me, I am old fashion and feel that one shouldn't fool with Mother Nature too much. Selective breeding is one thing, but insertion of genes into other species that we are going to eat, that is another thing.

"Feed me.."

Major science group weighs in on safety of genetically modified foods
May 18, 2016, 11:58 AM

Friday, May 13, 2016

FDA Issues Draft Guidance on Qualified Facilities within the Preventive Controls Rule

As part of the Preventive Controls Rule, FDA establishes 'Qualified Facilities' as those facilities exempt from having to establish HACCP based systems (Preventive Controls), but only having to comply with GMPs. But in order to become 'Qualified', they must submit a form to FDA attesting to their status as 'Qualified". This guidance provides detail on how to submit the required form, Form FDA 3942.

‘Qualified Facility’’ as defined by FSMA:
• Business with average annual sales of <$500,000 and at least half the sales to consumers or local retailers or restaurants (within the same state or within 275 miles); or.
• Very small business, which the rule defines as a business (including any subsidiaries and affiliates) averaging less than $1,000,000, adjusted for inflation, per year, during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed, or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee).

You can access that document here.

Kale Edamame Salad Recalled Due to Potential Salmonella Contamination in Kale

Trader Joe's is recalling Kale and Edamame Salad after the supplier of the kale notified the salad manufacturer, WCD Kitchens, that the kale may have Salmonella.

Retails such as Trader Joe's, who utilize a lot of small firms to provide their stores unique products seem to have more than their share of recalls.  This is certainly the challenge of working with firms that may have supplier issues of their own.

Another issue here is testing of product with short shelf-life.  By the time tests are taken and then confirmed, that product is already out in the market.

FDA Recall Notice
World Class Distribution Issues Voluntary Recall on Kale & Edamame Salad Due to Possible Health Risk
May 10, 2016

Consumers WCD Kitchen, LLC  (909) 574-4140 
Media Paul Mestas (909) 574-4140
View Product Photos

WCD Kitchen, LLC of Fontana, California is voluntarily recalling Trader Joe’s Kale & Edamame Salad (UPC 00967112), sold only in the Midwest, with a “USE BY May 05, 2016 through May 14, 2016”, because the product may be contaminated withSalmonella. No illnesses have been reported to date.

Listeria Tracking and Whole Genome Sequencing - How Close is Close

As the CRF frozen produce recall has resulted in a cascade of recalls and millions of pounds of produce being pulled from shelves across the country, one can look at what triggered this - an Ohio Lab finding Listeria in frozen foods and an investigation of a frozen food plant that led to finding the organism in the plant.
According to CDC: Epidemiological and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington and sold under various brand names are one likely source of illnesses in this outbreak. This is a complex, ongoing investigation, and updates will be provided when more information is available.
Further in that report
Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to seven bacterial isolates from ill people, and the Listeria isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from an ill person. This close genetic relationship provides additional evidence that some people in this outbreak became ill from eating frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods.
Whole genome sequencing has had a huge impact on outbreak investigations.  It allows investigators to match the organism involved in an outbreak back to the organisms found in the plant.  Using this output, one can look in time to past illness and do the same matching, what is termed retrospective analysis. But just because that organism is found in food or in the food plant, does that implicate that food? And how close is close when CDC says there is a close genetic relationship? We asked Dr. Edward Dudley of Penn State to provide some insight.
"A 5 base pair difference (or 5 SNPs) is strong evidence that the two are related. [Listeria has 3 million base pairs]  Even within an outbreak, it isn’t unusual for clones to vary by a few SNPs. This is one of the reasons the FDA is sequencing large collections of food borne pathogens including Listeria, in order to get a handle on how much genetic variation exists in natural populations. As we collect more of this data, it will tell us how quickly the DNA of these pathogens change in foods, food processing environments or during an outbreak, informing us how many SNPs should be allowed for us to still make strong case that two isolates are related."
"Keep in mind though, that genome sequencing should not be used by itself to make any conclusions. We still need the epidemiological (epi) data that provides a statistical link between the patient and an event, for example "did patients with Listeria eat frozen vegetables more commonly than healthy individuals during the time frame of the outbreak?”. The genome sequencing of isolates obtained from patient and foods is used to support the conclusions of the epi investigation when isolates from linked sources are found to be highly related on the DNA level."
So in the end, old fashion epidemiological evidence is still needed.   And there is still understanding is needed.  As for produce, many of the companies forced into a recall are doing so without knowing if there is actually Listeria in their product and in the absence of illnesses associated with their product.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chipotle Retains Food Safety Gurus as Board Wants Ability to Pick Executive Board

Chipotle shareholders approved a proposal to give the chain's board approval to be able to nominate directors to the board.  At the same time, the chain acknowledge that it had hired two additional food safety experts.

