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

Mom Still Hospitalized after Three Weeks, 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 contamined 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 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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SoyNut Butter Company Recalls.....All SoyNut Butter and Granola Products

After initiating a recall last week in light of a dozen cases of E.coli O157:H7 infection, the SoyNut Butter Company is now recalling all soy butter and granola products in all sizes and all lot numbers.

Update - 3-10-17 Recall was updated to include Dixie Diner's Club products.  (How was this missed on expanded recall?)

FDA Recall Notice
The Soynut Butter Co Expands Recall to All I.M. Healthy Soynut Butters And I.M. Healthy Granola Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2017

MI Food Pantry Temporarily Closed - A Reminder for Donated-Food Distributors

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development temporarily closed a food pantry after they inspected the facility.   The inspection came in response to a complaint, and numerous issues were found including moldy food and poor personnel practices.

While food pantries are given latitude in providing expired food, the food still must be edible.  Food inventories must be managed, removing items as they get excessively old or grow mold.  Another practice is taking bulk food and repacking it.  The repackaging process must be done following sanitary procedures including handwashing, and the smaller packages must be labeled.

Food pantries do a great service, but the people they serve must receive safe food.

M Live
State inspection uncovers food safety violations at food pantry, temporarily closed
By John Tunison | The Grand Rapids Press
on March 02, 2017 at 10:09 PM, updated March 02, 2017 at 10:13 PM

NY Creamery is Recalling Soft Cheese Products After Positive Listeria Tests

UPDATE - 3/8/17  Whole food recalls cheese supplied by Vulto Creamery.

A NY company is recalling its soft raw milk cheeses after FDA and NY Department of Ag and Markets found that product may be possibly contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

A look through the company's Facebook page gives an idea of the facility.

FDA Recall Notice
Vulto Creamery Issues Voluntary Recall of All Soft, Wash-Rind Raw Milk Cheeses Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2017

The Importance of Backflow Prevention

Questions often arise on the need for backflow prevention devices on water spigots in food establishments. Backflow occurs when non-potable water is pulled into the potable water via a cross-connection - is a physical link between potable and non-potable water, such as a hose.  Backflow occurs when there is a high movement of water through a water main, which generates negative pressure in the cross connection, causing back-siphonage or backflow from the non-potable water source through the cross-connection, whether that be a hose or a pipe.  This is due to Bernoulli's principle.

Examples of cross connections can be someone dropping a hose connected to a sink into a mop bucket containing floor cleaner, or someone dropping an outside hose into a non-chlorinated swimming pool (green) or into puddle of water.  Hoses, however, are not the only issue.  An often overlooked connection is the direct water feed into chemical mixing systems.   Hazards related to backflow are not always biological.  Chemicals can be pulled into the water source, especially through this direct water feed into chemical mixing / dispensing systems.

Of course it is best not to make that cross connection, but this is not always easy when using hoses.  Where hoses are used, it is important to make sure back flow prevention devices are installed.
Pressure deficiencies, such as when there is a water main break, also can result in backflow into the potable water source.

Bird Flu Found on Tennessee Farm

Avian influenza, or bird flu, struck a Tennessee chicken farm resulting in the operation having to cull 73,500 birds.  This is the first incident of avian influenza in the US this year.  To control the issue, all bird flocks in a six mile radius will be quarantined.

While this is not a human health issue, avian influenza can impact the poultry supply if not controlled.  The 2014/2015 outbreak resulted in 48 million chickens and turkeys.

NY Times
Bird Flu Outbreak Found at a Tennessee Farm

Investigation Continues into Chemical Contamination in Juice that Injured Two Children

In a very bizarre case, two children ingested a toxic chemical while at a restaurant.   According to the report, a 10 year old boy threw up blood and his half sister, aged 4, vomited after drinking apple juice out of foam cups at a Lancaster eating establishment.  

So far, methanol was one of the identified chemicals.  So this is not your typical food operation cleaning chemical.  Also, since only two children at the same table became ill, the contamination event occurred from point of dispensing to point of consumption.  So thus the criminal investigation.

Lancaster online
East Lampeter police investigate if incident of children drinking caustic substance at restaurant was criminal or accidental

MA Establishment Recalls Shaved Beef for Plastic Foreign Material

A Massachusetts establishment is recalling shaved beef after a retail outlet notified the firm that the product had "readily visible, long, thin strands of clear soft plastic from packaging material".  They further stated that because "the plastic is readily visible and identifiable, it is highly unlikely that it would be consumed and, therefore, the health risk is extremely low."

