Saturday, July 30, 2016

Revised - Recall Of Turmeric Spice Due to Elevated Lead Levels

Update - Aug 5  GelSpice and JM Exotic expands recalls for turmeric due to lead levels.

Update - Aug 2.  JM Exotic Foods, Inc. is recalling ground turmeric because samples from our supplier were found to contain elevated levels of lead.
Gel Spice, an "importer and manufacturer of spices, seeds, bakery ingredients and specialty items, is recalling turmeric after the State of NY found elevated lead levels. Evidently, lead contamination has been an issue in turmeric. There was an issue with turmeric and lead in 2013 as well.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not set a specific limit on lead in spices, there is a limit of 0.1 PPM in candy. The Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) has stated that lead levels of 0.015 PPM in drinking water require treatment.

How does the lead get there? In a Harvard report in 2014 (?), they stated this about one of the main sources for turmeric - Bangladesh ( Pakistan spice was involved in 2013 recall): "The production of turmeric involves many different methods and they explained that it’s possible that the lead contamination could be originating during the manufacturing and distribution of the common spice. There has also been much speculation about the possibility that distributors could be intentionally adding lead to increase the weight of the spice, but the team stressed the point that further study is needed to fully understand the issue."

So when evaluating ingredients for hazards, consider lead as a chemical hazard in turmeric.

FDA Recall Notice
Gel Spice, Inc. Issues Alert on Elevated Lead Levels in One Lot of Fresh Finds Ground Turmeric Powder
For Immediate Release
July 28, 2016

Expanded Frozen Vegetable Recall Points to Poor Recall Procedures

ConAgra announced  an expanded recall of Watts Farms organic frozen vegetable products, these were sold in Costco.  The recall originated back in May as part of the CRF frozen vegetable recall.  According to the notice "As part of ConAgra’s internal recall follow-up procedures, additional package codes were recently identified."  That means that product purchased and used was not identified as part of the recall procedures when CRF made the announcement.   So there were some issues in identifying affected inventory.

An issue like this could be huge if it had been a riskier hazard.  They essentially let affected product out in commerce for an additional 3 months.  Luckily, the contamination levels were low and this is a product that is normally cooked.

FDA Recall Notice
Updated: Additional Package Codes Of Watts Brothers Farms Organic Mixed Vegetables, Organic Super Sweet Corn, and Organic Peas Recalled Because of Possible Health Risk
July 28, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

MA Inspector Selling Phony ServSafe Certificates, Allowing Filthy Conditions

A Massachusetts city suspended its inspector after it found that the inspector had been issuing phony ServSafe certificates to establishments.  With this, the city's investigation found that these establishments were nasty with multiple sanitary violations including pests, improperly refrigerated TCS food items, and poor hand washing facilities.  In addition, one facility was selling Viagra and synthetic marijuana. 

Eagle Tribune
City shuts second bodega as food-safety investigation widens
Owner also charged with selling Viagra

NH Firm's Ground Meat Recalled After Linked to E. coli Outbreak Cluster

A New Hampshire establishment is recalling ground beef after that beef was like to a cluster of 14 E. coli O157:H7 infections.  Onset dates ranged from June 15 to July 10, 2016.

With summer grilling season, this is a stark reminder to use a thermometer to ensure doneness of your ground beef.  There is no better way to ensure the adequacy of your grilling process in destroying this awful, harmful pathogen.   You know who you are....go buy a thermometer.

USDA News Release
PT Farm, LLC Recalls Beef Products Due To Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination

Warning Letter Indicates Facility has Same Listeria Strains in Plant for Years

In an FDA Warning Letter recently issued to Resers Fine Foods in relation to investigation conducted around Listeria issues in 2013 and 2016, FDA indicated that they found the same strain in the facility.  This shows the difficulty in getting rid of Listeria in the environment, and the need to continuously control that environment, especially once LM is found.

From that Warning Letter:
"Furthermore, this was not the first time FDA investigators collected environmental samples from your facility that were found to be positive for L. monocytogenes. Environmental samples (FDA 821317 and FDA 821318) collected during our 2013 inspection revealed L. monocytogenes in six (6) environmental subsample swabs in various locations within your facility, including in floor gaps, wheels of forklift and carts that are moved throughout the facility, and floor drains. Additionally, an environmental sample (FDA 862365) collected during our 2014 inspection revealed L. monocytogenes in two (2) environmental subsample swabs in locations within your facility, including on the wheel of a fork lift and v-mag number.

Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis was conducted on six (6) L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from the FDA environmental samples collected in November 2015, two (2) L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from the FDA environmental samples collected in August 2014, and six (6) L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from the FDA environmental samples collected in November 2013. WGS analysis of bacterial human pathogens provides high-resolution data, enabling direct links to be established between clinical isolates and food or environmental sources of bacterial contamination and illness. WGS data can also be used to infer the evolutionary relationships (or phylogeny) within a given set of isolates as it measures each DNA position in a bacterial genome. The WGS phylogenetic analysis found that there are at least three (3) different strains of L. monocytogenes present in the facility. The WGS results show that one (1) of these strains includes isolates that have been found over a period of time. Specifically, four (4) of the environmental isolates collected in November 2015, one (1) of the environmental isolates collected in August 2014, and four (4) of the environmental isolates collected in November 2013, were identical by WGS analysis.

The evidence demonstrates that L. monocytogenes has maintained its presence within your production facility since November 2013. The reoccurring presence of identical strains of L. monocytogenes in your environment indicates a resident strain or niche harborage site present in the facility. These findings also demonstrate that your sanitation procedures have historically been inadequate to control, reduce, or eliminate this pathogenic organism from your facility. It is essential to identify the areas of the food processing plant where this organism is able to grow and survive and to take such corrective actions as necessary to eradicate the organism by rendering these areas unable to support the growth and survival of the organism.

Furthermore, L. monocytogenes found in the environment of your facility increases the risk of your finished product becoming contaminated. Once established in a production area, humans or machinery can facilitate the pathogen’s movement and contamination of food-contact surfaces and finished product. FDA acknowledges that one of the environmental swabs from the November 2015 inspection that tested positive for L. monocytogenes was taken from a food contact surface used to carry potato salad. As a result of this finding, your firm conducted a voluntary recall on December 1, 2015 of a single lot of potato salad product."

Supermarket Chain Recalls Bakery Items Due to Sugar Contaminated with Metal Pieces

Weiss Markets, a PA based store chain, has recalled bakery products due to the potential for metal fragments that came in with the sugar.  This recall is similar to the ConAgra recall for frozen entrees in that it is the same sugar supplier issue.

Fighting Food Waste

A recent study summarized in IFT Weekly discusses the fact that consumers do not understand the need to control food waste.  From the report, only about half of the people surveyed were aware of the issue.  While many feel guilty about throwing away food, many do not understand the impact on the environment or on their wallet.  Interestingly 42% of people said that they do not have the time to worry about it.

I think about the national campaign conducted years ago when people threw garbage wherever, including on the highways.  You might remember it as the Keep America Beautiful Campaign.

While some people are still less than clean, there has been a marked improvement in the amounts of trash dumped on the streets and highways.
To get public awareness, like this topic or the topic of smoking, there was a major media push.  I would expect the same for this. 

But reducing food waste goes against excess purchasing of food...a positive economic benefit for those who sell food.  So who is going to support this type of initiative?

PA Ag and State Police Conduct Surprise Inspections of Food Delivery Vehicles

Pennsylvania Dept of Ag along with the PA State Police conducted inspection on 140 refrigerated commercial food delivery vehicles.    According to the release "No citations were issued June 28, although multiple products were discarded due to being outside of acceptable temperature parameters. One warning letter was issued to an out-of-state company clarifying Pennsylvania food code and reasons for product disposal."  As they noted, warm delivery vehicles are a special concern  in the warmer months.

As per the Sanitary Transport of Food rule, temperature must be properly maintained throughout the shipment and delivery of the food items.  It is the shipper's responsibility to ensure this.  But clearly, there are issues that need to be corrected.

PA Gov News Release
Code R.E.D. Enforcement Efforts Ensure Safety of Food Supply During Transport

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Deli Items Recalled After Egg Ingredient Tests Positive for Salmonella

Meijer Grocery Store is recalling fresh pre-made salad and sandwich items after the supplier of hard boiled eggs sent notification that their egg products tested positive for Salmonella.  That supplier, Prime Foods of Indiana produces hard boiled eggs.  The items were sold in several states in the Midwest and there have not been any illness reported to date.

How does one screw up a hard boiled egg?  At this point, it is hard to say.  Heating eggs to hard boiled status should eliminate Salmonella.  So 1) the eggs were undercooked and would have been soft in texture 2) post-process (heating) contamination, or 3) bad test results.

Again, while we have no additional information at this point on how this occurred and we are no one is blaming the laboratory, it is a reminder for keeping procedures tight, not only on the processing floor but also in the laboratory.  There is no indication if this was an internal laboratory or a 3rd party laboratory that conducted the testing, but regardless, acurate test results are critical. If results are not, then there is a costly recall.  Unfortunately, testing often gets little focus until there is an issue like this.  And the last thing one wants is to be questioning the accuracy of the laboratory.

