Friday, June 23, 2017

US Stops Imported Beef from Brazil for Food Safety Concerns

The US has stopped all importation of fresh beef from Brazil for food safety concerns.  Brazil is the fifth largest exporter of beef to the US.  Since an investigation into the Brazilian meat industry in March, the US has been inspecting all meat products from that country, refusing 11% of those shipments due to "public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues."

USA Today
US bans Brazil beef imports over food safety concerns
Roger Yu , USA TODAY
Published 8:39 a.m. ET June 23, 2017 | Updated 0 minutes ago

Drain Decontamination Using Chlorine Dioxide Pods

Our good friend Dr. Mark Berrang shared his recent research on decontaminating floor drains with chlorine dioxide pods.  This may be useful for many facilities beyond the poultry processing facilities where the research was conducted, especially those facilities that have problems with drain backups. This method was able to achieve a 8.7 log reduction in the drain water and 6.7 log reduction of cells attached to drain piping.

Contact me if you want a copy of the paper or the supplier contact used in this research. (we of course, are not endorsing any one supplier).

JAPR Research Report

Self-contained chlorine dioxide generation and delivery pods for decontamination of floor drains

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NY Nut and Fruit Processor Source of Listeria Related Recalls

Over the past several days, many of the listeria - nut/dried fruit recalls have been linked to a company called HVF, Inc. AKA - Hudson Valley Farms. This includes the recent hummus recall due to pine nuts from HVF as well as other recalls such as protein bars from GoMarco, granola products from New England Bakers, and Protein Bars and Bits from Bulletproof 360. It is hard to tell what the ultimate source of these recalls, but clearly HVF is a major link, if not the primary source.

Here again is what appears to be an ingredient supply issue that triggers recalls among a number of further processing facilities.  In this case, the ingredient was produced by a very small processing facility - what kind of supplier controls were in place?  How legitimate is this supplier?

One concern was that the supplier information was not readily available online.  No website was present - was it there and taken down, or was there never one to start?  Wouldn't it be better to have a supplier who is there when there is an issue and to state the nature of the issue on their website?

It was difficult to tell the scope of the operation. According to a story in the Miami Herald, HVF is a company of 10 people or less. Looking further, it appears to be part of a larger group with the parent appearing to be a company called Bedemco, an importer of nut and fruit products.  HVF may just be a packing facility for this family run company.

Hummus Product Recalled For Potential Listeria in Pinenut Topping

 A TN company, House of Taller, is recalling hummus product with pine nut toppings after the pine nut topping after they were notified by the pine nut supplier that Listeria may be present on that ingredient.   The supplier is HVF (Hudson Valley Farms) /Bedemco.

Recalled House of Taller product is under the Marketside label which is sold at Walmart, the Fresh Foods Market Artisan brand and Latana brand. (What qualifies something as artisan? Nothing really, just our next overused marketing label.)
FDA Recall Notice
House of Thaller Recalls Selected Pine Nut Hummus Products Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2017

Monday, June 19, 2017

CDC Report - National Botulism Surveillance Summary 2015

CDC released the summary of botulism cases for 2015.  Botulism is the disease caused by the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum.  The toxin is a neurotoxin that stops neurotransmission resulting in paralysis, or loss in muscle function.  Botulism poisoning can result in death if not treated.  In most cases, it will result in hospitalization with the patient on a breathing apparatus due to loss in the ability to breath (paralysis of diaphragm).

The type we are most familiar is foodborne botulism where the organism grows in the food producing toxin.  But there is also infant botulism where the organism becomes part of the intestinal microflora of an infant.  A similar issue can happen in adults when their intestine is subject to colonization due to illness associated with antibiotic administration and decline of normal intestinal microflora.  Wound botulism occurs when the organism gets into a would and begins to grow.

The largest amount of cases reported in 2015 were infant botulism (141).  No deaths were reported.

There were 39 confirmed cases of foodborne botulism.  The one outbreak occurred when improperly canned potatoes were used to make potato salad at a church potluck dinner.  This resulted in 27 cases.
Another outbreak was associated with fermented seal flipper (4 cases), and then another was associated with beets roasted in aluminum foil and kept at room temperature for several days then made into a soup (2 cases).

National Botulism Surveillance Summary 2015
An overview of national botulism surveillance is available at:

Pet Treats Recall Expanded to Include Private Label Products - Controlling Overseas Co-packers

United Pets is expanding their initial recall of raw hide pet treats to now include private label products including Companion, Dentley's, Enzadent or Dentahex, Essential Everyday, Exer-Hides, Good Lovin' or Petco, Hill Country Fare, and Priority Pet.  The products are being recalled because the foreign manufacturing facility sanitized the product with quaternary ammonium or Quat.  Quat is a surface sanitizer and is not made to be used directly on food for dogs (or humans).

This case points out the concerns for companies who have another company co-pack their product in facilities outside the country.  One would have expected contracted company, in this case United Pet, would have been controlling those facilities to a point where product produced was compliant with US regulations, or even generally accepted practices.  As the purchasing clients, completing a hazard analysis to take into account unexpected, unacceptable practices can be difficult to impossible without an onsite visit by a trusted, knowledgeable auditor.

FDA Recall Notice
United Pet Group Expands Voluntary Recall of Multiple Brands of Rawhide Chew Products for Dogs to Also Include Private Label Brands Due to Possible Chemical Contamination
For Immediate Release
June 16, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Amazon Acquires Whole Foods announced that it was purchasing Whole Foods Markets today.   The food landscape continues to change in surprising ways.

Produce News
Amazon to acquire Whole Foods in $13.7 billion deal
June 16, 2017

Various Nut Based Products Recalled Due to Listeria

There have been a number of recalls over the past week for nut based products for Listeria.  All recalls state that there was a supplier issue.  One would guess that most, if not all recalls are related to the same supplier.
  • NOW Health Group, Inc. (NOW), of Bloomingdale, Illinois, is expanding the voluntary recall of various nut butters.
  • NEW ENGLAND NATURAL BAKERS of Greenfield MA, is issuing a voluntary recall of various granola products.
  • The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today announced it has expanded the recall of its 12 oz. packages of Simple Truth Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts
  • Wildway LLC is voluntarily recalling certain grain-free granola
  • GoMacro, of Viola, Wis., is recalling a limited number of MacroBars and Thrive Bars
  • Bulletproof 360, Inc. (“Bulletproof”) of Bellevue, Washington is recalling five Collagen Protein Bar and Bite products
Another recall that may be related is one for dry fruit products.

  • Publix Super Markets is issuing a voluntary recall for Publix Tropical Medley Mix because it may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. Publix received notification of the potential contamination from our supplier of dried apricot.

Dry products listed here will not support the growth of Listeria, so then the question of risk is based on the amount of Listeria present.  Therefore, this probably represents a low risk.
NOW Health Group Inc. Expands Voluntary Recall of Ellyndale® Nutty Infusions™ Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
June 16, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Breading Recall for Milk Allergens Due to Cross Contact in Processing

Newly Weds Foods issued a statement that their recall for breading, which caused a number of food processors to issue a recall, was due to cross contact in the manufacturing practice at their Massachusetts manufacturing facility.  The issue was discovered by one of their seafood customers. There were other meat and poultry recalls that resulted with more than 1.3 millions pounds of product.
Newly Weds Foods issues statement on breading-related recalls 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Breading Supplier Recall Due to Undeclared Milk Allergens Impacts Many Processors

Newly Wed Foods, a large supplier of breading as an ingredient, announced a recall of their product that has impacted a large number of companies that make breaded food items, forcing those companies to issue recalls.  The reason is that the breading ingredient(s) had milk allergen in them which was not declared on the labels.  The overall impact has been huge, with millions of pounds of various products being recalled.

