Jeni’s ice cream back after Listeria positives, changes

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams LLC is reopening its production kitchen, but it no longer will be making its ice cream.

jenis-ice-creamThe Columbus-based ice cream maker’s facility at 909 Michigan Ave. will now be used to handle and prepare ingredients, but final production of its products will continue to be done by Orrville-based Smith Dairy, which has been making the company’s ice cream since the production kitchen closed for a second time back in June.

The company declined to answer questions about its new production process at this time.

(Note to self: building trust requires transparency).

Ingredients from farms will be processed in a kitchen separate from the production facility. Produce will not move into the production kitchen until it has been cleaned, peeled, shucked or hulled in that first kitchen.

The production kitchen will still prepare certain ingredients because it has the specialized equipment to do so.

Ingredients then will be transported to Smith Diary, which supplies Jeni’s with its grass-grazed milk and cream, and will be mixed with dairy and frozen into ice cream there.

Every batch will be tested for listeria and other bacteria before going to the public.

The company will continue to handle all of its own research and development and ingredient sourcing, as it was doing prior to the shutdowns.

After Listeria, Jeni’s Splendid founder calls for more industry self-regulation

From the duh files.

Listeria contamination last spring at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams taught company founder Jeni Britton Bauer one lesson: The food industry can’t rely solely on state and federal inspectors to protect consumers.

listeria4The industry also needs to take an active role.

“What has to change is how businesses view our responsibilities,” Bauer said Thursday during what was billed as a “true confessions” talk at Lowcountry Local First’s Good Business Summit in Charleston.

“Do we rely on their periodics (inspections)? Do we rely on our health inspectors any more?” Bauer said. “Absolutely no. Because we know that they are not experts in food safety, they are experts in the law and those are totally different things.

 “The responsibility is on business … to make healthy things, to keep people healthy.”

What Bauer didn’t know at the time, she said, was that the FDA had known about the Listeria problem long before it went public.

“They knew about it for like three weeks, crazy, before it ever got to us, which is very weird,” Bauer said.

FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher said she could not immediately verify if that timeline was accurate. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is the agency that discovered the contamination and officials from that agency have declined to say when the sample was collected.

Been there. Done that.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

US apple industry questions FDA’s response on caramel apple outbreak

Tom Karst of The Packer writes that in a presentation to the U.S. Apple Association’s Outlook and Marketing Conference Aug. 20, the Food and Drug Administration’s Roberta Wagner took questions from the audience about pending food safety rules and the fallout from the foodborne illness outbreak in late 2014 linked to Listeria monocytogenes in caramel apples.

caramel.appleOne audience member asked Wagner, associate director for Food Safety Modernization Act Operations at FDA, about the agency’s unclear messages about whether whole apples were involved. He asked her if whole fresh apples were implicated in the outbreak.

“I can tell you the statistic we are showing are only for caramel apples,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 people were sickened, 34 hospitalized and three died as a result of the outbreak linked to caramel apples.

“One of the research areas we need to (address) is why caramel apples and not apples?” she said.

Another conference attendee noted that foreign governments blocked imports of whole fresh apples.

“What is the FDA going to do so we hopefully curb that in the future?” he said.

Wagner said the FDA can’t control actions by other governments, but that the FDA will work with agriculture officials in other countries to defuse any concerns.

Microbial-based recalls of organic food on the rise

New data collected by Stericycle, a company that handles recalls for businesses, shows a sharp jump in the number of recalls of organic food products, according to a story in the N.Y. Times.

organic-manure1Organic food products accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year, compared with 2 percent of those recalled last year, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture that Stericycle uses to compile its quarterly report on recalls.

In 2012 and 2013, only 1 percent of total units of food recalled were organic.

Kevin Pollack, a vice president at Stericycle, said the growing consumer and corporate demand for organic ingredients was at least partly responsible for the increase.

“What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” Mr. Pollack said. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it.”

For that matter, the overall amount of food recalled because of suspected bacterial contamination has increased this year, adding to what has been an upward trend in food recalls since 2012, according to Stericycle, which predicts a 24 percent increase in the number of food units that will be recalled by the F.D.A. this year.

The Organic Trade Association, however, took issue with Stericycle’s accounting of recalls, saying its own quick analysis of recall data from the F.D.A. and the Agriculture Department show the problem is less severe, with organic products accounting for 4.9 percent of recalls, in line with the percentage of organic food sold out of total retail sales of food.

