4 dead, 33 ill from Listeria in lettuce: Of course Dole knew

Beginning August 2, 1998, over 80 Americans fell ill, 15 were killed, and at least six women miscarried due to listerosis. On Dec. 19, 1998, the outbreak strain was found in an open package of hot dogs partially consumed by a victim. The manufacturer of the hot dogs, Sara Lee subsidiary Bil Mar Foods, Inc., quickly issued a recall of what would become 35 million pounds of hot dogs and other packaged meats produced at the company’s only plant in Michigan. By Christmas, testing of unopened packages of hot dogs from Bil Mar detected the same genetically unique L. monocytegenes bacteria, and production at the plant was halted.

four.monkeysA decade later, the deaths of two Toronto nursing home residents in the summer of 2008 were attributed to listeriosis infections. These illnesses eventually prompted an August 17, 2008 advisory to consumers by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. to avoid serving or consuming certain brands of deli meat as the products could be contaminated with L. monocytogenes. When genetic testing determined a match between contaminated meat products and listeriosis patients, all products manufactured at a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods plant were recalled and the facility closed. An investigation by the company determined that organic material trapped deep inside the plant’s meat slicing equipment harbored L. monocytogenes, despite routine sanitization that met specifications of the equipment manufacturer. In total, 57 cases of listeriosis as well as 22 deaths were definitively connected to the consumption of the plant’s contaminated deli meats.

As far back as 2013, Blue Bell ice cream was finding Listeria in places like floors, catwalks and cleaning tubs. Blue Bell had positive listeria findings from at least 11 swabs of plant surfaces between March 2013 and November 2014. Each time, it vigorously cleaned the area, and moved on without testing the equipment that touches the ice cream. At the same time, Blue Bell had problems with the layout of its plants, with condensation dripping all over the place. After federal officials linked an illness outbreak to Blue Bell in 2015, they tested the company’s food processing equipment and found LM. Three people died and 10 were sickened.

In all three Listeria outbreaks, the companies had data that showed an increase in Listeria-positive samples.

But rather than pay attention, they ignored the safety.

Those who study engineering failures –the BP oil well in the Gulf, the space shuttle Challenger, Bhopal – say the same thing: human behavior can mess things up.

listeria4In most cases, an attitude prevails that is, “things didn’t go bad yesterday, so the chances are, things won’t go bad today.”

And those in charge begin to ignore the safety systems.

Or hope the problem will just go away.

Kellogg’s was taking Salmonella-contaminated peanut paste based on paperwork in 2009? Pay attention, Nestle did.

In 2009, the operator of a yakiniku barbecue restaurant chain linked to four deaths and 70 illnesses from E. coli O111 in raw beef in Japan admitted it had not tested raw meat served at its outlets for bacteria, as required by the health ministry.

“We’d never had a positive result [from a bacteria test], not once. So we assumed our meat would always be bacteria-free.”

Chipotle Mexican Grill was aware of a norovirus outbreak among people who had eaten in one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, Calif., but did not tell public health officials there until after it had closed and cleaned the restaurant. More than 200 people were sickened.

So it’s no surprise that officials at Dole’s Springfield, Ohio plant, which bags lettuce and other supposedly healthy meals, knew about Listeria in its facility for 18 months before shutting down and issuing a recall.

Four people have died and 33 sickened in Canada and the U.S. from Listeria in the Dole products.

Kudos to Bill Marler and his Food Safety News, as well as Food Poisoning Bulletin, for filing the Freedom of Information request on U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections at the Dole plant and putting together a preliminary picture of who knew what when.

Inspection reports (483) obtained by Food Safety News revealed the timeline of positive Listeria results and inaction. Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. finally suspended production at its salad plant in Springfield, OH, on Jan. 21 this year after a random test by state officials showed a bagged salad contained Listeria monocytogenes.

Dole restarted production at the plant in Springfield, OH, on April 21. Company officials won’t say what was done to clean the plant or how they plan to prevent future contamination there.

powell_soli_AUG2Inspectors from FDA checked the production plant three times in January and twice in February after genetic fingerprinting showed the undeniable link between the sick people and salads from the facility. They collected swab samples, unfinished product samples, testing records and other documents and information.

According to the FDA’s inspection reports, in July 2014 Dole did swab tests of surfaces in the Springfield plant. The tests returned positive results for Listeria, but the facility kept producing salads, shipping them to dozens of states and at least five Canadian provinces.