Here is a list of companies posting recalls.
  • Giant Eagle, Inc. has announced a voluntary recall of Market District Toasted Crumb Tilapia and Giant Eagle Toasted Crumb Tilapia sold fresh from the seafood department of its supermarkets, and Giant Eagle Breaded Chicken Breast sold in the prepared foods department, due to an undeclared milk allergen.
  • Slade Gorton, Boston, MA is recalling the following products because they may contain undeclared milk. 
  • Packer Avenue Foods, Inc., a Philadelphia, Pa., establishment, is recalling approximately 9,690 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken salad due to misbranding and undeclared allergens,.....The products could contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label. 
  • Conagra Brands, Inc., a Milton, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 717,338 pounds of spaghetti and meatball products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens,....... known allergen which is not declared on the product label. 
  • Gourmet Boutique LLC, with establishments in Jamaica, N.Y. and Phoenix, Ariz., is recalling approximately 294,744 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, ... The products could contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label. 
  • Pork King Sausage, a New York, N.Y., establishment, is recalling approximately 44,035 pounds of raw sausage link products due to misbranding and undeclared allergen,....The products could contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label.
  • Advance Pierre Foods, Inc., a Portland, Maine establishment, is recalling approximately 54,699 pounds of chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, ....The products could contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label. 
  • Maid-Rite Specialty Foods, LLC., a Dunmore, Penn. establishment, is recalling approximately 174,000 pounds of various beef products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens.....The products contain milk, a known allergen, which is not declared on the products labels. Tyson Foods Inc., a New Holland, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 2,485,374 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) breaded chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens
  • Aldon Food Corporation, a Schwenksville, Pa. establishment, is recalling approximately 18,570 pounds of chicken salad due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, 
  • Water Lilies Food Inc., a Astoria, N.Y., establishment, is recalling approximately 4,335 pounds of ready-to-eat breaded chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens
  • Safeway stores in Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. are recalling deli-prepared fried chicken. Safeway was informed by Newlyweds Foods that the blended bread coating that it provided Safeway to make fried chicken included milk, which was not disclosed as an ingredient.
Breading is used both as a coating as well as added into the product (meatballs).  Breading and powder based coatings including pre-dust,  can include egg, dairy, wheat, corn, soy depending on the formula.  A supplier such as Newly Wed probably has hundreds of breading and coating formulas, and their labels must match the allergens listed.  Their customers, those food processors, depend on Newly Wed to control the allergens so that only those listed on the labels are actually in the product. When an allergen containing ingredient not listed on the official formula and ingredient package label accidentally gets into the product, then this creates an allergen mismatch for all of their processing customers.

USDA Recall Notice
News Release
Tyson Foods Inc. Recalls Ready-To-Eat Breaded Chicken Products Due to Misbranding and Undeclared Allergens
Class I Recall 067-2017
Health Risk: High 
Jun 9, 2017

Pet Treats Recalled Due to Use of QUAT as a Product Application

United Pet is recalling various rawhide chew products for dogs after it was found that the foreign suppliers were using QUAT to treat the products as a microbial reduction.  Quaternary Ammonium products are used as a sanitizer for food contact surfaces, but not for application to items that will be consumed.

In the report, "United Pet Group received very limited reports of pet illness based on the volume of possibly affected rawhide chew products manufactured and distributed. The primary complaint received from consumers was that the affected product had an unpleasant odor. Diarrhea and vomiting were also reported.  Exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds through direct ingestion may cause the following symptoms in dogs: reduced appetite, and gastric irritation including diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms may require treatment by a veterinarian depending on severity."

Of course you can not use a food contact sanitizer on a food unless the use has been approved.

FDA Recall Notice
United Pet Group Voluntary Recalls Multiple Brands of Rawhide Chew Products for Dogs Due to Possible Chemical Contamination
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2017

Club Chef Recalls Produce Items Due to the Potential To Contain Listeria

Club Chef is recalling its snack kits and salad items.     The kits are retail items sold under the Kroger and Club Chef brand.  Club Chef is also recalling onions sold as a part of numerous foodservice items distributed through US Foods.

The recall notice on the  kit items stated that it comes after the company's own internal environmental testing found Listeria in the processing environment.

The US Foods recall impacted our local school district, so it probably impacted a number of foodservice operations across the country.

FDA Recall Notice
Club Chef LLC Announces Recall of Limited Number of Snack Kits
For Immediate Release
June 8, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Miami Company Recalls Queso Fresco Cheese Due to Listeria

A Miami company is recalling Queso Fresco cheese due to the potential for Listeria.   Queso Fresco, or 'fresh cheese' is a Mexican style soft cheese normally made from unpasteurized milk.   Listeria contamination has been a problem with this style of cheese.  CDC has a fact sheet warning pregnant women to avoid this type of cheese because of the Listeria concern.  Over time, there has been a number of recalls associated with this and similar types of cheese.

FDA Recall Notice
Global Garlic Inc. Recalls "Queso Freso/Whole Milk Cheese" Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
May 30, 2017

Bakery Recall Pepperoni Rolls After Receiving Foreign Object Complaints

An Ohio establishment is recalling 3.000 lbs of frozen, ready-to-eat, beef and pork pepperoni rolls  a bakery product, after receiving three complaints of clear meat casings in the product.  So did someone not remove the casing from the pepperoni before slicing?

USDA Recall Notice
P&S Bakery, Inc. Recalls Pepperoni Product Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 058-2017

Health Risk: High Jun 2, 2017
En Español

Congressional and Public Affairs Gabrielle N. Johnston (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2017– P&S Bakery, Inc., a Poland, Ohio establishment, is recalling approximately 2,959 pounds of pepperoni product that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically clear meat casing utilized in food production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

FDA Delays Compliance Dates for Agricultural Water as Part of FSMA Produce Safety Rule

The FDA announced that it is planning to extend the deadline for compliance to agricultural water standards used in irrigation as part of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule .  Irrigation water can be a source of pathogens, but it is not an easy to control, especially when that water comes from surface waters.  Work done here at Penn State by Luke LaBorde etal (ref below) found that it was hard to make a connection between water standards and pathogen levels.  So testing water to see if it meets standards that may not mean much in terms of the pathogens present.  It is easy to see how environmental factors will constantly change...whether that be the occasional presence of animals, the amount of rainfall, the amount of sunshine, etc.

For more information on irrigation water, visit the Penn State Extension Website -

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Updates
FDA Intends to Extend Compliance Dates for Agricultural Water Standards

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it is exploring ways to simplify the agricultural water standards established by the Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) produce safety rule (PSR) after receiving feedback from stakeholders that some of the requirements are too complex to understand and implement.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Backyard Chicken Flocks Result in Numerous Salmonella Outbreaks

CDC reports that since the beginning of this year, there have been 8 Salmonella outbreaks related to backyard chickens. Within that, there have been 372 people infected and 71 of those cases resulting in hospitalization.

Poultry is a risk for Salmonella as well as Campylobacter.  People with backyard flocks, they are apt to treat the birds more as pets than farm animals, and with that, forget the need for proper personal hygiene including proper washing of hands, changing of clothes that are poop stained, and even removing shoes after stepping in bird dropping.  And even further, people increase the risk when they allow the birds to come inside their house or they snuggle with the birds.

CDC Zoontotic Diseases - Outbreak Advisory
Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in Backyard Flocks, 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Canadian Produced Flour Recalled for E. coli O121

Smucker Foods of Canada is recalling flour produced at Ardent Mills in Saskatoon SK, Canada for the potential to be contaminated by E. coli O121.  Impacted product is packaged in 20 lb. paper bags and was distributed nationwide to 19 distributors and two small retailers.  There have been no reported illnesses in the US.

This recall relates to a Canadian recall issued in March.  This recall was expanded in April to include product produced by Ardent Mills.

FDA Recall Notice
Smucker Foods of Canada Corp. Announces a Voluntary Recall on Select Golden Temple®, Swad®, and Maya® Flour Products in the U.S. Due to Possible E. Coli 0121 Contamination
For Immediate Release

May 31, 2017

CDC Report - Fourteen Consume Toxic Mushrooms in California

From CDC - In December of 2016, there were 14 cases of mushroom poisoning that took place in California.  "Eleven patients recovered, although three required liver transplants because of irreversible fulminant hepatic failure. One of those patients, a child, developed cerebral edema and suffered permanent neurologic sequelae."

Weather conditions provided conditions for Amanita phalloides, also known as  “death cap", to grow in the region.  The primary toxin, α-amanitin, causes damage to liver and kidney.  The toxin is heat stable and so is not destroyed by cooking.  It is interesting to note that people are initially sick with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, then feel better, then are sick again with potential kidney damage.

Amanita is mistaken for edible Agaricus (wood mushrooms or field mushrooms).
Source -

Deathcap in a spruce wood, West Wales
Amanita phalloides - Death Cap (

Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris, in Wales
Agaricus campestris L. - Field Mushroom (
Agaricus silvicola - Wood Mushroom
Agaricus silvicola  - Wood Mushroom (

It is important that people who pick wild mushrooms can properly identify them.  If someone gives you mushrooms.....just don't take them unless you know without a doubt that they can properly identify mushrooms, or you can properly identify wild mushrooms.

