7 dead, 28 sick including a ‘fetal loss’ Listeria in apples, who knew?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports, this outbreak appears to be over. However, recalled products may still be in people’s homes. Consumers unaware of the recalls could continue to eat the products and get sick.

apples-granny-smith-165384On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California voluntarily recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility.

On January 18, 2015, FDA laboratory analyses using whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that these Listeria isolates were highly related to the outbreak strains.

Happy Apples, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies each announced a voluntary recall of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

A total of 35 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 12 states.

Of these, 34 people were hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported.

Eleven illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss (A fetal loss? Who writes this stuff?).

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

Twenty-eight (90%) of the 31 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) identified one case of listeriosis in Canada that is genetically related to the U.S. outbreak.

Don’t worry, exports won’t be harmed: Another mad cow case in Canada

Gotta wonder just how effective Canada’s ban on mammalian protein in ruminant feed is, given the number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases there have been over the past decade.

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMWhen there’s a BSE case, or a foodborne illness outbreak like Listeria in the $5.5 billion a year Maple Leaf Foods, government agencies fall over themselves to assure the public – and trading partners – that everything is fine.

Would the Canadian economy sink were it not for the agricultural behemoths? Probably.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says little more than a week passed from the time the most recent case of mad cow disease was first suspected to when it was confirmed and national trading partners were notified.

A timeline of the case at an Alberta farm has been released on the agency’s website.

The website says a private veterinarian took samples on February 4 at the undisclosed farm and submitted them to a provincial lab.

It says they were tested on February 6 and the lab recorded a “non-negative” test result.

The lab repeated the test the following day with the same finding and reported the case to the CFIA, where the agency conducted its own test in Lethbridge, Alta, to confirm the result.

The CFIA says it started gathering information on the animal’s herd on Tuesday, officially confirmed the case on Wednesday and posted the case to its website and notified Canada’s trading partners on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday that the infected animal was not born on the farm where it was discovered.

Ritz also said the discovery won’t affect Canada’s international beef trade because it won’t change the county’s controlled BSE risk status from the World Organization for Animal Health. He said Canada has stayed below international protocols that allow for up to a dozen BSE cases a year.

Modeling Listeria in leafy greens using micro and big data

I’m not sure what big data means, but it’s a catchy soundbite that is showing up more routinely.

lettuce.skull.noroProf. Martin Wiedmann, food science and technology, has combined the fields of microbiology and big data to better predict disease outbreaks and preserve food safety.

Wiedmann conducted a study focused on Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and related Listeria species — a leading cause of foodborne illnesses and deaths.

“The main goal of the study was to find better ways to determine whether lettuce or similar produce grown in a field are likely to have bacteria on them that could make you sick if you eat the product,” Wiedmann said.

According to Wiedmann, there are about 1,600 cases of Listeriosis annually in the United States, with more than 20 percent of those infections resulting in death.

“It is definitely not your middle-of-the-road food poisoning disease, which makes [Listeria] so important to understand and study,” Wiedmann said.

Normally, raw and unprocessed foods will be preserved with refrigeration or salting to prevent bacterial growth. Listeria can grow under refrigeration temperatures and high salt environments, thus making these typical methods ineffective at killing off the bacteria.

Products that are taken directly from growing conditions and consumed are high risk produce. They are the foods most likely to transmit foodborne pathogens — unless necessary precautions are taken.

“Therefore, it is necessary to make sure the product is safe and free of these pathogens while it is still in the field,” Wiedmann said.

Wiedmann and colleagues collected many samples from various farms in upstate New York.

“In addition to isolating Listeria species from the sample, we also collected Geographic Information System data (GIS), which records the exact location of where the sample was collected,” Wiedmann said. “With this, we can ask questions such as how close was Sample A to water or to a major road?”

Wiedmann uses the data to understand the factors that are conducive to Listeria growth.

Analysis of the data revealed that proximity to water is a major factor of a high risk Listeria presence.