Business | Wed May 11, 2016 6:22pm EDT
Chipotle shareholders vote for more power to pick board
LOS ANGELES | By Lisa Baertlein

CRF Recall Triggers Recalls by Additional Processors and Retailers

A number of other packers of frozen foods issued recalls after an ingredient supplier, CRF issued a recall last week.  What started off as a massive recall continues to get bigger as product produced by CRF was repacked by other frozen food companies.

The list below in includes recalls from Stahlbush Island Farms, Harris Teeter, Twin Cities, Pictsweet, and NORPAC.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Walnuts Recalled Due to Listeria

A Woodstock, NJ company is recalling various Walnut products purchased from Gibson Farms after a sample of that product tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.   This comes after another recall last week for sunflower seeds, although there does not appear to be any real connection.

Makes you wonder whether people will start testing the heck out of nut products for Listeria?  These products, because of low moisture / water activity, will not support the growth of Listieria.  And because they are produced in a dry environment, one would expect that environmental contamination would be minimal.  That being said, one would expect levels to be very low.

The biggest risk for these nuts would be if they were added as an ingredient to a product that supported growth.  And depending on the level, which would be expected to be very low, would only be a risk to those with a highly impaired immune system.

With two recalls, more research is needed to understand how Listeria is getting onto nuts, the levels present, and what real risk it poses.

FDA Recall Notice
United Natural Trading LLC Announces Voluntary Recall of Walnuts
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2016

Hoijicha Tea Recalled Due to Salmonella in Ingredient

Frontier Natural Product Co-op based in and a self proclaimed 'major supplier in the booming natural products industry', is recalling Organic Hojicha Tea due to potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The recall indicates the recall was initiated after an ingredient tested positive for Salmonella. (While it seems the supplier did the testing, it is hard to determine from how the notice was written.)..

So what is Hojicha tea? Good question.  Well, Hojicha tea is a roasted tea that is more mild and has less caffeine. The roasting process makes the tea leaves reddish in color and gives the tea a ' a toasty, slightly caramel-like flavor'. Because of the lower caffeine level, it is often served with dinner.

So how would Salmonella get in the Hojicha?  Another good question.  If the tea supplier was responsible, and being the leaves were roasted, it would have to be a case of cross contamination in the post-roasting environment.

FDA Recall Notice
Frontier Co-op Initiates Voluntary Recall of Organic Hojicha Tea Due to Possible Health Risk

CRF Vegetables Leads to Recall of Fried Rice Product Which Leads to Recall of Chicken Fried Rice Product

In a series of recalls following the CRF vegetable recall - Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc recalled its fried rice products because they had CRF as a supplier of the vegetables used in the rice mixes.  This then triggered Garland Ventures LTD, a Garland, Texas establishment to recall 114,870 pounds of chicken fried rice products.  Both items are considered not ready-to-eat.

FDA Recall Notice
Ajinomoto Windsor Recall of Products Related to CRF Frozen Vegetable Recall
For Immediate Release
May 7, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sunflower Seed Recall Forces a Large Cascade of Recalls

After SunOptima issued a recall for Listeria in sunflower seed, a number of their customers issued recalls.  Probably more to come?

One this that would be good to know is how the sampling / testing occurred after product had shipped and was utilized by their customers.

Recalls listed below:

Related Frozen Foods Recalls Point to Weakness in Supply Chain Controls - Only as Good as Your Supplier's Supplier

Two recalls for Listeria have been announced in wake of the CRF frozen produce recall, with probably more to come,   One is from ConAgra Foods for organic frozen corn and peas sold under the Trader Joe's and Watts Brother labels.  The other issued recall was by a Texas firm that is recalling fresh corn relish and bean salad.  There will no doubt be more recalls to come as companies evaluate their supply chain.

At the heart of this is a very complex supply chain. CRF and Oregon Potato, two frozen food companies based in the Northwest are ground zero.  The problem is that these companies produce product not only for retailers, but also for other manufactures through sales of bulk frozen product.  What happens is these seasonal produce items are harvested, much of it goes into bulk.  Bulk allows manufacturers to repack product as needed to meet customer demand throughout the year. Within a given season, one company may pack more corn than they have sales for, so they sell bulk product to someone else who needs that product to fill their own orders.  These transfers occur throughout the year and allow companies to be efficient in meeting the demand of their customers.  That is the good part.

