Thursday, December 21, 2017

Research - Listeria Spreading in A Food Processing Plant

If a food processing plant was completely free of Listeria contamination, how long would it for Listeria to gain a foothold in the plant, and by what mechanisms would it spread?  Friend of the program, Dr. Mark Berrang, shared some of his research in advance of a talk he plans to give here at Penn State this spring.

Starting with a brand new further-process chicken facility, he found that within 4 months, persistent strains of Listeria had established itself in the drains.  The  incoming meat was the primary source of Listeria.  These strains remained even through cleaning and sanitizing of the operations.  Once in the drains, Listeria could become easily aerosolized even from a intermittent 2 second spray of water.  Reducing the incoming Listeria load is a challenge, and mitigation steps such as UV light may help.

As part of the Food Science Seminar Series, Dr. Berrang will discuss his work on Listeria in food processing facilities on March 1, 2018 at 4 pm in Room 252 Food Science.  Please contact Dr. Jasna Kovac ( for more details.

Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 73, No. 2, 2010, Pages 286–291
Colonization of a Newly Constructed Commercial Chicken

French Dairy Company Expands International Recall of Baby Milk

French dairy conglomerate Lactalis is expanding it worldwide recall of baby milk which was initially posted earlier this month.  In France alone, over 30 babies have become infected with Salmonella after consuming Lactalis product.   While product has been shipped to approximately 30 countries worldwide, it is not clear if infants in other countries have become ill.  Product in the US is not affected.

This is one of those incidents that will become a case study for what not to soon as they figure out how this got so out of control.

Washington Post
Mass recall of French-made baby milk over salmonella fears
By Jeffrey Schaeffer and Angela Charlton | AP  
December 21 at 7:06 AM  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

FDA to Begin Tightening Down on Homeopathic Drugs

The FDA announced that will be putting more effort into enforcing regulations on homeopathic drugs.  What are homeopathic drugs?  According to the Homeopathy Center, "Homeopathic medicines – known as “remedies” – are made from natural sources (e.g., plants, minerals), and are environmentally friendly and cruelty free.  The thought is that if a natural substance causes similar symptoms, then this can be diluted and given to the patient to cure the symptoms....'like cures like'.  The example they give is this...."if you peel an onion, your eyes burn, itch and water. You might also have a runny nose and begin to sneeze. If you had similar symptoms during a cold or allergy attack, such as a runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing, a homeopathic micro-dose of the remedy Allium cepa (red onion) would help your body heal itself."

The other key for homeopathy is dilution of the natural substance...the more diluted the substance, the more potent it can be as a remedy. 'The technique for making a homeopathic medicine involves repeated dilution of a specific substance until little of the original substance remains".

Homeopathy is different than "herbal medicine, Chinese medicine, or other types of natural medicines."

FDA plans to better "address situations where homeopathic treatments are being marketed for serious diseases and/or conditions but where the products have not been shown to offer clinical benefits. It also covers situations where products labeled as homeopathic contain potentially harmful ingredients or do not meet current good manufacturing practices."

FDA News Release
For Immediate Release
December 18, 2017

FDA is proposing a new, risk-based enforcement approach to homeopathic drug products that have the greatest potential to cause risk to patients.

Wineries Begin Seeing Surprise FDA Inspections as Part of FSMA

Many firms are seeing FDA inspections for the first time as the FSMA regulations are coming into effect, including wineries.  An article in Wine Business Magazine (December, 2017) indicates that a number of wineries are undergoing surprise FDA inspections.  For many, this may be a new experience.

From the article, "New registration and record keeping requirements for wineries under FSMA impose important changes. Wineries must now renew their FDA registration every two years.."  Wineries must also comply with GMP requirements, including the need to have documented employee training.  These firms are exempt from the the risk based preventive controls (Subpart C) and the supply chain program (Subpart G).

MA Firm Expands Recall of Smoked Fish Products After Further Testing

A Massachusetts firm is expanding its recall posted on December 13 after further testing of the environment and product.  According to the recall notice,  "The recall expansion was initiated as a result of environmental and product sampling conducted by the firm."   From this it seems that they did not have a good handle on Listeria in their environment, which for smoked seafood items, can be a real big deal.

FDA Recall Notice
Springfield Smoked Fish Expands their Recall of Smoked Salmon Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 19, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Produce Company Recalls Apples Due to Supplier's Positive Listeria Test Results

A Michigan produce company is recalling apples processed and shipped by one of its suppliers after  routine sampling program by that supplier revealed that finished products contained Listeria monocytogenes.

It seems that product was shipped prior to results coming back.  It is unknown whether the produce company was aware that the supplier had sampled product for testing.  It would seem that a test and hold procedure should have been in place.

FDA Recall Notice
Jack Brown Produce, Inc. Recalls Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious Apples Due to Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 19, 2017

Rattlesnake Pills Source of Salmonella Infection

Rattlesnake pills have been linked to a case of salmonelloisis in Kansas.  The pills, which were purchased in Mexico, contain dehydrated / ground rattlesnake meat and are used to treat various conditions such as HIV and cancer.  I guess when you have one of these types of diseases, why not throw some rattlesnake at it.   Sounds good, but activity against disease is probably not validated and ground snake meat, if not properly treated, may contain Salmonella.

Infection Control Today
Investigation of a Salmonella Infection Linked to Rattlesnake Pills

Canadian Establishment Recalls RTE Meat Products Shipped to US after Positive Salmonella Tests

A Canadian establishment, is recalling approximately 1,076 pounds of ready-to-eat salami and speck products that may be adulterated with Salmonella  These items were produced in Canada and were shipped to distribution centers in California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York. The problem was discovered when an FSIS sample of the ready-to-eat salami product was confirmed positive for Salmonella. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

USDA FSIS Recall Notice
Piller's Fine Foods Recalls Ready-To-Eat Salami and Speck Products due to Possible Salmonella Adulteration
Class I Recall 
Health Risk: High 
Dec 16, 2017 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Canada - Public Health Notice Issued for Romaine Lettuce Due to E. coli Outbreak

In Canada, officials are investigating 30 E.coli O157 infections with one death and twelve hospitalizations.  They are linking this outbreak to romaine lettuce.  There is no more information at this time (chopped, whole, bagged, etc).  From the report, "Many individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before their illnesses occurred. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to."

Public Health Notice - Outbreak of E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce

Import Alert Concerning Imported Frozen Tuna Steaks With Hepatitis A

FDA issued an import alert for frozen tuna steaks from Vietnam and Indonesia.   According to the import notice - " FDA believes that Hepatitis A Virus contaminated seafood is a result of insanitary conditions in the production or packing facilities, e.g., poor worker hygiene, inadequate worker sanitation facilities, and/or contaminated water supply."

FDA Import Alert
Import Alert 16-137
Published Date: 12/13/2017
Type: DWPE
Import Alert Name:

Sliced Smoked Salmon Recalled after Listeria Positive Sample

A Massachusetts company is  recalling its 1lb. packages pre-sliced salmon because the product has  the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  This issue was identified after FDA product sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the product.

Slicers can be difficult to clean and can become a repository for Listeria if not properly cleaned....but can also be another source within the facility from the point when the salmon is removed from the smoking units to the point where it is packaged.  While slicer cleaning should be evaluated, so to should other potential point sources in the facility.
Springfield Smoked Fish Recalls Smoked Salmon Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
December 13, 2017

Federal Agencies Release Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for 2013

FDA and CDC released their inter-agency report for determining cases of foodborne illness attributed to food sources.  Please note - this data is from 2013.

December 2017

Noted from the report with comment.
  • Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods.  Salmonella illnesses were broadly attributed across multiple food categories. More than 75% of Salmonella illnesses were attributed to seven food categories: Seeded Vegetables (such as tomatoes), Eggs, Chicken, Other Produce (such as nuts), Pork, Beef, and Fruits.  [Many animals carry Salmonella and then this can contaminate produce and grain items through cross contamination probably originating with contamination from fecal deposits]
  • E. coli O157 illnesses were most often linked to Vegetable Row Crops (such as leafy greens) and Beef. More than 75% of illnesses were linked to these two categories.
  • Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were most often linked to Fruits and Dairy products. [Note that meat products are not mentioned here and much of this is due to the work of the meat industry which has conditions and products that are a lot more of a challenge.  I suspect that we will see FDA regulated facilities taking clues from the meat industry about Listeria control.]
  • More than 75% of illnesses were attributed to these two categories, but the rarity of Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks makes these estimates less reliable than those for other pathogens.
  • Non-Dairy Campylobacter illnesses were most often linked to Chicken [but the main source was raw milk.  Incredible to think about when you consider how few people actually drink raw milk]
  • Almost 80% of non-Dairy foodborne illnesses were attributed to Chicken, Other Seafood (such as shellfish), Seeded Vegetables, Vegetable Row Crops, and Other Meat/Poultry (such as lamb or duck). An attribution percentage for Dairy is not included because, among other reasons, most foodborne Campylobacter outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk, which is not widely consumed, and we think these over-represent Dairy as a source of Campylobacter illness. Removing Dairy illnesses from the calculations highlights important sources of illness from widely consumed foods, such as Chicken.
Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration: Release of a New Report on Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for 2013
December 15, 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cruise Ship Season is Here...What about Norovirus?

