FDA investigating after nails found inside candy in Tennessee

The FDA has launched an investigation to determine who is tampering with candy at a Perry County convenience store.

Last November, three people reported finding nails inside Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at Fat Man’s in Perry County.

Now, investigators said they have found a nail inside a Baby Ruth candy bar.

Perry County Chief Deputy Nick Weems purchased a Reese’s cup while Channel 4’s cameras were rolling. He too found a nail inside the candy.

Someone came forward last October after they bit into a Baby Ruth bar purchased at the same store and found a small nail inside.

“I do think it’s legit,” Weems said.

The FDA has ruled out all employees at the convenience store. Owner Gary Patel allowed deputies to come in and open all of the store’s candy. All employees have also passed multiple polygraph tests.

No one has been injured by the nails. Everyone has managed to spit out the nail before accidentally swallowing it. All four victims were adults.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact police.

WSMV Channel 4

2 dead, 3 sick from Listeria in Wholesome (?) Soy bean sprouts (final update)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that on November 7, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products Inc. of Chicago, Ill., agreed to close their facility and to cease production and distribution of sprouts. The facility is no longer in production.

UnknownSprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products Inc. are likely no longer available for purchase or consumption given the 5-day shelf life reported by the facility.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. conducted a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after FDA isolated the pathogen from samples as a result of a routine assignment.

During FDA inspections of the Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. facility in August and October 2014, investigators observed unsanitary conditions, many of which were present during both inspections.

Whole genome sequences of the Listeria strains isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and environmental isolates collected at the production facility were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five people who became ill from June through August 2014.

These five ill people were reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).

amy.sprouts.guelph.05All ill people were hospitalized. Two deaths were reported.

The two people interviewed reported eating bean sprouts.

Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.

CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and other retailers always follow food safety practices to avoid illness from contaminated sprouts.

Make sure that children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).

Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking sprouts thoroughly kills any harmful bacteria.

Farming science, without the conscience

Following an account by Michael Moss in the N.Y. Times last week, a Times editorial says the little-known U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, financed by American taxpayers, which employs the sophisticated tools and scientific expertise of modern animal management — apparently without a conscience.

govtcrueltyThe details Mr. Moss’s article exposes are sickening. In engineering animals to maximize industry’s bottom line, the center, at a sprawling, secluded site in Nebraska, has created pigs that bear freakishly large litters of frail piglets, which are often crushed by their mothers. Cows give birth to triplets, many of them deformed. Lambs are born in open fields, where they starve, are eaten by predators and are overcome by the elements. These so-called easy-care sheep are bred to eliminate the need for shelters and human help at birthing time.

(Reuters has reported that the secretary of agriculture, in the wake of Mr. Moss’s article, has directed the agency to create a new animal welfare plan, which will involve employee training and a review of research practices.)

The humans who work at the center are not necessarily oblivious to its failings. Some veterinarians and researchers told The Times they were appalled by the suffering and abuse. They should not have their consciences degraded by what is supposed to be beneficial work. Congress founded the center 50 years ago. It should oversee it and reform it — or shut it down.

Salmonella and raw leafy greens most dangerous according to EU risk assessment model

Foods of non-animal origin (FoNAO) are consumed in a variety of forms, being a major component of almost all meals. These food types have the potential to be associated with large outbreaks as seen in 2011 associated with VTEC O104.

lettuce.skull.noroIn order to identify and rank specific food/pathogen combinations most often linked to human cases originating from FoNAO in the EU, a semi-quantitative model was developed using seven criteria: strength of associations between food and pathogen based on the foodborne outbreak data from EU Zoonoses Monitoring (2007–2011), incidence of illness, burden of disease, dose–response relationship, consumption, prevalence of contamination and pathogen growth potential during shelf life.

The top ranking food/pathogen combination was Salmonella spp. and leafy greens eaten raw followed by (in equal rank) Salmonella spp. and bulb and stem vegetables, Salmonella spp. and tomatoes, Salmonella spp. and melons, and pathogenic Escherichia coli and fresh pods, legumes or grains.

Despite the inherent assumptions and limitations, this risk model is considered a tool for risk managers, as it allows ranking of food/pathogen combinations most often linked to foodborne human cases originating from FoNAO in the EU. Efforts to collect additional data even in the absence of reported outbreaks as well as to enhance the quality of the EU-specific data, which was used as input for all the model criteria, will allow the improvement of the model outputs. Furthermore, it is recommended that harmonised terminology be applied to the categorisation of foods collected for different reasons, e.g. monitoring, surveillance, outbreak investigation and consumption. In addition, to assist future microbiological risk assessments, consideration should be given to the collection of additional information on how food has been processed, stored and prepared as part of the above data collection exercises.