The problem arises when one of the companies has an issue, say Listeria, that then affects the whole chain.   For example, Company A is repacking some mixed vegetable product and needs to purchase bulk peas or onions form Supplier B to help fill the order..  Now Company A, who has a great internal Listeria program, purchases Supplier B who may or may not have a good Listeria Program.. Supplier B provides a COA showing that lot was good (Listeria negative).  But FDA makes a visit to Supplier B and in conducting environmental testing, they find Listeria in Supplier B's facility..  It could even be that Supplier B sold product to another company who is then implicated in an outbreak that traces back to Supplier B.  In these cases, Company A must conduct a recall.

This can even go further back.  Supplier B was a little short on onions and purchased onions from Supplier C to help fill their order to Company A. And it is found that Supplier C has an issue.  That issue now becomes a problem for Supplier B as well as Company A.  And if Company A is producing product for 10 different retailers, now you have a whole lot of retailers having to recall product.  And if Supplier C was also selling bulk product to two other repacking companies who were producing product for a dozen more retailers, we can easily see how this can expand.

It is difficult to ensure that suppliers are adequately controlling risk, it can even be harder to make sure that the supplier's supplier is adequately controlling risk.  Unfortunately, as logistics / purchasing people look to take advantage of co-packing opportunities, the true cost of risk control may not be considered.  These costs can include extensive product testing, on-site visits, insistence that supplier institute aggressive Listeria control programs, etc.  To be fair, Listeria control was probably not on many people mind when these deals were made.  However, moving forward, it must become a part of the picture.

FDA Recall Notices
Company Announcement
When a company announces a recall, market withdrawal, or safety alert, the FDA posts the company's announcement as a public service. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company.
Watts Brothers Farms Organic Mixed Vegetables, Organic Super Sweet Corn, And Organic Peas And Trader Joe's Organic Super Sweet Corn Recalled Because Of Possible Health RiskFor Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nut Products Recalled After Sunflower Seed Supplier Notifies of Potential Listeria Contamination

Tree House Foods is recalling a wide variety of snack bars and nut / trail mixes after receiving notification from their supplier that the sunflower seed may contain Listeria monocytogenes.  Sun Optima, a Canadian firm, is also recalling sunflower seed products.

Sunflower seed would be considered a low risk product since they would not support growth, however the ingredient would be added as a RTE ingredient.

PRN Newsire
TreeHouse Foods Issues Voluntary Product Recall Due to Possible Health Risk

Case of Intentional Contamination in Michigan - Man Sprays Salad Bars with Chemical Mixture

In Michigan, a person was arrested after intentionally contaminating salad bars in local restaurants with a chemical mixture that included mouse poison.  There have been no injuries reported.

This is a reminder that intentional contamination can occur and that employee in food establishments must always be on the lookout.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development News Release
Advisory: Consumers Urged to Throw Away Potentially Contaminated Foods
Agency: Agriculture and Rural Development

Chicken Nuggets Recalled Due to Foreign Material

Foster Poultry is recalling 220,000 lbs of chicken nuggets because of the potential for foreign material - blue plastic and black rubber.  The problem was discovered due to consumer complaints received by the company.

So far this year there have been a number of recalls due to foreign materials inclusion in product including another cook poultry product last month.  These are extremely expensive mistakes that may not be given their due when complaints are received.  These recalls should be a siren to evaluate consumer complaints and ensure that corrective action is being completed.

FSIS News Release
Foster Poultry Farms Recalls Poultry Products Due To Possible Foreign Materials Contamination
Class I Recall 033-2016
Health Risk: High Apr 29, 2016

Important Points in FSMA Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food

Earlier this month, FDA issued the FSMA Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food.  What are some interesting points you should know?

This rule defines transportation as “any movement of food in commerce by motor vehicle or rail vehicle” and establishes requirements for sanitary transportation practices applicable to shippers, loaders, carriers by motor vehicle and rail vehicle, and receivers engaged in food transportation operations.  The rule address vehicles and transportation equipment; transportation operations; training; records; and waivers.

The goal is to ensure that practices are in place that prevents food from becoming adulterated during transport from such issues as failure to control temperatures or cross contamination or cross contact (allergens) from inadequate cleaning.  

The rule makes the shipper responsible for compliance to the rule.  The shipper is defined as the one who arranges for the transportation of food by the carrier. The shipper could be the manufacturer or a freight broker. By rule, the shipper  must develop and implement procedures for required parameters such as temperature control and cleanliness of the vehicle. The shipper can transfer some of this responsibility to the ‘loader’ or the ‘carrier’ based upon contractual agreement. They must have documentation to demonstrate this.

