If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap; if it is Scottish cheese, it might contain Listeria

After further investigation, CFIA has expanded a recall announcement for Inverloch cheeses that have been imported and distributed across Canada.

Glen Echo Fine Foods is recalling Inverloch cheeses imported from Scotland from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments should not sell or use the recalled products described below.

The recalled products may have been sold in smaller packages, cut and wrapped by some retailers. Consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected products are advised to contact their retailer.

Listeria redux: Maple Leaf to cut 400 jobs

I killed two people in a car accident when I was 18-years-old. I went to jail. It’s all on the Intertubes.

20080827bg_leaf07.JPGBut I’ve never hid from it.

Seven years after his cold-cuts killed 23 people and sickened 55 with Listeria, Maple Leaf president Michael McCain now says, it’s all about the money.

Fair comment: food is a low-margins-high-turnover kind of biz.

But to ignore the food safety aspects when your company has monumentally messed up is beyond belief.

Or just another day at the office.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc said on Wednesday it would cut 400 management jobs, or about 3 per cent of its work force, saying it was ready to streamline operations after starting up Canada’s biggest meat plant.

Nearly half of the positions are based in the Mississauga head office, said spokesman Dave Bauer. Sixty-four are based at the new Hamilton, meat plant, where analysts noted excess staff and supervisors during a recent tour, and the rest of the job cuts are scattered across Canada.

Senior management, led by chief executive officer Michael McCain, remains intact, Bauer said.

“After years of change and transformation, we’re now in a position to streamline the organization so we can operate as efficiently as possible,” Bauer said.

Does that include food safety?


On-line cheese presents risk

Online shopping saves time and provides an enormous product choice, but when buying cheeses, this may lead to a quality compromise, according to a new study from Vetmeduni Vienna.

3294_Cheese shutterstock_117291487According to a German market study, six per cent of all fresh foods sold today are purchased online – and this rate is on the rise. For perishable foods, however, it is necessary to follow certain hygienic rules.

Dagmar Schoder from the Institute of Milk Hygiene at the Vetmeduni Vienna was interested above all in one especially high-risk food – raw milk cheese. Raw milk cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk, which puts them at a higher risk of microbiological contamination.

Ms Schoder and her colleagues ordered 108 different raw milk cheeses from 21 online retailers in seven European countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium).

“We chose raw milk cheese because it is a high-risk product. As raw milk is unpasteurised, it can be easily contaminated with harmful bacteria.

“Even a small amount of bacteria, for which raw milk cheese offers ideal growing conditions, can reach critical proportions after a longer ripening, storage and transport time.

“The product is then no longer edible and may even make consumers ill. For this reason, special care must be taken during production, storage and transport,” said Ms Schoder.

The researchers found Listeria monocytogenes in two cheese products: one from France and one from the Netherlands.

The fecal bacteria Escherichia coli was found in 32 products. It indicates poor conditions of hygiene during production. Salmonella were not found in any of the cheese samples.

“Some of the producers apparently have shortcomings in terms of hygiene,” said first author Ms Schoder. “Furthermore, when making online purchases, I recommend consumers to check if a product is adequately packaged and cooled when it arrives.”

The shipping period of the online products was between one and five days.

“Cheese must be cooled,” Ms Schoder stressed. But this was not the case with 61.5 per cent of the raw milk products purchased.

“If raw milk cheese is not cooled, bacteria will grow more quickly. A longer transport journey and improper packaging increase the risk for consumers.”

Only 19 cheeses fulfilled the EU labelling requirements (Directive 2000/13/EC and Regulation 853/2004). Of the cheeses purchased, 37 were not labelled as “raw milk cheese” and 43 labels had no “use by date”. Information on storage requirements was missing in more than half of the cheeses.