Risk ranking of pathogens in ready-to-eat unprocessed foods of non-animal origin (FoNAO) in the EU: Initial evaluation using outbreak data (2007–2011)

International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 195, 16 February 2015, Pages 9–19

M.T. Da Silva Felícioa, , , T. Haldb, E. Liebanaa A. Allendec, M. Hugasa, C. Nguyen-Thed, e, G. Skoien Johannessenf, T. Niskaneng, M. Uyttendaeleh, J. McLauchlin

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160514005443

Marler gets his New Yorker profile

Late one night in September of 2013, Rick Schiller awoke in bed with his right leg throbbing. Schiller, who is in his fifties, lives in San Jose, California. He had been feeling ill all week, and, as he reached under the covers, he found his leg hot to the touch. He struggled to sit upright, then turned on a light and pulled back the sheet. “My leg was about twice the normal size, maybe even three times,” he told me. “And it was hard as a rock, and bright purple.”

marler.devilSchiller roused his fiancée, who helped him hobble to their car. He dropped into the passenger seat, but he couldn’t bend his leg to fit it through the door. “So I tell her, ‘Just grab it and shove it in,’ ” he recalled. “I almost passed out in pain.”

At the hospital, five employees helped move Schiller from the car to a consulting room. When a doctor examined his leg, she warned him that it was so swollen there was a chance it might burst. She tried to remove fluid with a needle, but nothing came out. “So she goes in with a bigger needle—nothing comes out,” Schiller said. “Then she goes in with a huge needle, like the size of a pencil lead—nothing comes out.” When the doctor tugged on the plunger, the syringe filled with a chunky, meatlike substance. “And then she gasped,” Schiller said.

That night, he drifted in and out of consciousness in his hospital room. His temperature rose to a hundred and three degrees and his right eye oozed fluid that crusted over his face. Schiller’s doctors found that he had contracted a form of the salmonella bacterium, known as Salmonella Heidelberg, which triggered a cascade of conditions, including an inflamed colon and an acute form of arthritis. The source of the infection was most likely something he had eaten, but Schiller had no idea what. He spent four days in intensive care before he could stand again and navigate the hallways. On the fifth day, he went home, but the right side of his body still felt weak, trembly, and sore, and he suffered from constant headaches. His doctors warned that he might never fully recover.

Three weeks later, Schiller received a phone call from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An investigator wanted to know whether he had eaten chicken before he became sick. Schiller remembered that he’d bought two packages of raw Foster Farms chicken thighs just before the illness. He’d eaten a few pieces from one of the packages; the other package was still in his freezer. Several days later, an investigator from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped by to pick it up. She dropped the chicken into a portable cooler and handed him a slip of paper that said “Property Receipt.” That was the last time Schiller heard from the investigators. More than a year later, he still wasn’t sure what was in the chicken: “I don’t know what the Department of Agriculture found.”

By the time Schiller became infected by salmonella, federal officials had been tracking an especially potent outbreak of the Heidelberg variety for three months—it had sent nearly forty per cent of its victims to the hospital. The outbreak began in March, but investigators discovered it in June, when a cluster of infections on the West Coast prompted a warning from officials at the C.D.C.’s PulseNet monitoring system, which tracks illnesses reported by doctors. Scientists quickly identified the source of the outbreak as Foster Farms facilities in California, where federal inspectors had discovered the same strain of pathogen during a routine test. Most of the victims of the outbreak confirmed that they’d recently eaten chicken, and many specifically named the Foster Farms brand. On August 9th, investigators joined a conference call with Foster Farms executives to inform them of the outbreak and its link to the company.

Identifying the cause of an outbreak is much simpler than trying to stop one.

During the past twenty years, Marler has become the most prominent and powerful food-safety attorney in the country.

Given the struggles of his clients—victims of organ failure, sepsis, and paralysis—Marler says it can be tempting to dismiss him as a “bloodsucking ambulance chaser who exploits other people’s personal tragedies.” But many people who work in food safety believe that Marler is one of the few functioning pieces in a broken system. Food-borne illness, they point out, is pervasive but mostly preventable when simple precautions are taken in the production process.

And lots more at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/bug-system.

How about disclosure? Wisconsin restaurants support new food safety standards

Ed Lump, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, writes in the LaCrosse Tribune that to say food safety in restaurants and other food outlets is important is an understatement. However, the public doesn’t hear much about it unless there is an actual outbreak of foodborne illness. Occasionally, awareness is heightened by publication in local newspapers or TV segments about restaurant inspection reports.

restaurant.inspectionOn Jan. 1, we took another big step forward as a new law (strengthening a 20-year-old existing law) went into effect. The original law requires that every restaurant in Wisconsin, regardless of size, have at least one manager on staff certified in food safety (Certified Food Protection Manager). To become certified, the manager has to pass a state approved exam.