“A key point to keep in mind is that an overall increase in organic recalls between 2012 and 2015 would not be surprising — not because organic food is less safe, but because of the dramatic increase in organic food sales and purchases that we’ve been seeing in this country,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the trade group.

“Sales of organic food in the U.S. have risen by almost 25 percent just since 2012, and the number of organic products on the market is increasing steadily as demand for organic increases,” she said.

Ms. Wyard also noted that food safety mechanisms had increased since 2012, with a corresponding increase in food recalls.

‘Impossible to update a facility to control listeria if built in 1950s’ Acme’s new smoking plant

Due to its ability to grow in the cold and conditions that typically thwart other bacteria, listeria has always been a major concern for the cold-smoked fish industry.

smoked.salmonWith the February opening of a 100,000-square-foot cold-smoking facility in North Carolina, the Brooklyn-based Acme Smoked Fish Corporation hopes to quell those concerns with a raft of new processes to prevent the bacteria’s spread. With a new facility just for cold-smoking, which was designed to reduce possible cross contamination during manufacturing and make equipment much easier to clean, the company now has a much greater ability to control listeria, company R&D senior manager Matt Ranieri told Undercurrent News.

“Now that we have a dedicated facility, we’re able to really control the level of salt. We’re able to really hone in and fine tune in a way that wasn’t possible before because of the equipment,” he said.

The plant, which was built at an investment of $32.2 million according to the newspaper WilmingtonBiz, can process up to 30,000 pounds of smoked fish per day and was designed to isolate critical parts of the manufacturing process.

“It’s impossible to update a facility to the level that you need to control listeria if it was built in the 1950s,” he said.

“No product is released until we have results both from the environment and the product that indicate the absence of listeria,” he said.

Blue Bell is shipping ice cream again after Listeria outbreak

Blue Bell Creameries began shipping ice cream from its facility in Sylacauga, Ala., on Tuesday, more than three months after an outbreak of listeria contamination nearly devastated the Southwestern ice cream favorite and forced the closing of all four of its plants.

blue.bell.jul.15But while this week’s move put frozen treats one step closer to consumers, the company said it did not yet know which stores would ultimately restock their shelves with Blue Bell flavors, or how soon.

“We’ve still got to meet with our retailers,” said Joe Robertson, Blue Bell’s advertising and public relations manager. “Retailers have been very supportive of us.”

Three people died and several others became ill after eating Blue Bell ice cream products contaminated with the listeria bacteria. A series of recalls and cleanups at the plants failed to eradicate the problem, and in April, the company voluntarily pulled all of its ice cream from store shelves.

Mr. Robertson said that the company had hired microbiologists to help review its safety procedures, and that every batch of ice cream would be tested before shipment. State officials in Alabama began collecting their own samples in late July, and cleared Blue Bell on Aug.

The Alabama plant is the only one of the company’s plants — two others are in Texas and one is in Oklahoma — that has been reopened and is producing the company’s products. Before the shutdown, the Alabama plant accounted for about 20 percent of Blue Bell’s items, Mr. Robertson said.

Blue Bell must notify the Texas Department of State Health Services two weeks before it resumes production, according to Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the agency.

 “In FDA testing, more than 99 percent of Blue Bell products had Listeria in it,” Mike Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told Yahoo Health. “It was incredible. It wasn’t high levels, but it was there.”

Blue Bell has said its plants have gone through extensive cleaning and decontamination, but is it enough?

Doyle says it should be. Here’s why: Blue Bell likely had to strip down all of its plant equipment, take it all apart, and fully clean and sanitize everything. That includes getting rid of biofilms, a mucus-like substance that can surround bacteria like Listeria and protect it from sanitizers that would otherwise kill it.

Once that’s completed, the equipment will be tested and re-tested, and the ice cream will be frequently checked and swabbed to make sure it’s listeria-free.

“The FDA has jurisdiction over this, and they’re going to be monitoring the whole thing,” says Doyle. “The FDA is going to be all over these Blue Bell plants for a while.”

Doyle adds that it’s actually not uncommon for Listeria to get into processing facilities, since “some soil contains listeria and it can come in on plant workers’ shoes.” However, “the key is to control it,” he says.

Unfortunately, Doyle says there’s no way of visibly telling whether your ice cream is Listeria-free — you have to trust the manufacturer.

Or they could market food safety at retail and make microbial test results public.