The laboratory should be viewed as a strategic operation for the company.  Given the resources, they can prevent issues from occurring including unnecessary food spoilage and unwarranted recalls.  On the other side, a good laboratory can improve quality through insuring the receipt of high quality ingredients and ensuring finished product standards are being met.

FDA Recall Notice
Meijer Recalls Fresh Salad Products Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination
July 26, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Flour Recall Expanded Due to Additional Cases of E. coli Infection

General Mills expanded their recall of retail flour from which was initially announced on May 21, 2017 due to 4 additional cases of E. coli infection.  According to the report, these cases are "connected with consumers reporting that they ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour"

Also in the news report:
"At this time, it is unknown if we are experiencing a higher prevalence of E.coli in flour than normal, if this is an issue isolated to General Mills' flour, or if this is an issue across the flour industry. The newer detection and genome sequencing tools are also possibly making a connection to flour that may have always existed at these levels." 
Whole genome sequencing has changed the game in terms of tracking the organism responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks.  But is this why see these outbreaks, or is there something occurring in the food supply chain, specifically higher contamination levels of E. coli in grains.

PR Newswire
General Mills Expands Retail Flour Recall

Friday, July 22, 2016

Oklahoma Company Recalls Hot Dog Items Due to Potential for Listeria

Bar-S of Oklahoma is recalling hot dog products due to the concern for Listeria in the processing facility.  The notice states that although product had not tested positive, "but due to recurring Listeria species issues at the firm, it has decided to remove the products from commerce as a precautionary measure".

USDA News Release
 Bar-S Foods Company Recalls Chicken and Pork Hot Dog and Corn Dog Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 061-2016
Health Risk: High Jul 19, 2016

Supermarkets Recall Foodservice Bean Salad Items Because of Supplier Listeria Concern

Supermarket chains Giant and Wegman's are recalling bean salad after notification by the bean supplier of Listeria contamination.  The product is a foodservice item that is sold in display cases by the pound.

Giant News Release
PRODUCT RECALL: Own Brands 3 Bean Salad

Canned Beans Recalled After Consumer Finds Broken Ink Pen in Can

Hy-Vee is recalling cans of black beans after a broken pen was discovered in a can by a consumer.  According to the report "The potential for contamination was discovered after Faribault Foods, Inc., Hy-Vee’s supplier, announced it was issuing a recall after one consumer reported finding a partial ink pen in one container. "

Wow, this is something we talk about, but here it is, a broken pen in product.  You wonder if the person knew they dropped it in the facility, or it was just left in a spot where it fell into the process?  Clearly, it has become a very expensive pen.

FDA Recall Notice
Hy-Vee Voluntarily Recalls a Limited Quantity of Its No-Salt-Added Black Beans Due to Potential Presence of Foreign Material

ConAgra Expands Recall of Frozen Entree Products With Potential Metal Contamination

 ConAgra is expanding their recall of PF Chang branded frozen entrees.  The initial recall, issued on July 7th was for metal pieces that were found in the sugar used in the formulation..a supplier related issue.  The recall was expanded on "July 14, 2016, ConAgra Foods was notified by the supplier of additional production lots of sugar that were impacted, such that the initial recall needed to be expanded to include additional P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Brand meals.". 

It was also pointed out in the recall notice that " these products are not served in P.F. Chang’s restaurants. Meals in P.F. Chang’s restaurants are made fresh every day and in every restaurant."
FDA Recall Notice
ConAgra Foods Expands Recall of P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Brand Meals Available in Grocery Retailers Due to Potential Presence of Foreign Material ConAgra Foods Does Not Make Meals for P.F. Chang’s Restaurants

For Immediate Release
July 16, 2016

Insulated Water Bottles Recalled Due to Lead Issues

LL Bean is recalling kid's water bottles because the bottle base has high levels of lead that may result in lead contamination of liquids stored in those water bottles.

US Consumer Product Safety Commission
GSI Outdoors Recalls Children’s Water Bottles Due to Violation of Lead Standard; Sold Exclusively at L.L.Bean

Recall date: July 19, 2016
Recall number: 16-227

Recall Summary
Name of product: Kids’ insulated water bottles

Washington Firm Recalls Whole Roaster Hogs Due to Salmonella

A Washington firm is recalling whole roaster hogs after that firms product was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella.

This same firm had a recall last summer due to the same issue...Salmonella.  The strain in that case was Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i, the same strain that was in this case.  So if one had to guess, this strain could have developed a niche within the process facility and then get onto the hog carcass in higher numbers.  A virulent strain, it then cross contaminates surfaces when handled by those barbequing the hogs, or perhaps the hogs are not getting to the final temperature.

