Anyone sick: Listeria leads to ham recall in Aus

Pastoral Ham & Beef P/L has recalled Easy Cut Shoulder Ham from Costco stores in NSW, ACT, QLD, VIC, SA due to microbial (Listeria Monocytogenes) contamination.

hamDate notified to FSANZ


Food type

Ham (cured pork meat)

Product name

Easy Cut Shoulder Ham

Package description and size

Plastic cryovac bag, random weights approx. 3 kg

Date marking

Use By 02.03.16

Country of origin


Reason for recall

Microbial (Listeria Monocytogenes) contamination


Costco stores in NSW, ACT, QLD, VIC, SA

Consumer advice

Listeria may cause illness in pregnant women and their unborn babies, the elderly and people with low immune systems. Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice. The product can be returned to the place of purchase for a full refund.


Pastoral Ham & Beef P/L

(02) 9319 4008

When all these people say food safety is their top priority, ‘I swear, I swear I’m on the verge’

It’s sort of a Hip morning here, letting the hockey adrenaline run through the system.

The_Tragically_Hip_FireworksFSIS Notice 04-16, 1/20/16

  1. Purpose

On January 25, 2016, FSIS will launch a year-long pilot project to assess whether retailers are using the recommendations in the FSIS Best Practices Guidance for Controlling Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in Retail Delicatessens (FSIS Retail Lm Guideline).This notice provides instructions to the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA), Compliance and Investigations Division (CID) Investigators, on how to complete the Ready-To-Eat (RTE) Retail Deli Tool, a questionnaire in the Public Health Information System (PHIS) that will help Investigators compare the practices observed in retail delis to the FSIS Retail Lm Guideline in the following areas: product handling, cleaning and sanitizing, facility and equipment controls, and employee practices. This notice also provides instructions to Investigators on how to conduct outreach at retail firms that slice or prepare deli products during their in-commerce surveillance activities.

  1. Background
  2. The FSIS Retail Lm Guideline provides specific recommendations that retailers can use in the deli area of their operations to control Lm contamination of RTE meat and poultry products. The guidance highlights recommendations based on an evaluation of retail conditions and practices documented in the Interagency Risk Assessment–Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens (Interagency Retail Lm Risk Assessment). The FSIS Retail Lm Guideline includes information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code, scientific literature, other guidance documents, and lessons learned from FSIS verification sampling and from reviewing sanitation programs for Lm controls in meat and poultry processing establishments. The FSIS Retail Lm Guideline sets out recommendations rather than requirements.
  3. As mentioned above, FSIS is launching a year-long, nationwide pilot project to measure the status of retailers’ voluntary adoption of the recommendations in the FSIS Retail Lm Guideline. FSIS will not perform sampling at retail. The Data Analysis Staff, Office of Data Integration and Food Protection, will analyze the results monthly, and the quarterly results will be posted on the FSIS Web site in a Constituent Update.

 III. Outreach

  1. When conducting in-commerce surveillance at a retail firm that slices or prepares deli products, Investigators are to provide the firm’s management with the tri-fold brochure, Guidance for Controlling

Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in Retail Delicatessens. The brochure is available in English and Spanish on FSIS’s Web site at . Printed copies of the brochure can be obtained through supervisory channels. Investigators are to provide this information as part of the education and outreach they perform to provide regulatory food safety, food defense, and other compliance information to in-commerce businesses, owners and operators, employees, and others.

  1. In addition, Investigators are to provide the firm’s management with a copy of the letter that explains FSIS’s pilot project. The letter can be obtaion through supervisory channels.
  2. RTE Retail Deli Tool

When conducting in-commerce surveillance at a retail firm that slices or prepares deli products, Investigators are to complete the RTE Retail Deli Tool in PHIS.

Investigators are not to ask the firm’s manager or employees to answer the questions in the RTE Retail Deli Tool. Investigators are to make independent observations. Investigators may request records in addition to those required to be kept under 9 CFR 320.1 or 381.175 (e.g., records that show the firm is cleaning every four hours or rotating sanitizers) in order to identify industry practices and to determine whether the firm is following the FSIS Retail Lm Guidelines. Investigators may also make inquires to clarify their findings.

After completing the RTE Deli Tool in PHIS, Investigators are to discuss any vulnerability that they observed with the firm’s manager or employees.

  1. Questions

Refer questions regarding this notice through askFSIS. When submitting a question, use the Submit a Question tab, and enter the following information in the fields provided:

Subject Field: Enter Notice 04-16

Question Field: Enter your question with as much detail as possible.

Product Field: Select General Inspection Policy from the drop-down menu.

Category Field: Select Sampling: Listeria from the drop-down menu.