CDC - MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Amanita phalloides Mushroom Poisonings — Northern California, December 2016
Weekly / June 2, 2017 / 66(21);549–553

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Preparing for a FSMA Audit from FoodOnline

A recent article in FoodOnline (an informative online journal you should subscribe to if you haven't already) discusses how Kraft Heinz prepares for FDA FSMA inspections. A few key points brought up in this article are similar to what we have been hearing about from our industry friends about their recent audits.

A summary of what this company's regulatory affairs manager discussed about their company's experiences:
  • 'Inspectors are calling these ‘routine FSMA inspections' and are not distinguishing between Preventive Controls and modernized GMP inspections' 
  • These audits are generally more focused on high-risk products.
  • Auditors had visited 7 of these audits - one full Preventive Controls inspection and six modernized GMP audits.
  • Generally there are three inspectors.
  • Audits have lasted 1 to 5 days, mostly 4 to 5 days.
  • Four of the seven audits included swabathons (100 to 150 swabs), which included Zone 1 (30%), Zone 2 (20%) and Zone 3 (50%).  No zone 4.
  • There is a focus on the company's environmental monitoring program including the records and corrective actions on positvie results.
  • With regard to verification activities, they are focusing on records including corrective action logs, production schedules, sanitation records, and calibrating inspection equipment records.
  • With regard to the Preventive Control plan, inspectors are reviewing the hazard analysis with questions on the justification behind each of the identified hazards.
  • There is also a review of the written recall plan.
  • Recently there is attention on the supply chain program.
  • Review of handling of byproducts used for animal feed, consumer complaint handling, and FSPCA training looking for certificates of completion.
An interesting item in the article is that FDA will want to take photos in the facility, so a company needs to have a policy to address this.  The same goes with photocopying records.

Source: Food Online 
Inside Kraft Heinz's FSMA Inspection Readiness 
By Sam Lewis, associate editor
Follow Me On Twitter @SamIAmOnFood

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Breakfast Sausage Recalled Due to the Potential for Metal Foreign Material

A Kansas establishment is recalling 90,000 lbs of RTE breakfast sausage for metal pieces after "another FSIS-regulated establishment that pieces of metal were embedded in a fully cooked sausage product".

Over the past year, there has been an increasing amount of recalls due to foreign objects.  While these foreign objects may not result in any major injuries, the cost of conducting a recall warrants companies putting in more effort in foreign object control.  This goes beyond just having a metal detector installed into the process.

First, many metal detectors do not get the attention they need.  A really nice guide for metal detectors is "The Guide to Reducing Metal Contamination in the Food Processing Industry" published by Safeline.  

X-ray equipment is much more affordable than it once was, and it can pick-up items metal detectors can't, such as glass, hard plastic, stones, etc.  They are even suitable for metal and foil containers.

But detection is just one part of a foreign object control program.  Other important elements include raw material inspection, preventive maintenance, employee training to prevent accidental drops, and controls at ingredient addition steps to prevent foreign material from packaging and inline preventive devices such as magnets and sifters.

All of these systems need to be properly maintained and verified for performance.  Additionally, consumer complaints must be reviewed with an investigation and appropriate corrective action for any foreign material issues.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
Armour Eckrich Meats, LLC Recalls Ready-To-Eat Sausage Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 054-2017
Health Risk: Low 
May 24, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Packaged Salad Items Recalled Due to Metal Pieces from Construction

A NY based produce company is recalling salad products due to the potential for metal pieces.  The metal was said to be generated from construction activities. 

Many facilities carryout construction activities while they are producing products.  However, it is critical to protect product from contamination.  Metal pieces can easily be shot over wide areas during construction activities such as grinding and wielding.

BrightFarms is an interesting company.   Based in NY, the company is building huge hydroponic greenhouses in various market areas in order to grow produce locally to supply those markets.  [Story below].

FDA Recall Notice
Brightfarms Announces Voluntary Regional Recall of Produce Due to Potential Presence of Metal Pieces From Construction
For Immediate Release
May 18, 2017

One Man Dead, A Mom Still Hospitalized after Three Weeks, Both Consumed Contaminated Nacho Cheese Sauce

One woman's story, associated with the botulism in gas station nacho sauce case, highlights the issues for someone with botulism poisoning.  A few hours after eating Doritos drizzled with nacho cheese sauce, she felt fatigue and by the next day, she had blurred vision followed by vomiting and difficulty in breathing.  These symptoms are caused by the  neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum as it grew in the nacho cheese sauce. Once the toxin contaminated food is consumed, "Botulinum toxin causes flaccid paralysis by blocking motor nerve terminals at the neuromuscular junction. The flaccid paralysis progresses symmetrically downward, usually starting with the eyes and face, to the throat, chest, and extremities. When the diaphragm and chest muscles become fully involved, respiration is inhibited and, without intervention, death from asphyxia results". (FDA Bad Bug Book)

There has also been one death being associated with the tainted nacho cheese.  A man had been on life support.  This has not yet been confirmed by State officials.

There are now 10 people that have been affected from eating at this establishment.

Sacramento Bee
Mom put nacho cheese on her Doritos. Three weeks later, she’s still in the hospital.
By Sammy Caiola
May 16, 2017

Meat Processor Recalls Hot Dogs After Receiving Three Complaints for Metal

An Ohio meat processor is recalling 210,000 lbs of  hot dogs after 'the establishment received three complaints of metal objects in the beef frank product package'.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
John Morrell and Co. Recalls Beef Frank Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 052-2017
Health Risk: Low May 19, 2017

WA Institutional Food Processor Recalls Food After Learning of Water Contamination Issue

A Washington state establishment which manufacturers food for correctional facilities, senior centers, and county jails, is recalling 319, 000 lbs of food after being notified by the local water authority that the well water used to manufacture their products may be contaminated with hazardous chemicals. This contamination issue also affects the local city's drinking water.

The chemicals, Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), originated from the local Air Force base where they were used in fire fighting spray.  While these chemicals are above EPA standards, there are no food safety regulations. The EPA classifies these as emerging contaminants.with a limit of 70 parts per trillion.  The wells were found to have 1100 parts per trillion.  The chemicals do not have an acute affect at this level, but the concern is for cumulative exposure where they can cause liver damage, cancer, among other negative health affects.  

It is important to understand where a facility's water comes from and potential contamination issues, even if it is municipal water and/or well water.  Are the wells in areas where there has been past contamination issues?  What is the depth of the well?  How often is the water monitored and what is it monitored for?

UDSA /FSIS Recall Notice
Correctional Industries Airway Heights Food Operations Recalls Frozen Meat and Poultry Products Due to Water Contamination
Class II Recall 053-2017
Health Risk: Low May 20, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nacho Cheese Sauce Probable Source of Gas Station Botulism Cases

Public Health officials in CA believe the source of the botulism cases that occurred from eating at a gas station to be the nacho cheese sauce product.  Most cheese sauce products are made to be shelf-stable for distribution, but once opened, most products may need to be stored at the proper temperatures (outside of the temperature danger zone) to prevent growth. Much of this depends on the formulation (pH, Aw, preservatives).  They also have to be protected against cross contamination.

It difficult to tell whether these product were not properly formulated or were improperly held,  One could guess that the cheese sauce was not properly stored or handled after opening, allowing for a small amount of contamination to grow.  It may have been transferred from a pouch to a canister or serving trey.  For Clostridium botulinun, intoxication to occur, the organism would need to grow in number to produce sufficient toxin.  The product itself would need to be formulated to allow growth and that product would also need to be held at improper temperatures, most likely in the upper part of the temperature danger zone (70F to 125F).

With a thick product like this, people may assume it is like ketchup or mustard that can be left at room temperature after opening....not unless it was formulated that way.  Generally cheese sauce have a higher pH and Aw.   Another potential issue can occur if these products are modified in any way.  Adding peppers or other raw ingredients can be an issue.  Adding water to the product can also be an issue....such as might be the case if the product thickened up after sitting on the hot bar all day.

Sacramento Bee
Nacho cheese to blame for rare botulism outbreak at Sacramento area gas station
By Sammy Caiola
May 10, 2017

Canadian Firm Recalls Frozen Breaded Chicken Products for Potential Staph Aureus Enterotoxin

A Canadian firm is recalling breaded chicken products for Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin.  Product was distributed in Ontario.  No illnesses have been reported.