At least five more times in 2014 and three times in late 2015 Dole’s internal tests showed Listeria contamination, but Dole kept the salad lines kept rolling until January this year.

The FDA inspection report states that Dole’s vice president for quality assurance and food safety, as well as the company’s quality assurance manager, were aware internal tests on Jan. 5 and 7 this year showed Listeria on equipment and other surfaces in the plant. But Dole continued to produce and ship salads.

The plant kept operating until Jan. 21. The following day Dole posted a recall notice with the FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for salads produced at the Springfield facility. Dole branded salads and house brands for Walmart, Kroger, Loblaws and Aldi were included in the recall.

Marler, a prominent food safety lawyer who represents one of the victims in a lawsuit against Dole told Stephanie Strom of the N.Y. Times, “If the government inspectors hadn’t showed up, who knows when or if they were going to tell anyone.”

“They’d been having positive tests for listeria for some time,” said William Goldfield, a spokesman for Dole. “We understand these recent news reports may raise questions among our consumers and customers. They should be assured, however, that we have worked in conjunction with the F.D.A. to address those observations and ensure that Dole products are safe.”

Lauren Sucher, a spokeswoman at the F.D.A., said that companies must notify the agency when they find a food has a “reasonable probability” of causing serious adverse health consequences.

But, Ms. Sucher said, not all strains of listeria cause disease. “When listeria is found in the manufacturing environment, rather than on the food itself, it is not uncommon for a company to immediately take corrective action rather than test further to see if the strain of listeria poses a threat,” she wrote in an email.

Food companies that find listeria during periodic testing are not required to run further tests to determine whether the pathogen is of a toxic variety.

In Dole’s case, it was swabbing various locations in its plant in Springfield, Ohio, not necessarily testing the finished products, according to the F.D.A. inspection. Rather, Canadian public health officials investigating an outbreak of listeriosis dating to summer 2015, tested bagged Dole salads and found four varieties that were contaminated.

People are sick, but Canada won’t say how many: Frozen fruit strikes again

Following the outbreaks of hepatitis A throughout Europe traced to frozen fruit, I’ve taken to microwaving the product to a boil, and then cooling. Yes, my daughter is vaccinated, yes, I am getting my vaccines updated, but people shouldn’t be eating shit when they go for frozen berries.

hep.a.berryYet that is exactly what they do.

And Costco, where are you sourcing your stuff from?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that Nature’s Touch brand Organic Berry Cherry Blend is being recalled due to Hepatitis A.

The following product has been sold exclusively at Costco warehouse locations in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recalled products

Brand Name             Common Name      

Nature’s Touch         Organic Berry Cherry Blend

Size     Code(s) on Product            

1.5 kg(3.3 lb) Best Before dates up to and including 2018 MR 15

UPC   

8 73668 00179 1

This recall was triggered by findings of the CFIA during the investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The 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 reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

No shit.

Going public (not so much): Dole inspections show recalls, but no contamination in Ohio facility

If Dole can’t answer basic questions about the safety of its packaged leafy greens, why should consumers buy the stuff, let alone feel confident?

160122-dole-salad-mn-1530_8b681a6748a4253c3ec1c087b4cd8b0d.nbcnews-fp-1200-800Dole salad products had been recalled in recent years due to concerns about salmonella and listeria before the recent outbreak that shuttered the Springfield facility in January, federal inspection documents show.

The Springfield News-Sun reviewed U.S. Food and Drug Administration records dating back to 2011 obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Those documents show the Springfield plant recalled products a handful of times after traces of listeria and salmonella were found in pre-packaged salad mixes produced there. However samples collected during subsequent inspections didn’t find evidence of contamination at the plant.

A recent lawsuit filed by a Warren County woman also cited at least eight prior outbreaks or recalls company-wide stretching back to 2006.

Dole voluntarily closed the Springfield site in January. It’s not clear whether the site has reopened, in part because company leaders have declined to comment multiple times, but the parking lots is often full of cars.

Products packaged at the facility in the current outbreak were linked to at least 19 hospitalizations in the U.S. in nine states, including one death in Michigan.

In Canada, the outbreak was linked to 14 illnesses in five provinces. Three people in Canada died, however it hasn’t been determined if listeria contributed to those deaths.

listeria4A food safety expert said it’s not uncommon for a food processing facility to remain shuttered for weeks or even months after a significant outbreak.

“This is pretty normal and falls within the expected range of remediation efforts on the part of the organization,” said Naila Khalil, an associate professor in the Center of Global Health at Wright State University.