Policy Arena: Select Domestic (U.S.) Only from the drop-down menu.

When all fields are complete, press Continue and at the next screen press Finish Submitting Question.

Daniel Engeljohn

Assistant Administrator

Office of Policy and Program Development


Pilot project: control of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in retail delicatessens




‘We don’t have any magic’ Kathy Glass on Listeria in apples

Kathleen Glass started working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Research Institute 30 years ago, studying various microbes — primarily those turning up in the meat and dairy industries — and assisting with food safety investigations.

caramel.appleShe added her first fruit case last year with a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in caramel apples.

Now, Glass and other researchers are working to better understand the needs of the tree fruit industry in order to help growers, packers and retailers meet new food safety regulations and ensure the safety of their products.

“The meat and dairy industries had problems 20 years ago. That’s really when we found our religion when it comes to food safety,” Glass said.

Fruit growers didn’t have as much to worry

A couple of consecutive outbreaks with ready-to-eat meat products led to significant changes in cleaning and sanitation in that industry, Glass said, as well as the addition of growth inhibitors to meat products so that Listeria can’t grow during the normal shelf life.

The changes sparked a 42 percent decrease in cases from 1996 to 2012.

The World Health Organization estimates an infectious dose of Listeria at about 10,000 cells or more.

“Just a couple of Listeria in our food products probably is not going to make us sick. That means we need to focus on foods that support growth — perishable things you should refrigerate, those with the right amount of moisture and the right acidity level,” Glass told growers and packers at December’s Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting in Yakima, Washington.

Investigators eventually tied the Jan. 6, 2015, Listeria outbreak to a specific supplier of Granny Smith and Gala apples in California, marking the first direct tie of fresh whole apples to a serious food safety outbreak.

road.apples .tragicallyhipBut there were some novel things about the case, Glass said. Healthy children were getting sick from an unusual food source: caramel apples.

The apples were sanitized, dipped in hot caramel, and the pH of the apples was too low for minimum growth of the pathogen, which raised several questions.

Is this the work of a superbug? Are conditions present to allow growth? Could damage to the apple contribute?

Preliminary studies suggest that damage to apples could encourage microbial growth, Glass said. In this case, puncturing the apple with a stick allowed Listeria to translocate to the core.

In addition, deep depressions in apples may protect Listeria from hot caramel. Storage temperature also is an issue, with the apples stored at room temperature at retail, enabling Listeria growth.

Glass said it’s clear the industry is stepping up its efforts in the food safety arena and in environmental testing, which is the best way to determine if there’s an area of concern.

The problem is knowing if disinfectants are as effective as hoped.

“We have to try things that have been done elsewhere and apply things in different ways,” she said. “It’s a tough, tough thing, because they don’t have a great kill step. We don’t have any magic at this point, and more research is needed.”

1 dead, 8 sick (3 newborns): Deleware cheese company pleads guilty in 2014 Listeria outbreak

A specialty cheese manufacturer in Kenton, Delaware, has pleaded guilty to violating federal food and drugs laws that led to a 2014 outbreak of listeria infections from Hispanic-style cheese.

roos-cheese-santa-rosa-de-lima-300pxAfter a criminal and civil complaint was filed this week, Roos Foods Inc., has pleaded guilty to distribution of adulterated cheese in interstate commerce, a misdemeanor, U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III said in a statement Friday.

The company and its principals, Ana A. Roos and Virginia Mejia, also have agreed to a permanent injunction, which requires them to stop processing and distributing food products unless they bring the operations into compliance with federal laws, he said.

The plea stems from a 2014 outbreak in which eight people – five adults and three newborns – in Maryland and California were infected with the L. mono bacterium that causes the disease listeriosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One died as a result of the illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspected the company’s Kenton facility and found unsanitary conditions, including roof leaks, rust flakes, un-cleanable surfaces, and product residue on equipment that had purportedly been cleaned, the complaint said. A sample collected at the facility found L. mono on 12 surfaces.

LGMA silent on Listeria outbreak

About four times a day I’ll get a tweet from the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement – the folks who set themselves up after the spinach outbreak of E. coli in 2006 that killed four and sickened 200 – blowing themselves about how great they are, and how their products are so safe.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10If you want that kind of PR, then you have to be to take the hits as well.

LGMA never talks about an outbreak linked to leafy greens (publicly).

To me, they’ve succeeded best at lowering the leafy greens cone of silence and intimidating public health types into delaying reports of outbreaks.

LGMA says essentially that epidemiology doesn’t matter, and product must be shown to have the same outbreak strain as someone who is sick.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145That happened with spinach in 2006, and it has happened again with Listeria in 2016 – 2 dead, 19 sick, Canada and the U.S., all linked to Dole pre-packed salads.