The issue with Staphylococcus is that the organism  can grow in the batter if that batter is temperature abused.  As the organism grows to high numbers, it produced a heat stable toxin.  So once there, the fryer used to set the coasting at the manufacturing facility as well as any cooking done in the home by the consumer will not eliminate that toxin.. It is critical (thus a CCP / Process Preventive Control) for facilities to control batter temperature throughout the day.

Food Recall Warning - Various breaded chicken products recalled by Maple Leaf Foods due to a toxin produced by Staphylococcus bacteria
Recall date:May 9, 2017 
Reason for recall:Microbiological - Staphylococcus aureus .

Fresh Bagged Spinach Recalled for Listeria Contamination

A KY company is recalling bags of fresh spinach after being notified by their supplier partner that the spinach may have Listeria contamination.  According to the report, "The products were distributed in North Carolina, Illinois, Kentucky and West Virginia and distributed through retail stores, wholesale and foodservice distributors."

FDA Recall notice
The Horton Fruit Company, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Fresh Spinach Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
May 12, 2017

Frozen Peas Recalled After Sample Tests Positive for Listeria

A Wisconsin frozen food company is recalling frozen peas after product was tested by the State of Florida and found to contain Listeria.

While we would expect that someone would cook frozen peas, which if done according to instructions, would eliminate Listeria, people may not always do that.  Or they may use them as raw in specific applications such as pea salad or in a smoothie.

FDA Recall Notice
Lakeside Foods, Inc. Recalls Season's Choice Frozen Sweet Peas Because of Possible Health RiskFor Immediate Release
April 11, 2017

RTE Burrito Products Recalled for Listeria Contamination.

A New Mexico food company is recalling 252,000 lbs of frozen burrito products after FSIS testing found a Listeria positive product sample.  The product is classified as a ready-to-eat product, and as a ready-to-eat product, the company would need to have an active Listeria control program.   With this much product recalled, it probably was not that 'active'.

The directions are heat-and-serve for both frozen and thawed product.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
Green Chile Food Company Recalls Meat and Poultry Burrito Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 050-2017
Health Risk: High 
May 13, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Home Delivered Meat - Buyer Beware

A recent study conducted by RU and TSU looks at issues involving meat shipped to homes via home delivery systems such as meal kits.   These issues include:
  • A wide range of temperatures upon receipt, ranging from (-)23F to 75F.  Much of the issue was related to the type of coolant (dry ice best, gel packs worst) and the amount of insulating packaging material surrounding the product.
  • Most home delivery companies did not require receipt upon delivery, which means that product can sit on the front porch until the home owner realizes it is there.  This can be an issue when the product is shipped as a surprise gift, so the recipient is not expecting it.
  • Home delivery companies did not have food safety information on their website
  • Products were not properly labeled to indicate the type of meat.
  • Microbial loads varied greatly. Pathogen loads varied greatly.
The authors stated that the bigger, better known companies did a better job, but with many companies entering the business channel, there may be more concern.

In the end, buyer beware.

Study of meat from home delivery services shows disturbing results
By Rita Jane Gabbett on 5/11/2017

Spinach Dip Recalled after Complaints of Small Glass Fragments

Publix Super Markets is recalling deli packs of artichoke and spinach dip after receiving complaints of small glass fragments in the product.  Product was distributed to 6 states in the Southeast US.

We have not seen many glass related outbreaks recently outside of product packed in glass containers.

FDA Recall Notice
Publix Recalls Private Label Brand of Deli Artichoke and Spinach Dip Due to Possible Health Risk

May 8, 2017

CDC Report - 2016 E.coli (STEC) Outbreak Linked to Stream Water Contaminated with Deer Feces

In May of 2016, 4 children became infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) after playing in a stream in a city park.  After an investigation, the likely source was determined to be deer poop (aka scat).  According to the report, "MLVA profiles were identical for the case-patient, water, and deer scat isolates".

The presence of E. coli in the water varied over time. Coyote scat also had E. coli of similar makeup..but this may be related to the fact the coyote is drinking that same water.  What this does show is that surface water is prone to contamination from animal feces and this contamination can be passed to humans directly through intake of that water or potentially through food irrigated with that water.

CDC - Emerging and Infectious Disease
Contaminated Stream Water as Source for Escherichia coli O157 Illness in Children


In May 2016, an outbreak of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O157 infections occurred among children who had played in a stream flowing through a park. Analysis of E. coli isolates from the patients, stream water, and deer and coyote scat showed that feces from deer were the most likely source of contamination.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cases of Botulism Linked to Food Sold at CA Gas Station

In Sacramento CA, there have been 5 cases of botulism that seem to be linked to food sold at a gas station.

Sacramento Bee
Botulism outbreak suspected to have started at Sacramento region gas station
May 07, 2017 10:38 AM
By Ellen Garrison

Chicken Sausage Products Recalled Due to Plastic Foreign Material

Perdue Foods LLC of Gainesville, GA is recalling chicken sausage products due to the potential for plastic pieces.  According tot the report, "The problem was discovered on May 5, 2017, when FSIS was notified by the firm that they had received three consumer complaints of blue plastic materials in the sausage."  No injuries have been reported.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
Perdue Foods LLC. Recalls Poultry Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 045-2017

Health Risk: High
May 6, 2017

Frozen Waffles, Pancakes, and French Bread Slices Recalled Due to Listeria Positive Environmental Test Results

Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes, waffles, and French Toast Slices are being recalled due to potential Listeria contamination.  According to the announcement, "Pinnacle Foods initiated the recall after testing indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the plant environment".

This is probably a low risk situation.  For one, the consumer is likely to hat the product according to the instructions.  Bu while these products would likely be heated and that heating would likely eliminate the Listeria from the surface, where it would likely be located, one couldn't guarantee the consumer is going to do that.  Another factor indicating low risk is the fact that the product is not likely to support the growth of Listeria....Partially due to product properties - perhaps with the exception of the product where meat is included, and maybe the french bread, depending upon the impact of the egg batter on the bread.  Also the fact the consumer is likely to keep frozen until they are ready to be heated.

FDA Recall Notice
Pinnacle Foods Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Aunt Jemima Frozen Pancakes, Frozen Waffles & Frozen French Toast Slices Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
For Immediate Release
May 5, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Cashew Butter Recalled Due to Potential for Listeria

An Illinois firm is recalling its Nutty Infusions Cashew Butter products for Listeria after "Evidence of contamination was noted after a routine FDA inspection of the Nutty Infusions supplier".

From the labels, the only ingredients in common to both products are the roasted cashews.

FDA Recall Notice
Now Health Group Inc. Voluntarily Recalls Select Ellyndale® Nutty Infusions™
For Immediate Release
May 4, 2017

Frozen Meals Recalled After Wrong Pre-labeled Product Carton Used

A TX firm is recalling frozen meals after a mix up or pre-labeled product cartons. It appears that this cheese enchiladas or similar product,

got this carton.

So of course, the beef chile label does not declare dairy/milk listed as an allergen.  Hopefully the consumer with allergies to milk would quickly realize that they have cheese enchiladas when they were hoping for some meat.

USDA Recall Notice
Blount Fine Foods, Corp. Recalls Beef Chile Colorado Frozen Meals Due to Misbranding and an Undeclared Allergen
Class I Recall 043-2017
Health Risk: High 
May 3, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Deer Antler Tea Source of Botulinum Illnesses

A deer antler tea product may be responsible for two cases of botulism in Los Angeles.  Botulism is deadly disease caused by the toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum.   This neurotoxin stops neural signals resulting in double vision, slurred speech and difficulty swallowing.  If not treated, it can lead to death by suffocation.  
 How did the botulinum toxin get into this antler tea product? If one had to make a guess, it was after the extraction process.  To make the antler tea, antlers would be heated to pull out the marrow creating a broth and then this would be cooled to make a gelatinous material that would be packaged.  As in a typical C. botulinum growth scenario, when the product is heated to create the marrow broth, the high temperatures kills the competing spoilage organisms and creates an anaerobic environment in the marrow broth.  When the product is cooled, but held above refrigeration temperatures, C. botulinum grows and produces its toxin.  Generally an item like this would either need to be refrigerated or acidified.  A preservative can also be added to prevent growth.
The benefits of drinking antler tea are said to include helping with arthritis, preventing osteoporosis, promoting the health of the joints and repairing connective tissues, nourishing the spleen and the kidney, a defense against cancer cells, boosting the HB count in the blood, treating sexual disorders, increasing stamina and actual physical strength while also improving mental capacity, helping women who have vaginal discharge problems, flooding and spotting and it also helps in stanching excessive uterine bleeding.  Who knew.
LA Times
Tea made from deer antlers may cause botulism; health officials issue alert 
Rong-Gong Lin IIBy Rong-Gong Lin II•Contact Reporter
April 29, 2017, 3:00 AM 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ginger Powder Recalled Due to Salmonella Contamination

Lords Organics, a California  is recalling Ginger Powder due to potential for Salmonella after product testing revealed the presence of the organism.  The product was sold through, so this should make tracking the individual purchases easier.

