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