“The analysis of the data allows us to predict high and low risk areas for Listeria and also see whether different types of the bacteria behave differently,” Wiedmann said.

He has also started working on collecting data for Salmonella and Escherichia coli, two other very important foodborne pathogens. According to Wiedmann, the next steps will be to analyze different states and regions in conjunction with different pathogen species to better understand food production and the pathogens that afflict it.

Hepatitis A, Listeria for hospital patients, Salmonella: is anyone responsible for food safety in Australia?

A day after New South Wales (that’s a state in Australia) revealed that one had died and at least 23 sickened from Salmonella in food served at aged facilities, one kilogram bags of Nanna’s frozen mixed berries are being pulled off supermarket shelves across Australia because of a link to the virus Hepatitis A.

frozen.strawberryHave any of these 6-figure bureaucrats seen the numerous stories linking Hep-A to frozen berries that have been circulating for at least two years?

Stores are being advised and there will be advertisements in national newspapers on Monday.

That’s because the Internet sucks in Australia, so people still newspapers.


The berries came from China and Chile and were packed at Patties, a company based at Bairnsdale, in eastern Victoria.

The company has been contacted for comment.

Dr Rosemary Lester, the state’s chief health officer, said frozen berries had been implicated in past outbreaks of Hepatitis A.

“Hepatitis A virus infection is uncommon and normally associated with travel to countries affected by endemic Hepatitis A,” she said.

“The only common link between the cases is consumption of this product. There is no overseas travel or common restaurant exposure.

“Sampling of the product will be undertaken to identify the virus but it is difficult to find Hepatitis A virus, even in a contaminated batch.”

The berries have a two-year shelf life and any product purchased from October 2014 onwards should be thrown out.

In a seperate recall, a number of hospitals have been told to throw out a chocolate mousse product, found in routine tests, to contain listeria.

The mousse, which had a use-by date of February 14, 2015, was supplied to the Austin Hospital, St Vincent’s Private, St Vincent’s Mercy, Brunswick Private, the Royal Children’s Hospital, Ballarat Health Services, Caulfield Hospital, Sandringham Hospital, Frankston Hospital and Rosebud Hospital.

Sounds a bit militaristic: Seek and destroy Listeria process controls in the ready-to-eat meat and poultry industry

The majority of human listeriosis cases appear to be caused by consumption of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods contaminated at the time of consumption with high levels of Listeria monocytogenes.

listeria4Although strategies to prevent growth of L. monocytogenes in RTE products are critical for reducing the incidence of human listeriosis, control of postprocessing environmental contamination of RTE meat and poultry products is an essential component of a comprehensive L. monocytogenes intervention and control program.

Complete elimination of postprocessing L. monocytogenes contamination is challenging because this pathogen is common in various environments outside processing plants and can persist in food processing environments for years. Persistent L. monocytogenes strains in processing plants have been identified as the most common postprocessing contaminants of RTE foods and the cause of multiple listeriosis outbreaks.

Identification and elimination of L. monocytogenes strains persisting in processing plants is thus critical for (i) compliance with zero-tolerance regulations for L. monocytogenes in U.S. RTE meat and poultry products and (ii) reduction of the incidence of human listeriosis.

The seek-and-destroy process is a systematic approach to finding sites of persistent strains (niches) in food processing plants, with the goal of either eradicating or mitigating effects of these strains. This process has been used effectively to address persistent L. monocytogenes contamination in food processing plants, as supported by peer-reviewed evidence detailed here. Thus, a regulatory environment that encourages aggressive environmental Listeria testing is required to facilitate continued use of this science-based strategy for controlling L. monocytogenes in RTE foods.

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 2, February 2015, pp. 240-476, pp. 436-445(10)

Malley, Thomas J. V.; Butts, John; Wiedmann, Martin


Killer cantaloupe and the fraud of third party audits: Feel safe, now that lawsuits from Listeria outbreak that killed 33 are settled?