USDA FSIS Recall Notice
F.B. Packing Co., Inc. Recalls Beef Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class III Recall 021-2017

Mar 6, 2017
Congressional and Public Affairs Benjamin A. Bell (202) 720-9113

Sunday, March 5, 2017

SoyNut Butter Recalled after Being Linked to E. coli O157:H7 Infections

 The SoyNut Butter Co is recalling 15 oz jars, individual serving cups, and tubs of its nut butter product after that product was linked to 12 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection.  To date, 12 people have become ill.  Of the 9 people contacted, 9 had exposure to this product.

FDA Recall Notice
The Soynut Butter Co Recalls I.M. Healthy Original Creamy Soynut Butter Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
March 4, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

SoyNut Butter Being Linked to E.coli Outbreak

CDC is linking 12 cases of E. coli O157:H7 to a SoyNut Butter product by I. M. Healthy, an Illinois.  The cases have occurred in several states.  11 of the 12 are younger than 18.  Six people have been hospitalized and 4 have developed HUS, or hemolytic uremic syndrome.  If consumers have this brand of soynut butter, they are asked to not to consume it.

SoyNut butter starts with soy beans.  The beans are soaked and then roasted (baked or roasted in oil) The roasted soynuts are ground, blended with oil, and then put in jars.  The presence of E. coli in the product would indicate either an insufficient roasting process or post-process contamination.

CDC Outbreak Investigation
Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to I.M. Healthy Brand SoyNut Butter
Posted March 3, 2017 12:45PM EST

Veal Products Recalled Due to E. coli (STEC O103)

An Ohio establishment is recalling 40,680 lbs of boneless veal products after the Illinois State Department of Agriculture tested and found a positive non-0157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (E. coli O103) in a sample of product.  This volume is about 2 months of production.

USDA / FSIS Recall Notice
Ohio Farms Packing Co. Ltd. Recalls Veal Products Due To Possible E. Coli O103 Contamination

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

RTE Chicken Product Recalled After Complaint of Undercooked Appearance

An Alabama company is recalling cooked RTE chicken products after a customer complaint was made that the product looked undercooked.  There have been no reported illnesses.

Was the product undercooked......hard to say.  Good process control to achieve proper lethality for all product along with verification and record keeping systems demonstrating proper cook would help prevent the need to recall product.

USDA News Release
Wayne Farms, LLC Recalls Ready-To-Eat Chicken Products Due To Potential Processing Deviation
Class I Recall 017-2017
Health Risk: High Feb 28, 2017
Congressional and Public Affairs Allie Ryan (202) 720-9113

Monday, February 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Unsweetened Apple Sauce Recalled After Complaints for Glass

A California company is recalling three types of Trader Joe's Unsweetened Apple Sauce after the company received three complaints for glass.

The problem with packing in glass is the potential for breakage.  Manufacturing companies go to great lengths to prevent the risk of broken glass in the jars.  The biggest risk comes when jars break in the manufacturing process.  Commonly, jars within an potentially affected radius are removed from the manufacturing line when breakage occurs, and the whole area is cleaned and inspected.

Many manufacturers have moved away from glass to plastic.  Although glass is generally considered superior to plastic in terms of preserving flavor (cooling is faster, no oxygen transmission, etc), plastic does remove the broken glass risk.

FDA Recall Notice
Manzana Products Co., Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall of Apple Sauces Due to Potential Presence of Foreign Material
For Immediate Release
February 25, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ready-made Salads Recalled Due to Potential Listeria Contamination of Cheese Ingredient

Ready Pac's three production facilities (CA, GA, NJ) are recalling one type of salad due to the potential for Listeria in the Pepper Jack Cheese Ingredient that was used in the salad.  The company stated the recall was conducted after they were notified by their cheese supplier of the issue.  The name of the cheese company was not made available in the release.

USDA News Release
Ready Pac Foods Inc. Recalls Chicken Salad Products Due to Possible Listeria Contamination
Class I Recall 015-2017
Health Risk: High Feb 22, 2017

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

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2017 – Three Ready Pac Foods Inc. establishments, located in Swedesboro, N.J., in Jackson, Ga., and the headquarters establishment in Irwindale, Calif., are recalling approximately 59,225 pounds of one variety of chicken salad product that may be adulterated withListeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PA Cheese Company Receives FDA Warning Letter - More Listeria Control Improvement Needed

In September '16, a Pennsylvania cheese company issued a recall after product was found to contain Listeria.  In December, after FDA audited the firm, FDA issued a  consumer warning against consuming product from this company.   This week, FDA issued a Warning Letter to the company in response to how the company fixed (?) the issues.

From the company responses as written in this Warning Letter, the company does not understand the fundamentals of Listeria control.  As we have seen in so many cheese-related Listeria outbreaks, the lack of control can lead to serious consequences.  Hopefully, this company is not back into production.  These owners need to get some real education on Listeria control.

FDA findings, Company Response, FDA Response, Notes
Environmental swabs 18 of 50 positive for LM
3 of those positive samples were from food contact surfaces
 - The top of the cheese slicer
 - The cheese slicer string
 - The inside of a plastic crate used to store finished cheese before packaging
One positive product sample  - RTE feta cheese (FDA sample 969273).

1. There were a number of GMP violations found in the audit and addressed within the response.
, - the lift arm and bowl support brackets of the (b)(4) mixer contained areas which appeared to be rusted and contained rough surfaces. 
 - the beater shaft housing area of the (b)(4) mixer, directly above the bowl support brackets, was observed to contain areas which appeared to be rusted and contain food particulates and/or foreign matter. These areas are in close proximity and/or directly adjacent to food contact surfaces
 - The floors in the processing room and walk-in cooler were observed to be in disrepair, containing areas where the concrete is cracked, rough, and peeling [see 21 CFR 110.20(b)(4)]. 

The company responded that they were doing the following.
a) A floor mop is now being used to clean the production floor.
b) (b)(4) is used to clean and sanitize the cheese cloths.
c) An apparatus has been purchased for storage of production equipment.
d) The production area hose is hung up and off the floor.
e) The office area has been cleaned.
f) The (b)(4) mixer has been cleaned, and the rusted surfaces have been repaired.
g) The floors of the processing room and walk-in cooler have been repaired.
FDA indicated that they will review these changes upon re-inspection, 

Note - FDA did not ask the company for verification support to show that these changes had any impact on the Listeria contamination in the facility  I see some issues here in the company responses 1) a floor mop to clean the production floor - really?  That is more likely to spread Listeria - basically a contaminated swab...a very large swab.  2) How were the floors repaired? 3) How did they change their cleaning procedures - both daily for equipment and procedures for the facility?

2. Another area for concern was pest control.  FDA listed these issues.
a) Greater than twenty flies landing on the floor, food processing equipment, food processing utensils, and other food contact surfaces and non-food contact surfaces.
b) Three fly catcher tapes containing multiple flies hanging in different areas of the processing room.
c) Dead flies on the window sills near the batch pasteurizer and three bay sink areas.

The company responded that the company 'installed “new fly catcher tapes . . . and will purchase a fly zapper.”   FDA rightly noted that this corrective action is "inadequate because it does not prevent insects and/or other pests from entering the facility and does not address why the insects have entered your facility. The regulation at issue requires that pests be prevented from entering any area of a food plant and does not permit that pests be killed in close proximity of food production areas."

Note - Fly tape as a corrective action?  Seriously? Who uses fly tape in a food production facility?

In the third item, FDA noted in their inspection that the grounds in which the facility was located had some major issues.
a) Live chickens and pigs coming within approximately one foot of the main door to the production facility and what appeared to be remnants of dead chickens and goats in close proximity to the production facility.
b) Multiple items within approximately twenty feet of the outside perimeter to your production facility which may constitute an attractant, breeding place, and harborage areas for pests, including, but not limited to, a chicken coop, an abandoned truck, a small four-wheeled loader, wood paneling, vegetation over six feet tall, and other small items which appear to be refuse.

The company's response stated that that they cleaned the area and added stone along the drive. However, they did not address the livestock and other animals in proximity to the production area and how those animals would be maintained. The company did not confirm that each item observed around the perimeter of your facility was addressed and corrected for FDA review.

Note - The company does not seem to understand the impact of contamination control from the grounds and the animals on those grounds.  This is not only a concern for Listeria, but also for Salmonella and STEC E.coli.

FDA Warning Letters
Apple Tree Goat Dairy 2/10/17

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Uber-like Home Cooked Meals? Laws Provide Necessary Hurdles

In the NY Post, a Harvard Law Professor argues that current food laws are not conducive to food entrepreneurs who want to create the next Uber-type industry - home prepared meals.
"This is why people more often get sick by eating out than by eating at home. Even if the risk from home-cooked food were as high as or higher than that from restaurant-cooked food, the danger would have to be extraordinarily great to justify a ban.
Instead, home kitchens where food is prepared for sale should be held to separate standards that make sense for the enterprise. Many states already have cottage food laws that allow people to prepare and sell baked goods from home. In those states, the permits could simply be extended to allow the sale of cooked meals over the Internet"

First, a large majority of foodborne illness cases do occur in the home.  While reported cases of illness do not show this, we recognize that reported cases are more likely to be cases related to outbreaks where 2 or more people become ill from eating the same food.  However, the vast majority of cases go unreported with many of these being sporadic cases where one person becomes ill, and it is probable that a good majority of these sporadic cases occur from home practice.