Sure, it was probably the plant in Ohio that processed the stuff that was the source of the Listeria (and when I think of Ohio, I think salad).

But where’s the tweet, LGMA?


CDC: 11 ill and one death linked to Dole salads; products pulled

I spent the past couple of days in a room with some excellent fresh produce food safety colleagues making extension materials for industry folks; we talked a bit about Listeria monocytogenes and cut leafy greens.

Irony is ironic sometimes.Bagged-Salad-by-Justin-Sullivan-Getty-Images-300x200

The process of growing, harvesting, cutting, washing and packaging leafy greens can be problematic when it comes to Listeria monocytogenes. Sanitizers in wash water helps reduce cross-contamination. Once the pathogen is in the bag, there’s not much a consumer can do (other than cook it).

CDC says 12 cases of listeriosis, including a death, are linked to Dole products packaged in a Springfield, OH plant. Routine sampling and whole genome sequencing helped solve the mystery of the cluster (which had been investigated since September).

Twelve people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been reported from six states since July 5, 2015. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (4), New Jersey (1), New York (4), and Pennsylvania (1). WGS has been performed on clinical isolates from all 12 ill people and has shown that the isolates are highly related genetically.

Listeria specimens were collected from July 5, 2015 to December 23, 2015. Ill people range in age from 3 years to 83, and the median age is 66. Sixty-nine percent of ill people are female. All 12 (100%) ill people reported being hospitalized, and one person from Michigan died as a result of listeriosis. One of the illnesses reported was in a pregnant woman.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio and sold under various brand names are the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local health departments are interviewing ill people about the foods they may have eaten or other exposures in the month before their illness began. Of five ill people who were asked about packaged salad, all five (100%) reported eating a packaged salad. Two (100%) of two ill people who specified the brand of packaged salad eaten reported various varieties of Dole brand packaged salad.

As part of a routine product sampling program, the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad from a retail location and isolated Listeria. This packaged salad was produced at the Springfield, Ohio Dole processing facility. In January 2016, WGS showed that the Listeria isolate from the packaged salad was highly related genetically to isolates from ill people. This information linked the illnesses to Dole brand packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

On January 21, 2016, Dole reported to CDC that it had stopped production at the processing facility in Springfield, Ohio. The company also reported that it is withdrawing packaged salads currently on the market that were produced at this facility. The withdrawal does not affect other Dole products.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve, and retailers do not sell packaged salads produced at the Dole processing facility in Springfield, Ohio.

These packaged salads were sold under various brand names, including Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar, and President’s Choice. The packaged salads can be identified by the letter “A” at the beginning of the manufacturing code found on the package.

The U.S. cases may be linked to the Canadian Lm outbreak, based on the product, distribution and timeline, but there’s not much info from officials to confirm the connection.

Dole’s recall notice can be found here.

Seven ill with listeriosis in Canada; prepackaged leafy greens investigated

Bagged leafy greens are a common ingredient in our weekly dinners – I’m a fan of the 50/50 spinach spring mix combo as a base for a steak, blue cheese, pear and walnut salad. But eating anything raw, like leafy greens is a trust-based activity. I trust that the folks who grow, cut, wash and package salad mix know how to manage the risks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in five provinces. To date, the source of this outbreak has not been confirmed. However prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are food items being investigated. This notice will be updated as new information becomes available.

At this time, the risk to Canadians is low, but given that Listeria can cause severe illness to some high-risk groups, Canadians are being asked to review and follow proper safe food handling practices in an effort to prevent illnesses.
Currently, there are seven (7) cases of Listeria monocytogenes in five provinces related to this outbreak: Ontario (3), Quebec (1), New Brunswick (1), Prince Edward Island (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1). Individuals became sick between September 2015 and early January 2016. The majority of cases (71%) are female, with an average age of 81 years. All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death.

Not the best idea: serving smoked salmon to hospital patients

I’m not a huge smoked salmon fan, but when there’s not much to choose on a breakfast buffet, I’ll grab some with a bagel and cream cheese.

With its history of Listeria monocytogenes risks, I wouldn’t serve smoked salmon to someone who was immunocompromised.shutterstock_187930064

Or a hospital patient.

According to EJ Insight, a 79-year-old hospital patient in Hong Kong has listeriosis following a smoked salmon sandwich.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) epidemiological investigations revealed that the patient had consumed high-risk foods including sandwiches with smoked salmon provided by the kitchen of the private hospital in late December, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The patient has been confined at the hospital since Sept. 12 last year for several chronic diseases. She developed fever and her body conditions deteriorated since Jan. 1.