Canadian cheese update: Inverlock Cheddar recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes

The food recall warning issued on November 20, 2015 has been updated to include additional distribution information. This additional information was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) food safety investigation.

listeria.cheese.cdn.nov.15Glen Echo Fine Foods is recalling Inverloch Cheddar Cheese imported from Scotland from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

What you should do

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Isle of Kintyre Laird’s Mustard Mature Cheddar & Whole Grain Mustard 1 kg 10/13-06 5 060020 410338
Isle of Kintyre Applesmoke Mature Cheddar 900g 3-03-16 5 060020 410260

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, the infection can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Not the headline Batz would have used: Which U.S. foods are most likely to get you sick

Friend of the barfblog.com Michael Batz, says there is a difference between “which foods are most likely to get you sick?” and “which foods cause the greatest burden in the U.S.?”

So he provided commentary on a story he helped create.

The story ran in Fortune, and claimed the U.S. economy will take a $15.5 billion dollar food safety hit through lost income, lost revenue, healthcare-related costs and some intangibles, like “pain and suffering,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Research shows the most common foodborne pathogen is norovirus, which is the leading cause of gastroenteritis. The most deadly is listeria; though it is rare, with just 123 confirmed cases in 2013, 24 led to death. The most expensive is salmonella, which is quite common — 7,277 cases in 2013, but with a small fraction (127) resulting in death.

How worried should Americans be about the safety of the food supply? Which foods are most likely to get Americans sick? A deep dive into the data offers a look at where the risks lie.

To identify the most dangerous foods, the Emerging Pathogen Institute, a research institute at the University of Florida, compiled a greatest hits of dangerous pathogen/food pairings. Using a methodology that combined the likelihood of contracting an illness and the illness’s severity to calculate total disease burden, the group identified a Top Ten list of combinations.

Rank Food and Pathogen Cost Illnesses Hospitalizations Deaths
1 Poultry (campylobacter) $1,257m 608,231 6,091 55
2 Pork (toxoplasma) $1,219M 35,537 1,815 134
3 Deli meats (listeria) $1,086M 651 595 104
4 Poultry (salmonella) $712M 221,045 4,159 81
5 Dairy products (listeria) $724M 434 397 70
6 Complex Foods (salmonella) $630M 195,655 3,682 72
6 Complex foods (norovirus) $914M 2,494,222 6,696 68
8 Produce (salmonella) $548M 170,264 3,204 63
8 Beef (toxoplasma) $689M 20,086 1,026 76
10 Eggs (salmonella) $370M 115,003 2,164 42

 The top pairings don’t necessarily map to the major outbreaks of disease; only four of the top ten outbreaks in 2014 were from pairings on the list. J. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogen Institute, told Fortune that, outbreaks are “a small fraction” of the total number of foodborne illnesses. In most cases, foodborne illnesses are limited to a small group of people, which makes it difficult for authorities to track.

cdc.fbi.illnessBatz explains the which-foods-cause-the-greatest-burden-in-the-U.S. is about everyone. It is the summary row in a table with 300 million lines, each row representing a different person. Each row could be considered something like individual risk.

(You think you’re a special snowflake? Nope, you’re just a row in the giant spreadsheet of life.)

Our individual risks differ so greatly. Unless you’re pregnant, you don’t need to worry about transmitting Listeria monocytogenes or Toxoplasma gondii to your fetus. Your risks go up when you’re immunocompromised, particularly for some bugs. The young and old face increased risks, though again, every disease is different. People of different ages and genders have different food consumption patterns, too.

And even then, that one row represents risks faced at every meal over the course of a year. Some foods have much higher risks per serving, yet we don’t eat them that often. We consume other foods with lower risks per serving in very high quantities. When you’re telling someone which foods are riskiest, which do you mean? It’s tricky.

Five or so years ago, my colleagues and I published the results of trying to just get at that summary row. Or to be more specific, we tried to say something about which pathogens, which foods, and which pathogen-food pairs cause the greatest public health impact. This kind of information is, I believe, important for getting a handle on the landscape of foodborne disease, to help guide our efforts to reduce the burden.

fbi.batz.pie.chart.nov.15The report had a punchy “top ten” type title and got some attention (for which I’m thankful). But the attention has always come with a price, and that price is that when work like this is written up, it’s almost always presented to readers as some version of which foods to avoid.

I get it, I really do. It’s natural to frame things to readers this way, to take research and make it personally relevant to them. But it kind of butchers the work, and can do as much to misinform as to educate.