FDA Recall Notice
Lords Organics Recalls Ginger Powder Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2017

Mislabeling of Milk Product Leads to Recall Due to Allergens

Urban Remedy, a CA-based, organic juice company is recalling its Golden Milk product that was labeled as apple juice.  The product is sold through Whole Foods.

Golden milk is a nut based product, like an almond milk, so it would have nut allergens.  With so many products ( that look the same, label control is extremely important, especially in a case like this where a nut-based product can be mislabeled.

FDA Recall Notice
Urban Remedy Issues Voluntary Recall of Mislabeled Non-Dairy Spiced Golden Milk Due to Undeclared Allergen
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

FDA Issues Investigation Report of NY Cheese Firm Responsible for Listeria Outbreak

FDA issued their inspection report (483) to Vulto Creamery, the small NY Cheese company responsible for 2 deaths due to listeria.

Basically, FDA found a lot of issues that indicate this facility just doesn't get it.
  • LM was all over the plant, on food contact equipment, and on product.
  • While the plant did testing and found Listeria species, they did NOTHING beyond re-clean the area. They did not do follow-up testing nor did they try to determine where the Listeria was coming from, whether is was LM, or whether it impacted product.
  • They followed poor sanitary practices including not properly washing hands
  • Poor cleaning of facility and equipment
  • Poor design and maintenance of the facility
It is amazing that this product had as wide of distribution as it did.  It is also amazing that no one advised them otherwise or inspected them with an eye on safety.  Was it arrogance that being a small, close-to-the-farm, boutique artisan cheese shop, they were beyond the rules or the need to understand the rules?  Pathogens don't read the press clippings and don't care about whether a facility is big or small, organic or conventional, or that it is considered artisan.

FDA Investigation Report (FDA - 483)
Vulto Creamery, Walton, NY
Date of Inspection 2/28/17 to 3/22/17

Florida Company Recalls Sausage Product Due to Potential for Foreign Material

A Florida company is recalling close to 140,000 lbs of smoked meat and poultry sausage products due to the potential for foreign material contamination. This represents a month or so of production.  From the report, "The problem was discovered when a metal magnet was found in the beef trim source product of the processed sausage products."

USDA Recall Notice
Uncle John's Pride, LLC. Recalls Ready-To-Eat Sausage Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 038-2017
Health Risk: High
Apr 24, 2017

Ham Product Recalled Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

A Memphis, TN company is recalling over 4 tons of ham after a FSIS Food Safety Audit (FSA) found that Listeria may be present.

USDA Recall Notice
Fineberg Packing Co., Inc. Recalls Ready-To-Eat Ham Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 039-2017
Health Risk: High
Apr 25, 2017

RTE Chicken Breasts Recalled After Complaints That Product May Be Undercooked

An Alabama company is recalling over 20 tongs of ready-to-eat chicken breasts after receiving complaints that the product appeared to be under-cooked.  The product is packed for and sold to foodservice establishments.  

While there have been no illnesses reported, the issue would be that if the product is truly undercooked, pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter could be present..

USDA Recall Notice
WFSP Foods LLC. Recalls Ready-To-Eat Chicken Breast Products That May Be Undercooked
Class I Recall 037-2017
Health Risk: High Apr 24, 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bread Recalled for a Piece of Rubber

HEB, the Texas based grocery chain, is recalling sandwich bread after a piece of rubber was found in what is stated as an isolated instance.

FDA Recall Notice
H-E-B Voluntarily Issues a Precautionary Recall H-E-B and Hill Country Fare sandwich bread with a best buy date of April 29th or earlier being recalled for potential rubber in the product

Food Safety Instructor Sentenced for Falsifying Exams

In Illinois, an approved instructor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for allowing students to get a certificate without taking the food safety class or exam.  For seven years, he took payoffs from students in exchange for him sending falsified documentation to that State that they took the 15 hour course and passed the exam, when they actually did neither.

The bribe was for $175.  Which isn't much per occurrence, but over time, could amount to a substantial amount.   Hard to tell how many people took the bribe. The fine was for only $5000, which is nothing compared to 18 months in the big house.

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois
Lynwood Man Sentenced to 18 Months for Pocketing Bribes in Exchange for Allowing Food Service Workers to Bypass Sanitation Training and Testing

Thursday, April 20, 2017

CDC Releases Surveillance Data for Foodborne Illnesses 2013 - 2016

CDC released surveillance data for foodborne diseases for the period 2013 to 2016.  This covers 10 sites in the US and is used to compare incident levels over time.

One important point made is that testing for pathogens is changing, where lab facilities are using more culture independent diagnotic tests or CIDTs.  With CIDT's they look for markers and do not isolate the organism.  According to the report - CIDTs complicate the interpretation of FoodNet surveillance data because pathogen detection could be affected by changes in health care provider behaviors or laboratory testing practices
  • Health care providers might be more likely to order CIDTs because these tests are quicker and easier to use than traditional culture methods, a circumstance that could increase pathogen detection 
  • Pathogen detection could also be increasing as clinical laboratories adopt DNA-based syndromic panels, which include pathogens not often included in routine stool culture  
  • CIDTs do not yield isolates, which public health officials rely on to distinguish pathogen subtypes, determine antimicrobial resistance, monitor trends, and detect outbreaks.
So basically, year to year numbers may be more difficult to interpret because testing is easier, especially for pathogens that were more difficult to grow or were not normally considered.  So while it looks like the incidence to certain pathogens are increasing, that is probably not the case.

Incidence and Trends of Infections with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food and the Effect of Increasing Use of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests on Surveillance — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2013–2016
Weekly / April 21, 2017 / 66(15);397–403

Soylent Product Recalled Again, This Time for Allergen Issues

The LA company that sells the meal replacement called Soylent is recalling product due to undeclared allergen, in this case, milk in the form of whey powder. It seems that a small amount of whey powder may have been incorporated into a one lot of product. This occurred during manufacturer by their third party facility (contract manufacturer).

This company recalled product seven months ago after a number of illnesses were reported which may have been linked to the product.

FDA Recall Notice
Soylent Issues Allergy Alert On Potential Undeclared Milk in Soylent 1.8 Powder
For Immediate Release
April 24, 2017

Jalapeno Potato Chips Recalled After Supplier Recalls Flavoring for Salmonella

Frito Lay is recalling Miss Vickie's Jalapino Flavored Potato Chips after the seasoning "supplier’s recent recall of a seasoning blend which includes jalapeño powder that could contain Salmonella." No other flavors are impacted and there have been no illnesses to date.

Here is where a supplier control is critical (a supplier preventive control). You have an ingredient that will be added post-process, and so would be considered RTE (ready-to-eat).  The supplier of this spice should be working with their suppliers, especially if they are purchasing processed spices. Relying on a COA may not be enough, especially where products are made and shipped in JIT type processes.

FDA Recall Notice
Frito-Lay Recalls Jalapeño Flavored Lay’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips and Jalapeño Flavored Miss Vickie’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips Due to Potential Presence of Salmonella
For Immediate Release
April 21, 2017

Frozen Hash Browns Recalled Due to Potential of Golf Balls

UPDATE - 4/26  Recall expanded to include Wegman's brand.

McCain Foods is recalling frozen hash browns because they may be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials.  It seems that the golf balls may have been picked up during harvest and made their way through the slicing operation.

This is the type of issue where one would need to revisit their HACCP plan and made a determination on whether this type of hazard needs to now be included in the hazard analysis.