The legal fallout from one of the most deadly outbreaks of foodborne illness in decades has settled, according to an attorney involved in the litigation.

jensen.cantaloupe.2The Washington Post reports lawsuits involving more than 20 defendants in the outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe that killed 33 people and sickened 147 in 2011 wrapped up last week with a settlement among some of the main participants, said William Marler, a Seattle attorney whose firm represented 50 of the victims.

Terms of the latest settlement — which included the Kroger grocery chain, a large broker and an auditor — are confidential, he said. Wal-Mart, which sold melons to some of the people who fell ill, had previously settled.

The Food and Drug Administration traced the outbreak to unsanitary conditions at a Colorado farm packing facility where the cantaloupes were washed, boxed and shipped out. The owners of Jensen Farms went bankrupt and pleaded guilty to six  misdemeanors in the case.

Attorney Jeff Whittington, representing third-party auditor Primus, confirmed to the Packer the litigation against the company was dismissed.

Will Steele, president of Frontera, Edinberg, Texas, said the company is “focused on strengthening the industry’s traceability efforts.”

“The matter is in the process of being resolved,” Steele said. “Settlement documents have been exchanged with the plaintiffs, and the parties anticipate that those documents will be signed by all the required parties. However, the settlement isn’t officially concluded until that occurs. We believe a final settlement of all claims will be reached soon.”

At least 147 people became sick and at least 33 died because of listeria infections after eating cantaloupe from Jensens Farms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates at least 10 other people who had the outbreak strains of listeria had eaten the Jensen cantaloupe, but health officials had not confirmed the link when filing out death certificates.

The victims, their families, Frontera Produce, the Kroger Co. and its subsidiaries, and cantaloupe growers Eric and Ryan Jensen all contended in various court cases that Primus Group Inc., doing business as PrimusLabs, should have been held partly responsible.

cantaloupe.salmonellaThey contended the Jensens would not have been able to sell their cantaloupe if their operation had not received high marks for food safety during an audit just before harvest began in 2011.

The settlement with Kroger and Frontera will also result in dismissal of cases those two companies and the Jensen brothers had filed against Primus and Bio Food Safety, which is the third-party auditing company hired by Primus to conduct the 2011 audit of the Jensens’ operation.

Bio Food Safety auditor James DiIorio gave the operation a “superior” rating of 96%. Primus contended in various court documents that it was not hired to do any microbial testing and that the Jensens’ cantaloupe would have been sold and eaten regardless of the audit score.

Mango chicken pasta salad recalled for Listeria in W. Australia

As is typical for the Australians, no information on how the Listeria-positive was detected, and no information on whether anyone is sick.

Taxpayer-funded public communications at it finest.

chicken-avocado-mango-saladZimbulis has recalled Caribbean Mango Chicken Pasta salad from the deli section of Woolworths Supermarkets, IGAs and small corner stores in WA only, due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Listeria monocytogenes may cause illness in pregnant women and their unborn babies, the elderly and people with low immune systems. Consumers should not eat this product. Consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice, and should return the products to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Like I tell mommies-to-be: Listeria is prevalent, persistent in retail delis

Purdue University research shows that standard cleaning procedures in retail delis may not eradicate Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in people with vulnerable immune systems.

amy.pregnant.listeriaA study led by Haley Oliver, assistant professor of food science, found that 6.8 percent of samples taken in 15 delis before daily operation had begun tested positive for L. monocytogenes.

In a second sampling phase, 9.5 percent of samples taken in 30 delis during operation over six months tested positive for the bacteria. In 12 delis, the same subtypes of the bacteria cropped up in several of the monthly samplings, which could mean that L. monocytogenes can persist in growth niches over time.

“This is a public health challenge,” Oliver said. “These data suggest that failure to thoroughly execute cleaning and sanitation protocols is allowing L. monocytogenes to persist in some stores. We can’t in good conscience tell people with weak immune systems that it is safe to eat at the deli.”