Planning to go on a cruise this year?  This past week, a Royal Caribbean ship, Ovation of the Sea, had 195 cases of gastrointestinal illness.  One of the largest cruise line ships, it was carrying 5800 people, and was at sea for 14 days off the coast of Australia.

Controlling illness on cruise ships is a challenge.  Over the past 4 years, there have been 10 or so ships that meet the conditions for reporting by CDC (CDC  Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships).  But in order to report by CDC, there is a cutoff  - "3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage."  So in the recent outbreak on the Ovation, it just made that mark at 3.3% on board ill.

This table shows the other cases in the last 6 months.

ABC News
Gastro outbreak on Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, almost 200 ill
By Natalie Whiting
Updated 5 Dec 2017, 2:04amTue 5 Dec 2017, 2:04am

France - Company Conducts International Recall of Baby Milk Product after 26 Ill from Salmonella

A French owned dairy conglomerate, Lactalis, is conducting an international recall of baby milk after there have been 26 reported cases of Salmonella infection. The cases have been reported since Dec 1.
 "The company said a possible source of the outbreak has been identified in a tower used to dry out the milk at a production site in May. Disinfection and cleaning measures have been put in place at the suspected site in western France." 

So did the cases come from product produced before the clean-out / disinfection, and if so, were those conditions sufficient to warrant retrieving product produced before that clean-out /disinfection?

ABC News / Associated Press
Baby milk maker orders global recall over salmonella fears
By The Associated Press
PARIS — Dec 11, 2017

Food Bank Recalls Donated Candy Product for Potential Chemical Contamination

A Kansas food bank / food pantry is recalling a donated candy product due to that it may be contaminated with a chemical substance.  There has been one reported illness so far.  Six cases of this product were received and distributed by the food bank network to potentially  10 counties.  The group also states that this may be an isolated incidence.

This points out a challenge that food banks have with donated food - numerous and varied sources of product.  Depending on a given food banks procedures, donated food can come from retail, food service or manufacturing.  Packaged foods will generally be regarded as distressed - beyond the stated sell-by-date, or will have a cosmetic packaging issue, or will have a quality issue.  They may have been stored or handled using less-than-ideal ways. Food bank receiving and evaluation procedures and documentation is also more difficult considering the numerous entry points into the system.
Harvesters Issues Safety Alert on Bibi Frutix Candy Possible Chemical Contamination
For Immediate Release
December 8, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Week Ending December 8

Beef Bouillon with Undeclared Milk - Creative Contract Packaging LLC is voluntarily recalling 4,412 cases, or 13,236 total pounds, of two code dates of HERB-OX® Beef Flavor Granulated Bouillon, due to the potential presence of an undeclared milk allergen.  The firm discovered the issue during a routine label review.

Almond Found in Chocolate Product - ALDI has voluntarily recalled Choceur Dark Chocolate Bars as a precautionary measure due to the potential presence of almond pieces not listed on packaging. The recall was initiated after an ALDI employee identified almond pieces in the product.
Creative Contract Packaging LLC Issues An Allergen Alert Regarding 4 Ounce Jars Of Herb-Ox® Beef Flavor Granulated Bouillon Due To Potential Presence Of Undeclared Milk
For Immediate Release
December 5, 2017

Sous Vide Cooking for Consumers - Recognizing the Risk

Sous vide cooking is gaining in popularity among consumers.  Sous vide is essentially cooking food in a sealed bag at low cooking temperatures (140F to 180F) for a long period of time. Cooking product at low temperatures in a sealed bag has advantages for flavor retention and tenderization. Unfortunately, there are some serious food safety issues that consumers may be unaware.

Food safety issues arise when the food is not adequately cooked, when cooled incorrectly, or when product is later held at incorrect temperatures.   The first concern is that the food will not reach high enough temperature to kill pathogenic vegetative cells like Salmonella or E. coli (STEC).  In traditional cooking, product is exposed to higher temperature and the center point then rises to meet that temperature.  Our standard endpoint cooking temperatures of 165F for 15 seconds for internal chicken temperature provides sufficient kill that we don't need to worry about Salmonella or Campylobacter.  With sous vide cooking, lower temperatures for longer times are used.  So the concern is that will there be sufficient heat to eliminate vegetative pathogens such as Salmonella or Campylobacter.  For traditional consumer cooking temperatures, we have ample scientific support. But for sous vide, while there is some scientific validation for commercial processing, there is less for consumer at-home cooking.  Generally people count on the direction provided by equipment manufacturers.  How valid are those directions?  And what about when people start to vary from those directions?  Perhaps they start with frozen chicken vs thawed chicken, or they decide to process at 148 instead of 155?

The other concern is cooling.  The temperatures used will not eliminate sporeforming pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum or Clostridium perfringes and so if product is not cooled quickly enough, or if product is left at room temperature for an extended time before consumption, these organisms will grow, especially in a vacuum sealed environment.  Commercial operations that use sous vide processing are required to have tight controls on cooling and refrigerated or frozen storage.  Will consumers do the same?  Fish is a particular concern because the risk of low-temperature growing Clostridium botulinum.

Photo courtesy of Zach Lampich

Consumer Reports
Sous Vide Tools That Up Your Game in the Kitchen

Consumer Reports put the Anova and Joule sous vide cookers to the test to find out if slower really is better

Study - Salmonella in Drains Leads to Ongoing Salmonella Contamination Issue

A study published in Eurosurveillence discusses the investigation of a prolonged outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with a restaurant.  Over a period of a year, there were 82 cases (72 confirmed, 10 possible).   The issue comes down to that Salmonella had built up in the drain system, and with leaks as well as potential bio-aerosols from the drain, Salmonella was able to continue transmission into the food preparation environment.
"We found the drains had failed in several places and hypothesised that a reservoir of bacteria in biofilm [15] and flooded areas in underfloor cavities may have sustained this outbreak, after repeated environmental cleaning failed. Drainage problems in one area of the kitchen led to liquid from the drains seeping into the kitchen suggesting a contamination pathway. We found isolates matching the outbreak strain on kitchen cloths, swabs from kitchen sinks, and pot wash areas suggesting contact with sinks may have provided a second contamination pathway. We also identified ineffective drain water-traps potentially allowing the movement of contaminated bio-aerosols [13]. Smoke tests demonstrated the potential for dissemination of foul air [bio-aerosols] into the kitchen."
Leakage from drains, backflow from drains, and perhaps even bio-aerosols from drains may be a source of contamination into a food environment.  It is important to put in procedures in place to prevent drain relates contamination.

Surveillance and outbreak report Open Access
Investigation using whole genome sequencing of a prolonged restaurant outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to the building drainage system, England, February 2015 to March 2016
John Mair-Jenkins1,2,3, Roberta Borges-Stewart4, Caroline Harbour5, Judith Cox-Rogers5, Tim Dallman6, Philip Ashton6, Robert Johnston7, Deborah Modha8, Philip Monk4, Richard Puleston3,9

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Blockchain - Opportunities and Challenges from a Food Safety Perspective

Blockchain is a term receiving a lot of hype as the must-have for food safety.  Well, at least the IT folks are pushing food safety as a main reason for investing into the technology.  There are benefits of having verifiable and seamless transactions

So what is blockchain - it is a tool by which each segment of the supply chain, or block, is identified from raw material through to the time is is sold.  The blockchain technology records each interaction with an item and assigns it a digital certificate so that the information associated with that block, or supply chain segment, can not be changed or adulterated later.  This prevents company form hiding the true origin and movement of the material as it moves through the chain.  

Traceability and recall are the real benefits.  Having such a system would allow quick identification of  recalled ingredients, and then coupling that with where those ingredients were used, and where that product was distributed or stored.

There can be endless amounts of information recorded with each transaction.  This can include 1) source information such as specific producing company, harvesting fields, or varieties harvested, 2) safety parameters such as temperatures, pH, or Aw, and 3) quality parameters.