The HACCP team will need to tee up this discussion and determine whether or not this is a long shot to occur again.  It would be a mistake to putt it down the road for later discussion,  A big driver will be prevention of further recalls, which can cost a lot of green.  Certainly a slice of the ball can result in injury, such as causing a divot in someone's mouth or causing someone to choke, and this can result in further penalty.  The team will need to have a well planned approach and take a solid stance, and avoid a bunker mentality.

FDA Recall Notice
McCain Foods USA, Inc. Recalls Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns Due to Possible Health Risk. Product is Sold and Distributed Under The Roundy’s and Harris Teeter Retail Brands.
For Immediate Release
April 21, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

CDC Study - Allergen Control in Restaurants?

In a CDC study published in MMWR, researchers found that less than half of the restaurant staff members have been adequately trained on the food allergies in a foodservice operation - knowing what are the food allergens, how to prevent cross contact, and what to do if someone has a food allergy.  They also found that few restaurants had separate equipment or areas designated for the preparation of allergen-free food.  One fourth of surveyed managers reported having no ingredient lists or recipes for menu items.

Is there an expectation that all restaurants will have a true allergen control program?  Having an allergen control program that actually controls allergens can be difficult for food establishments, especially smaller ones.  At the least, foodservice workers should know the food allergens used in an establishment and whether their establishment can actually control allergens.  It can be a bigger mistake to say you are controlling allergens and are really not.  Challenges for restaurants include a wide variety of food served, limited space and equipment, high volume of product flowing through the kitchen at any given time, and higher staff turnover.

In talking with many people who have severe food allergens, the burden often falls on them to either avoid food establishments or to ask the right questions when ordering food.

Restaurant Food Allergy Practices — Six Selected Sites, United States, 2014

Weekly / April 21, 2017 / 66(15);404–407

Chicken Meal Product Recalled Due to the Potential for the Brownie

Conagra Brands is recalling its Chicken Nugget Meat products after the supplier of the Brownie mix informed the company of potential Salmonella contamination.

It may be unexpected that in a chicken meal product, the brownie would be the issue.  It is unclear whether the brownie had received a validated cooking process by the manufacturer - it may be fully cooked, or just partially cooked.  The directions indicate that the brownie is to be cooked by the consumer as part of the listed cooking instructions..but of course, how much can that be counted upon.  So as stated, the manufacturer is acting out of an abundance of caution.

USDA Recall Notice
FSIS Issues Public Health Alert For Chicken Nuggets Meal Products Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

Congressional and Public Affairs  Julie Schwartz  (202) 720-9113

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is alerting consumers that the brownie mix dessert included in the breaded chicken nugget meal trays produced by Conagra Brands, Inc., a Marshall, Mo. establishment, may be contaminated with Salmonella. FSIS is issuing this alert, which affects 110,817 pounds of frozen meals, out of an abundance of caution after the company notified FSIS that the source material used in the brownie mix may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Monday, April 10, 2017

FDA Issues Warning Letter To Company Because Proof of Corrective Action to Inspection Items Not Provided

FDA issued a Warning Letter to a Kansas City Company after the company failed to provide evidence or proof of corrective action following an FDA inspection.  So while the company stated in their response letter that corrective action was taken, they failed to provide proof of that corrective action.

While it is hard to know the circumstances involved in this case, it demonstrates what some FDA offices are looking for in terms of response to FDA inspirational observations.

KC Innovations, Inc 3/24/17
March 24, 2017

FDA Issues Warning Letter to Bakery

FDA issued a warning letter to a California bakery for...a lot of stuff.
- No allergen control
- Poor cleaning - residual raw dough present after cleaning (and we all know this creates a Salmonella / E. coli growth opportunity).
- Leaky roofs - source of Salmonella and moisture
- Poor pest control - presence of insects, poor protection against entry
- Poor personal hygiene practices - people not wearing hair protection
- Improper labeling

With FSMA, bakeries may be getting more attention than in the past.  Because products are generally considered low risk, they have not received the scrutiny of higher risk products.  However, with issues from allergens to Salmonella in flour/dough, they are not risk free.

Nobel Bakery, Inc. 3/16/17
March 16, 2017
WL# 19-17
Norik Nikogosyan, President/Co-Owner
Nobel Bakery, Inc.
5638 Cahuenga Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601-2103

Bagged Salad Mix Recalled After Dead Bat Found in Bag

Walmart is recalling their Marketside Spring Mix Salad after the supplier "Fresh Express was notified that extraneous animal matter was allegedly found in a single container of the salad".   That extraneous matter was a dead bat.

While of course, everyone worries about rabies, but this would be an extremely low risk.  Rabies virus is an enveloped virus and does not survive in the environment well if at all. While there have been some rare, laboratory-created instances of it be transmitted through aerosol with depleted oxygen, this is really a non-factor.  The bigger risks are the normal foodborne pathogens that can be carried by bats, including Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia as well as some more exotic bacterial types.  Depending on where the bat entered the system would determine the amount of dissemination of these types of organisms.

Now how does bat get into a bag?  If not intentionally placed there by someone, and one had to would most likely come into the packaging area of the processing plant at night.  The greens are chopped and washed, so unlikely that it came in the loads of produce (unless some component was not chopped).  More likely, this flew into the plant at night when doors were left opened and took refuge in the equipment.  If this were the case, it occurred after sanitation.  When the greens started flowing, the little dude was crushed and loaded into the bag.  All a guess of course, but if true, would probably be in one of the bags from early in the production run..  Prevention....keeping doors shut at night, especially dock doors. X-ray equipment would have likely found this if in place.

FDA Recall Notice
Precautionary Recall of a Limited Quantity of Organic Marketside Spring Mix Salad is Announced by Fresh Express
For Immediate Release
April 8, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Frozen Peas Recalled Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

The grocery outlet Aldi is recalling bagged frozen peas after their supplier, Lakeside Foods, notified them of potential Listeria contamination.

While proper cooking would eliminate Listeria, concern would be used in an application where uncooked peas were used, such as a salad.  Freezing during storage and shipment prevents growth, however, if thawed and held at refrigeration temperature or warmer, there can be growth which increases the risk.

FDA Recall Notice
In Association with Lakeside Foods, Inc., ALDI Voluntarily Recalls Season’s Choice Frozen Sweet Peas
For Immediate Release
April 4, 2017

FDA Issues 3 Waivers to Sanitary Transport Rule, Including Shipments by Retail Outlets

With the Sanitary Transport Rule coming, FDA announced three waivers - 1) those permitted to ship milk, 2) those shipping food directly to consumers or as part of the operations of a foodservice / retail outlets, and 3) those approved to ship shellfish.

More specifically, from the FDA on item number two, this gives a waiver to grocery stores and food-service establishments.  It covers food sold directly to the consumer as well as food within the company or affiliate (a supermarket hub operation shipping to one of their stores).
  • "Businesses that are permitted or otherwise authorized by the regulatory authority to operate a food establishment that provides food directly to consumers (including restaurants, retail food establishments, and nonprofit food establishments, as defined in 21 CFR 1.227), only when engaged in transportation operations as:
    • Receivers, whether the food is received at the establishment itself or at a location where the authorized establishment receives and immediately transports the food to the food establishment;
    • Shippers and carriers in operations in which food is transported from the establishment as part of the normal business operations of a retail establishment, such as:
      • delivery of the food directly to the consumer(s) by the authorized establishment or a third-party delivery service or
      • delivery of the food to another location operated by the authorized establishment or an affiliated establishment where the food is to be sold or served directly to the consumer(s)."
FDA News Release

FDA Announces Three Waivers to Sanitary Transportation Rule

April 5, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

SoyNut Co-packer, Dixie Dew, Slammed in FDA Inspection, Now Suspended

FDA suspended the food facility registration of the co-manufacturing facility of the Soy Nut Butter which was recalled for E. coli contamination.

CDC now reports that there are 29 cases of E. coli infection with 9 people developing HUS.  The majority of cases (83%) affecting people under the age of 18.

