Show me the data: butter at room temperature edition

I like butter on my bagels. So does Jan Polanik. According to the New York Times, he filed a pair of class-action lawsuits after paying a quarter for butter every time he ordered bagels over a four year period, but was given margarine without being told.

Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners settled the suits, but not until after using food safety as a defense.

In 2013, a Dunkin’ Donuts spokeswoman, Lindsay Harrington, offered an explanation for why a vegetable spread might be used.

“For food safety reasons, we do not allow butter to be stored at room temperature, which is the temperature necessary for butter to be easily spread onto a bagel or pastry,” she told The Boston Globe. The recommended procedure in the store, she said, was for individual whipped butter packets to be served on the side of a bagel or pastry, but not applied. “The vegetable spread is generally used if the employee applies the topping,” she said.

I’m not sure what the food safety reasons are since the salted version (over 1.5%) of oil-in-water emulsion doesn’t support the growth of foodborne pathogens or staph toxin formation -and remains safe at room temperature when the power goes out.  Stuff will persist, including Listeria, but temperature control isn’t a factor. It’s a quality thing.

From the Salmonella in low moisture foods file: Trader Joe’s almond butter edition

At the 2007 IAFP annual meeting in Florida, CDC foodborne illness outbreak guru Robert Tauxe told symposium audience that the next big thing for food safety was low-moisture ingredients. Salmonella is hardy, especially when stressed through drying, so it sticks around for a while. It might not grow much without available water, many low-moisture foods are also high-fat which protects the pathogen in the gut and leads to a lower mean infectious dose. Tauxe’s comments were post- Salmonella Tennessee in Peter Pan peanut butter and pre- Salmonella Wandsworth in Veggie Booty (and other outbreaks) and he talked about dried spices and flavorings and peanut butter-type products like hummus and tahini. And almond butter.91989-Raw-Crunchy-Unsalted-Almond-Butter

According to a message on the Trader Joe’s website, the retailer is recalling specific lots of two types of of almond butter.

We have been alerted by our supplier of Trader Joe’s Raw Almond Butters that there is a possibility that product with the specified date codes may be contaminated with Salmonella:

Raw Crunchy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 91989

USE BY 28DEC14 thru 18JUN15

Raw Creamy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 56995

USE BY 27DEC14 thru 18JUL15

 In accordance with our stringent health and safety standards, and as an extreme precaution, all of the potentially affected product has been removed from sale and destroyed.

Customers who have purchased any of these items with the specified code dates are urged to not eat them and to dispose of them or return them to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund.

No other Trader Joe’s products are included in this recall.

37 kids sick in Russian outbreak: E. coli found in butter

The Moscow Times reports that E. coli bacteria has been found in butter at four kindergartens in the city of Samara, following the hospitalization this week of almost 30 children in the neighboring city of Tolyatti from food poisoning, Itar-Tass reported Friday.

The bacteria was discovered during a food safety check initiated after a raft of food-poisoning cases in Tolyatti, which were apparently caused by dairy products, including tvorog and kefir. In total, 37 children under the age of two fell ill, with 28 of them being hospitalized.

A criminal investigation has been opened in connection with the Tolyatti poisonings, with the charge of failing to meet safety standards in work with young children.

Consumers beware; 1 sick with listeria from Quebec cheese or butter recalled a month ago but still on shelves

The sick person lede was buried, again, and I didn’t realize from a CFIA press release someone had gotten listerosis from eating Clic brand cheese and/or butter in Canada.

That’s how government types roll.

Worse, the expanded recall issued yesterday was a month after an initial limited recall, yet product was still sitting on shelves.

Canadian Food Safety Inspection Agency (CFIA) recall specialist Garfield Balsom told FoodQualityNews.com, “During a review of the company’s voluntary recall it was discovered that several products had been missed. The manufacturer has ceased production at its facilities and the CFIA working with them to make sure other products manufactured by the company are safe to consume.”

Did the one identified individual get sick from consuming Clic products that were previously recalled? In the original Nov. 11, 2011 recall notice, no one was sick.

