Friday, September 30, 2016

CDC Finalizes Investigation on E. coli (STEC O121) in Flour

CDC issued the final report on the E. coli STEC outbreak associated with flour.  The recall of the product was issued in May and then expanded in July.   While CDC expects more cases over time (as people may still have and use recalled flour), there have been 63 cases to date with 17 hospitalizations with one case of HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome).
 Dough is meant for cooking, not eating raw or playing with.  Unfortunately, there are those out there who will continue to eat raw dough (you know who you are).  But please don't pass this habit onto the youth.  One, they are at higher risk.  Two, if you are willing to get sick, then fine, but let's not make a new generation of raw dough eaters.  
CDC Outbreak Update
Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli Infections Linked to Flour (Final Update)
Posted September 29, 2016 12:45PM EST

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Onion Rings Recalled Due to Allergen Mislabeling - Reason for Implementing Preventive Controls

McCain Foods issued a recall notice for Onion Rings and then reissued the notice to expand the recall to additional labels.  The pre-labeled packaging did not list milk on the label although it was included in the formulation.

This is the type of recall that the Preventive Controls rule was designed to help prevent.  By having a formalized check of the labels at the receipt of those labels and then again at the time of packaging would have provided 2 opportunities to compare the label to the formulation.  Of course, it is important to have the sub-ingredients listed, in this case, they are probably purchasing the breader / batter that will be used to coat the onion rings.

Instituting such a check is not overly difficult. It just takes a few minutes to compare the label to the formula.   However, the cost of recall resulting from non-compliance can run into the millions of dollars.

FDA Recall Notice
McCain Foods USA, Inc. Announces a Product Recall Impacting Frozen Onion Rings Sold and Distributed Under Four Separate Private Label Retail Brands
For Immediate Release
September 23, 2016

Enforcement of Rule for Ground Meat Logs Starts Oct. 1

 On October 1, USDA FSIS will begin enforcement of the rule requiring establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef for sale in commerce to maintain a log of the lot information on which raw materials were used to produce that ground meat.  Specifically:
  1. The establishment numbers of the establishments supplying the materials used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product; 
  2. All supplier lot numbers and production dates; 
  3. The names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next; 
  4. The date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced, and 
  5. The date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized. 
FSIS Notice

Kids Sick from Poisonous Mushrooms - The Potential Perils of Community Gardens

Seventeen school-aged children became sick after eating poisonous mushrooms.  According to the report, "...a volunteer thought the mushroom - later identified as green-spored parasol, a common poisonous wild mushroom - was an edible part of the garden. Seventeen students ate it and suffered various symptoms. Several of the students had severe reactions."

Community gardens are great for learning, but it is important to remember that the food safety basics still apply.    And for those that put the effort into planning, growing, and harvesting, effort has to go into training.   While this incident with poisonous mushrooms is probably a worst case scenario (having a truly uninformed volunteer give kids poisonous mushrooms), there are still other areas that need attention, including all the components of GAPs - good agricultural practices to include fertilizing properly, washing hands, washing produce before consumption, using potable water for watering, and cleaning food contact surfaces.  It is too easy to see where people get stupid ideas - fertilizing food with fresh manure (manure needs to be properly composted), watering crops from a pond or a unclean rain bucket (where that water is harboring harmful bacteria), etc.   It must be remembered that many of those visiting or consuming from these gardens are children.  Pre-school aged children, considered 'high risk', are of most concern because their immune systems are still under development.

Unlike a person's home garden, these foods go to a broad group of people, often outside of those people who were involved in growing and harvesting. It is the responsibility of those involved in growing and harvesting to follow practices that will minimize risk.

The Packer
L.A. school district issues safety alert on wild mushrooms after students fall ill
By Ashley Nickle September 26, 2016 | 4:55 pm EDT

Chicken Nuggets Recalled Due to Plastic Pieces

Tyson is recalling 132, 520 pounds of cooked chicken nuggets for plastic pieces.  Product was packed in an institutional 20lb size that was shipped to Pennsylvania and the 5lb retail pack was shipped nationally.

The recall was initiated after consumer complaints were made.  According to the report "the plastic material ranged in size from 21mm in length and 6.5mm in diameter and may have come from a round, hard plastic rod used to connect a plastic transfer belt. The firm said the products pass through a metal detector, but the plastic is not detectable to this technology".
In May, Foster Farms recalled chicken nuggets due to foreign material.  And in March, Purdue recalled chicken nuggets due to plastic pieces.  In 2014, Tyson recalled chicken nuggets due to plastic pieces.  It may make sense for those making chicken nuggets to invest in X-ray technology.