Studies have shown that the many consumers don't have the best practices, including 1) are prone to have cross contamination issues in their kitchen, 2) don't have their refrigerators set at the right temperature, and 3) don't use a thermometer.    What about those live-in 'intruders' making their way into the kitchen space...dogs, cats, and kids.  There have been many instances where food made in the home and then served outside the home have been disastrous.  Just last week, BBQ prepared in a home kitchen was responsible for 32 cases of Staph enterotoxin cases.

Unlike Uber where you get to inspect the car and the driver when it shows up, (and can jump out when things are not going right), you would not have the opportunity to inspect a person's kitchen, or their food handling and preparation skills.   Once you bit into the food, you are not necessarily going to be aware if the food was subject to cross contamination, if it hit the proper end point cooking temperature, or if it was properly stored from time it was prepared to the time it shows up at your door.

Can a concept like this work...sure, but within the laws.  It happened for trucks, maybe homes are next.  I can actually see a company that contracts home cooks to prepare meals.  They would work to make sure the people are properly trained (and have credentials to show) and that the kitchens receive the proper governmental inspections.  The company can help people get the right equipment, develop and implement proper procedures, and provide additional ongoing support and inspection.  The company would establish the internet ordering system (along with pictures of the people preparing the food and the kitchen space in which the food would be prepared).  The company would  then collect a percentage of the fees paid for the food.
One problem is the economics.  Kitchensurfing and Ktichit,  similar concepts except the chef comes to your house, both failed.  The advantage in these cases is that the cooking space was the  customer's own kitchen.  Disadvantage, the need for chef's who were willing to perform their task for an audience, whereas in the concept above, the consumer would be more willing to accept a home cook.   The next and biggest issue is the obtaining the commercial license  for making prepared TCS foods for others.  The company would have to work with the local jurisdiction to determine how this could be achieved within the current regulatory restrictions.  No doubt there would be some costs that go into adapting a kitchen...but again, if it can be done in a truck, why not a kitchen...provided the kitchen meets required standards.

NY Post - Opinion
Regulations make it too hard to sell home-cooked food
By Jacob Gersen
February 21, 2017 | 5:01am

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cheese Re-packer Recalls Cheese With Potential Listeria Contamination.

The cheese re-packer involved in the recent cheese-Listeria recall is expanding their recall.  MDS foods posted a recall of cheese they packed for Deutsch Kase Haus on 2/11/17,  but as could have been predicted, MDS expanded their recall due to the potential for cross-contamination within their facility.  So a long list of cheese is being recalled by MDS to include cheese made by Deutsch Kase Haus as well as other cheese packed in their facility.  As was stated earlier, the State of Tennessee initially found Listeria in DKH product re-packed by MDS.

FDA Recall Notice
MDS Foods Inc, of Massillon, OH is Expanding the Current Recall to include Products Identified by Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC of Middlebury, Indiana from their 02/15/2017 Product Recall
For Immediate Release
February 17, 2017

Penn State helps to develop food safety training program in Armenia

Penn State News Release
Penn State helps to develop food safety training program in Armenia
Emily Bartlett
February 17, 2017

Penn State helps to develop food safety training program in Armenia

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A program developed by Penn State food scientists is training students in Armenia on food safety practices and procedures, with an eye toward improving the safety of the country's food supply chain — from crop production and processing to packaging, handling, marketing and consumption.

Catherine Cutter, professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Siroj Pokharel, postdoctoral researcher in food science, partnered with Virginia Tech to bring the Food Safety Systems Management Professional Certificate Program to the Agribusiness Teaching Center at the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education in Yerevan, Armenia.

FDA Issues Report Findings on Dog Food Facilities With Pentobarbitol Issue

After an Indiana firm recalled canned dog for Pentobarbitol, a euthanizing agent, FDA completed and released inspections for the producing facility, Evangers of Wheeling IL and a related pet food facility run by same family, Nutripack of Markham IL.  FDA testing found Pentobarbitol in products from both facilities and both companies conducted recalls of lots of dog food made with beef from the same supplier (Evangers and Against the Grain).