The following cheese products, bearing establishment number 1874, and any Best Before dates up to and including those listed below, are affected by this alert:

Brand Product Size UPC Last Best Before date
Clic Moujadalé 300 – 400 g None 11 MAR 2012
Clic Riviera 300 – 400 g None 11 FEB 2012
Clic Tressé 300 – 400 g None 11 NOV 2012
Clic Vachekaval 300 – 400 g None 11 MAR 2012

The following dairy products bear establishment number 1874. These products have a four digit lot code. If the last 2 digits of the lot code are 45 or lower, e.g. xx-45, xx-44, etc, they are affected by this alert:

Brand Product Size UPC
Clic Desi Butter Ghee 454 g (1 lbs) None
Clic Desi Butter Ghee 907 g (2 lbs) None

These products have been distributed in Quebec and Ontario. These products may also have been distributed to other provinces.
 

Peanut butter outbreak’s impact on small businesses

Karla Cook writes in tomorrow’s New York Times that the Peanut Corp of America-linked Salmonella outbreak’s reach has not been limited to multi-national companies:

Small businesses in all corners of the United States bought potentially tainted peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America and are now part of one of the largest food recalls ever in this country. There is the chef in Las Vegas, for instance, who used them in protein bars, the packager of nuts and dried fruits in Connecticut, the cannery in Montana that sold chocolate-covered nuts and the ice cream manufacturer in New York State.

While big companies like Kellogg, Kraft and General Mills have the experience and staff to handle recalls, many small businesses have never had to deal with anything like this.
Some have had to keep employees on overtime or hire additional help to handle the recall-related work — records have to be searched to identify and track products, and replacement products manufactured. And company officials say they are spending a lot of time reassuring their customers.
“It’s not our fault this recall went through,” said Tom Lundeen, who co-owns Aspen Hills Inc., in Garner, Iowa, which makes frozen cookie dough for fund-raisers. “We do everything correct and we
have an incredibly high level of quality control, and we still have to pay for the mistakes of P.C.A.”

Yep, exactly – this outbreak has demonstrated the complexity and interconnectedness of the food system — which has largely been built on trust in suppliers or the results of their third-party audits.

Jenny Scott, a microbiologist and vice president of science policy and food protection for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group in Washington, said small businesses need to know their suppliers’ food safety culture and practices, and whether the suppliers are capable of doing the right thing. Last week, she helped teach a Web seminar for 60 participants, “The Ingredient Supply Chain: Do You Know Who You’re in Bed With?” 

Like it was straight out of the pages of barfblog — although trying to assess the food safety culture and supplier practices is difficult, it’s not impossible. Creating and fostering the openess and transparency of food production through marketing food safety, with companies opening their doors can help buyers make decisions.

Benjamin Chapman, food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, went further. “If you’re in the peanut butter industry, you need to be thinking about salmonella,” he said. Learning about suppliers is challenging when the supplier is not local, and the layers of the national food system are difficult to pierce.

PB and Salmonella: where are the third-party audits?

Watching the number of recalls continue to grow in the Salmonella in peanut butter debacle, I’m wondering why is it taking some of these companies so long to issue a recall? Today it was Jenny Craig and dozens others. My guess is these distributors have no idea what’s in the products they are hawking and it takes weeks to track down such info. If a food processor really knows its suppliers, it should take hours or minutes to figure out if the suspect ingredient is in some kid’s peanut cracker snacks or Kirstie Alley’s Jenny Craig bar (she’s not with the program anymore? Oh).

And sure, everyone’s calling for better government oversight, but what about the third-party auditors? If Peanut Corporation of America was supplying paste and industrial tubs of peanut butter to all these processors and distributers, they must have had third-party auditors through the peanut processing plant in Blakely, Georgia. What problems did the auditors uncover? And what was done about such problems?
 

Peanut plant previously cited for violtions

The New York Times is reporting the peanut processing plant at the center of a salmonella outbreak that has killed seven and sickened over 500 in 43 American States and Canada had “a history of sanitation lapses and was cited repeatedly in 2006 and 2007 for having dirty surfaces and walls and grease residue and dirt build-up throughout the plant, according to state health inspection reports.”

The inspection reports were provided by Georgia officials in response to a request made by The New York Times under the state’s open records act. State officials said they could not release two recent inspection reports from 2008 because of the ongoing investigation into the plant. …

Inspections of the plant in Blakely, Ga., by the state agriculture department found areas of rust that could flake into food, gaps in warehouse doors large enough for rodents to get through, unmarked spray bottles and containers, and numerous violations of other practices designed to prevent food contamination. The plant, owned by Peanut Corporation of America of Lynchburg, Va., has been shut down.