One can establish validated contacts, or smart contacts, that help ensure product sourcing and provide means for seamless transactions.  For example, one can ensure that suppliers were indeed certified organic.  "Transactions can be verified and approved by consensus among the community, [theoretically] making fraud more difficult and significantly lowering the costs of validation and authentication" (PMA)

Are there limitations?  Sure. 1) Blockchain is not a specific thing but a process, and requires integration into a a company's existing systems....not always easy to do. How does a company's own procedures mesh into the system.  2) Coding issues, whether there are input issues or deletions, may create confusion, delays, or refusals due to misinformation.. 3) The information collected is only as good as the data input into the system. 3) It does create visibility, so what impact does that have on confidentiality of a company's process and to what degree does a company want to keep their supply chain information away from others, including potential competitors?  For example, maybe I don't want my downstream customer seeing my upstream supplier with the thought that my customer may cut me out so that they can make the product themselves.

So this is a tool that improves visibility and transactions along the supply chain.  No doubt a time saver for the food professional who has to hunt down supplier information.  It will help validate suppliers and ensure sourcing information.  But A savior for food safety?  That may be a stretch. Certainly IBM would like you to believe it.  In the end it still comes down to the basics - the blocking and tackling of people ensuring food safety basics.

To what degree are consumers demanding transparency to know exactly where their food comes from?  There are probably some out there who really, really care, but for me, I'm good with knowing my pizza is from Gigiarelli's or Pizza Perfect, my beer is from Troegs (Nugget Nectar), and my sub is from Giovanni's using those Amoroso's buns.

Supply Chain
Forward Thinking
Commentary: Let's rein in the blockchain exuberance
By Mark Solomon | December 1, 2017

Salmonella in Turkey Likely Cause of Catered Thanksgiving Luncheon Outbreak

As a follow-up to a Salmonella outbreak associated with a catered Thanksgiving event in GA, the source of the outbreak is reported as......turkey.   In the outbreak, 5 were hospitalized and 70 received medical treatment.

The event was catered by a pizza shop / bistro. While this shop produces many different Italian specialty dishes, turkey is not one of the items listed on the catering menu.  So with the large number of people attending (1800) and preparing an item not normally prepared, perhaps the demands of this event were beyond the capability of the bistro?  Small misses, an undercooked bird or cross contamination from unclean food contact surfaces, could have led to Salmonella being in the served product.

The Daily Tribune News
Food source identified in Toyo Tire salmonella outbreak
06 Dec 2017  Written by  Staff Report

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

State of USDA Organic - Growing Demand, But Beware of Fraud

USDA released summary of Investigation Reports for the USDA Certified Organic program.  While the demand for organic foods is increasing, so do the number of certified organic operations.  As with any financial opportunity, there will be those who take advantage of the situation through fraud, or those who will fail to meet the requirements needed to remain certified.

According to the Organic Trade Association, "Organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in 2016, reflecting new sales of almost $3.7 billion from the previous year. Organic food now accounts for more than five percent of total food sales in the U.S. Organic food sales increased by 8.4 percent from last year, blowing past the stagnant 0.6 percent growth rate in the overall food market. Sales of organic non-food products were up 8.8% in 2016. "

To get a sense of the issue, we took summary data from USDA Enforcement Activity Reports  as well as the data posted for fraudulent organic certificates.  While there are those who say the issues involving organic are getting worse, this assertion may or may not be accurate.  It is difficult to tell how fraud and noncompliance are trending because it is difficult to know the reasons for the number of investigations being conducted and whether procedural changes in these investigations has changed over the past years.  But, it is clear that fraud and noncompliance issues do occur regularly.
In comes down to this.  For those purchasing organic, whether to redistribute or to use for processing, it is important to determine that the supplier is compliant and is currently listed in good standing.  This is especially important for imported products where bribes and fraudulent claims may be a bigger issue. 

For consumers, a big issue is someone calling produce organic without the official designation.  And of course there are those that say that USDA Organic is too full of loopholes allowing 'less then true organic' to meet the USDA standard.

Organic labeling fraud is booming
While organic market growth is at a double-digit pace, not all that’s labeled organic is so. Fraud and food safety issues abound.
John Vogel | May 30, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Vaccinated Form of Brucella Causes Illness from Consumption of Raw Milk

While raw milk can be a risk for natural contamination from organisms such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, but there is also a concern from the vaccinated form of Brucella, RB51. RB51 is a weakened strain of Brucella that is given to cows to create immunity. In September, a woman became ill with Brucella after drinking raw milk from a vaccinated cow. "In rare cases, a cow's milk can contain traces of the vaccine. The only way to avoid this risk is by pasteurizing the milk, the CDC says. "

From, "Adverse events in humans associated with accidental exposure to the livestock brucellosis vaccine RB51" (J.Vaccine.2004.02.041)
Brucella spp. are small, non-motile gram-negative coccobacilli known to cause disease in a number of vertebrate species including humans. B. abortus is one of four Brucella species associated with systemic disease in humans. Human brucellosis was once a common public health problem in the United States, but it is now rare with approximately 100 cases reported yearly through national surveillance. Brucellosis in humans is a systemic disease that can manifest with an acute or an insidious onset. Signs and symptoms of the disease include: continued, intermittent, or irregular fever of variable duration; headache; weakness; chills; arthralgia; depression; weight loss; and generalized body aches. The disease can persist for periods ranging from days to years.
CBS News
Raw milk contaminated with bacteria could make people sick, officials warn
By Sarah G. Miller November 21, 2017, 3:34 PM

If you consumed raw milk in the past six months, you may need antibiotics. "People who bought and drank raw milk from a company called Udder Milk may have been infected with a rare but potentially serious germ called Brucella abortus RB51" and should seek medical care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday in a statement.

Water For Infants Recalled after Company Receives Complaints of Mold

The Kroger Company has recalled one gallon containers of Comforts FOR BABY Purified Water with Fluoride Added after receiving complaints about mold in the product.  The mold may or may not be visible.  The main issue with this mold,Talaromyces penicillium, is that some can have an allergic reaction to it.   Infants with impaired immune systems can be susceptible to infection.

The water in this case was steam distilled water and then minerals and fluoride were added back.  Minerals include potassium bicarbonate, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride.  These are not items that we would expect to support mold growth.
FDA Alerts Consumers to Recall of Certain Comforts FOR BABY Water with Fluoride
For Immediate Release
December 4, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

In Minnesota, Two Burger King Restaurants Closed After Numerous Cases of Salmonella Infection Linked

In Minnesota, two Burger King restaurants were shut down after at least 27 cases of Salmonella infection have been linked.

Very unusual to have a national brand, fast-food burger operation involved in an outbreak.  The article indicates cases since September, with 4 more cases now.  This would tend to indicate more of an environmental point source contamination in the restaurant rather than a particular food (unless the food supplier has a point source environmental contamination issue).

CBS Minnesota Ch 4
Salmonella Outbreak Closes 2 Burger Kings In Bemidji [Minnesota]
December 3, 2017 1:13 PM

In OR, Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Sliced Melons

Eighteen people have been reported as becoming infected with Salmonella after eating store-bought, pre-but watermelon, canteloupe, and mixes containing those fruits.

Companies producing cut melon products normally have tight controls over this type of RTE operation, including a fruit washing/sanitizing step and then tight sanitary controls to prevent contamination after washing/sanitizing, through slicing and then packaging - good line sanitation and hygienic zoning.  So to have Salmonella contamination, one would guess either the washing/sanitizing was inadequate or there were some lapses in sanitation/hygienic zoning.

Oregon Live
Salmonella outbreak in Oregon, Washington linked to pre-cut fruit
Updated Dec 1; Posted Dec 1
By Brad Schmidt,
The Oregonian/OregonLive

Friday, December 1, 2017

Article Summary - Five Techniques to Manage Supply Chain Risk

Supplier control can be difficult, and the results of not having the proper checks in place can have huge financial costs on the company, as well as impact the safety of product they sell to consumers.  Saw this article link on United Fresh Weekly News (they provide great information) and thought it would be good to repost for those involved in supplier oversight.

In summary, the author provides five important considerations for managing supply chain risk.  While stated, to move forward in this world, avoiding risk is impossible, so we have to take intelligent risk.  These are:
  • innovation and efficiency in contracting management;
  • strategic requirements for supplier insurance, indemnification and limitations of liability;
  • provider optimization and redundancy;
  • supplier financial stability visibility; and
  • proper diligence in operational supplier assessment reviews.