The Springfield News-Sun reviewed dozens of pages of FDA inspection reports obtained through a public records request.

Those documents show FDA inspectors visited a handful of times since 2011 after samples collected by various agencies contained pathogens like listeria, E. coli and salmonella.

The records also show subsequent samples collected at the Springfield facility didn’t test positive for those pathogens.

The FDA inspected the Springfield site in March 2014 after Canadian public health authorities detected a sample of listeria in a pre-packaged salad blend processed here. Dole voluntarily recalled the product.

In that case, the FDA issued a report to the company for failure to maintain floors and walls in good repair and failure to provide adequate screening or other protection against pests. Additional observations included food residue found on multiple surfaces, water leaks and ice melt dripping onto the floor of the finished product warehouse from a container of iced broccoli.

Specific concerns listed in the report include a cutting board found with deep grooves that couldn’t easily be cleaned, ruts in the floor containing standing water and peeling paint and rust.

Company officials were cooperative and pledged to address those concerns, the report says.

The documents also provide a glimpse into Dole’s sampling and prevention procedures.

The firm collects environmental, water, raw material and finished product sampling, the FDA documents show. The 2014 inspection showed the company’s goal is 50 samples per week, chosen from a list of pre-designated locations on a rotating basis.

In cases in which a pathogen is detected, the area is cleaned and sanitized, followed by additional swabs in a pattern around where the original sample was taken and repeated until no additional traces are found.

Why wouldn’t Dole just make such data public and quell whispers of conspiracy?

 

29 sick, 3 dead: Canadians wrap up Dole listeria investigation

Doug Carder of The Packer reports the Public Health Agency of Canada has wrapped up its investigation into a listeria outbreak linked to Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc.’s processing plant in Springfield, Ohio, that infected more than a dozen Canadians.

listeria4“Given that the source of the outbreak was identified and contaminated products have been recalled from the market, the outbreak investigation coordinating committee has been deactivated and the investigation is coming to a close,” according to a report posted on the Canadian health agency’s website regarding the investigation which began in late January.

The agency investigated 14 cases of Listeria monocytogenes in five Canadian provinces: Ontario (9), Quebec (2), New Brunswick (1), Prince Edward Island (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (1), according to the report. Individuals became ill between May 2015 and February, the agency reported.

“All cases have been hospitalized, and three people have died, however it has not been determined if listeria contributed to the cause of these deaths,” according to Public Health Agency of Canada’s final report.

Dole reported Jan. 21 to U.S. health officials with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it had suspended operations at the Ohio plant once it learned of the possible connection to the listeria outbreak. On Jan. 27, the company voluntarily recalled all Dole and private-label packaged salads produced there.

FDA confirmed Jan. 28 the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a packaged salad produced at the Springfield plant.

As of Feb. 25, the CDC had reported the outbreak had infected 18 people in nine states. All cases required hospitalization, according to CDC.

Laboratory results from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed a link between recalled packaged salad products and the listeria outbreak in Canada, according to the report. Lab results “confirmed that the Canadian and U.S. listeria outbreaks are highly genetically related,” according to the Canadian health agency’s report.

While Canadian health officials have concluded their investigation, the U.S. investigation into the outbreak remains active, according to FDA.

Going public: During a foodborne illness outbreak, fewer people barfing at bottom of CFIA’s priorities

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has a Protocol for CFIA’s sharing of information during food safety investigations and recalls.

bureaucrat.pink.flyodThe document contains lots of boilerplates about how “CFIA and the food industry share a common goal of safeguarding food in Canada,” and “high profile food recall situations can create intense media scrutiny, increased expectations from stakeholders as well as heightened public interest for the desire for more information and transparency around food safety investigations and outcomes.”

Recent independent reviews and government action plans, such as the Independent Review of XL Foods Inc. Beef Recall 2012 and the 2013 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada have recommended improvements in communication and increased information sharing with both stakeholders and the public during food safety investigations and recalls (they seem to have forgotten the Weatherill report on the 2008 Listeria outbreak that killed 22 Canadians and highlighted abysmal communications).

There’s lots of bureau-speak and legalese, and a noseestretcher that describes the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Health Canada, Provincial and Municipal Health Authorities as “other governments.”

There’s also lots of predictions about a rosy disclosure future under the Safe Food for Canadians Act, but two key issues are vaguely disregarded.

“When a food product has been assessed as representing a risk, information relating to the nature of the problem and level of risk posed may be shared with the CFIA’s Canadian government partners.”

