Friday, April 28, 2017

Ginger Powder Recalled Due to Salmonella Contamination

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

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

Mislabeling of Milk Product Leads to Recall Due to Allergens

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

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

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

Florida Company Recalls Sausage Product Due to Potential for Foreign Material

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

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

Ham Product Recalled Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

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

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

RTE Chicken Breasts Recalled After Complaints That Product May Be Undercooked

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bread Recalled for a Piece of Rubber

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

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

Food Safety Instructor Sentenced for Falsifying Exams

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

CDC Releases Surveillance Data for Foodborne Illnesses 2013 - 2016

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

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

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

Soylent Product Recalled Again, This Time for Allergen Issues

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

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

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

Jalapeno Potato Chips Recalled After Supplier Recalls Flavoring for Salmonella

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

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

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

Frozen Hash Browns Recalled Due to Potential of Golf Balls

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

CDC Study - Allergen Control in Restaurants?

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken Meal Product Recalled Due to the Potential for the Brownie

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

FDA Issues Warning Letter to Bakery

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

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

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

Bagged Salad Mix Recalled After Dead Bat Found in Bag

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Frozen Peas Recalled Due to the Potential for Listeria Contamination

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

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

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

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

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

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

FDA Announces Three Waivers to Sanitary Transportation Rule

April 5, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packaging Error Results in Allergen Recall of Nutrition Bar

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

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

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

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

Chili Meal Kits Recalled for Potential Salmonella Contamination in Spice Packet

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

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

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