Here are those components from a food safety perspective.

Innovation and efficiency in contracting management - it is important to review contracts regularly, updating to current systems of management, and incorporating information such as updated specifications, required controls.  Goal is to avoid outdated information on contracts.

Strategic requirements for supplier insurance, indemnification and limitations of liability - Are they
required to support, and can they financially support an issue that they cause to the product you sell.

Provider optimization and redundancy - Does the supplier have a back-up plan to get you product or do you have a back-up plan (secondary supplier).

Supplier financial stability visibility - Do you know that your entire supply chain can remain financially viable.  This is especially important when we work internationally.

Proper diligence in operational supplier assessment reviews - this is one where the technical people are most actively involved.  Sure we can review audits, but are we following up on those audits to obtain verifiable proof that our suppliers are responding to the audits.

SupplyChain Management Review
Five Techniques to Manage Supply Chain Risk

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Ending December ,. 2017

Temporary Breakdown Leads to Undeclared Milk - Colorado Nut Company of Denver, CO is recalling Cashew Cranberry Cherry Jubilee, Oat Bran Nutty Crunch, Honey Nutty Granola, Peanut Delight, and Frontier Trail Mix, because they may contain undeclared Milk. The recall was initiated after it was discovered that product containing “Milk” was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of (Milk). Subsequent investigation indicates the problem was caused by a temporary breakdown in the company's production and packaging processes."

More Issues with Milk in Dark Chocolate - Farrell Farms, Inc. of Goldsboro, NC is recalling 7 oz Dark Chocolate Almonds, 7 oz Dark Chocolate Cashews, and 7 oz Dark Chocolate Pecans, because these products may contain undeclared milk. The recall was initiated after the supplier, Dutch Valley Food Distributors, Inc. of Myerstown, PA notified Farrell farms on November 18th, 2017 that the product was being recalled due to undeclared milk in the chocolate raw material used to coat the various nut products.

In Allergen Labeling, Cashews are Different than Peanuts - Virginia Diner, Inc. is voluntarily issuing a recall of 10 oz. cans of Plow & Hearth Chocolate Covered Cashews at Plow & Hearth’s locations and nationwide (Mail Order) as a precaution because they may contain peanuts and peanut allergens.  A label mix up was discovered by a consumer who received and opened a Cashew Tower Set (3 individual cashew cans) of which one can, the 10 oz. Chocolate Covered Cashews, were found to have Salted Peanuts.

Customer Finds Egg Missing on Label - A N.J. establishment, is recalling approximately 46,810 pounds of beef meatball products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens - egg, The problem was discovered when the establishment’s customer noticed that the label did not include eggs in the ingredient statement.
Food Co. Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Allergen (E.G. Milk) in Product
For Immediate Release
November 22, 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Study Links Pathogenic E. coli (STEC) to Flour in 2016 Outbreak

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that flour was the source of a 2016 pathogenic E. coli (STEC) outbreak. In this outbreak 56 cases were identified in 24 states, with more than a quarter of those cases developing hemolytic–uremic syndrome - very severe kidney damage.   Although there were many challenges related to flour as an ingredient, this study was able to conclude that the flour was the source of the contamination. In concluding, the study highlights the risky behaviors that led to infection - "These behaviors included the consumption of raw or undercooked homemade dough or batter, which has long been discouraged because of the known risk of salmonellosis from consuming raw eggs, as well as allowing children to play with raw dough in restaurants and using flour to make play-dough for children at home. Our data show that although it is a low-moisture food, raw flour can be a vehicle for foodborne pathogens."

Still, people continue to eat raw dough
New England Journal of Medicine
Shiga Toxin–Producing E. coli Infections Associated with Flour

FDA Warning Issued to a Processor of RTE Salads

A NC refrigerated ready-to-eat (RTE) salad manufacturing facility was issued a warning letter.

FDA found two positive Listeria monocytogenes samples in the processing area - one from a wheel of (?) that was supported by a stack of lids located in the back kitchen. The lids contained accumulated water and debris and were continuously leaking product at connection junctions.  And another positive sample from under the packer [equipment?] in the back kitchen.  Potato salad was being manufactured in the back kitchen during the inspection.

The WGS analysis found two different strains of LM, and both of these strains had been found in the company's other processing facility during a previous year's sampling.  Because of this, FDA deemed that the plant did not have adequate control of Listeria.

  • One of the strains of LM found was genetically identical to isolate found in thier other processing facility.  "that it is identical to (b)(4) FDA environmental swabs collected from your Chester, SC facility in May 2012, August 2013, and April 2015. This strain was also found in (b)(4) isolates that were obtained from USDA samples of chicken salad and ham salad from your Charlotte, NC facility, and (b)(4) of USDA’s environmental swabs collected from your Charlotte, NC facility in 2015."
  • The other strain of L. monocytogenes  "shows that it is identical to L. monocytogenes isolated from FDA’s February 2017 sample of your Chester, SC facility’s pimento spread, the state of North Carolina’s 2017 sample of your pimento cheese and old fashioned spread, and FDA environmental swabs collected from your Chester, SC facility in May 2012, August 2013 and April 2015. This evidence demonstrates that L. monocytogenes had maintained a presence in your Chester, South Carolina facility from 2012-2017 and an identical strain of L. monocytogenes has been isolated in your Charlotte, NC processing environment."

The facility was sited with numerous GMP violations.

  • The production sprayers and the water bath hose were observed pooling water throughout the entire production room floor and splashing water onto food contact surfaces
  • Soiled garments of employees including hair nets, arm guards, and aprons coming into direct contact with raw ingredients and in-process finished product.
  • An employee was observed using a probe thermometer to check the temperature of each batch of pimento spread without cleaning or sanitizing it between uses.
  • Employees storing and resting food contact equipment such as product scoops and spatulas on non-food contact surfaces such as brown paper towels and tables then using them to manipulate raw materials and/or in process finished product without first washing or sanitizing them.
  • After sanitation operations, had been completed in the back kitchen a mixer had chicken salad residue and dried mayo debris on the paddle, the interior and the mixer stand attachment. The equipment was used for the next production run without any additional sanitation being performed
  • A bucket labeled as sweet pickle relish to contain bleach, a bucket labeled as diced celery to contain quaternary ammonia, and an unidentified container, which reportedly contained bleach, was found to contain a 50ppm chlorine solution.
  • Chemicals were observed to be stored directly adjacent to the potato washer and the potato conveyor where food items were actively undergoing processing. In addition, the investigators observed sanitizer overspray to be inside an open box containing finished product containers as well as wetting boxes containing finished product container.
  • Finished product troughs, raw ingredient transport bowls, and mixers were observed to be pitted and cracked, cutting boards contained numerous gauges and cuts and salad tubs were heavily gouged.
  • Two pallets of canned pimentos and one pallet of canned jalapenos were observed to be stored in the maintenance shop. The pallet of jalapenos had opened motor oil containers and lubricants stored on top. The front pallet of pimento had a viscous black liquid spilled onto the middle cans on the pallet. Chemical drums stored adjacent to the rear kitchen were observed to be leaking onto open boxes of finished product containers
  • Condensate was observed dripping onto packaged product, exposed raw materials such as relish and cabbage, and food contact surfaces. Condensate was also observed pooling where sanitized production equipment was being stored. 
  • Accumulated condensation from a shop fan in the front and was blowing onto sanitized cooked potato containers.
  • An employee in the front kitchen was observed using gloved hands to assemble sanitized production equipment. This employee stopped assembly to manipulate the hose that had been on the floor and then resumed assembling the sanitized equipment without first washing and sanitizing or changing the gloves.
  • Multiple employees were observed returning from breaks without washing their hands or washed their hands and then put on hairnets and earphones, without first re-washing their hands, before resuming production activities in the front and back kitchens and the spice room.
  • The equipment washing sink in the front kitchen was observed to be directly plumbed into the sewer system without an air break or a backflow prevention device.