So kudos to Tamar Haspal of Fortune for mostly getting it right in an article that presents risks at the broad, national level. Boo to whoever wrote the headline, which conflates population and individual risk and asks “which foods are most likely to make you sick?”

Translating research is always tricky, and I’m never quoted quite to my satisfaction (I can’t get none). In the article, I say we value mortality at $8.7 million per life lost because “there’s also a social welfare value to a life.” Well, that’s not quite right, and I’m doubtful I put it quite that way, and my economist friends are likely groaning at the phrasing, but it’s fine. It’s mostly right, anyway. You have to learn to turn the other cheek.

But other things I just can’t let go. Like the fact that, for the record, I hate pie charts.

Bleach is your friend: produce contamination in the Middle East

My former dean was known as Dr. Clorox while serving in Vietnam.

produce.cloroxI used to give these training sessions to food types headed for Iraq and Afghanistan from Fort Riley (in Manhattan, Kansas) and would sheepishly say, I have no idea what you’re going to face in terms of potable water, but bleach is your friend.

We take so much for granted.

In the developing countries, inaccessibility to safe water, lack of agricultural infrastructures and limitations to implementing good agricultural practices (GAP) are persistent challenges.

To understand the spread of hazards and identify critical areas of transmission in the food chain, a total of 90 samples of raw salad vegetables (parsley, lettuce, radish) were collected from farms and post-harvest washing facilities (n = 12) in an extensively cultivated area in Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and from wholesale market stalls traced back to surveyed fields.

Our results showed high geometric mean indicator levels ranging from <0.7 to 7 log CFU/g (Escherichia coli), 1.69–8.16 log CFU/g (total coliforms), <0.7–8.39 log CFU/g (Staphylococcus aureus). The mean counts of total coliforms and E. coli on fresh produce followed an increasing trend from fields to the markets indicating potential sources of fecal contamination throughout the food chain. Of more concern was the presence of pathogens Listeria monocytogenes (14%) and S. aureus (45.5%) in fresh produce from harvest to retail, and Salmonella spp. was detected in 6.7% of the raw vegetables from the post-harvest washing areas.

the_first_bleach_bottle_by_thebleachbottle-d5h2xeyThese results along with our observations highlight shortfalls in hygienic farming and postharvest practices, including the use of inappropriately treated manure and chicken litter to fertilize the crops on the fields which contributed to the high levels of S. aureus in the product at retail. Unregulated use of wash water, inadequate transportation and storage conditions with risks of cross contamination was also identified.

Suggested control measures should mitigate the risks at the source and put emphasis on developing strict policies on monitoring the safety of water sources and on the application of the good agricultural and hygienic practices (GAP, GHP) on primary production stages, washing, transportation and storage at retail.

 Understanding the routes of contamination of ready-to-eat vegetables in the Middle East

Food Control, Volume 62, April 2016, Pages 125–133

Dima Faour-Klingbeil, Muhammad Murtada, Victor Kuri, Ewen C.D. Todd



Foodborne outbreaks in Canada 2008-2014

Background: Enteric outbreak investigation in Canada is performed at the local, provincial/territorial (P/T) and federal levels. Historically, routine surveillance of outbreaks did not occur in all jurisdictions and so the Public Health Agency of Canada, in partnership with P/T public health authorities, developed a secure, web-based Outbreak Summaries (OS) Reporting System to address this gap.

canada.colbert.oct.14Objective: This analysis summarizes the foodborne outbreak investigations reported to the OS Reporting System between 2008 and 2014.

Methods: Finalised reports of investigations between 2008 and 2014 for all participating jurisdictions in Canada were extracted and descriptive analysis was carried out for foodborne outbreaks on etiological agent, severity of illness, outbreak duration, exposure setting and outbreak source.

Results: There were 115 reported foodborne outbreaks included in the analysis. This represents 11.2% of all outbreaks reported in the enteric module of the OS Reporting System between 2008 and 2014. Salmonella was the most commonly reported cause of foodborne outbreak (40.9%) and Enteritidis was the most common serotype reported. Foodborne outbreaks accounted for 3,301 illnesses, 225 hospitalizations and 30 deaths. Overall, 38.3% of foodborne outbreaks were reported to have occurred in a community and 32.2% were associated with a food service establishment. Most foodborne outbreak investigations (63.5%) reported a specific food associated with the outbreak, most frequently meat.

Conclusion: The OS Reporting System supports information sharing and collaboration among Canadian public health partners and offers an opportunity to obtain a national picture of foodborne outbreaks. This analysis has demonstrated the utility of the OS Reporting System data as an important and useful source of information to describe foodborne outbreak investigations in Canada.

Funding for this program was provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

An overview of foodborne outbreaks in Canada reported through Outbreak Summaries: 2008-2014

CCDR: Volume 41-11, November 5, 2015: Foodborne Illness

Bélanger P, Tanguay F, Hamel M, Phypers M



Food companies, step it up: US multistate foodborne outbreaks, 2010-2014

Multistate outbreaks cause more than half of all deaths in foodborne disease outbreaks despite accounting for only a tiny fraction (3 percent) of reported outbreaks in the United States, according to a new U.S Centers for Disease Control report.

fact-sheet-vs-final-thumbnail-page-3_cropRecent outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to tainted cucumbers, ice cream and soft cheeses show the devastating consequences when food is contaminated with dangerous germs before it reaches a restaurant or home kitchen.

Highlights from the report on multistate foodborne outbreaks during 2010-2014 include:

• An average of 24 multistate outbreaks occurred each year, involving two to 37 states.

  • Salmonella accounted for the most illnesses and hospitalizations and was the cause of the three largest outbreaks, which were traced to eggs, chicken and raw ground tuna.
  • Listeria caused the most deaths, largely due to an outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 people.
  • Imported foods accounted for 18 of the 120 reported outbreaks. Food imported from Mexico was the leading source in these outbreaks, followed by food imported from Turkey.

The report recommends that local, state, and national health agencies work closely with food industries to understand how their foods are produced and distributed to speed multistate outbreak investigations. These investigations can reveal fixable problems that resulted in food becoming contaminated and lessons learned that can help strengthen food safety.

The report highlights the need for food industries to play a larger role in improving food safety by following best practices for growing, processing, and shipping foods. In addition, food industries can help stop outbreaks and lessen their impact by keeping detailed records to allow faster tracing of foods from source to destination, by using store loyalty cards to help identify what foods made people sick, and by notifying customers of food recalls.

“Reacting to problems isn’t sufficient in today’s food system, nor is it the best way to practice public health,” Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer, director of FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation Network, said in a teleconference.

TSA4Gensheimer stressed that in the past, food safety has been focused on reacting to outbreaks, but new regulations set to take effect in 2016 will require companies to take a science-based approach to building safety controls into food production.

“Industry is a very critical partner,” she said.

For example, although it is still not clear what caused the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle, Gensheimer said on the call that the company has shared “all of their records and is working with us in any way possible to give us information about their suppliers.”

Gensheimer also said after the current investigation ends, the company expressed interest in meeting with FDA and the CDC to work out ways to prevent future outbreaks.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said state-of-the-art disease tracking tools, and the introduction of gene tools, are helping to quickly track down the source of food-borne outbreaks in collaboration with state and national partners.

Frieden said disease detectives are “cracking the cases much more frequently than in past years because we have this new DNA fingerprinting tool being used increasingly,” but many cases still go unsolved.

He said companies are also stepping up to help, noting new requirements at Wal-Mart Stores Inc for food suppliers that set new control for suppliers to reduce contamination and the wholesaler’s Costco’s use of membership card lists to notify customers about recalled foods.

The leading causes of multistate outbreaks – Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria – are more dangerous than the leading causes of single-state outbreaks. These three germs, which cause 91 percent of multistate outbreaks, can contaminate widely distributed foods, such as vegetables, beef, chicken and fresh fruits, and end up sickening people in many states. 

“Americans should not have to worry about getting sick from the food they eat,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Top-notch epidemiology and new gene sequencing tools are helping us quickly track down the source of foodborne outbreaks – and together with our national partners we are working with the food industry to prevent them from happening in the first place.”