FDA inspected the facility (3/3/17 to 3/15/17)  at the same time the initial recall.  FDA issued a 483 report detailing issues in facility.
Here are some of the highlight from the 8 page report.  (For ease, a copy of this document is pasted below, this was converted from the pdf file)
  • The firm leaves product in the mix kettle overnight and over the weekend.
  • The mixing equipment just shuts off during processing, 1 or 2 times per day, and has had this problem for 15 years.
  • They do not calibrate their thermometer used for monitor the nut butter.  
  • The chart recorder also does not work.
  • During production of product, a clear liquid was observed dripping intermittently form a hole in the ceiling onto the floor and splashing on the equipment.  This was supposedly coming from a leaky pipe.
  • Product build-up  on floors and walls, and walking platforms. Standing water on floor.
  • Poor employee traffic flow as well as forklift flow, no restriction of movement from dirty areas /waste areas to processing areas.
  • Cleaning supplies not properly maintained.
  • Wooden pallets sitting in standing water.
  • Product piping system not disassembled since 2015, smaller pipes and filling not routinely cleaned.
  • Improper employee handwashing.
  • Pest control issues.
While this is clearly a co-packer issue, somebody had to approve this company.  Did the IMHealthy folks visit the facility?  Did they recognize the risk, especially considering who would be eating this product - children.  To me, they are just as responsible.

As part of the movement to small, unique brands, more and  more of these small brand companies are turning to co-packers to package their product.  This includes store brands as well.  There are risks however if these co-packers are not properly vetted and managed.  One of the key elements of FSMA, supplier preventive controls, was put in place to prevent this type of travesty.  (This is why I stick to my big brands with lots of food scientists and well developed QA/QC systems protecting that product).

FDA Safety Alerts and Advisories
FDA Suspends Food Facility Registration of Dixie Dew Products, Inc.
No food may leave the facility for sale or distribution
March 30, 2017

Packaging Error Results in Allergen Recall of Nutrition Bar

A nutrition bar company is recalling their crunchy Slim Peanut Butter bars after it was discovered that a product with milk allergen was accidentally mislabeled with the Slim Peanut Butter packaging that does not list milk allergen.

In applying Preventive Controls in the operation that made this product, having a properly implemented Allergen Preventive Control at the point of labeling would help prevent this.  This would include having a step to check the labels for a match to the formulation and then having verification (another person checking, a record review of the labeling record, direct observation of the label check, etc).

This mistake occurred during one shift, but once the depth of the recall expands to store level, this recall can become fairly costly.

FDA Recall Notice
Lifestyle Evolution Voluntarily Recalls One Shift of NuGo Slim Crunchy Peanut Butter
For Immediate Release
March 30, 2017

Chili Meal Kits Recalled for Potential Salmonella Contamination in Spice Packet

Conagra is recalling its Hunt's brand Chili meal kits after their supplier informed them of potential Salmonella contamination in the spice packets.  No injuries have been reported.

The risk level would not be high in that the chili spice is added and the product is simmered for 10 minutes.  The concern would be if someone adds spice right before eating (keeping the spice out and then adding as they eat it to allow for adjustment of the amount of flavor), or if someone spills the spice on the counter and then that serves as a source of cross-contamination to another food.  For Conagra, not a risk worth taking.

FDA Recall Notice
Conagra Brands Recalls Hunt’s Chili Kits Due To Potential Presence Of Salmonella In Spice Packet
For Immediate Release
March 2, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Shipping Food Products on Truck or Rail - Get Ready for Sanitary Transport Rule

FDA's Sanitary Transport Rule takes effect in April for the larger firms.  A nice article published in American Trucker outlines how various players (drivers, dispatchers, and planners) will be involved in implementing the rule.   A few things to know - this applies to product shipped from USDA facilities as well as FDA facilities, the shipper or the person arranging shipment has responsibility for that shipment, and smaller shippers have until next year to comply.

American Trucker
New food safety rules: Are you ready?
FMSA begins to take effect in April
Mar 30, 2017 Cristina Commendatore

Norovirus Outbreak Associated with Oysters in WA and BC (Canada)

Washington State authorities are reporting that there have been approximately 39 cases of Norovirus infections associated with eating raw oysters.   While testing is normally not done in these cases, the characteristic symptoms of acute-onset vomiting, along with nausea and diarrhea are pretty telltale.

Oysters are filter feeders and can filter up and then hold the viruses.

There have been even more cases of oyster related Norovirus infections in Canada.  In BC, hundreds have become infected with Norovirus after eating oysters.

Interesting, while there appears to be no link between outbreaks in the US and Canada because the cases in Washington are said to be linked to oyster from Washington, not Canada.  But in the article, it states that the Canadians are said to export much of their product to the US,, could it be that these Canadian oysters really the oysters that caused illness in the US, but these oysters were labeled as such to make them appear local and these are linked to the cases further north?  Or did someone eat the Canadian oysters neat the US waters, have a bout of illness, thus contaminating the US oysters? is just a weird occurrence that two oyster-related Norovirus outbreaks are happening at the same time?

In any event, eating raw oysters has a Norovirus risk, no matter how tasty they are.

Q13 Fox News
Raw oysters, norovirus warning issued after multiple people in area become ill
Posted 5:04 PM, March 28, 2017, by Q13 FOX News Staff, Updated at 11:12PM, March 28, 2017

Canada - E.coli Outbreak Linked to Flour

In Canada, there have been 25 cases of E.coli infection linked to Robin Hood flour, with 6 of those cases requiring hospitalizations.  The CFIA found that the flour was contaminated with E. coli O121.

Don't eat raw dough.  Treat raw flour as though it can be potentially contaminated by cleaning it up from the counter or other surfaces.

For the hazard analysis, include E. coli and Salmonella as a hazard in flour (unless it is treated in some way.)

CBC News
25 illnesses in 4 provinces linked to E. coli-tainted Robin Hood flour
10-kilogram bags with best-before date of April 17, 2018, should be thrown out or returned

Brazilian Meat Industry Rocked by Investigation into Unsanitary Practices

Brazilian meat is returning to a number of countries that banned import of the product after Brazilian authorities found that some of the Brazilian meat companies were bribing inspectors to look the other way as they packed less-than-desirable product.  The US did not ban imports as it appears that none of the plants shipping to the US were under investigation (maybe our supply control systems are better?).

Brazil is one of the largest exporter of meat products in the world.  This scandal has had a huge impact on exports.

Tri-State Livestock News
Brazil resumes exporting meat to major markets

Monday, March 27, 2017

Judge Issues a Consent Decree Against Milk Powder Producer

In December of 2016, FDA seized milk products from Valley Milk Products , a Virginia diary processor.  This past week, a Judge issued a consent decree of condemnation and permanent injunction against the company and three individuals - the General Manager, the Plant Manager, and the Quality Compliance officer.  Basically the product is bad and the company can not produce dry dairy products until they fixed specific issues.

It may be worth reading the Consent Decree here.  In fact, I suggest reading the Injunction Provisions starting on page 8, including the requirements for development and implementation of a Salmonella Monitoring Plan (F.1.) on page 10.   While there have been no reported illnesses, FDA found Salmonella is the facility and the facility did not appear to take sufficient action.   This can be seen as what is to come for FDA facilities with FSMA and the new tool of whole genome sequencing.

FDA Press Release
Food regulators seize adulterated milk products for food safety violations

UPDATE: On March 14, 2017, Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia entered a consent decree of condemnation and permanent injunction against Valley Milk Products LLC (Strasburg, VA), and three individuals, General Manager Michael W. Curtis, Plant Manager Robert D. Schroeder, and Quality Control Compliance Officer Jennifer J. Funkhouser. The seized milk powder products have been condemned and forfeited to the United States. The company may attempt to bring the condemned products into compliance but only under the supervision of the FDA, and it may not resume manufacturing powdered milk products without first implementing corrective action. The action does not affect liquid milk products made by the company. More information can be found on (case number 5:16cv76). No illnesses have been reported to date associated with these products. Consumers can report problems with FDA-regulated products to their district office consumer complaint coordinator.

Microgreens Recalled for the Salmonella Contamination

A Kansas firm is recalling microgreens due to the potential for Salmonella.  The recall comes after examinations by FDA revealed the product contained Salmonella.

Microgreens are similar to bean sprouts in that seeds of various plants are grown from the seed and harvested after sprouting, however with microgreens, the immature greens are cut to include only the stem and leaves.  This is normally within a month of germination.   A variety of plants can be eaten this way and according to a microgreen website, "Some common varieties include amaranth, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, coriander/cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, peas, radish, rocket/arugula, spinach, and sorrel."  In this recall, it was Asian style microgreens.

This issue is that if Salmonella is present on the seeds, then it can grow along with the germinating seed.  It can be difficult to eliminate Salmonella from the seeds.  There was a similar recall in October of 2016.