While a sample of smoked salmon collected from the hospital kitchen tested negative for Listeria monocytogenes, the patient’s blood culture yielded the bacteria.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department subsequently collected five smoked salmon samples and 19 environmental samples from the factory of Elegant Fine Food Limited, the food supplier, on Shipyard Lane in Quarry Bay.

Four of the samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogene, while all environmental samples were negative.

The CFS has ordered the food supplier to immediately recall all of its smoked salmon products while all of its existing stocks were confiscated. Its production lines have been suspended for sterilization.

A CFS spokesperson said investigations are ongoing.

Why is this on a hospital menu?

Food Safety Talk 86: Low viscosity vomit

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.1453228104586

In an effort to get caught up and get some shows out, we have elected to post today’s show notes in a more old school style. Episode 86 is here.

The advancement of mediocrity; How do experts get things so wrong?

In 2008, Listeria in Maple Leaf cold-cuts killed 23 Canadians and sickened another 55.

amy.pregnant.listeriaAn outbreak of Listeria in cheese in Quebec in fall 2008 led to 38 hospitalizations, of which 13 were pregnant and gave birth prematurely. Two adults died and there were 13 perinatal deaths.

A Sept. 2008 report showed that of the 78 residents of the Canadian province of British Columbia who contracted listeriosis in the past six years, 10 per cent were pregnant women whose infections put them at high risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

The majority — nearly 60 per cent — of pregnant women diagnosed with listeriosis either miscarry or have stillbirths.

In the April 2010 edition of the journal, Canadian Family Physician, the Motherisk team at the previously reputable Toronto Hospital for Sick Children published a piece that said, without any references, that “pregnant women need not avoid soft-ripened cheeses or deli meats, so long as they are consumed in moderation and obtained from reputable stores.”


Six years later, the hospital has finally decided to take action.

But not because of bogus advice.

The Hospital for Sick Children has permanently discontinued hair drug and alcohol tests at its Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory after an internal review “further explored and validated” previous, and as yet undisclosed, “questions and concerns.”

André Picard of Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports that just before Christmas, the findings of an independent review of the Motherisk Hair Testing Laboratory were released. The report, prepared by Justice Susan Lang of the Ontario Court of Appeal, makes for bone-chilling reading.

listeria4After a meticulous dissection of the evidence, Justice Lang concluded that the hair testing – which was used to determine alcohol and drug use in child protection investigations and criminal prosecutions – was “inadequate and unreliable,” and so, too, was much expert testimony.

While Motherisk founder Gideon Koren rarely testified himself, the judge said he was ultimately responsible for ensuring interpretations were done properly.

The findings will have sweeping repercussions because the hair testing was used in 16,000 child-protection cases and six criminal cases that resulted in convictions.

The key case was that of Tamara Broomfield, who was convicted of administering a noxious substance (cocaine) to her child and various other charges in 2009. Her conviction was overturned in 2014 when the Ontario Court of Appeal expressed serious doubts about the validity of Motherisk’s hair testing.

In response, the Toronto Star published a series of investigative articles, which, in turn, forced the province to commission an independent review, and led to the suspension and permanent closing of the drug-testing lab.

The technical details of how the hair testing was inadequate are important, but the short version is that while the lab promised “gold standard” results, it barely delivered a tin standard.

That this could happen for a decade beggars belief, but, according to Justice Lang, the fundamental problem was lack of oversight, a culture that allowed shoddy science to flourish and be rewarded. To understand this we need a bit of history and context.

Motherisk, a unit of the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, was founded back in 1985 to conduct research on drugs and environmental chemicals, and how they could affect breastfeeding moms and newborn babies in particular.

Motherisk did groundbreaking research, especially on the role of folic acid preventing birth defects and cancer, and how codeine-based medicine can be fatal to babies after surgery. But labs, no matter how successful, need to generate funds. So Motherisk created a spinoff hair-testing business – one that proved quite lucrative, bringing in up to $1.3-million a year.

Dr. Koren became a much-called-upon expert witness. Problem was he was not an expert in this kind of pathological testing. Justice Lang found that much of his testimony was grossly misleading – there were huge leaps made based on flawed tests.

How does this happen?

In modern society (and perhaps even more in the legal and courts system), we are enamoured by TV series, such as CSI, where a single strand of hair tells a rich, definitive tale.

In real life, science is rarely that magical. Things like hair testing provide some information, but it requires much interpretation and even more caution.

When you have a financial interest in offering black-and-white interpretations, and little oversight and accountability, trouble can ensue. The hair-testing debacle demonstrates this all too well.

But what’s most troubling of all is that the Motherisk story is oddly familiar.

Children, their parents and the public deserve better from Sick Kids.

And if it’s so prestigious, how did they get the Listeria advice so wrong?