Introduction: Millions of U.S. residents become ill from foodborne pathogens each year. Most foodborne outbreaks occur among small groups of persons in a localized area. However, because many foods are distributed widely and rapidly, and because detection methods have improved, outbreaks that occur in multiple states and that even span the entire country are being recognized with increasing frequency.

Methods: This report analyzes data from CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to describe multistate foodborne outbreaks that occurred in the United States during 2010–2014.

Results: During this 5-year period, 120 multistate foodborne disease outbreaks (with identified pathogen and food or common setting) were reported to CDC. These multistate outbreaks accounted for 3% (120 of 4,163) of all reported foodborne outbreaks, but were responsible for 11% (7,929 of 71,747) of illnesses, 34% (1,460 of 4,247) of hospitalizations, and 56% (66 of 118) of deaths associated with foodborne outbreaks. Salmonella (63 outbreaks), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (34), and Listeria monocytogenes (12) were the leading pathogens. Fruits (17), vegetable row crops (15), beef (13), sprouts (10), and seeded vegetables (nine) were the most commonly implicated foods. Traceback investigations to identify the food origin were conducted for 87 outbreaks, of which 55 led to a product recall. Imported foods were linked to 18 multistate outbreaks.

Conclusions: Multistate foodborne disease outbreaks account for a disproportionate number of outbreak-associated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths relative to their occurrence. Working together, food industries and public health departments and agencies can develop and implement more effective ways to identify and to trace contaminated foods linked to multistate outbreaks. Lessons learned during outbreak investigations can help improve food safety practices and regulations, and might prevent future outbreaks.

MMWR November 3, 2015 / 64(Early Release);1-5

Samuel J. Crowe, PhD1,2; Barbara E. Mahon, MD2; Antonio R. Vieira, PhD2; L. Hannah Gould, PhD



Sanitizers and produce: What works?

The aim of this study was to perform a meta-analysis of the effects of sanitizing treatments of fresh produce on Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes.

lettuce.skull.noroFrom 55 primary studies found to report on such effects, 40 were selected based on specific criteria, leading to more than 1,000 data on mean log reductions of these three bacterial pathogens impairing the safety of fresh produce. Data were partitioned to build three meta-analytical models that could allow the assessment of differences in mean log reductions among pathogens, fresh produce, and sanitizers. Moderating variables assessed in the meta-analytical models included type of fresh produce, type of sanitizer, concentration, and treatment time and temperature. Further, a proposal was done to classify the sanitizers according to bactericidal efficacy by means of a meta-analytical dendrogram.

The results indicated that both time and temperature significantly affected the mean log reductions of the sanitizing treatment (P < 0.0001). In general, sanitizer treatments led to lower mean log reductions when applied to leafy greens (for example, 0.68 log reductions [0.00 to 1.37] achieved in lettuce) compared to other, nonleafy vegetables (for example, 3.04 mean log reductions [2.32 to 3.76] obtained for carrots). Among the pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 was more resistant to ozone (1.6 mean log reductions), while L. monocytogenes and Salmonella presented high resistance to organic acids, such as citric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid (∼3.0 mean log reductions). With regard to the sanitizers, it has been found that slightly acidic electrolyzed water, acidified sodium chlorite, and the gaseous chlorine dioxide clustered together, indicating that they possessed the strongest bactericidal effect.

The results reported seem to be an important achievement for advancing the global understanding of the effectiveness of sanitizers for microbial safety of fresh produce.

 Meta-analysis of the Effects of Sanitizing Treatments on Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes Inactivation in Fresh Produce

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 81, Number 23, December 2015

L Prado-Silva, V Cadavez, U Gonzales-Barron, A Rezende, A Sant’Ana



Seek and ye shall find: Don’t be bobbing for these apples

Northstar Produce Inc. of St. Louis Park, MN is recalling 33 cases of Granny Smith Size 175ct apples, because a test performed on a sample of the apples indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and / or Enterohemorrhagic E. coli.

The Granny Smith Size 175ct apples were sold at Mike’s Discount Foods, 230 Osborn Ave., Fridley, MN and Mikes’s Discount Foods, 516 East River Road, Anoka, MN

The apples were sold in tray packs between October 1, 2015 and October 19, 2015

No illnesses have been reported to date.