FSIS issued a health alert about the safety procedures needed when cooking whole hogs. "Roasting a pig is a complex undertaking with numerous potential food handling issues. FSIS urges consumers to keep the four food safety steps in mind: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill."
USDA FSIS News Release
 Kapowsin Meats Inc. Recalls Pork Products Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination
Class I Recall 062-2016
Health Risk: High Jul 21, 2016

Monday, July 18, 2016

Catfish Recalled Due to Illegal Antimicrobial Agent, Crystal Violet

A Louisiana company, Haring Catfish, is recalling catfish after USDA found high levels of  gentian violet, also known as crystal violet.  Crystal violet has been used in the past as an antimicrobial  having antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties, but has been discontinued for use in fish farms because it has been found to be carcinogenic.  According to an FDA bulletin - "CV [crystal violet] is readily absorbed into fish tissue from water exposure and is reduced metabolically by fish to the leuco moiety, leucocrystal violet (LCV).[4] Crystal violet is also mutagenic [along with malachite green, another dye that had been used for fish farms] and is not approved for use in aquaculture."

USDA Recall Notice
Haring Catfish, Inc. Recalls Siluriformes Fish Products Due To Possible Adulteration
Class II Recall 060-2016
Health Risk: Low
Jul 14, 2016

CDC Closes Outbreak Investigation on CRF Frozen Vegetables

CDC has ended the frozen vegetable outbreak investigation associated with frozen vegetables produced in Washington state that were contaminated with Listeria.  Overall, a total of nine people in four states became infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes in four states with 3 deaths. (Two of the three deaths have not been officially linked to Listeria.)

There may be additional illnesses since this is a frozen product and may still be stored in some people's freezer.

CDC News Release
Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Frozen Vegetables (Final Update)
At a Glance:
Deaths: 3
Hospitalizations: 9

Entrée Products Recalled Due to Meat Contaminated Ingredient

ConAgra is recalling Chang's entrée products including Mongolian Beef and Spice Chicken for potential metal contamination due to a supplier issue.  According to the USDA posted recall notice:
"The problem was initially discovered on July 1, 2016, when an establishment employee observed metal fragments while dispensing sugar from a supplier for sauce formulation during processing. The resulting sauce is a component in the frozen entrée products. On July 14, 2016, ConAgra Foods was notified by the supplier of an FDA recall involving multiple production lots of sugar due to potential metal contamination. The recall action involved additional lots of sugar potentially used in FSIS regulated products at ConAgra Foods, and resulted in this expansion of the initial recall action."
There is no indication of whether there was an in-line metal detector or other control mechanisms for the entrée production or by the supplier for sugar production.
USDA News Release
ConAgra Foods Recalls Frozen Chicken and Beef Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 056-2016 EXP
Health Risk: High Jul 15, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Two Flavored Cake Mixes Recalled by GM Due to Potential E. coli O121 Contamination

Two flavors of cake mix under the Betty Crocker brand have been added to the flour recall by General Mills.   Betty Crocker Delights Super Moist Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and Betty Crocker Delights Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix have been recalled due to the potential for the flour to contain E. coli O121, a STEC strain.

The baking process will eliminate the organism, but of course there are those who are prone to eat raw cookie dough or offer it to children (this is worse because children would be more susceptible to infection.  FDA issued an Advisory against eating raw cookie dough.

General Mills News Release
Jul 11, 2016
Two flavors of Betty Crocker cake mix recalled

Consumers reminded not to consume uncooked cake batter or raw flour products

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - Out of an abundance of caution, two flavors of Betty Crocker cake mix sold in the U.S. and one flavor sold in Canada have been added to General Mills’ previously announced flour recall from July 1, 2016. No illnesses reported to date have been connected to cake mix. No other General Mills or Betty Crocker mixes are included in this recall.

Monday, July 11, 2016

FSIS Announces Online Posting of Location-Specific Food Safety Data

USDA / FSIS announced today that they will begin sharing information on food safety data specific to slaughter and processing facilities in the United States.