In healthy individuals, eating food contaminated with L. monocytogenes may lead to common food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea or an upset stomach. But the bacteria can cause listeriosis – a serious systemic infection – in immunocompromised people such as the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women and people with HIV. In severe cases, L. monocytogenes can pass through the intestinal membrane and into the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier. The bacteria can also cross the placental barrier in pregnant women, which can trigger abortion.

Ready-to-eat deli meats are the food most associated with L. monocytogenes, which can grow at refrigerator temperatures, unlike Salmonella and E. coli.

Stringent control measures and inspections have tamped down the presence of L. monocytogenes at meat processing plants, but there are no regulations specific to Listeria for retail delis. Recent risk assessments suggest that up to 83 percent of listeriosis cases linked to deli meats are attributable to products contaminated at retail.

oliver-listeria“It’s kind of the Wild West,” Oliver said. “Manufacturing has a zero-tolerance policy for Listeria, but that dissipates at the retail level. The challenge of developing systematic cleaning procedures for a wide variety of delis – which are less restricted environments than processing plants – can make Listeria harder to control.”

Consumers with vulnerable immune systems should buy prepackaged deli meats or heat ready-to-eat meats to 165 degrees, she said. Meat contaminated with L. monocytogenes will not show signs of spoilage, such as sliminess or odor.

The paper was published in the Journal of Food Protection. The abstract is available at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2014/00000077/00000011/art00012

Sprouts again: Korean Food Co. of Texas recalls soybean sprouts because of possible Listeria risk

Korean Food Co. of Irving Texas is recalling 8 boxes of (20 bag in each box) Go-Hang Soybean sprouts in 1 lb. and 2 lb. bags distributed Jan 30, 2015 – Feb 6, 2015 because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

soybean.sproutsThe soybean sprouts were distributed to KO-MART in Dallas and H-MART in Plano and Carrollton retail stores in Texas.



No illnesses that have been reported to date.

The recall was the result of a routine sampling program by the FDA which revealed that the finished products contained the bacteria. The company has ceased the production and distribution of the product as FDA and the company continues their investigation as to what caused the problem.

Consumers who have purchased Korean Food Co. Soybean Sprouts in 1lb. and 2lb. in plastic bags are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 213-500-1893 Sun-Sat. 24 hours a day.

7 dead, 34 sick from Listeria: US apple industry works to limit recall damage

The Listeria outbreak that lead Bidart Bros. to recall of all of its granny smiths and galas spurred industry representatives to travel to Washington D.C. for damage control meetings recently, writes Coral Beach of The Packer.

apples-granny-smith-165384Alex Ott, executive director of the California Apple Commission, said he and officials from other apple organizations met with members of Congress the last week of January. They also met with people at the Food and Drug Administration, Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

One concern Ott said they discussed with FDA officials is how the agency shares — and does not share — information after a recall is announced.

“They are quick to send out initial information,” Ott said, “but they aren’t so quick with the follow ups.”

Ott said the FDA’s “no comment” policy during investigations fans the flames of media hysteria like that seen in Malaysia and other Asian countries, which have enacted restrictions on U.S. apples not included in the recall.

FDA spokesman Doug Karas said the agency has made it clear the recall related to the listeria outbreak involves only galas and granny smiths from Bidart Bros., Shafter, Calif. Seven people who were infected with the outbreak strains of listeria have died.

The outbreak has sickened 32 people in 11 states, with 31 of them requiring hospitalization, according to the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 10. Canadian officials report two people there have been confirmed with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes.

Jim Bair, president and CEO of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va., said the organization is looking forward while waiting on final reports from FDA and CDC.

gala.apples“(We have) already begun looking forward to next steps and what our industry can do to prevent further instances,” Bair said. “We are considering what measures we can take to best serve the industry in providing relevant information to prevent future concerns.”

Officials with apple organizations in New York and Michigan either declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment.