2 stricken with Listeria in France, unpasteurized cheese recalled

The Puillet cheese factory, located in Roanne, France withdrew its products from sale after detection of Listeria monocytogenes. Two people from the retirement home of Belmont-de-la-Loire have been infected.

camembert_franceListeria has been detected in Camembert cheese made from cow’s milk from a local dairy.

The presence of bacteria was detected after 2 people from the retirement home of Belmont-de-la-Loire, returned after a meal on June 23, 2016. The investigation by the DDPP Loire (Department for Protection of Populations) revealed that the infection had come from cheese consumed during the meal.

The manager of the dairy remains dubious: “We do not know where it comes from or how it could be contaminated. It’s been over 20 years since we started (the business) and it never happened before. It is really hurting our business.”

Are those leafy greens kept cold? Meh

Leafy green vegetables are highly susceptible to microbial contamination because they are minimally processed. Pathogenic bacteria of concern include Escherichia coliO157:H7, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes. Leafy greens are a highly perishable commodity, and in some cases have a postharvest shelf-life limited to one week.

lettuceThis study provides an approach to optimize storage temperature of leafy greens in the supply chain, considering the cost of refrigeration, sensory quality parameters (i.e., fresh appearance, wilting, browning, and off-odor), and microbial safety using nonlinear programming (NLP).

The loss of sensory quality parameters was expressed as Arrhenius equations and pathogen growth were represented by three-phase linear (primary) and square-root (secondary) models. The objective function was refrigeration cost, which was to be minimized. The constraints were growth of pathogens and the loss of sensory characteristics. An interactive graphical user interface was developed in MATLAB.

Pathogen growth is of more concern than loss of sensory quality in fresh-cut Iceberg lettuce when considering a shelf-life of up to two days, and the model indicates is difficult to maintain sensory qualities for longer shelf-life values. Browning is of maximum concern for fresh-cut Iceberg and Romaine lettuce, whereas off-odor is the biggest concern for fresh-cut chicory.

Cost, quality, and safety: A nonlinear programming approach to optimize the temperature during supply chain of leafy greens

LWT – Food Science and Technology, Volume 73, November 2016, Pages 412–418

Abhinav Mishra, Robert L. Buchanan, Donald W. Schaffner, Abani K. Pradhan


8 sickened, 1 dead: CDC says Listeria linked to frozen produce is over

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the investigation into frozen fruits and vegetables produced at CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Washington.

veggierecallHowever, people could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be freezers and people who don’t know about the recalls could eat them. Retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat recalled products. Read the Recall and Advice to Consumers and Retailers.

CDC, several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis).

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

Nine people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria have been reported from four states since September 13, 2013.

All nine people were hospitalized, and three of them died. Listeriosis was considered to be a cause of death for one person in Connecticut. For the two deaths in Maryland and Washington, listeriosis was not considered to be a cause of death.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington and sold under various brand names were a likely source of illness in this outbreak.

On April 23, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because of potential Listeria contamination.

On May 2, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods expanded the initial recall to include all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed in its Pasco, Washington facility since May 1, 2014. More than 350 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands were recalled, as well as at least 100 other products prepared by other companies that contained recalled ingredients from CRF Frozen Foods.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, and restaurants and retailers do not serve or sell, recalled organic and traditional frozen vegetables and fruit products and recalled products containing these items.

Recalled items were sold nationwide and in Canada.

A complete list of recalled products is on the FoodSafety.gov website.

Report for UK FSA says pre-packaged sandwiches should not be served in hospitals

Stephan Adams of the Daily Mail writes that a new report commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency concludes pre-packed sandwiches have been responsible for ‘almost all’ hospital outbreaks of listeria since 2003.

listeria4The bug kills around 50 people a year in England, according to official figures, with most deaths thought to be due to food being prepared and stored incorrectly.

Food safety company STS, which advises hospitals and care homes, believes patients may also be dying from eating infected sandwiches at these institutions.

Fiona Sinclair, director of food safety at STS, said: ‘Hospitals and care homes feed the most vulnerable people in society. The last thing these people need is to get something else on top of their illness.’

Pre-packed sandwiches often contain protein-rich fillings such as meat, paté, cheese, prawns and egg, on which listeria can thrive. Days can elapse between preparation and consumption, giving listeria time to multiply, and experts say too few people understand that sandwiches must be kept very cold – below 5C – to stop the bug growing.

The report, written by Ms Sinclair and colleagues, says: ‘Research into previous [listeria] outbreaks in hospitals found that almost all were linked to consumption of pre-packed sandwiches.’

These cases ‘were thought to have been caused by low-level contamination during manufacture in the factory, followed by a breakdown in the control of the cold chain in the hospitals’. During recent inspections, Ms Sinclair found sandwiches were being kept in fridges that were not cold enough, staff were serving packs past their use-by date, and sandwiches were being left on trolleys for lengthy periods before being handed to patients.

The firm’s report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, has prompted the FSA to revise its guidance to hospitals and care homes on minimising the risk of listeria.

Measures include cutting maximum fridge temperatures from 8C to 5C.

Welcoming the new rules, STS said: ‘The thought that a loved one should lose their life from eating a sandwich in hospital is ridiculous.’

Ms Sinclair said the research, undertaken with Surrey University, identified nine hospital listeria outbreaks across the UK since 2003. Each case affected between two and seven patients. Ms Sinclair said it was unclear from the data they had seen if anyone died from listeria infection during these outbreaks.

The fact that the bug kills up to 30 per cent of people in ‘vulnerable groups’ – such as pregnant women and the elderly – suggests that some did.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said: ‘If somebody is at death’s door, they could be finished off by a sandwich.

Feds inspect Pennsylvania farm linked to 2014 Listeria outbreak

Dan Nephin of Lancaster Online reports that federal food inspectors, armed with a court order and escorted by police, inspected a Lancaster County farm on Monday linked in March to tainted milk said to be responsible for a person’s death.

colbert.raw.milkAmos Miller, who owns Miller’s Organic Farm, had denied inspectors access in April, but relented in the face of a court order from a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith issued the order June 30 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked the court to enforce its inspection efforts.

“I didn’t want to give them the green light,” Miller said Monday afternoon at the farm.

Two meat inspectors, accompanied by an Upper Leacock Township police officer, inspected the farm for about three hours, he said. The inspectors had left by around noon.

The inspectors didn’t take anything and allowed the farm to continue operating, he said.

The USDA was unable to provide information about Monday’s inspection.

The farm sells a range of foods, from raw milk from several animals — including camels — to fermented vegetables to meat from grass-fed animals.

Miller described his roughly 2,000 customers across the country as a private membership association that does not sell to the public. As such, he said, he doesn’t believe the farm is subject to federal inspections.

“We don’t want to be against the government. We’re just concerned that they’re taking our freedoms away,” Miller said.

In court documents filed last month opposing the inspection, Miller said his membership “mistrust the status of the regulatory framework of the federal government and believe that said framework causes more harm to American citizens than good.”

He also argued the private membership association is a form of “expressive association” subject to First Amendment protections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posting, the farm was the likely source of raw chocolate milk responsible for a death in Florida and an illness in California.

The death and illness occurred in 2014, but was only linked to Miller’s in January, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notified the agency that genome sequencing of listeria from Miller’s raw chocolate milk was closely related to listeria from the two people, according to the agency.

No one checks if it’s followed: UK publishes Listeriosis guidance

New guidance from the UK Food Standards Agency has been published, aimed at healthcare and social care organisations, to help reduce the risk of vulnerable groups in their care contracting listeriosis.

listeria4Like, don’t serve refrigerated ready-to-eat foods such as deli meats to old folks?

Or raw spouts to people in hospital?

But it doesn’t say that.

Instead it bureaucratically meanders and will be pulled out once an outbreak has happened.

This guidance is intended to help these organisations determine what steps can be put in place to reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods and to complement good practice in the food industry. 

The guidance was the result of collaborative working between stakeholders who contributed to its development, including the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and the National Association of Care Caterers (NACC), which will help to promote uptake in these sectors.

The main audiences for this guidance are all types of healthcare and social care organisations that provide food for vulnerable groups. The guidance is also intended for Environmental Health Practitioners and procurement partners.

The project to deliver this guidance formed part of the FSA Listeria Risk Management Programme for 2010 – 2015.


Listeria in caramel apples changes apple safety focus

Chuck Robinson of Produce Retailer writes the Listeria outbreak connected to caramel apples in late 2014 and early 2015 gave the produce industry a slap to remind it to remain vigilant about food safety.

caramel.appleDiscussion of the outbreak dominated the first day of the seventh annual Center for Produce Safety Research Symposium on June 28-29.

That outbreak was traced to one apple supplier, Bidart Bros., Bakersfield, Calif. Only commercially produced, prepackaged whole caramel apples were involved.

There were 35 people from 12 states reported infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seven of them died before the case was closed, three of them linked to listeriosis.

Since the outbreak, the apple industry has changed focus from E. coli and compliance with Food Safety Modernization Act regulations to address listeria’s threat to the industry, said Ines Hanrahan, project manager for the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Wenatchee.

In general, more attention to details is required to maintain sanitation, she said, including getting rid of standing water and daily cleaning zones that come into contact with food. Brushes need to be cleaned more frequently and dunk tanks must be cleaned and the water changed more often.

The stronger focus requires bigger cleaning crews and more time allotted to cleaning, she said. Training and rewards for improvement also are demanded.

“It’s about the people cleaning the brushes every day understanding why they are cleaning the brushes,” Hanrahan said.

The advent of whole genome sequencing, which provides more detailed and precise data for identifying outbreaks than the current standard technique, will mean more outbreaks will be detected, warned Martin Wiedmann, a food safety professor for Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. The produce industry must be prepared.

As the caramel apple-linked outbreak shows, the industry should realize what is happening in the field is of secondary importance, he said.

“I think we need to focus on our processing and packing facilities,” Wiedmann said.

There were many reasons at the outset of the investigation to not expect apples to be the outbreak source, said Kathleen Glass, associate director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Reasons include the fact that the apples were sanitized and then dipped in hot caramel, which would seem likely to kill listeria. Also, the fruit is acidic, which would discourage listeria growth.

“You put all these factor together, and you don’t think apples are going to be a likely source of Listeria monocytogenes,” Glass said.”

However, the stems and calyxes of the fruit can harbor listeria, and pushing wooden stick through the calyx into the core also pushed listeria there.

“I’m really kind of surprised we hadn’t seen this sort of problem before,” Glass said.

Pat Kennelly, chief of the food safety section of the food and drug branch of California Department of Public Health, said problems were widespread at the Bidart Bros. packing facility. His staff’s investigation began well after the facility had closed operations for the season on Oct. 31.

“Given the level of contamination we found a month after operations had ceased, I can’t imagine what we would have found if we had tested when it was in operation,” Kennelly said.

548 restaurants get Kent Co. Michigan food safety awards

Who knew there were over 500 restaurants in the Grand Rapids, MI area? I’m not sure this qualifies as unique or special but about one third – 548 of the 1700 county – got a special award for food safety.

“It’s pretty elite company, if you will,” Kent County Health Department Supervising Sanitarian Max Bjorkman said of the award recipients. “Of the 1,700 restaurants that are eligible for the award, less than one third get it.”kent-county

For a restaurant to get the award, it had to meet criteria including no repeat violations for the year, no enforcement action taken against it and no complaints confirmed by the health department and determined to be a public health rise, among other things.

Yeah, I’m not sure how elite it is to be one of the 548 places.

Source of CRF Listeria remains a mystery

Finding the source of Listeria in a processing plant is tough. It takes environmental sampling to seek out residential Lm and get rid of it. To accomplish that, positive test results lead to further testing (closer to the product) and an investigation into the cause.

And sometimes the source is never found.logo-CRF-Frozen-Foods

A harbor mystery is a problem as the company can’t eliminate the drain, the piece of equipment, or the wall where it’s living and growing. With no source, there’s nothing to fix. And that leaves the company open to problems down the road.

According to the Tri-City Herald, CRF Frozen Foods can’t find the Lm that has been making people sick since 2013.

Gene Grabowski, a consultant acting as spokesman for CRF during the crisis, said the company will turn its attention from trying to find the source of the deadly Listeria pathogen to securing federal approval to restart production.

Bill Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm specializing in food safety, said hunting for Listeria is akin to hunting for the proverbial a needle in a haystack.

“You don’t have to have a filthy, dirty, horrible plant to have Listeria,” said Marler, who is in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss food safety issues with the federal officials, including White House staffers and members of Congress.

“The cleanest plant in the world can be harboring Listeria.”

First, it will conduct its own testing and review CRF’s records. Grabowski said there’s no way to know when CRF might get the green light to resume packing frozen fruits and vegetables.

The company laid off about 250 workers in early June, ostensibly to give them an opportunity to procure seasonal work during the shutdown.

Marler said his firm has been contacted by Listeria patients, though none whose cases have been genetically linked to the strain found in CRF products.

In brand we trust: How recalls at Trader Joe’s, Costco, can enhance customer engagement

Bryan Pearson writes in Business 2 Community that several major grocery retailers were recently given 358 ways to protect their consumers, and how they respond could determine whether shoppers will have a taste for them in the future.

trust.brandTrader Joe’s, Safeway and Costco are among the chains affected by a recall of 358 frozen food products under 42 fruit and vegetable brands. And while most headlines address the dangers of food contamination, the recall also serves as one more reminder of the highly effective role retailers and their loyalty programs could play in preventing illness.

Many people are alerted to these recalls through the news, but customer data can serve a more targeted and immediate function in notifying the public to and answering questions about such health scares.

The challenge is enabling the consumer to see that such notifications are an added benefit of loyalty program membership, not an intrusion. How to accomplish this? I can say that retailers that make customer trust a cornerstone of their strategic marketing have a superior edge, while those that do not risk getting lost in that trust shadow.

Following are four methods for responsibly alerting consumers to potential health scares, and in the process gaining trust.

  • Activate the database:Loyalty program data provides unique identifiers that enable retailers to determine which customers purchased certain items, including those on recall. Immediate notices can be sent to the loyalty members via their preferred methods of communication. Kroger Co., for example, has used its Plus rewards program data to aid in foodborne illness investigations and recalls.
  • Keep the database current:With that said, it is essential for retailers that use their loyalty data as a source of customer contact information to provide those customers good reason to keep their information current. If these names and addresses are wrong or out of date, then the retailer will be out of luck when it comes to tracking down affected individuals.
  • Reinforce trust:Regardless of how quickly they alert customers, retailers should be poised for questions about brand reliability. By offering a hotline through which questions can be answered, as well as the numbers of agencies that can provide information, the retailer can restore its foundation of customer trust. Practice sessions with customer-facing staff can ensure the company is prepared to answer questions quickly and consistently. It’s a good idea to assign a trusted team leader.
  • Get in front, but not affront:Outside of staff, all company communications should be direct, thorough and easy to access. Sending vague or hard-to-interpret messages will only dial up the concern, or panic (consider if the consumer is a new mother). In 2011, when Publix Super Markets recalled store-branded ice cream due to undeclared almond allergens, it added a red “Retail Alert” button to its website that directed visitors to a press release, product images and an explanation of the issue, with an apology (in English and Spanish).

Lastly, empathy will help guide the appropriate ways to respond to a recall. In the consumers‘ eyes, the retailer will be part of the circumstance, regardless of whether it is at fault. After-the-fact coupons won’t change that fact.