Sprouts recalled again

As Virginia sprout grower (not) Good Seed Inc., of Springfield, Va., announced its third recall because of Listeria monocytogenes, the Australian Food Safety Information Council issued a sprout summary, noting that in addition to overseas outbreaks, 125 were sickened with Salmonella in Western Australia in 205 and 15 in Victoria in 2006.

sprout.salad.aust.aug.15“Washing sprouts has been found to be not very effective as laboratory studies have shown that bacteria can be internalised in the sprouts, making it difficult wash off/sanitise, and bacteria can be protected in a biofilm on the sprout surface. People in the 4 vulnerable demographics (young children, people 70+, immune-compromised or pregnant) should not eat uncooked sprouts of any kind.

This is a picture of a salad served at an Australian institution full of immunocompromised people.

Guess they didn’t get the memo.

Good Seed in Virginia isn’t saying anything, although all three recalls came weeks after the fresh sprouts were packed and shipped. The most recent recall notice, dated Aug. 3, is for all sprouts Good Seed produced on or after June 22.

The Packer reports no illnesses have been linked to the sprouts, which were distributed to retailers in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.

However, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture said in May that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed some listeria infections among people in the distribution area match the genome type of the listeria monocytogenes confirmed on the Good Seed sprouts.

57 sick including 24 dead in 2008 Maple Leaf Listeria outbreak: the scientific paper

Beginning in the summer of 2008, the deaths of two Toronto nursing home residents in were attributed to listeriosis infections. This eventually prompted an August 17, 2008 advisory by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. to avoid serving or consuming certain brands of deli meat as the products could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMWhen genetic testing determined a match between contaminated meat products and listeriosis patients on Aug. 23, 2008, all products manufactured at Maple Leaf Foods plant 97B were recalled and the facility closed

Several weeks later, the company determined that organic material trapped deep inside the plant’s meat slicing equipment harbored Listeria, despite routine sanitization that met specifications of equipment manufacturers. In total, 57 cases of illness were detected, including 24 deaths, connected to the consumption of the plant’s contaminated deli meats.

Notable from the paper:

Plant inspections identified several areas of concern. A building construction project was initiated in April 2008. There was structural damage and poor maintenance in certain rooms containing RTE product and evidence of condensate dripping onto unpackaged finished product in a common refrigerated storage room. IMP documentation indicated that Listeria  spp. were detected at least 16 times between May 1 and August 16, 2008 in routine environmental swabs of food contact surfaces on lines A and B, 2 other production lines (lines C and D), and associated equipment. In response to each positive finding, the IMP staff sanitized production line surfaces and other areas where bacteria could grow. However, there was no analysis of trends over time to identify the underlying cause of the contamination. The cleaning and disinfection procedures at the IMP were inadequate. In addition, employee flow between rooms created opportunities for cross-contamination of finished product.

 Experts who investigated the source of product contamination at the IMP concluded that contaminated mechanical meat slicers were the most likely cause (Weatherill, 2009). As observed in previous outbreaks, meat slicers can provide a site for the growth of L. monocytogenes  and cross-contamination of finished products (Tompkin, 2002). Sanitation procedures used prior to the outbreak were ineffective at removing organic material harbored within the slicer.

listeria4As I have long maintained, the best food producers, processors, retailers and restaurants will go above and beyond minimal government and auditor standards and sell food safety solutions directly to the public. The best organizations will use their own people to demand ingredients from the best suppliers; use a mixture of encouragement and enforcement to foster a food safety culture; and use technology to be transparent — whether it’s live webcams in the facility or real-time test results on the website — to help restore the shattered trust with the buying public.

And the best cold-cut companies should stop dancing around and explicity tell pregnant women, old people and other immunocompromised folks, through labels or point-of-sale information, don’t eat this food unless it’s heated (watch the cross-contamination).

Abstract

A multi-province outbreak of listeriosis occurred in Canada from June to November 2008. Fifty-seven persons were infected with 1 of 3 similar outbreak strains defined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and 24 (42%) individuals died. Forty-one (72%) of 57 individuals were residents of long-term care facilities or hospital inpatients during their exposure period. Descriptive epidemiology, product traceback, and detection of the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes in food samples and the plant environment confirmed delicatessen meat manufactured by one establishment and purchased primarily by institutions was the source of the outbreak. The food safety investigation identified a plant environment conducive to the introduction and proliferation of L. monocytogenes and persistently contaminated with Listeria spp. This outbreak demonstrated the need for improved listeriosis surveillance, strict control of L. monocytogenes in establishments producing ready-to-eat foods, and advice to vulnerable populations and institutions serving these populations regarding which high-risk foods to avoid.