According to the news release:
  • "Initially, FSIS will share information on the processes used at each facility, giving more detail than is currently listed in the searchable establishment directory, as well as a code for each facility that will make it easier to sort and combine future datasets by facility. Additionally, FSIS will release results for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and Salmonella in ready-to-eat (RTE) products and processed egg products."
  • "On a quarterly basis, FSIS will then begin to share other datasets, including results for Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; results for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and young turkeys, comminuted poultry, and chicken parts; routine chemical residue testing data in meat and poultry products; and advanced meat recovery testing data."
This will be interesting.   How will fear mongers spin Salmonella data on social and mass media?  Yes, raw meat can have Salmonella and Campylobacter. 
FSIS Newsroom
FSIS to Begin Posting Location-Specific Food Safety Data Online
Data Sharing Plan Will Promote Transparency for Consumers and Further Improve Food Safety at Meat and Poultry Facilities
Jul 11, 2016

FDA Warning Letter Issued to Chester, PA Warehouse - Reason...for Being Nasty

We often get questions about the safety of the food supply, and our general response is - overall, our food is safe.  But then, you read something like this and start to think otherwise.   This was an FDA Warning Letter issued to a warehouse / distribution company in Chester, PA.    If you like to look at the outside of the location, you can see the location  on Google maps from 2012 but there are more recent pics on line.
 Observations directly from inspection notes:
  • firm did not have running water in either the ladies or men’s restrooms used by employees. Further, the toilets and hand washing sinks were not functioning, and there are no other sinks in your facility.  used buckets, filled with water, to flush the toilets and wash their hands after using the restrooms. You informed our investigator that these buckets are prefilled with water at the hose bib where the water supply line was cut and placed in the restrooms for immediate use and others stored outside the restrooms as reserves to be used later. Further, you informed our investigator that these buckets are used interchangeably for toilet flushing and handwashing and that the buckets are not cleaned or sanitized.
  • a wooden desk with dirt and green stains on it, being used as a food preparation table. You informed our investigator that the desk is not cleaned with detergent or sanitizer, and is sometimes wiped down with a paper towel and water from a bucket in the restroom.
  • green leafy particles and brown dried debris on knives stored in a wooden desk. You informed our investigator that these knives are used to cut produce and were not cleaned after use, but are cleaned prior to being used again with a paper towel and water from a spray bottle. 
  • an orange and white cat was moving freely throughout the warehouse. 
  • rodent excreta pellets - multiple occurrences
  • mold in coolers - multiple occurrences
  • a stack of 5 pallets; a barrel; equipment, and tools that were rusted; and wood and debris were scattered within 3 feet of the west side of the facility where the trailer is located. Further, there were vines draped along the east and west walls, with high grass and weeds that engulfed the perimeter on the south, east and west.
  • that the thermometer used in produce cooler #1, where you store vegetables, fruit, and other food articles, was not operational. Further, you informed our investigator that that this thermometer had never been calibrated and was not used for over ten years
  • an apparent fetid odor of rot, in unrefrigerated produce cooler #3. You informed our investigator that this is where spoiled products and trash are stored, until taken to the dumpster located outside your facility. For example, a container of spoiled onions, cardboard boxes, and other foreign matter was observed scattered on the floor in the cooler. Further, you informed our investigator that produce cooler #3 has not been cleaned in years.
  • an employee smoking a cigarette and grabbing onions with his bare hand from an unmarked box, to fulfill an order for a customer
June 23, 2016

Maryland Company Recalls Potato Salad Due to Use of Peas with Listeria

A Maryland company is recalling potato salad for potential Listeria contamination.  This comes after their supplier of peas, National Frozen Foods, recalled peas for Listeria.  It is important to point out that the product, at this point, is past the expiration date.

The interesting item with this is that the product was shipped using Amazon Fresh, the grocery delivery arm of  In fact, the product appears to have been made in Maryland and then shipped to Washington state (the recall was announced for product sold in Washington state area.) 

Do you wonder if people who ordered the potato salad realize it was made close to 3000 miles away?
Gaps in the cold supply chain where product may be exposed o higher temperatures can be an issue if Listeria is present in that any prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures can increase growth potential.

FDA Recall Notice
Hearn Kirkwood Recalls "Evie's Cheddar Potato Salad" Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
July 6, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Makin' Bacon Jam

 Michael Oraschewsky of Bacon Jams LLC, a West Chester, PA company, discusses the success of his product, Bacon Jams Bacon Spreads, and gives a shout-out to Penn State Food Safety.
Sampler Pack

Food Business News
The business of making bacon jams
June 29, 2016 - by Monica Watrous

NEW YORK — Earlier this year, Google identified “bacon jams” as a trending search term.

“Not to say we’re the sole reason behind that, but we’ve had something to do with that,” said Michael Oraschewsky, founder and “executive boar” of The Bacon Jams, L.L.C. Launched in 2013, the West Chester, Pa.-based company manufactures three varieties of gourmet bacon spreads: original, red chili and garlic, and black pepper. Mr. Oraschewsky featured the offerings at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 26-28 in New York.