FSIS Recall Notice
Tyson Foods Inc. Recalls Chicken Nugget Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 089-2016
Health Risk: High Sep 27, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ham Products Recalled Due to Foreign Material

A Canadian company is recalling ham products after a complaint was received that there were rubber pieces in the ham.  These restructured hams are fully cooked / ready-to-eat.  The meat items were imported into the US and were sold at Costco and Sam's club


FSIS Recall Notice
502 Boundary Blvd. Recalls Black Forest Ham Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 085-2016
Health Risk: Low Sep 21, 2016

Blue Bell Recalls Two Ice Cream Products due to Potential Listeria Contamination

Blue Bell Ice Cream is recalling two flavors of product for potential Listeria contamination.  There have been no illnesses reported.  According to the company's press release, product was shipped to 10 states, primarily in the Southeast US.

Last year, Blue Bell shut down its 3 plants after their ice cream product was linked to a Listeria outbreak where 10 people were infected.  The company reopened the plants with increased controls and under increased government scrutiny.  In January of 2016, the company issued a release that their controls were effective, although they were still finding Listeria in the environment.

In this particular case, it looks as though the supplier of the cookie dough, Aspen Hills, may be at fault.  Blue Bell discovered the issue through testing of incoming products and notified Aspen Hills who then issued a recall.  This recall notice is posted on the Blue Bell website.  Unfortunately, product was released before these test results came to light.  Although Blue Bell states they do test and hold (product is not released before results come back), that test and hold looks to have been focused on finished product testing (and perhaps not ingredient testing?).

Of course this cookie dough is not technically raw.  It is product that is made to resemble raw cookie dough, but is a ready-to-eat product.  Being that it is ready-to-eat, it should be free of pathogens such as Listeria.

KHOU News Release
Blue Bell recalls ice cream over listeria concerns Staff , KHOU 11:59 PM. EST September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Goat Cheese Recalled Due to Listeria Positive Sample

 A small Pennsylvania goat cheese manufacturer is recalling goal cheese products after PA Dept of Ag tested and found Listeria in the product.   No illnesses have been reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Apple Tree Goat Dairy Recalls Four Goat Cheeses Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Eggo Waffles Recalled for Potential Listeria Contamination

Kellogg's is recalling Eggo Waffles after internal testing found a potential for Listeria contamination. While the release did not say exactly where the sample was located, it may have been a positive environmental sample on or near a product contact surface.
FDA Recall Notice
Kellogg Company Recalls Limited Number of Kellogg’s® Eggo® Nutri-Grain® Whole Wheat Waffles Due to Potential Health Risk
For Immediate Release
September 19, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

First Day of Preventive Controls Compliance - What Do You Need to Know

September 19, 2016 marks the compliance day when larger facilities making human food must meet preventive controls and Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements (CGMPs) and larger animal food facilities must meet CGMPs.

So what should one expect?  FDA issued two letters today.  To summarize from the many words in those documents:

At this point, the FDA is still learning so "the FDA’s primary focus will continue to be on education, training and technical assistance to help companies comply with the new requirements." 

Does your Food Safety Plan have to be perfect at this point - "Many businesses of that size already have a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) program; we don’t expect them to need to make many changes to come into compliance. Aspects of the CGMP and preventive controls rules are similar to HACCP, a food safety system that started with industry."

 But FDA will still evaluate the facility in order to make safe products. "The best thing that people in the food industry can do is take the measures required by the new rules – not just the letter of the law but what it represents in terms of transforming the food safety system. They should look at the big picture, at areas in which they could be vulnerable and proactively take action. Promptly responding to problems, even if they aren’t yet violations, can prevent them from getting to the point at which there is a concern about the safety of the food."
"In addition, facilities should set up a thorough system for documenting what they do."

FDA is still learning as well.

FDA News Release
What to Expect Now that the First Big FSMA Compliance Dates Are Here
Questions and Answers with Joann Givens

Backyard Chickens and Eggs - Beware of the Salmonella Risk

In two news stories this week - one on raising chickens at home and the other on eggs from small chicken flocks - there is discussion on the higher risk for Salmonella.

In the Post article, people raising chickens at home threat the chickens more like pets.  Many people will cuddle or kiss baby chicks and nearly half of the patients who contracted Salmonella from the chickens allowed the chickens into the house (and some into the bedroom).

Penn State conducted a large survey looking at the prevalence in Salmonella in eggs which were purchased from farm stands across the state.  These eggs were from small chicken flocks and fall outside of regulations for controlling Salmonella.  The survey found that 2% of the eggs tested were positive for Salmonella.  The contamination was primarily found inside the egg.  For commercial egg producers, this number is less than 0.5%.