FDA Recall Notice
Chlorofields Recalls Asian MIicrogreens Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
March 23, 2017

OK Firm Recalls Nearly 1 Million Pounds of Breaded Chicken for Metal Complaints - Linked to Conveyor

A OK establishment is recalling close to one million pounds of breaded chicken products for the potential of metal contamination.  According to the notice: "The problem was discovered on March 21, 2017 after OK Foods Inc. received five consumer complaints stating that metal objects were found in the ready-to-eat chicken products and by FSIS inspection personnel during verification activities. After an internal investigation, the firm identified the affected product and determined that the objects in all the complaints came from metal conveyor belting." 

It would be interesting to know if the firm had a metal detector in place.  With a breaded chicken product, one would expect to see one.

USDA Recall Notice
OK Food Inc. Recalls Breaded Chicken Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 030-2017
Health Risk: High 
Mar 23, 2017

Texas Establishment Recalls RTE Beef Products After Receiving Two Customer Complaints for Rubber with Plastic

A Texas establishment is recalling 35,158 lbs of frozen RTE beef taquito product after the company received two customer complaints for rubber with plastic.  From the report - "The problem was discovered when Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. received two consumer complaints of foreign material in its ready-to-eat beef products on March 14, 2017 and March 21, 2017. The foreign materials were pieces of rubber with white plastic that originated from the establishments processing equipment."

USDA Recall Notice
Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. Recalls Frozen Ready-To-Eat Beef Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class II Recall 031-2017
Health Risk: Low 
Mar 24, 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Refrigerated Packages of Edamame for Sushi Recalled for Listeria

 A California company is recalling fresh refrigerated packages of edamame (soybeans) after the company tested and found Listeria.  The packed edamame was sold at designated retail sushi counters within grocery stores, cafeterias, and corporate dining centers in about 33 states.

AFC is a company that operates sushi counters via franchisees.  AFC provides the know-how and materials to allow a franchisee to operate a sales space in a grocery store.  So the grocery store can offer sushi without much effort.

One difficulty is what has occurred here...packaging and shipping fresh packaged foods across the country.  When many think of sushi, we think of it being made on the spot, not being pre-prepared thousands of miles away.  From a Listeria standpoint, a  contamination issue at the point of processing can have more time for growth during transport, and being sushi that will not be cooked, there will be no reduction step to get rid of the Listeria.

FDA Recall Notice
Advanced Fresh Concepts Franchise Corp. Voluntarily Recalls Edamame Due to Potential Health Risk
For Immediate Release
March 16, 2017

CDC Report on 2015 Salmonella Outbreak Associated with Truffle Oil

CDC issued a report on a 2015 outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis associated with a Washington DC restaurant.  There were 159 reported cases.  Truffle oil was the most likely source based on the epidemiological investigation, but the organism was not isolated from the oil itself.   "Six food items were significantly associated with case status (Table 2), three of which (beef carpaccio, truffle mushroom croquette, and truffle risotto) contained truffle oil. When all truffle oil–containing items were combined into a single variable, including the three that were individually significant, consumption of a truffle oil–containing item was reported by 89% of case-patients compared with 57% of control subjects (p<0.001)."

While this Salmonella strain is normally associated with poultry and eggs, it was unusual that truffle oil was the likely source.  And being a common pathogen, the report indicates that "Timely engagement of the public, health care providers, and local and federal public health officials, is particularly critical for early recognition of outbreaks involving common foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella Enteritidis"  Basically, by really looking hard, investigators were able to determine that something different was going on, and in doing so, were able to determine the restaurant was involved.  At that point, they closed the establishment thus preventing additional cases that would have most definitely occurred.

As far as testing "Truffle fries sampled from the deep fryer and uncooked truffle mushroom croquettes were among the samples collected on September 10; a truffle oil sample was collected on September 14."  "DCPHL tested the truffle fries, which screened positive for Salmonella by using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), but Salmonella was not isolated during confirmatory testing. All other food and environmental samples were negative for Salmonella."

Another outbreak in the same restaurant chain indicated the issue may have originated in a NY commissary where the oil originated (but not sure if made there).  It seems the commissary had gone through purge and sanitize procedure, so nothing was found there when investigators inspected that operation.

So before we throw truffle oil on the list per se, there should be additional information as to where it was made.  This may be more of a commissary issue that a truffle issue.

Investigation of Salmonella Enteritidis Outbreak Associated with Truffle Oil — District of Columbia, 2015
Weekly / March 17, 2017 / 66(10);278–281

Frozen Pizza with Meat Recalled After Listeria Positive Test Results

A California establishment is recalling frozen, supreme-style pizza after the company's testing confirmed Listeria contamination.

While the product is frozen, which would prevent growth, and it has directions for cooking, which if done properly would eliminate the pathogen, one can never know how the product will be handled b the store and prepared by the consumer.  If similar to those sold here, they are sold refrigerated.

USDA News Release
News Release
RBR Meat Company, Inc. Recalls Frozen Pizza Product Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 025-2017
Health Risk: High Mar 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Branded Burritos Recalled for Contamination by Hard Plastic Pieces

A NM company is recalling Trader Joe's branded frozen burrito products after 3 complaints of hard clear plastic.  One injury was reported.

USDA News Release
Flagship Food Group Recalls Frozen Burrito Product Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 026-2017
Health Risk: High Mar 16, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017

NY Creamery Expands Recall, Product Linked to Illnesses. 2 Deaths

A NY creamery expanded its recall, posted on 3/7/16, as the CDC has linked the product to 6 cases of listeriosis.  There have been 2 deaths.

The product had national distribution, and with the window of time until the product was recalled, there may be additional cases that may be reported.

Listeria can be problematic in soft cheeses in that the product will support the growth of Listeria  We have seen a number of cases of listeria related to soft cheeses, so it is incumbent on those packing soft cheeses to have an aggressive Listeria control program. 
Harder cheese have a lower water activity and will not support the growth of Listeria.  While the risk is lower, the food plant-environmental pathogen still needs to be controlled.

FDA Recall Notice
Vulto Creamery Voluntarily Expands Their Recall of All Raw Milk Cheeses Because of Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination
For Immediate Release
March 11, 2017

Thursday, March 9, 2017

CDC Report - 2016 Salmonella Outbreak in Children Associated with Playground Sand

A 2016 Salmonella outbreak in Madrid, Spain caused illness in 24 preschool students, aged 3 to 5 years old.  It was concluded that the source of the Salmonella was the sand in the playground.  The Salmonella likely got there through bird droppings.   

While these types of issues may be difficult to prevent, there are some preventive measures that can be taken.  Keeping children from putting their hands in their mouth when playing in the dirt. (Good luck with that).  Having kids wash their hands after playing.  Recognizing that bird droppings are a potential source of Salmonella, so placing sandboxes in areas away from trees and other overhead structures where birds may land (and poop).  Sure, trees provide shade, and in Spain, it is probably better to be in the shade.  However, structures such as large umbrellas may be used.  Umbrellas or other movable structures can be beneficial in allowing the sand to dry.

Notes from the Field: An Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Associated with Playground Sand in a Preschool Setting — Madrid, Spain, September–October 2016
Weekly / March 10, 2017 / 66(9);256–257

Biery Cheese Recalls Cheese Supplied by DKH

Biery Cheese Company is expanding a recall of cheese that was supplied to them by Deutsch Kase Haus.  Biery was notified on 3/7/17 by DKH.

Biery Cheese Company Expands Recall of Select Cheese Due To Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination
For Immediate Release
March 8, 2017

Cheese Ravioli Product Recalled for Missing Allergen in "Contains" Statement

Gerber is recalling its Cheese Ravioli Pasta Pick-ups for a allergen labeling issue - while allergen egg is listed in the ingredient listing, it was missed in the 'Contains' statement.

FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004) requires that the label of a food that is fabricated from two or more ingredients declare each ingredient by its common or usual name.  It can do this either in the ingredient listing or it can highlight the allergens included in the product with a "Contains" statement.   However, FDA provided further guidance that if the company chooses to use the "Contains" statement, all major allergens in the product must be listed.  (FDA referenced documents below).

So in this case, while the ingredient  egg was in the ingredient listing, it was missed in the "Contains' statement.

FDA Recall Notice
Gerber Issues Allergy Alert To Clarify Egg Labeling For Cheese Ravioli Pasta Pick-ups®
For Immediate Release
March 8, 2017