FDA Warning Letter

November 14, 2017



Stanley C. Bracey, President
Bill R. Rudisill, General Manager
B&H Foods
2122 Thrift Road
Charlotte, NC 28208

Dear Mr. Bracey:

The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspected your refrigerated ready-to-eat (RTE) salad manufacturing facility located at 2122 Thrift Road, Charlotte, NC 28208 from May 9 through 31, 2017. During our inspection, FDA collected environmental samples (i.e., swabs) from various areas in your processing facility, including areas that are near food and food contact surfaces.  FDA laboratory analyses of the environmental swabs found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes), a human pathogen in your facility. Additionally, FDA investigators observed serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food regulation, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 110 (21 CFR Part 110) [1]. Based on FDA’s analytical results for the environmental sample and inspectional findings documented during the inspection, we have determined that your RTE food products are adulterated within the meaning of section 402(a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)], in that they were prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health. You may find the Act and FDA's regulations through links in FDA's home page at

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Protein Bars Recalled After Single Complaint of Foreign Material in the Form of Plastic

Leclerc Foods has initiated a limited voluntary recall of a single lot of Fit & Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars The recall was initiated as a precautionary measure after a small piece of yellow plastic was discovered by a consumer.
Leclerc Foods Issues Limited Voluntary Recall of Fit & Active Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bars – Due to Presence of Plastic Piece
For Immediate Release
November 23, 2017

Flies as a Vector for Foodborne Illness and Human Disease - What is the Risk?

A recent study originating from Penn State's College of Science and published in Scientific Reports evaluates the microbiome of house flies (grey) and blow flies (metallic green or blue, larvae live off of dead animals) and their ability to transfer bacteria.  But as reported in many mass media articles, the assertions drawn from this study may have people avoiding flies like the plague.

As an example from the The Telegraph
Title:  Don’t eat food if a fly lands on it, as they carry more dangerous bacteria than previously thought, warn scientists
  • "But a new study suggests the insects carry far more dangerous bacteria than previously thought, meaning sandwiches are best avoided if they have been contaminated by flies."
  • "Flies in urban areas were found to carry more bacteria than the countryside leading scientists to suggest avoiding city parks for a picnic, and eating food into more rural locations."
  • "It might be better to have that picnic in the woods, far away from urban environments, not a central park."
The metgenomic analysis of the fly microbiome  in the study does show that flies can carry a number of bacterial pathogens, however the presence may not translate to absolute risk.  Like the metagenonic analysis conducted on surfaces in the city environment  that showed the presence of  a number of different bacterial pathogens in the subway and other places, that presence doesn't mean there is a huge risk.   A fly landing on your food doesn't necessarily mean that the food is now contaminated to a point that makes it unsafe.  Or, I wouldn't skip the opportunity of having a picnic in a city park because a fly may land on my food.

So perhaps some more reasonable takeaways from the study:
  • Don't swat a fly when it is on your food.  If you swat it on the counter, clean that surface.  The majority of bacteria will be in the fly or on various parts that will more likely transfer to the food or food contact surface when the fly is splattered.
  • The higher transfer rate of bacteria will be from a surface the fly was just on.  So if you are eating lunch in a pasture full of cow patties where numerous flies are landing on cow poop and then landing on your sandwich, then one would consider that a higher risk than having a fly land on your sandwich when eating it in your home. See this link -
  • When preparing food, especially food for others, it is important to keep flies away the best you can.  Keep doors and windows closed or screened.  It is still important to avoid risks where we can.
Scientific Reports
The microbiomes of blowflies and houseflies as bacterial transmission reservoirs
Ana Carolina M. Junqueira, Aakrosh Ratan, Enzo Acerbi, Daniela I. Drautz-Moses, Balakrishnan N. V. Premkrishnan, Paul I. Costea, Bodo Linz, Rikky W. Purbojati, Daniel F. Paulo, Nicolas E. Gaultier, Poorani Subramanian, Nur A. Hasan, Rita R. Colwell, Peer Bork, Ana Maria L. Azeredo-Espin, Donald A. Bryant & Stephan C. Schuster
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 16324 (2017)
Received:29 June 2017Accepted:10 November 2017Published online:24 November 2017


Blowflies and houseflies are mechanical vectors inhabiting synanthropic environments around the world. They feed and breed in fecal and decaying organic matter, but the microbiome they harbour and transport is largely uncharacterized. We sampled 116 individual houseflies and blowflies from varying habitats on three continents and subjected them to high-coverage, whole-genome shotgun sequencing. This allowed for genomic and metagenomic analyses of the host-associated microbiome at the species level. Both fly host species segregate based on principal coordinate analysis of their microbial communities, but they also show an overlapping core microbiome. Legs and wings displayed the largest microbial diversity and were shown to be an important route for microbial dispersion. The environmental sequencing approach presented here detected a stochastic distribution of human pathogens, such as Helicobacter pylori, thereby demonstrating the potential of flies as proxies for environmental and public health surveillance.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

FDA Warns About Giving Bones and Bone Treats to Dogs

FDA issued a consumer warning about giving bones including commercially-sold bones and bone treats to dogs. Also included of course are chicken and turkey bones.

As dog owners know, some dogs can handle a bone, while others want to swallow it whole. If your dog is one that can't resist knocking back the whole bone, then even a commercially-sold bone can be a problem.  The hard part for owners is overcoming 'the stare'.

FDA Warning to Consumers
No Bones (or Bone Treats) About It: Reasons Not to Give Your Dog Bones

Bone Treats Pose Risks for Dogs 
Bone treats are real bones that have been processed, sometimes flavored, and packaged for dogs. Giving your dog a “bone treat” might lead to an unexpected trip to your veterinarian, a possible emergency surgery, or even death for your pet.

Many dog owners know not to toss a turkey or chicken bone to their dog; those bones are just too brittle. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the risk goes beyond that, especially when it comes to the “bone treats” you may see at the store.

Catered Thanksgiving Event Results in Numerous Cases of Foodborne Illness

Update - 10/27 According to a report, the causative agent was determined to be Salmonella.  No specific product was identified as the source, but it looks as though a local pizza shop was the caterer.

A catered Thanksgiving event in northern GA resulted in numerous cases of foodborne illness. At least two have been hospitalized, and the total number of cases may be as high as 1800. Reported symptoms of foodborne illness includes upset stomach, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

No specific pathogen or suspect food has been identified at this point.

We can add this to our Thanksgivings past and foodborne illnesses outbreak list – something to consider for your holiday celebrations – warning to our late shift employees on being served food from earlier in the day.
  • 2016 - C. perfrigens Identified as Cause of Thanksgiving Foodborne Illness Outbreak - Shortly after Thanksgiving, an outbreak of foodborne illness was reported in California that was linked to a Thanksgiving charity event. There were 3 deaths and another 22 others who were ill. The causative agent was found to be Clostridium perfringens, a sporeforming pathogen that can grow rapidly when food is temperature abused.
  • A 2015 Thanksgiving Luncheon Becomes Scene for C. perfringens Outbreak - A CDC Report - With Thanksgiving leftovers still in the fridge, it is a good time to review a 2015 outbreak that occurred during a Thanksgiving luncheon. About 40 people who attended a catered company Thanksgiving lunch became ill with diarrhea and abdominal pain the following day (roughly 13 hours later). C. perfrignes entrotoxin was found in the patient stool samples and C. perfrigens was isolated from the turkey as well as the patients. According to the CDC report "The caterer had previously maintained a permitted facility, but reported having prepared the lunch food served at this event in an uninspected, residential kitchen. Turkeys were cooked approximately 10 hours before lunch, placed in warming pans, and plated in individual servings. Food was then delivered by automobile, which required multiple trips. After cooking and during transport, food sat either in warming pans or at ambient temperature for up to 8 hours. No temperature monitoring was conducted after cooking."
  • 2012 Martha Stewart, celebrity chef and author, contracts Salmonella - Martha Stewart contracted Salmonella over Thanksgiving from mishandling food in the form of raw turkey. While we hate to see anyone become ill, having a celebrity chef come down with Salmonella can have a positive outcome. Too often we see these celebrity chefs demonstrating poor practices, whether it is inadequate hand washing, cooking to the incorrect temperatures, or canning foods using the oven technique. But my hope is that Martha will use this experience as motivator to endorse good safety practices.
  • 2015 Fifteen Postal Workers Ill from Potluck Leftovers - Potlucks are one thing, but leftovers from potlucks..... In this case, 15 postal workers become ill after consuming leftovers from a potluck dinner held for 200 to honor veterans. Officials at the facility said nearly 200 employees participated in a potluck dinner Tuesday evening to honor co-workers who are veterans. Some of the food was refrigerated overnight Tuesday. Employees and managers returning to work Wednesday night helped themselves to the leftovers and after consuming them, some complained of stomach pains, officials said.
  • 2014 Catered Office Party Is the Site of Staph Aureus Intoxication - Approximately 60 people became ill after attending an office party in Florida. About 25 were taken to the hospital. The catered event served turkey, ham, stuffing and green bean to some 700 people. The caterer was identified as Kitchen Divas, which from the website, appears to be a legitimate operation. It sucks when staff parties turn into 'staph' parties
  • Advice on handling leftovers.

Rome News Tribune
Health department investigating likely foodborne-illness outbreak at Toyo Tire event
Press release

Monday, November 20, 2017

Store Caramel Apples At Refrigeration Temperatures

Unfortunately, we are still seeing caramel apples at retail being displayed at room temperature.  Less than two years ago, a Listeria outbreak was linked to caramel apples.  It was later determined that if those apples had been stored at refrigeration temperatures, there would not likely have been an issue.

Penn State News
Caramel apples stored at room temperature for extended periods can pose risk
October 24, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Trader Joe's Chicken Salad Products Recalled After Complaints of Glass-like Foreign Material

Green Cusine, a CA establishment, issued a recall for 36,854 pounds of Trader Joe's chicken and turkey salad after the company received consumer complaints of glass shards / silica foreign material.

News Release
Green Cuisine Recalls Poultry Products Due To Possible Foreign Matter Contamination
Class I Recall 
Health Risk: High 
 Nov 18, 2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dairy Calves Linked to Outbreak of Antibiotic Resistant Strain of Salmonella

CDC has identified an ongoing Salmonella outbreak associated with dairy calves.  The calves originated in Wisconsin.  The ongoing outbreak has progressed for some time, dating back to January 2015, with now 54 people in 15 states.  It is a multidrug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.

Dairy Herd Management
CDC Links Salmonella Outbreak to Contact with Dairy Calves
John Maday
November 16, 2017 10:18 AM

CA Firm Recalls Guacamole Product Due to Listeria Positive Sample

A California firm is recalling its 9-ounce containers of "Real Guacamole" because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  This issue was identified after FDA product sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the product.

Initially (11/15), one lot was recalled.  But with many Listeria related recalls, they get expanded.
Two days later (11/17), the company issued an expanded recall.  In the later recall notice, it stated, "The recall was necessitated by positive test results for Listeria monocytogenes on two packages out of many samples collected for the U. S. Food and Drug Administration random sample testing program."

Casa Sanchez Foods Recalls "Real Guacamole" Because Of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
November 15, 2017

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Ending 11/17/17

Chicken Wraps with Undeclared Peanut and Soy - A Swedesboro, N.J. establishment, is recalling approximately 46 pounds of chicken wrap products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens  The product contains peanut and soy, known allergens, which are not declared on the product label  The problem was discovered on Nov. 15, 2017 by the firm’s quality assurance supervisor while performing verification activities. After discovering the issue, the firm immediately notified FSIS.

More Dark Chocolate Products Recalled Due to Undeclared Milk - A Marshfield, WI company is recalling 2 gingersnap products that are related to the GKI FOODS LLC Dark Chocolate Products recall because it may contain undeclared milk allergen.
Lipari Foods, LLC has also issued voluntary recall of specific dark chocolate products packaged by sister company JLM due to an undeclared milk allergen.  Products were distributed under the Weis and All Natural brand names or as generic product without branding.

Chocolates With Almonds Getting in with Non-Almond Product - A Washington firm is recalling 127 cases of Costco item # 2335, Dilettante Chocolates Espresso Blend, Espresso Beans in Semisweet, Milk and White Chocolate, because it may contain undeclared almonds. The recall was initiated after the firm discovered the chocolate covered almonds were mixed and packaged with the Dilettante Espresso Blend.  Product was distributed in packaging that did not reveal the presence of almonds.
Figi’s Issues Recall Alert Due to Undeclared Allergen (Milk) in Dark Chocolate Gingersnaps
For Immediate Release
November 9, 2017

Frozen Corn Recalled Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

Two supermarket chains are recalling frozen corn after their supplier, Bonduelle, a French food conglomerate, had discovered a Listeria issue in the frozen corn.

According to the Enforcement Report, the product was from Canada.  The Listeria testing was conducted by the Virginia Department of Agriculture.  The recall was classified as Class 2.
Stop & Shop Alerts Customers to Voluntary Recall of Store Brand Frozen Whole Kernel Sweet Corn
For Immediate Release
November 15, 2017

NH Firm Expands Listeria Related Recall to Include All Products

A NH company is now recalling all of its products due to the potential to be contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes.  Earlier this week, Yorgo's recalled products with the same date code.  But like all Listeria recalls, rarely is one lot involved unless there is substantial evidence that controls were in place and the one day in question represented an event out of the ordinary.  The company also produces product for Trader Joe's (of course).

As we have seen in many past Listeria-related recalls, recalls are expanded after regulators investigate and discover that there is likely a lack of sufficient control.
Yorgo’s Foods Inc Is Recalling All Flavored and Unflavored Food Products (Hommus; Tahini Sauces; Yogurt Dip, Salads, Tzatziki, Grape Leaves; Taboule) Due to Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
November 15, 2017

CA Establishment Ships Product Sampled by USDA, and Recalls After Positive Listeria Test

A Hayward, Calif. establishment specializing in Indian foods, is recalling approximately 264 pounds of cooked chicken tikka masala products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes  According to the recall notice, the problem was discovered on Nov. 13, 2017 when the UDSA district office received notification that the firm shipped product that USDA had earlier sampled (Nov 7) and confirmed to be positive with Listeria monocytogenes (Nov 13). 

In this case, the company should have held product that was sampled by USDA until the results came back.
Sukhi's Gourmet Indian Foods Recalls Chicken Tikka Masala Products Due To Possible Listeria Contamination 
Class I Recall 
Health Risk: High 
Nov 14, 2017 

Monday, November 13, 2017

PA Beef Slaughter Facility Shutdown Because of Pests

A PA slaughter facility has been temporarily shut down because of 'pests'. 

Hard to know exactly the extent of the situation, but pests like mice and rats can become incredibly embedded within facility structures if not promptly handled.  Once tunnels, runways, and nesting sites are put in place in the bowels of the structure, it creates opportunities for reinfections over time.

Pests force temporary shutdown of JBS Pennsylvania beef plant
Theopolis Waters
November 8, 2017 / 5:45 PM

Hommus and Baba Ghannouj Recalled After FDA Finds Listeria in NH Processing Plant

A NH company is recalling hommus and baba ghannouj after FDA sampling discovered Listeria monocytogenes in the processing environment.  "The production of the products have been suspended while FDA and the company continue to investigate the source of the problem."

Hommus and hummus are the same...which is chickpea paste mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini.  (Of course, this is different than humus which is fully decomposed organic matter used for improving planting soil.)  Baba Ghannouj (aka baba ganoush) is made from mashed grilled eggplant mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini.  Both hummus and baba gannoush are the types of foods where Listeria is a risk for post process contamination.

FDA Recall Notice
Yorgo Foods Inc is Recalling Various Flavors of Hommus Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
November 10, 2017

Friday, November 10, 2017

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Week ending 11/10/17

Donated Unlabeled Hot Pockets Recalled - Nestle Prepared Foods Company, a Mount Sterling, Ky. establishment, is recalling approximately 26,400 pounds of pork and beef products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens - the product(s) contains eggs, milk, soy, and wheat, known allergens, which are not declared on the product label.   Interesting point here - These items were donated to a charitable organization, in which the product was further distributed to a food bank in Missouri. The products may have been repackaged and further distributed and sold to additional food banks in Missouri. The products do not have the USDA mark of inspection and do not identify the ingredients.

USDA Recall Notice
Nestle Prepared Foods Company Recalls Pork and Beef Products Due To Misbranding and Undeclared Allergens 
Class I Recall
Health Risk: High
Nov 8, 2017

CDC MMWR - Waterborne Disease Outbreaks from Drinking Water - 2013 to 2014

As an important raw material for most food operations, water must be evaluated as part of the hazard analysis. The source of the water as well as how that water is stored and used must be considered. In CDC's report, disease outbreaks associated with drinking water (period 2013-2014) are reviewed. By their definition, "for an event to be defined as a waterborne disease outbreak, two or more cases must be linked epidemiologically by time, location of water exposure, and illness characteristics; and the epidemiologic evidence must implicate water exposure as the probable source of illness."

A summary of key findings:
  • "Legionella was implicated in 24 (57%) outbreaks, 130 (13%) cases, 109 (88%) hospitalizations, and all 13 deaths (Table 1). Eight outbreaks caused by two parasites resulted in 289 (29%) cases, among which 279 (97%) were caused by Cryptosporidium, and 10 (3%) were caused by Giardia duodenalis. Chemicals or toxins were implicated in four outbreaks involving 499 cases, with 13 hospitalizations, including the first reported outbreaks (two outbreaks) associated with algal toxins in drinking water."
  • "Thirty-five (83%) outbreaks were associated with public (i.e., regulated), community or noncommunity water systems,¶ and three (7%) were associated with unregulated, individual systems. Fourteen outbreaks occurred in drinking water systems with groundwater sources and an additional 14 occurred in drinking water systems with surface water sources. The most commonly cited deficiency, which led to 24** (57%) of the 42 drinking water–associated outbreaks, was the presence of Legionella in drinking water systems"
  • "All of the outbreak-associated deaths reported during this surveillance period as well as all of the outbreaks reported in hospital/health care settings or long-term care facilities, were caused by Legionella. A review of 27 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak investigations in which CDC participated during 2000–2014 identified at least one water system maintenance deficiency in all 23 investigations for which this information was available, indicating that effective water management programs in buildings at increased risk for Legionella growth and transmission (e.g., those with more than 10 stories or that house "
  • "Cryptosporidium was the second most common cause of both outbreaks and illnesses, demonstrating the continued threat from this chlorine-tolerant pathogen when drinking water supplies are contaminated."
Some background from one of the references (copied below) on Legionella in water systems.
  • "Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection that is fatal for about one in 10 persons who become infected. Legionella, the bacterium that causes Legionnaires’ disease, grows well in warm water, but can be killed by disinfectants, such as chlorine. Persons can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella."
  • "Legionella grows best in building water systems that are not well maintained, especially where levels of chlorine or other disinfectants are low and water temperatures are optimal for its growth. Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks most often occur in hotels, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. The most common sources are potable water (e.g., drinkable water used for showering), cooling towers, hot tubs, and decorative fountains."

Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Associated with Drinking Water — United States, 2013–2014
Weekly / November 10, 2017 / 66(44);1216–1221

PA Establishment Recalls Raw Poultry Product for Foreign Metal Contamination

A Mifflintown, Pa. poultry establishment, is recalling approximately 10,839 pounds of raw poultry products that may be contaminated with metal pieces.  According to the report, "The problem was discovered on November 2, 2017 by an establishment employee who observed metal foreign material in a chicken breast while performing routine duties. The establishment took corrective actions to recover products before reaching commerce."  So not sure why a recall needed to be issued since it appears the product did not leave the building.

USDA Recall Notice
Empire Kosher Poultry Inc. Recalls Chicken Products Due To Possible Extraneous Material Contamination 
Class I Recall
Health Risk: High
Nov 9, 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

FDA Report - Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program FY 2015

FDA issued their 2015 Pesticide Monitoring Program Report.   Overall, the findings showed low levels of violations, and basically these numbers were similar to the previous year.   It must be remembered that this is targeted sampling...that is, FDA will focus their effort on looking on those items/locations where there is more likely to be an issue.

In comparison of domestic versus imported foods, imported products were more likely to have violative pesticide levels.

Frozen Green Beans Recalled Due to Positive Listeria Test

A Canadian firm with a US repack facility is recalling frozen green beans after Connecticut Dept of Consumer Protection found one Listeria positive sample.
Based upon information gleaned from a company write-up in Business View Magazine (Sept 2017) this product is probably not domestic.  And like all Listeria related outbreaks, it will be a question of whether more product will be pulled into the recall. Much of that will depend on the investigation into the packing facility's Listeria Control Plan.

This is the type of product that would fall under the Foreign Supplier Verification program with the foreign company being the FSVP Importer having the US facility.  And this is why the address in the announcement is the facility in Virginia.

In the Business View write-up, the following passage is interesting.  Clearly, they see their product as meeting ready-to-eat standards. As Lee Corso would say...'not so fast my friend'.
Another growing item of concern to Tentomas [company founder] is food safety. “There’s been a major shift change in both regulatory as well as consumer behavior in how we eat these products,” he states. “Consumers today are eating raw and frozen fruits and vegetables, putting them in their smoothies and putting them in their salads, and there have been some major recalls in 2016 for both frozen fruits and a massive one in frozen vegetables. So, the food safety landscape has changed significantly. And what you’re seeing is the industry looking at their product as truly ‘ready-to-eat.’ Therefore, we need to establish the food safety parameters that come with a ready-to-eat product. And we see more significant change coming in enforcing the guidelines. That’s going to be one major change that will be positive for consumers because it will result in dramatic decreases in potential contamination of frozen fruits and vegetables. As an industry, we have a tremendous responsibility in making sure that we improve the food safety profile as consumers are eating more and more of it.”
FDA Recall Notice
Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods Voluntarily Recalls Nature’s Touch Frozen Organic Fine Whole Green Beans Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
November 7, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

This Week in Mislabeled Product - Ending 11/3/17

Five Whole Foods Market stores in Northern California are voluntarily recalling frosted Pumpkin Drop cookies because the products contained tree nut allergens (walnuts) that were not listed on the product label.   One reaction has been reported to date.

aylor Farms Florida, an Orlando, Fla. establishment, is recalling approximately 732 pounds of salads with chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens.  The products contain fish (anchovies), a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label.   The problem was discovered on Oct. 26, 2017, when Taylor Farms Florida received a consumer complaint about the taste of the salad dressing. After conducting an internal investigation, the firm determined that the products incorrectly contained Caesar salad dressing instead of Bacon Ranch salad dressing. The Caesar salad dressing contains anchovies.

Allergy Alert Issued in Five Northern California Whole Foods Market Stores for Undeclared Walnuts in Pumpkin Drop Cookies
For Immediate Release
October 27, 2017

FSMA Guidance Document - Co-manufacturers Working with Brand Owner's Suppliers

FDA released a guidance document today that allows co-manufacturing companies more time to comply with supplier preventive controls when those co-manufacturing operations are involved in packing products for a brand owner where the suppliers of ingredients for the product are under the control of the brand owner.  The co-manufacturer's food safety plan will state that which activities of the supplier approval and supplier verification are under the brand owner's control.

From the Guidance document:
"If a contract prevents a co-manufacturer from being able to review a brand owner’s documentation of supplier verification activities, the co-manufacturer would not be able to verify suppliers based on its review of that documentation. Consequently, the co-manufacturer would need to conduct supplier verification activities (e.g., on-site audits) that might otherwise not be required."  "To provide time for contracts to be revised to allow co-manufacturers to review all necessary documentation from the brand owner, FDA is announcing that, under certain circumstances and on a temporary basis, we do not intend to take enforcement action against a receiving facility that is a co-manufacturer, and that is not in compliance with certain supply-chain program requirements for food manufactured for the brand owner."

Supplier Approval
FDA does not intend to take enforcement action under the following circumstances: (1) a brand owner conducts supplier approval activities, (2) the co-manufacturer describes these activities in its food safety plan, and (3) the co-manufacturer conducts any necessary supplier approval activities not conducted by the brand owner. For example, FDA does not intend to take enforcement action when a brand owner (rather than the co-manufacturer) evaluates supplier performance as part of approving a supplier, the co-manufacturer’s food safety plan states that the brand owner will consider supplier performance before a supplier is approved, and the co-manufacturer conducts any other necessary supplier approval activities (e.g., hazard analysis of the food). The co-manufacturer is always responsible for following written procedures for receiving raw materials and other ingredients, and documenting use of the procedures (21 CFR §§ 117.420 and 507.120).

Supplier Verification
FDA does not intend to take enforcement action under the following circumstances: (1) a brand owner determines and/or conducts supplier verification activities for its co-manufacturer, (2) the
co-manufacturer describes these activities in its food safety plan, and (3) the co-manufacturer conducts any necessary supplier verification activities not conducted by the brand owner. For example, FDA does not intend to take enforcement action when an audit is determined to be the appropriate supplier verification activity but a co-manufacturer does not independently obtain a supplier audit or review the conclusions of a supplier audit obtained and reviewed by the brand owner, the co-manufacturer’s food safety plan states that the brand owner will obtain and review audits of the supplier, and the co-manufacturer conducts any other necessary supplier verification activities (e.g., sampling and testing of the raw material or other ingredient).

We do not intend to take enforcement action regarding the affected provisions until November 6, 2019.
Guidance for Industry: Supply-Chain Program Requirements and Co-Manufacturer Supplier Approval and Verification for Human Food and Animal Food
Contains Nonbinding Recommendations
November 2017

Outbreak of E. coli Affects Hundreds of Marine Recruits

About 300 marine recruits were stricken with E. coli infection this past week, and of that, 85 are still ill.  The outbreak occurred at Marine Corps Depot San Diego along with some personnel at Camp Pendleton,  The investigation continues as to the cause.