Multi-Province Listeriosis Outbreak Linked to Contaminated Deli Meat Consumed Primarily in Institutional Settings, Canada, 2008

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Volume: 12 Issue 8: August 10, 2015

Currie Andrea, Farber Jeffrey M., Nadon Céline, Sharma Davendra, Whitfield Yvonne, Gaulin Colette, Galanis Eleni, Bekal Sadjia, Flint James, Tschetter Lorelee, Pagotto Franco, Lee Brenda, Jamieson Fred, Badiani Tina, MacDonald Diane, the National Outbreak Investigation Team, Ellis Andrea, May-Hadford Jennifer, McCormick Rachel, Savelli Carmen, Middleton Dean, Allen Vanessa, Tremblay Francois-William, MacDougall Laura, Hoang Linda, Shyng Sion, Everett Doug, Chui Linda, Louie Marie, Bangura Helen, Levett Paul N., Wilkinson Krista, Wylie John, Reid Janet, Major Brian, Engel Dave, Douey Donna, Huszczynski George, Di Lecci Joe, Strazds Judy, Rousseau Josée, Ma Kenneth, Isaac Leah, and Sierpinska Urszula

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2015.1939#utm_source=ETOC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fpd

HPP may be safe but this advert is bad

In 2005, Hormel Foodservice became the first meat processor to make a significant investment in High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP).

HPP is employed after the meat is sliced and packaged — so there is no opportunity for harmful pathogens and food spoilage organisms to re-enter the package, and no need for taste-altering preservatives.

Sounds good, although I wonder about the potential for contamination once the package is opened.

But check out this ad which is a good example of marketers messing up science.

Expectant mothers are advised not to eat cold cuts and other refrigerated ready-to-eat foods because of the potential for Listeria contamination.

In addition to the medieval stirrups and a stereotypical representation of birth, there is no mention of why this lunchmeat may be OK other than, it has no preservatives.

Bad Hormel, bad.

What goes in the fridge for safety reasons and other tales

Evidence and perception aren’t often congruent in the food safety world. There are lots of examples from the pages of the Internet: Dirty bathrooms are an indicator of sanitation in the kitchen; pathogens won’t transfer in less than five seconds when food hits the floor; and, yogurt is dangerous if consumed after the best-before date are just a few.

K. Aleisha Fetters of Yahoo News connected with Schaffner and I on the difference between refrigeration for safety and keeping stuff cool for spoilage and quality reasons.

Here are some excerpts.k2-_bd216f83-0923-407e-aea5-f57dc7338ebc.v1

Ketchup: Can remain at room temperature.
Ever wondered why restaurants keep ketchup on their tables rather than back in the fridge? Because it won’t make you sick, says Benjamin Chapman, PhD, associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. Ketchup is so acidic that it prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. It will spoil faster if left out on the counter, but it could still take months to turn bad.

Fruits and vegetables: It depends.
If you think about it, fruits and vegetables grow outside at temps far higher than room temperature. That’s why, when they are whole, they are safe on your counter. However, when you cut them (or in the case of lettuce, just tear their stems from the ground), you actually rip open the cells of the plant. This releases nutrients, water, and bacteria, and allows them to mingle with each other, says food microbiologist Donald W. Schaffner, PhD, distinguished professor at Rutgers University. For example, when you cut a tomato or avocado, you need to keep it in the fridge to prevent the growth of salmonella. However, it’s worth noting that listeria can grow (albeit slowly) at cold temps. That’s why, even if you keep cut melons in the fridge, you should throw them out or add them to the compost pile after four days, Chapman says.

Mayonnaise: Must be refrigerated.
Well, this one is really more of an “it depends,” but we’re going to suggest sticking it in the fridge just in case. Most store-bought mayo is acidic enough to keep on the counter without it growing bad-for-you bacteria all by itself. (That’s why fast-food joints can keep it out in pumps until it’s used up.) But, if you cut some veggies with a knife, and then stick that knife in your jar of mayonnaise, you could potentially introduce bacteria into the mayo that is able to grow at room temperature, Chapman says. Meanwhile, whatever the recipe, homemade mayo is generally not acidic enough to fend off pathogens.