How is that risk assessed? Does epidemiology count? Or only a direct positive in an unopened package, which is virtually impossible in produce-related outbreaks.

bureaucratThe other is “CFIA’s obligation to protect confidential business information and personal information significantly limits releasing information to third parties and the public during active food safety investigations. In addition, the integrity of the food safety investigation, namely the ability to collect and analyze information, including product samples, needs to be maintained.

“For food safety investigations that are complex, have potentially broad implications or are otherwise likely to result in high profile situations, the CFIA engages with potentially affected national industry associations by sharing information that is not confidential business information or personal information for the purpose of providing advanced notice. This may occur, for example, after a public alert is issued in a foreign country, or a foodborne illness outbreak is declared in Canada and is pointing to a specific commodity.”

Government finds everything complex and high profile, so how this test is applied remains a mystery.

Remain calm: CFIA says no Canadian meat plants at risk of being delisted in US, but questions remain

Kelsey Johnson of iPolitics reports the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says no Canadian meat plants are at risk of losing their trade status with the United States and that issues raised in a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture audit of meat, poultry and egg plants have been resolved.

remain.calm.animal.house“There are no outstanding issues and there was never any impact on trade,” CFIA Associate Director of Operations Barbara Jordan said in teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

“The final audit report confirms that Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems are equivalent to the U.S. inspection systems and that all Canadian federally registered establishments permitted to export to the U.S. can continue to export goods.”

The CFIA’s response came after The Globe and Mail reported Monday the agency had until March to respond to the Americans final findings. Failure to do so, the Globe report indicated, could see audited Canadians plants lose their ability to export products to the United States.

That’s simply not the case, the CFIA said Tuesday. “No, there is no risk of delisting,” Jordan stressed.

Canada’s food safety system, Jordan said, undergoes “routine” international equivalency audits and conducts similar audits on other countries. These audits, she said, are expected to “identify opportunities for improvement” in Canadian plants.

“This is very routine to have findings in all audits. It would be an unusual to have an audit that results in no findings.”

Still, the 2014 USDA audit of five meat inspection plants came two years after another USDA audit of seven meat plants raised similar sanitary concerns.

At the time, then Health Minister Rona Ambrose defended the CFIA, insisting Canada had one of the “healthiest and safest food safety systems in the world.”

Asked Tuesday about the USDA findings on plant sanitation, Jordan said the agency takes immediate action to rectify issues at the plant level. “Certainly, the sanitation issues are dealt with immediately, on the spot and inspectors have a range of tools they can use.”

So who does the Listeria and other microbial testing, the plants or CFIA or both? And why aren’t those results public?

Safest food in the world – Canadian edition; US says clean up

The Globe and Mail is reporting that the U.S Agriculture Department has given the Canadian Food Inspection Agency until mid-March to fix significant food safety and sanitation concerns found during an audit of Canada’s meat, poultry and egg inspection systems.

Chicago_meat_inspection_swift_co_1906CFIA met the “core criteria” for overall food inspection, but American officials identified “operation weaknesses related to government oversight, plant sanitation and microbiological testing” for listeria, salmonella and E. coli, according to a final report submitted to CFIA on Jan. 14.

Failure to fix the deficiencies could lead the U.S. government to delist Canadian plants that were audited from exporting their products to the United States.

CFIA issued a statement to The Globe and Mail late Monday insisting that food safety was not compromised and steps are being taken to improve the inspection system.

“It is important to note that none of the audit findings posed a food safety risk to consumers, including the identified sanitation issues,” CFIA said. “At the time of the audit, the CFIA inspectors were already addressing the sanitation findings outlined in the audit report and the establishments were already taking the required steps to fix the issues in question.”

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) conducted the audit between May 28 and June 13, 2014, of slaughter and processing plants in Ontario and Quebec.

The audit found CFIA does not conduct ongoing environmental sampling and testing in food-production plants for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), the bacteria that contaminated cold cuts produced by Maple Leaf Foods in 2008 that resulted in the death of 22 Canadians.

Food-plant employees test the surfaces where ready-to-eat meat and poultry is packaged but “does not collect samples or test for the presence of Lm on non-food contact surfaces,” the audit said.

XL.foodsU.S. auditors also raised concerns that plant inspectors are not checking for the presence of manure, ingesta or milk contamination on carcasses prior to the final wash. Tests are only done once the meat or poultry is in refrigeration units.