Salmonella is a natural contaminate of chickens, and unless carefully controlled, it can be passed to humans through handling of the chickens or through mishandling or undercooking of the eggs.   Commercially, Salmonella is controlled through diet (including probiotics), house maintenance procedures, and Salmonella testing.  With backyard flocks, these controls are normally not in place.  Another risk, not discussed in these articles, is Campylobacter.  This has been shown to have a higher prevalence in small flocks as well.

This is not saying that people should not raise chickens or consume their eggs, but people have to be aware of the risk.  Keep chicken in the coup.  Wash your hands after handling the chicken.  Cook the eggs and the chicken to the proper temperature.  No Rocky breakfast drink with these eggs, not unless you plan your next bout at the American Standard Bowl.

Penn State News
Eggs from small flocks more likely to contain Salmonella enteritidis
By Jeff Mulhollem
September 14, 2016

Coliform Positive Sample in Well Water Results in Product Recall

A PA meat establishment is recalling pork products after inspectors found the facility's water test results had been positive for coliform bacteria.  These test results would classify the water as non-potable.

While the risk is probably low to non-existent (the fresh pork itself would have coliforms), the water used to make that product is deemed as non-potable.  While the presence of coliforms in themselves are not a hazard, their presence could indicate that other pathogenic bacteria could be present.  More importantly, their presence could indicate that  a contamination pathway could exist linking the water supply to a contamination source - surface water, septic system, animal waste, etc.

Corrective action needs to be taken immediately upon these types of results. This is normally done by dosing or shocking the well with chlorine. or even better for protecting a business is continuous disinfection.
FSIS News Release
Bunge's Meats Recalls Pork Products Formulated With Water That Did Not EPA Meet Drinking Water Standards
Class I Recall 082-2016
Health Risk: High Sep 16, 2016 

Monday, September 12, 2016

FDA Issues Warning Letter to RTE Facility with LM Issues

FDA issued a warning letter to a Saranac Foods for an inspection completed in February.  We have seen a number of similar type of Warning letters issued.  In this one, inspectors found LM in a facility making RTE product, and  then conditions that would support the spread of that organism (issues with hose usage, condensation, and airflow).  While the company did respond, the response was lacking in terms of a 'complete' corrective action.
FDA found 3 of 89 samples positive for Listeria monocytogenes. all non-contact but in the ready-to-eat pasta and deli salad production room.
  1. Floor near food carts and the 2-compartment sink;
  2. The floor alongside of the interior legs of stand mixer;
  3. An area of the floor under the 1-compartment sink where a leak is present.
Although the company took corrective action, the FDA stated: FDA is unable to evaluate the adequacy of your response because it does not provide specific details of your corrective actions and steps taken to prevent contamination of food. 
GMP Issues

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hepatitis A in Frozen Strawberries Infects 89 People

CDC reported that 89 people contracted Hepatitis A from frozen strawberries.  The outbreak was initially reported two weeks by the Virginia Department of Health.  In most all cases, the infections were linked to the strawberries being served in smoothie drinks served by Tropical Smoothie CafĂ©.

Smoothies, the blending of fruits and vegetables into a nutritious yet tasty beverage, can be an issue if any of the fruit and vegetable ingredients harbor pathogenic bacteria.  The risk can be made worse if the smoothie product is temperature abused.  The hard part when buying from a commercial smoothie producer is knowing where they source their ingredients.  In the past, had been an issue pomegranate sourced from the middle east.  That too was a source of Hepatitis A.

CDC Outbreak
August 2016 - Multistate outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries
Posted September 8, 2016 10:15 AM ET

At a Glance
Case Count: 89
States: 7
Deaths: 0
Hospitalizations: 39

The Rise of the Grocerant and Addressing Food Safety Issues

An article in the Wall Street Journal addresses the food safety issues for grocers that are moving into more sophisticated prepared meals to-go.  These hybrid operations, dubbed 'grocerants' by some, are both grocery store and restaurant.  As consumers demand more of these fresh ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat offerings, store operations will  have to address the food safety challenges that comes with these types of processes.

According to the graphic in the article, sushi and soups are currently the type two types of foods.  But there is an increase in operations making more complex meals.
Here are some of the challenges:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Who Knew This Poop - The Dangers of Raccoon Feces

In this edition of MMWR, we learn that raccoon feces can be a source of a particularly dangerous roundworm - Baylisascaris procyonis.  It can lead to severe neurologic issues, including blindness, or even death if it is not treated rapidly.

The worm's eggs are passed in raccoon feces and can remain infectious for  months.  People, including children, become infected when soil or materials contaminated with raccoon poop containing the eggs are accidently ingested, such as when children stick their fingers in their mouths after playing with little logs in the dirt.