The existing law also requires that a Certified Food Protection Manager be recertified every five years. However, recertification was accomplished by class time — no exam. Now an exam is required for both original certification and recertification. WRA feels this is the best way to ensure the manager demonstrates knowledge and is up-to-date on current science and food codes. By the way, the city of Milwaukee has required this since 2008, which our association also supported.

This is why food safety knowledge accountability is critical. WRA supported this stricter re-certification process because it helps to protect customers, restaurants and our industry from dangerous and costly outbreaks of foodborne illness.

Lump doesn’t say whether that certified manager has to be present or at home.

That’s where disclosure can play a role.

Sari Lesk of Stevens Point Journal Media, home of Portage county, Wisconsin, writes that Portage County diners can now go online, before they go out, to find out how a local restaurant performed in its most recent health inspection.

Public access to the inspection reports, contained on a portal called Healthspace, went live Monday. A link to the portal is available on the county’s home page.

restaurant.inspection.la.porn.mar.13The inspections date back to July 2013 and will, over time, display the results for three years’ worth of data. The information is organized alphabetically by restaurant name.

Users can tell if a restaurant’s health violations fall under one of three categories:

  • Priority: Violations such as improper cooking, reheating, cooling, or handwashing. These violations are known to cause foodborne illnesses. Uncorrected priority observations usually result in a reinspection.
  • Priority foundation:Violations such as no soap or single-use toweling available for handwashing, failure of the person in charge to properly train employees, not maintaining required documentation, labeling or records. These observations support or enable a priority violation and may contribute to a foodborne illness. Priority foundation observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.
  • Core:Violations that usually relate to general sanitation, operational controls, sanitation standard operating procedures, facilities or structures, equipment design, or general maintenance. Core observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.

The website also lists recommendations for correcting the violations, and notes whether they were corrected in a follow-up inspection.

Public health environmental specialist Lindsay Benaszeski cautions that the information should be looked at as a snapshot in time, but that the business owners she’s told about the online access have largely been receptive to the idea, adding, “It’s kind of a way to showcase their facility if they’re doing a great job,” she said.

Some restaurant owners disagree, however. Jim Billings, president of the Portage County Tavern League and owner of Final Score, said he thinks the information could be easily misconstrued by someone who does not work in the restaurant business.

Surveys still suck: Consumer-reported handling of raw poultry products at home

Salmonella and Campylobacter cause an estimated combined total of 1.8 million foodborne infections each year in the United States. Most cases of salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry or with cross-contamination. Between 1998 and 2008, 20% of Salmonella and 16% of Campylobacter foodborne disease outbreaks were associated with food prepared inside the home.

barfblog.Stick It InA nationally representative Web survey of U.S. adult grocery shoppers (n = 1,504) was conducted to estimate the percentage of consumers who follow recommended food safety practices when handling raw poultry at home. The survey results identified areas of low adherence to current recommended food safety practices: not washing raw poultry before cooking, proper refrigerator storage of raw poultry, use of a food thermometer to determine doneness, and proper thawing of raw poultry in cold water.

Nearly 70% of consumers reported washing or rinsing raw poultry before cooking it, a potentially unsafe practice because “splashing” of contaminated water may lead to the transfer of pathogens to other foods and other kitchen surfaces.

Only 17.5% of consumers reported correctly storing raw poultry in the refrigerator. Sixty-two percent of consumers own a food thermometer, and of these, 26% or fewer reported using one to check the internal temperature of smaller cuts of poultry and ground poultry. Only 11% of consumers who thaw raw poultry in cold water reported doing so correctly.

The study results, coupled with other research findings, will inform the development of science-based consumer education materials that can help reduce foodborne illness from Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 1, January 2015, pp. 4-234, pp. 180-186(7)

Kosa, Katherine M.; Cates, Sheryl C.; Bradley, Samantha; Chambers IV, Edgar; Godwin, Sandria

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000001/art00025

Placental breach mechanism for Listeria revealed

The host blood-brain and placental barriers act as critical ramparts to infections from microbial pathogens, yet some have evolved mechanisms to breach the cellular obstacles that lie in their path. Unlocking the underlying mechanisms of host barrier permissiveness to microbes is critical to understanding the etiology of many infectious diseases.

amy.pregnant.listeriaThe common foodborne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) can survive and proliferate within the intestinal lumen of the host, which then often progresses to the bacteria traversing the blood-brain barrier, causing meningitis and encephalitis, as well as the placental barrier, resulting in severe neonatal infection or miscarriage.

Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have discovered the protein pathways that are responsible for allowing Listeria to circumvent host barriers. The results from this study were published today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine within an article entitled “PI3-kinase activation is critical for host barrier permissiveness to Listeria monocytogenes”.

Listeria relies on two surface proteins called internalins, InlA and InlB, to guide them across mucosal tissue barriers. These proteins bind to receptors on the surface of host cells and are required for the bacteria to traverse the placenta, but InlA alone can thrust it across the intestine. The underlying difference between InlA and InlB is still being investigated. 

The scientists discovered that the invasion process was dependent upon the enzymatic activity of the host cell phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. Marc Lecuit, M.D., Ph.D., Head of the Biology of Infections Unit at the Pasteur Institute and senior author on the study, and his colleagues found that although PI3K is turned on by both of Listeria’s internalins, only InlB has an inherent mechanism for flipping the switch. 

“We show that Lm intestinal target cells exhibit a constitutive PI3-K activity, rendering InlB dispensable for InlA-dependent Lm intestinal barrier crossing. In contrast, the placental barrier does not exhibit constitutive PI3-K activity, making InlB necessary for InlA-dependent Lm placental invasion,” the paper noted.

jaucelynn.pregnantSince many organisms share evolutionarily conserved mechanisms for successful survival and proliferation, these findings may offer  much needed insight into how other pathogenic organisms are able to take up pervasive residence inside host tissues.    

“These results illustrate how microbial pathogens have evolved to invade mammalian tissues, taking advantage of both similarities and differences of host barriers. They also suggest that the absence of placental constitutive PI3-K activity may reinforce its barrier function toward pathogens, with the exception of those that have evolved ways to stimulate it exogenously, like Lm,” the authors concluded.

Which cut of meat is least likely to make you sick?

I like Schaffner’s response: There is no such thing as risk-free meat, or risk-free food in general. Donald Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers University, told Kiera Butler of Mother Jones that if the food isn’t cooked sufficiently, or if the preparation area isn’t clean, it doesn’t matter whether you’re eating chicken, steak, or pork,” he says. “Food prepared in an unclean environment is always going to be high risk.”

GrilledSteak-main_FullI told her that requesting your meat “well done” or “medium” won’t save you from illness, either. Those terms are vague and subjective, says Doug Powell, a former professor of food safety and current publisher of the foodborne illness site barfblog.com “When I go to a restaurant and they ask me how I want my steak, I say ‘140 degrees,'” he says. “If they give me a funny look I get up and leave.”

Butler writes that every time you eat, you’re rolling the germ dice.

But some cuts are more likely to make you sick. In 2013, researchers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) analyzed data about outbreaks, illnesses, and hospitalizations from foodborne pathogens in particular kinds of meat between 1998 and 2010.

Contaminated chicken sickens more people than any other meat. That’s partially because we eat so much of it—more than 50 pounds a year per person. But it’s also because of the way that chicken is prepared and cooked, says Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s director of food safety. Commercial chicken plants typically dip the meat in several baths before packaging, giving bacteria plenty of opportunity to spread. What’s more, says Smith DeWaal, it’s harder to cook away bacteria in chicken. “Chicken has creases and folds in the skin,” she says. “Pathogens can hide in those folds. A lot of other meat doesn’t even come with skin on.”

Ground beef is the second riskiest kind of meat. One reason for this, says Smith DeWaal, is that during grinding, “the pathogens on the surface of the meat get pushed into the center.” If that ground meat isn’t properly cooked—say, in the middle of a rare burger—the germs get a free ride into your digestive tract.

rowan.atkinson.steak.tartareSteaks, pork chops, and other whole-muscle meats are the safest bet. That’s because the cooking process can easily kill off bacteria on the cut’s surface, while the inside of the meat is essentially sterile, protected from any potential pathogens—in theory.

But steak isn’t as safe as it should be. According to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, about 10.5 percent of steaks are subjected to a process called mechanical or needle tenderization, where metal blades or pins repeatedly puncture the meat before packaging. While this technique improves the meat’s texture, it also moves bacteria from the surface into the center of the cut, where the germs may survive cooking. The scary part: Processors are not required to label cuts that have been mechanically tenderized—so there’s no way to know whether your steak might have extra interior bacteria. Mechanically tenderized beef has caused several recent outbreaks, including one in Canada in 2012, which sickened 18 people and led to the biggest beef recall in Canadian history. In 2013, the US Department of Agriculture promised to require labeling on mechanically tenderized beef, but the agency is stalling on finalizing that rule.