Fox 5 News - San Diego
Dozens of Marine recruits remain sick from E. coli
Posted 8:51 PM, November 2, 2017, by City News Service

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Airline Stops Foodservice Operations After Supplier Found with Listeria on Non-contact Surfaces

American Airlines suspended its food service for flights out of Los Angeles after it food supplier, Gates Gourmet, was found to have 'traces' of Listeria on non-food contact surfaces. including drains and floors.

It is hard to know the real risk with the the little information provided.  We would need to know much more (were food contact surfaces positive, how pervasive was the contamination throughout the operation, what trends were seen, what practices were or were not in place, the accessibility of the non-contact areas to being a risk to food, etc), to opine on the appropriateness of this action.  Just because Listeria is found in a drain, in itself, would not constitute a risk and can really be considered normal.  It seems the supplier was pretty confident in the low risk of the situation.

Business Insider
American Airlines flights are going without food after listeria found at catering kitchen
Benjamin Zhang

Canada: Breaded Chicken Strips Recalled Due to Staphylococcus Enterotoxin

A Canadian firm is recalling a lot of breaded chicken strips due to the potential presence of Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin.  The product was recalled after a consumer.  The recall was triggered due to a consumer complaint.

Staphylococcus enterotoxin is a heat stable toxin that is formed as the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus grows in the food when that food is temperature abused.  In this case, it could have grown in the batter as the product was made, or on the breaded strips if those strips were temperature abused.  With one complaint at this point, it is more likely the latter.  This could be a case where the consumer leaves the box of chicken strips on the counter for a long period of time, perhaps when defrosting them, and then cooks them.  In this case, the organism grows on the strips and produces toxin.  Because the strips have been par-fried (to set the coating), there is a little microbial competition present. 

If more cases are reported from a diverse area, this would more likely indicate a production issue.  In this case, the batter temperature was not properly controlled.   For the facility, they would want to demonstrate proper batter temperature throughout the production run, adequate cooling and freezing after the par-cooking step, and then proper temperature control through the shipment of that product.

NET News
Food Recall – Maple Leaf Chicken Breast Strips
Posted 2 November 2017 by NetNewsLedger in Featured

Recall of Burrito Products After a Sample Tests Positive for Listeria

A Denver, Colo. establishment, is recalling approximately 28,064 pounds of pork and chicken burritos and wrap products that may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. The company notified FSIS on Oct. 30, 2017 that one of its products, Burrito Carnitas Caliente, had tested positive for L. monocytogenes during the firm’s product testing. After a review of the ingredients used in the Burrito Carnitas Caliente, the company determined that four additional products may be affected.

The labels indicate that this is a RTE product based upon the 'heat and serve' directions.

FSIS Recall Notice
Chelsea Food Services Firm Recalls Pork and Chicken Products Due To Possible Listeria Contamination 
Class I Recall 
Health Risk: High
Nov 1, 2017 

Health Alert Issued for Salad Items With Potential Listeria Contamination

A public health alert was issued for chicken meat products produced by Ghiringhelli Specialty Foods, a Vallejo, Calif. establishment.   may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Notice comes after receiving notification that the broccoli products used in the chicken salads were included in a U.S. Food & Drug Administration recall due to potential contamination with L. monocytogenes. A recall was not requested because it is believed that all products are no longer in commerce and are past their “Use by” dates.

This recall is related to the other Listeria / vegetable products from Mann packing recalled on October 20, 2017.

FSIS Health Warning Notice
FSIS Issues Public Health Alert for Poultry Products Due To Possible Listeria Contamination 

CA Company Recalls Taboule Salad after Sample E. coli STEC Positive

Haig’s Delicacies of Hayward, CA is recalling 342 cases of Taboule Salad because it may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria (E. Coli O157:H7).  The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company detected the presence of E. coli O157:H7.  No illnesses have been reported to date.

FDA Recall Notice
Haig’s Delicacies LLC Recalls Lot of Taboule Salad Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2017

Supplier Recall of Dark Chocolate for Undeclared Milk Allergen Triggers Customer Recalls

A number of recalls have been issued for dark chocolate products after the supplier, GKI foods, recalled the dark chocolate ingredient because it had undeclared milk.

Blue Marble, Roundy's Select, and HyVee
Dark Chocolate Products

CVS Gold Emblem, Ocean State Candy, Hannaford Excellent, Market Basket, & Weigels
New American Food Products, LLC
Dark Chocolate Products  

Aurora, AG Supermarkets, Belmont Market, and others
Aurora Products, Inc.
Dark Chocolate Products

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
Rucker’s Makin’ Batch Candies, Inc.
Dark Chocolate Coffee Beans

Uncle Buck’s and Family Choice
Rucker’s Wholesale and Service Co
Dark Chocolate Peanuts

21st Century Snack Foods
21st Century Snack Foods
Dark Chocolate Almonds

Shoreline Fruit and Cherry Bay Orchards  
Shoreline Fruit LLC
Dark Chocolate Covered Cherry Products

Wegmans, Alpine Valley, Circle K and others
First Source
Dark Chocolate Products

Dark Chocolate Products

Dark Chocolate Gingersnaps
First Source Issues Allergy Alert for Undeclared Milk in Several Dark Chocolate Products Received from our Supplier GKI Foods LLC
For Immediate Release
October 30, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Camel Milk Seized in Kansas City

US Federal authorities seized 4300 16oz bottles of frozen raw camel milk, camel colostrum, and camel kefir which were stored in a Kansas City warehouse.   One issue was that they were shipped across state lines which was illegal.  Second is that the label and website health claims made are not scientifically supported (see Warning Letter).  One of those claims being that camel milk can help people with autism.   FDA issued an alert earlier this year stating that camel milk is not a treatment for autism.

I see that camel milk is also a 'thing' for putting in your coffee.  According to a Huffington Post article, camel milk is slightly sweet and creamy and slightly salty.  And even more nutritious.  The hard part may be deciding one hump or two.
Feds seize gallons of camel milk they allege was illegally shipped to Kansas
By Tony Rizzo
October 20, 2017 10:07 AM

This Week in Mislabeled Product (ending 10/27/17)

Earthbound Farm LLC of San Juan Bautista, CA is voluntarily recalling 1,755 cases of the Earthbound Farm Organic Chopped Asian Style Salad Kit with an expiration date of October 24, 2017 and UPC of 32601 95134, because it was discovered that some of the bags contain the dressing/toppings packets for the Southwest Chopped Salad Kit rather than for the Chopped Asian Style Kit. The Southwest dressing contains egg and milk that are not declared as ingredients on the bag of the Asian Style Salad Kit. A consumer contacted us after noticing the dressing packet declared "contains egg and milk," allergens that are not declared on the label of the Asian Style Salad Kit.

A PA retailer is recalling Giant Eagle brand Breaded Shrimp due to an undeclared egg allergen. Giant Eagle became aware of the issue during a routine label inspection. The product label for the shrimp, which contain egg, omitted egg as an allergen

Tres Latin Foods is voluntarily recalling two batches of production of Kale & Pinto Bean 10 oz. pupusas and one batch of its Black Bean & Sweet Corn pupusas due to an undeclared milk allergen.
Earthbound Farm LLC Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Milk and Egg in One Batch of Earthbound Farm Organic Chopped Asian Style Salad Kit
For Immediate Release
October 21, 2017

Frozen Raw Tuna Recalled After Positive Salmonella Test

Relish Foods, Inc., a Calif., seafood distributor, is voluntarily recalling raw frozen Newport brand tuna loins and steaks (5 to 8 lb. tuna loins, 3 to 5 lb. tuna loins, 6 oz. tuna steaks, and 4 oz. tuna steaks). The recall is the result of sampling by the FDA which revealed that the product has potential to contain the bacteria Salmonella.  Product was distributed in the western states to both retail and foodservice outlets.
Relish Foods, Inc. Recalls Frozen Tuna Loins Because of Possible Health Risk
For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Follow-up for VA Chili Cook-off Salmonella Outbreak

As a follow-up to a Salmonella Outbreak associated with a volunteer fire company's chili cook-off from a few weeks back, a suspect product has been identified - Crab Shack Clam Chowder.  The County Health Department says that there have been 180 cases reported so far.

To help the restaurant from taking a big hit, the Eastern Shore Health Department director proclaimed the restaurant was fine, and demonstrated that fact by making a stop at the eatery and having lunch.  He pointed out a fact we know well, that restaurants can run into problems when they do these temporary events.

Officials: 180 reports of illness following Chincoteague event