The rule is not prescriptive in that FDA does not establish mandatory procedures; rather it allows industry to use best practices to do this. So there are no regulatory requirements for continuous temperature monitoring, or the sharing of documentation for each load, or how a truck should be cleaned. Rather, it requires the shipper determine what is best in order for that food to be transported without becoming adulterated.

While there are some exemptions from the rule for food that is transported, such as farm activities, most other transport is covered including intra-company transport and food destined for food banks.

What about food that arrives and is out of temperature?  According to the rule "An inconsequential failure by a carrier to meet the shipper's temperature control specifications will not necessarily create a per se presumption that the affected food has become adulterated. However, if a person subject to this rule becomes aware of an indication of a possible material failure of temperature control or other conditions that may render the food unsafe during transportation, the person must take appropriate action to ensure that the food is not sold or otherwise distributed, unless a determination is made by a qualified individual that the temperature deviation or other condition did not render the food unsafe. Failure to take such action may render the food adulterated."

For Loaders, those who put product onto the trucks, they must check the vehicle for sanitary condition and ensure proper temperature control prior to loading.

For receivers, those who unload the product, they must ensure that the product was not temperature abused and intact. 

Carriers, those transporting product, must meet conditions established by the shipper – to include having the right equipment to meet sanitary and temperature requirements. The must also provide cleaning as required.

When carriers have responsibilities put on them by the shippers, their employees must be trained about potential food safety problems and basic sanitary practices. This must be documented.

Here is a link to the final rule.

Justice Department Investigates Salad Plant After Listeria Outbreak

 The US Justice Department is investigating the Dole with regard to the Salad / Listeria outbreak.  The question being raised is 'what did they know'?  This comes after an FDA inspection of the facility found Listeria monocytogenes.

The outcome of this investigation is important for processors who manufacturer products that can be affected by Listeria, especially those that had been regarded as lower risk (do not support appreciable growth).  Why?  Many manufacturers have Listeria Control Programs that have verification monitoring that focuses on Listeria species testing before production, or pre-operational, on non-food-contact environmental surfaces.  If found, then corrective action focuses on cleaning that area.

The concern is that this may not be aggressive enough.  We have now seen that Listeria can be an issue in product that supports minimal to no growth.  For one, we do not know how the consumer is going to handle products - perhaps using them as an ingredient in foods that better support growth, and in light of the Blue Bell outbreak, what minimal levels can cause illness in those at highest risk.  A more aggressive sampling would look at sampling during production and looking more at food contact surfaces.

Can you fault the plant?  Not based upon the current FDA Listeria Control Guidance.  What will it look like going further?

Wall Street Journal
U.S. Probes Dole Food Over Listeria Outbreak Linked to Salads
Samples suggest Dole had evidence of bacteria at Ohio plant a year earlier

Massive Recall of Frozen Vegetables Follows Linkage to Listeria Outbreak

A Washington state frozen food manufacturer is recalling frozen vegetable products affecting approximately 2 years of production, 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands

This was an expansion of a recall that was issued on April 23rd after the Ohio state health officials reported the finding.  Since that time, it had been linked to 8 cases.  (2 deaths are listed on the CDC website, but they state it was not due to Listeria.  Complications from Listeria?).  CRF had suspended operations after the first recall in April and had not resumed production.  FDA did isolate Listeria monocytogenes from the facility and "...... were found to be closely related genetically to seven of the isolates of ill people associated with this outbreak."

In the CDC report [below], a linkage was made after the Ohio state isolated the organism from frozen product.  It does not appear this product was sampled because of linkage to the outbreak in that the report states there were no reported illnesses.   It is also important to not that while 2 cases were from 2016, the other cases were said to have been done in a 'retrospective analysis' where the DNA from the isolated organism was matched against past outbreak cases.
 Epi case count, click for more details.

According to the CDC Report, "Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to seven bacterial isolates from ill people, and the Listeria isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from an ill person.  The way his case has unfolded looks very similar to the Blue Bell outbreak/recall.

The products include organic and non-organic broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, edamame, green beans, Italian beans, kale, leeks, lima beans, onions, peas, pepper strips, potatoes, potato medley, root medley, spinach, sweet potatoes, various vegetable medleys, blends, and stir fry packages, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries.  Brands include Trader Joes, Kirkland, and Great Value as well as others.

There are some things that would be good to know.
1)  The products in question required cooking....were they cooked by the consumers who became ill?
2)  The report states that he Listeria isolated from product and in the outbreak cases were closely related.  How close is close?
3) What type of Listeria Control Program did the facility have?

FDA News Release
FDA Investigates Listeria Outbreak Linked to Frozen Vegetables

May 4, 2016

What is the Problem and What is Being Done About It?

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis identified in March 2016.