It’s cold in North Carolina; and there is more Salmonella here

It’s been cold here in North Carolina lately.  The past few mornings it has been clear and sunny, but with temperatures in the mid-teens.  Perfect weather for hockey.

 On Thursday night Dani, Jack and I went to the Leafs/Hurricanes game. We took advantage of the cheap tickets ($25 each, and Jack gets in free until he’s two). My beloved Leafs took a 4-0 lead before almost totally collapsing and pulled out a 6-4 win.  Both teams looked like they might have had some foodborne illness, and left the remnants on the ice. It was a really sloppy game. Maybe they had been eating peanut butter.  

Public health officials announced yesterday that an additional three North Carolinians  have been added to the national Salmonella Typhimurium. It was reported that one of the new cases was a resident who died in November due to a blood infection caused by Salmonella.

Today, the FDA updated it’s information related to the outbreak. The FDA website says:

The FDA has notified PCA that product samples originating from its Blakely, Ga., processing plant have been tested and found positive for Salmonella by laboratories in the states of Minnesota, Georgia and Connecticut.  The state of Minnesota reported to FDA that its samples of King Nut peanut butter are a genetic match to the strain of Salmonella that has caused illnesses in the state and around the country.  King Nut is a distributor of PCA product.

Because identification of products subject to recall is continuing, the FDA urges consumers to postpone eating peanut butter-containing products until further information becomes available about which products may be affected. Efforts to specifically identify those products are ongoing.

At this time, there is no indication that any national name brand jars of peanut butter sold in retail stores are linked to the PCA recall.  As the investigation continues over the weekend, and into next week, the FDA will be able to update the advice based on new sampling and distribution information.

Kellogg connection to Salmonella outbreak?

Kellogg has asked stores to halt the sales of some of their peanut butter snacks as it was announced that one of their suppliers is Peanut Corp. of America. 

The items include toasted peanut butter sandwich crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwich crackers, cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers, and peanut butter-chocolate sandwich crackers.

This connection might be what was missing for many of the outbreak victims who have not been associated with eating peanut butter.  Maybe they had some peanut butter snacks? I’m sure the state and federal epidemiologists will be/have been looking at this link.

From the press release:

"PCA is one of several peanut paste suppliers that the company uses in its Austin® and Keebler® branded peanut butter sandwich crackers.

Kellogg Company’s investigation has not indicated any concerns, nor has the Company received any consumer illness complaints about these products. Nonetheless, Kellogg Company is taking precautionary measures including putting a hold on any inventory in its control, removing product from retail store shelves, and encouraging customers and consumers to hold and not eat these products until regulatory officials complete their investigation of PCA and Kellogg provides further information as to the resolution of this issue.

With 2007 sales of nearly $12 billion, Kellogg Company is the world’s leading producer of cereal and a leading producer of convenience foods, including cookies, crackers, toaster pastries, cereal bars, frozen waffles, and meat alternatives."

Good move by Kellogg for sure. If one of your suppliers is suspect, or has been linked to illnesses, take a look at where that product might have been used and figure out whether the risk has made it to your customers.

In a local connection for me, it was reported by ABC 11 here in Raleigh that the sandwich crackers on hold are solely produced at a plant in Cary, North Carolina. The FDA isn’t saying whether they are inspecting the Cary plant.

Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter

As Doug posted earlier, it looks as though peanut butter has been implicated in the current 400+ person outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium.  Earlier tonight AP cited CDC sources as saying that the Salmonella also may have contributed to three deaths. AP reports that it looks like Minnesota Dept of Health has yet again cracked the case and recovered the outbreak strain from an opened jar of King Nut brand peanut butter, and has epidemiolgy to back it up:

"The commonality among all of our patients was that they ate peanut butter," said Doug Schultz, a spokesman with the Minnesota Department of Health. While the brand of peanut butter couldn’t be confirmed in every case, the majority of patients consumed the same brand, he said Monday.

Here’s a food safety infosheet that focuses on the outbreak. You can download it here.