There have not been many cases of this in the US, but this is some serious poop.  Who the heck wants to go blind from raccoon infested poop?    So if you have raccoons scurrying around your yard at night, perhaps they found that special spot to use as a latrine (aka potty), then time to take some corrective action.  A number of websites offer solutions to rid your homestead of that pesky worm-ridden procyonid .  And sure, some of those solutions may work, but this is what you really need - the Black and Tan Coon Hound.

Might just need to get one as a preventive environmental preventive control.  (That's  FSPCA, not SPCA).  So one of the best dogs known to man or blindness?..I think that is an easy choice.

Raccoon Roundworm Infection Associated with Central Nervous System Disease and Ocular Disease — Six States, 2013–2015

Internet Soups Recalled Due to Improper Process

A New York firm is recalling soup packed in jars after FDA found that the company was not using validated processes.  The product were marketed and sold via the internet.

By regulation, companies processing canned soups, which are generally low acid canned foods, must have a validated (or tested) process and that process must be filed with the FDA.  With more companies using non-traditional channels to sell products, such as the internet or farmers' markets,  it is easier for companies to get products into commerce and avoid oversight.  Then we end up with cases like this.

A process must be validated to show it can achieve a 12 log reduction of Clostridium botulinum spores.  If a process has not been validated to accomplish this, then is impossible to know whether the product will be safe.  Validation includes determining where the cold point is on the jar and then determining the processing time needed in order to achieve sufficient amount of heat at that cold spot.

Looking at the Island Soup website and the Team page, there seems to be a lot of chiefs, but no technical person listed as part of the team.  This too is occurring more often.  Entrepreneurs come up with new products, but fail to research them properly.

FDA Website
Island Soups Company, Inc. Recalls Six Varieties of Island Soups Brand Products Because of Possible Contamination With Clostridium Botulinum
For Immediate Release
September 7, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wisconsin Dairy Recalls Cottage Cheese Due to Possible Under-Pasteurization

A Wisconsin dairy is recalling cottage cheese after the state tested and found alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme naturally present in raw milk that is used as a measure of pasteurization in that it should be eliminated if processed properly.  Since the enzyme was found to be present, this would mean that the milk used to make the cottage cheese was not properly pasteurized, and because of that, foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella could be present.  It seems the dairy tested the cottage cheese and found no pathogens.


In reading the notice posted on the FDA website, it is hard to determine what the issue is.  Going back to the Warning Notice published by WI Dept. of Ag, the issue is better detailed.

FDA Recall Notice
Westby Cooperative Creamery Issues a Voluntary Product Retrieval Notice on a Specific, Single Production Lot of Cottage Cheese Product
For Immediate Release
August 27, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

FDA Draft Guidance - Hazard Analysis Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Foods

On 9/23/16, FDA issued the Draft Guidance for Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Foods.   The guidance was put together to help people who are developing their FDA mandated Food Safety Plan. It can be found here.

Upon review, this document will serve as a resource for those writing their plans.  For those who took the FSPCA training, you will find that this document pretty much mirrors the FSPCA Participant Manual.  In fact, many of the tables are the same ones found in the FSPCA Participant Manual. 

This is a draft guidance, so FDA will be taking comments and making modifications.  Hard to imagine there will be any major revisions.

FDA Website
Draft Guidance for Industry: Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food

Cashew Product Recalled Due to Possible Allergen Contamination with Peanuts

 An Ohio Company is recalling 10 ounce stand-up pouches (SUPs) of cashews after it was determined that there could be peanuts present.

While peanuts and cashews are both allergens, they are not the same allergens.  Thus this is an allergen issue and requires corrective action.  There can be some cross-reactivity - people who are allergic to one can  be allergic to the other.  

Cross contact of peanuts and tree nuts can be an issue in facilities that handle both types of nuts.

FDA Recall Notice
Kanan Enterprises Conducts Voluntary Recall of Cashews with Sea Salt
For Immediate Release

September 3, 2016

Ravioli and Brownies Recalled After Complaints of Plastic Pieces

Two different recalls were initiated after consumer complaints were registered about plastic pieces found in the product.  One was for ravioli containing white plastic and the other was for small pieces of plastic in Entenmann’s muffins and brownies.

The recalls are unrelated.  No injuries have been reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Wegmans Announces Voluntary Recall for One Date Code of Wegmans Italian Classics Striped Ricotta & Spinach Ravioli, Which May Contain Pieces of White Plastic
For Immediate Release
September 2, 2016

Chocolate Products Recalled After a Positive Salmonella Result Found

A Pennsylvania firm is recalling chocolate products after one internal test result was positive for Salmonella.  There have been no illnesses reported.

FDA Recall Notice
Asher's Chocolates/Lewistown, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Candy Products Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
September 2, 2016