“FSIS considers this sanitary measure to not be equivalent [to U.S. standards]. Because this is a significant finding that will impact the overall equivalency of the CFIA inspection system,” the audit said, “CFIA must respond with either correcting the location at which zero tolerance verification occurs or providing an appropriate rational for implementing an alternative inspection procedure within 60 days or FSIS will deem the inspection system to not be equivalent.”

The audit discovered serious sanitation problems in food-processing plants where meat is packaged before being shipped to stores in Canada and the United States. Auditors observed open ceilings, leaking condensate and rust that could contaminate food.

These are the type of sanitation problems that led to the largest meat recall in Canadian history in 2012 when E. coli was found in meat exported to the U.S. from a Brooks, Alta., plant, now owned by JBS Food Canada.

U.S. food inspectors detected the meat before it ended up on U.S. food shelves, but 18 people in Canada got sick from eating the tainted meat. CFIA blamed unsanitary conditions, poor hygiene and the Brooks plant’s failure to immediately disclose E. coli tests.

Canada's Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz attends a meeting of the G8 and G5 agriculture ministers on April 18, 2009 at Castelbrando castle in Cison di Valmarino, northern Italy. Farm ministers from the world's leading industrialised and developing nations meet in Italy this weekend for the first time to find ways of overcoming a global food crisis. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO  (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada’s Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz attends a meeting of the G8 and G5 agriculture ministers on April 18, 2009 at Castelbrando castle in Cison di Valmarino, northern Italy. Farm ministers from the world’s leading industrialised and developing nations meet in Italy this weekend for the first time to find ways of overcoming a global food crisis. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. audit includes written responses from CFIA that strongly objected to the findings, saying the report “paints an inaccurate picture of the actual situation” and insisting the agency was in the process of addressing the food-safety concerns.

Terrence McRae, the director of CFIA’s Food Import and Export division, even tried but failed to persuade the U.S. Agriculture Department to give the agency a better grade.

CFIA did update their manual to require improved testing for listeria, but said it’s unclear if companies are doing the inspections or CFIA. He was unaware of any plans to set up inspection stations before the final wash.

They ain’t growing cantaloupes in Vancouver in Feb.

Freshpoint Vancouver, Ltd. is recalling Del Monte and Sysco Imperial Fresh brand cantaloupes from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume and retailers, hotels, restaurants and institutions should not sell, serve or use the recalled products described below.

cantaloupe.salmonellaConsumers who are unsure if they have the affected cantaloupes are advised to check with their retailer.

Recalled products

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Del Monte Cantaloupe 1 count Sold up to and including February 18, 2016 PLU 4050
Del Monte Cantaloupe (case) 12 count Lot 360012 None
Sysco Imperial Fresh Cantaloupe 3 count Lot 127 12 035 5 None

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.

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The 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.

Illnesses

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

17 sick (maybe) E. coli O157 scare triggers pork product recall from Calgary stores

They’re not scares.

Foodborne illnesses make people sick, not scare them.

Several pork and pork organ products sold in Calgary are being recalled because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

Hillview Meat ProcessorThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says the meat products were supplied by Hillview Meat Processor.

The pork products, which were only distributed in Alberta, may have been turned into ground pork, sausages or ready-to-eat products, CFIA said in a release.

The recall was triggered by an ongoing investigation into a foodborne food illness outbreak in Alberta which has sickened at least 17, up from 14.

CFIA says these products haven’t caused any illnesses, but what means is CFIA is being double secret probation – and careful – about making a link.

The investigation is continuing and could lead to other products being recalled, the agency says (which has happened).

The products were distributed to the following Calgary companies:

Paolini’s Sausage and Meat Ltd — 5735 Third St. S.E.

Trimming Fresh Meats — 3, 6219 Centre St. N.W.

V&T Meats — 3111 17th Ave. S.E.

Leung Ky Meat and Seafood Ltd — 1919 31st St. S.E.

Community Foods —119, 3208 Eighth Ave. N.E.

Hungarian Deli — 4020 26th St. S.E.

Rocky’s Sausage Haus — 37 Fourth St. N.E.

Food contaminated with E. coli might not appear or smell spoiled but can still make people sick. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.

It’s a real health advantage (not): Salmonella in sprouted seeds again

Advantage Health Matters is recalling Organic Traditions brand Sprouted Flax Seed Powder and Sprouted Chia & Flax Seed Powder from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products.

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.

Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may contract serious and sometimes deadly infections. Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The 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.