FDA stated in their report "In its recent press release announcing a limited product recall, Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Company, Inc. stated that the beef for its Hunk of Beef product came from a “USDA approved” supplier. However, the FDA reviewed a bill of lading from Evanger’s supplier of “Inedible Hand Deboned Beef - For Pet Food Use Only. Not Fit For Human Consumption" and determined that the supplier’s facility does not have a grant of inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The meat products from this supplier do not bear the USDA inspection mark and would not be considered human grade. USDA-FSIS regulates slaughter of animals for human consumption only. Testing by USDA-FSIS of Evanger’s Hunk of Beef confirmed that the meat used in the product was bovine (beef)."

FDA issued 483 (inspectional observations) reports for both facilities [included below],  Both reports point out numerous sanitary issues within both facilities. Nothing noted in the reports relates to the issue at hand, but does point out poor execution of sanitary operations.  The company tag line - People Food for Pets - not exactly.

In a letter posted on their internet site (posted below), the company blames their supplier.
In a quick internet search, I came by this gem with support.

FDA News Release
FDA Cautions Pet Owners and Caretakers Not to Feed Certain Evanger’s or Against the Grain Canned Pet Foods Due to Adulteration with Pentobarbital
February 17, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Proposed Standardized Code Dating Terminology Makes Sense

The major food trade groups, FMI and GMA, are suggesting that manufacturers adopt standardized terminology in date coding.   They suggest either:
  • Best if used by - where date is limited by quality, but may be consumed after that date
  • Use by - where food safety may come into play, and should be thrown out
There are more and more date labels being used, including a recently recalled product that had an Enjoy By Date (which for this highly perishable product, should have been a Use By date.)

There are currently no legal requirements to have it stated in any particular way (with a few exceptions), but it makes sense for companies to try to adhere to some standard to make it easier for the consumer.  As part of Extension, we get tons of calls from consumers on date coding, and having this more defined will certainly be a help.

Food Safety Magazine
FMI, GMA Introduce Clearer Date Labels to Curtail Food Waste
By Staff

CDC Report - Outbreaks Associated with Imported Food

A report in Emerging Infectious Diseases investigated outbreaks associated imported foods.  "The proportion of US food that is imported is increasing; most seafood and half of fruits are imported. We identified a small but increasing number of foodborne disease outbreaks associated with imported foods, most commonly fish and produce. New outbreak investigation tools and federal regulatory authority are key to maintaining food safety."

Emerging Infectious Diseases
Volume 23, Number 3—March 2017
Outbreaks of Disease Associated with Food Imported into the United States, 1996–2014
L. Hannah Gould , Jennifer Kline, Caitlin Monahan, and Katherine Vierk
Author affiliations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA (L.H. Gould, J. Kline); US Food and Drug Administration, College Park, Maryland, USA (C. Monahan, K. Vierk)
Highlight and copy the desired format. EID Gould L, Kline J, Monahan C, Vierk K.

Cheese Recall Due to Potential Listeria Contamination Continues to Cascade

The list of recalls linked to the Deutsch Kase Haus recall continue to grow.

February 16, 2017
Saputo Inc. Recalls Certain Gouda Cheese Products Due to Potential Contamination of Listeria Monocytogenes
Saputo Inc. (Saputo), is voluntarily recalling certain Gouda cheese products in the United States after having been notified by Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC of Middlebury, Indiana that some specialty Gouda cheese products that it supplied to Saputo’s Green Bay, Wisconsin facility may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

February 14, 2017
Guggisberg Cheese, Inc. Recalls Various Colby Type Cheeses due to Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination
Out of an abundance of caution and with an emphasis on its customers’ wellness and safety, Guggisberg Cheese Inc. is recalling various types of Colby type cheeses and sizes due to a potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.
The affected products were manufactured both by Guggisberg Cheese, Inc. and by Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC under the Guggisberg label. No illnesses have been reported to date.

Biery Cheese Company Recalls Various Types Of Specialty Longhorn Colby Cheeses Due To Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination
February 16, 2017
Biery Cheese Co. is voluntarily recalling specialty Longhorn Colby cheese due to potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.
On 02-15-17 the firm was notified by Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC of Middlebury, IN that they supplied Biery Cheese with various type cheeses that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported to date.

From February 14, 2017 on this site:
More Cheese Products Recalled Due to Supplier of Colby Cheese Recall
Two firms are calling cheese-stuffed mushroom products for the potential to be contaminated by Listeria. All traces back to the recall by the Indiana supplier, Deutsch Kase Haus, after their Colby cheese product was found to be positive for Listeria.

From February 12. 2017 on this site which details initial recall
Sargento, Mijer and Sara Lee Recall Colby Cheese Products After Supplier Discovers Listeria Contamination Issue