587 sick: CDC and FDA try to contain cyclosporiasis outbreak

As the numbers of those sickened with cyclosporiasis reached 495 in the U.S. and 92 in Canada, the only lead appears to be cilantro imported from Mexico.

cilantroCyclospora is a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people’s feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it. This causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.

Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora, in Canada and U.S. have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.

To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks have been linked to produce grown in Canada.

476 sick with cyclosporiasis in US, 87 in Canada

As of August 17, 2015 (3pm EDT), a total of 476 ill persons with confirmed Cyclospora infection were reported to CDC in 2015. Most of these persons—282 (59%) of 476—experienced onset of illness on or after May 1, 2015, and did not have a history of international travel within 2 weeks before illness onset.

 cilantro.slugs.powell.10These 282 persons were from the following 22 states: Arkansas (2), California (2), Connecticut (3), Florida (10), Georgia (23), Illinois (7), Iowa (1), Kansas (2), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (9), Michigan (2), Missouri (1), Montana (3), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (6), New Mexico (2), New York (excluding NYC) (8), New York City (21), Texas (162), Utah (1), Virginia (3), Washington (2), and Wisconsin (10).

Clusters of illness linked to restaurants or events have been identified in Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Cluster investigations are ongoing in Texas and Georgia. Cluster investigations in Wisconsin and Texas have preliminarily identified cilantro as a suspect vehicle. Investigations are ongoing to identify specific food item(s) linked to the cases that are not part of the identified clusters.

87 cases have been reported in Canada.

Iron Cross Blister beetles in imported pre-packaged leafy vegetables in Canada

Never heard of a blister beetle, but they look sorta cool.

cfia.blister.beetleThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting an investigation into the presence of Iron Cross Blister beetles (Tegrodera spp.) in imported leafy vegetables following recent consumer complaints of these beetles in pre-packaged salads. There have been no confirmed illnesses or injuries associated with the consumption of these products.

Fresh produce can harbor insects that may be injurious to consumers, but this is rare. The Iron Cross Blister beetle is very distinctively colored, with a bright red head and bright yellow markings on the wings, separated by a black “cross”. This particular beetle should be treated with caution as it may release an irritating chemical called “cantharidin.” This chemical may cause blisters at the point of contact.

Consumers are advised to wash and visually inspect their leafy vegetables thoroughly. The beetle should be removed without touching or crushing it. If found, please advise your local CFIA office.

E. coli O157 recall in ground beef in Canada

Killarney Market is voluntarily recalling Killarney Market brand ground beef from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination

Killarney Market brand ground beefThis 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.

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

Playing chicken: ‘Flout rules deceive public’

According to an editorial in the St. John’s Telegram in Newfoundland (that’s in Canada), documents show an appalling disregard for public health and safety Country Ribbon chicken processing facility in St. John’s. They also show the length some companies will go to flout the rules and deceive the public.

borat.chickenIn October 2014, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ordered the to shut down.

At the time, Country Ribbon’s CEO said the problem was a minor paperwork issue related to its “hazard analysis and critical control points program.”

“We’ve made a lot of improvements in our program, but there were some improvements to the written part of our program and the administration that CFIA wanted to see, and they set a deadline for us to have those completed,” Ian Pittman told The Telegram.

But according to documents obtained by the CBC, inspectors found a recurring lack of sanitation and presence of salmonella on subsequent visits leading up to the October closure.

Given such damning revelations, most businesses would go out of their way to apologize to customers for failing to meet adequate safety standards.

Instead, Pittman opted to send an astoundingly dismissive statement to CBC.

“There is no new information to add since the resolution of the matter last fall,” he said.

“(We) remain committed to continuing to provide safe, quality products to our customers.”

If they really are committed, it appears that may be a first.


Pinto defense? We meet all government standards: More problems at Alberta meat plant

In 2012, XL Foods in Alberta sickened 18 people with E. coli O157:H7, led to the largest beef recall in Canadian history, and the plant was subsequently bought by JBS of Brazil.

doug.vegaFollowing in the tradition of Walkerton’s E. coli O157 outbreak and Maple Leaf’s Listeria outbreak, an independent review panel has concluded the outbreak was caused by mediocrity.

The largest beef recall in Canadian history happened because a massive Alberta producer regularly failed to clean its equipment properly, reacted too slowly once it realized it was shipping contaminated meat, and on-site government inspectors failed to notice key problems at the plant.

“It was all preventable,” concludes an independent review of the 2012 XL Foods Inc. beef recall, in which 1,800 products were removed from the Canadian and U.S. markets and 18 consumers became sick.

According to the report, the company did not practice what to do in the event of a major recall, and its staff failed to ensure equipment was regularly and properly cleaned. Canadian Food Inspection Agency workers at the plant failed to notice the problems. These and many other issues persisted four years after the government promised sweeping food-safety reforms in response to the 2008 listeria bacteria contamination at Maple Leaf Foods that took the lives of 23 Canadians and led to serious illness in 57 others who ate tainted meat products.

“It was not that long ago,” the report notes in reference to the 2008 recall. “Canada’s food-safety system – then, as now – is recognized as one of the best in the world. Yet, a mere four years later, Canadians found themselves asking how this could have happened once again.”

No, Canada exists in a bubble, with comfortable fairy tales about the best health care in the world and the safest food in the world.

Any outside observer could look at the available data and say, What ….?

Now, documents obtained by CTV News through an Access to Information request show that in one instance in 2014, E. coli was found in meat exported to the United States from the Brooks, Alta. plant now owned by JBS Food Canada.

U.S. food inspectors detected the tainted meat before it ended up on store shelves.

Unsafe meat was exported in three other instances, documents show, but the exact problem is blanked out in the report.

In one instance, a plant worker didn’t do proper testing for E. coli.

The person responsible for on-site verification of the sampling said she “wasn’t really paying attention.”

For its part, JBS Foods said any problems indicated in the inspections have been resolved.

Some of the reports documents made note of instances where employees were standing in two to three inches of pooling blood, contaminated water, and were splashing product when walking.

Employee hygiene was also a concern. Inspectors found:

  • No running water in the women’s and men’s bathroom sinks
  • No running water in men’s urinal
  • Toilets let unflushed with fecal matter
  • No paper towels

In a follow-up statement to CTV News, JBS Food said the company “is meeting all relevant food safety standards.”

Pinto defense (which was close to a Vega).

CFIA buries the lede: 1 sick with Listeria from Sun Fresh apple slices

At the bottom of this Canadian Food Inspection Agency press release, they announce, “there has been one reported illness associated with the consumption of these products.”

Way to bury the lede.listeria.sunrich.apple.apr.15

Way to show compassion.

Way to be bureaucratic.

Sun Rich Fresh Foods Inc. is recalling sliced apples and products containing sliced apples produced in its Brampton, Ontario facility from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

This recall was triggered by CFIA test results.

There has been one reported illness associated with the consumption of these products.

Was the testing triggered by the illness or routine?

Feces, mold and salmonella found by CFIA before 2014 Country Ribbon licence suspension

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified serious concerns about sanitation and the safety of chicken produced by a Newfoundland processing operation before temporarily suspending the company’s licence last fall.

country.ribbon.chickenCBC News used access to information to obtain documents that shed light on problems found by federal inspectors at the Country Ribbon facility in St. John’s.

The 600 pages of records show that, before the suspension, inspectors with the CFIA — the federal agency that regulates food safety — found feces on chicken parts, and mold and dried blood on equipment.

Country Ribbon operates a large-scale processing operation near Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s. The facility employs more than 300 people and processes more than 10 million chickens annually.

The operation ground to a halt over the October Thanksgiving weekend in 2014. 

At the time, top Country Ribbon officials said the company’s licence was suspended because it wasn’t making improvements required by CFIA quickly enough.

As trouble mounted, a CFIA inspector stopped the plant’s slaughter operations.

Country Ribbon began processing chickens again after the company promised to fix the problems. But in the days and weeks that followed, inspectors continued to find other issues, such as mold on fixtures and equipment, and unacceptably high levels of salmonella.

One day, a random inspection found fecal contamination on a chicken thigh.

“The inspector had all parts condemned from the contaminated pan,” the inspection report noted.

Weeks later another inspection said fecal matter was found on a chicken wing.

It’s all about trade: CFIA sucks at communication

In 1997, I co-wrote a book called Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk, which included a chapter about how the newly formed Canadian Food Inspection Agency sucked at communication and enforcement regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

mad.cows.mother's.milkA few years later, when Canada had its first case of mad cow disease, the chief vet was proactive, and consumption of beef actually rose.

But when the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak killed 23 in 2008, CFIA was left castrated.

It was probably a political thing.

Kelsey Johnson, a reporter with iPolitics, www.ipolitics.ca writes in Canada’s Western Producer that there is nothing more frustrating for a journalist than the inability to get basic information for a story from official channels, particularly at the federal level.

The relationship between the federal government and the Parliamentary Press Gallery is especially strained, one that is unlikely to improve much in the coming months thanks to the rapidly approaching federal election.

Which is why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s communication response to the single case of H5N2 avian flu in Ontario has been a pleasant surprise.

The CFIA’s last communications effort, which had been prompted by a leak that revealed a case of BSE had been found on an Alberta farm in February, received heavy criticism from some reporters, including yours truly.

In that particular case, obtaining basic information such as the location of the index farm and the birth farm, was like pulling teeth. The agency’s initial plan was to not make the case public until its monthly reporting period in March, a policy that CFIA and the cattle industry insist is simply standard practice.

RS64This time around CFIA appears to have amended its communication strategy.

Reporters were first informed of the single case of avian flu April 7 through a CFIA news release that was sent to the entire Parliamentary Press Gallery. That in itself is an improvement over the BSE case, when the agency put out a response but didn’t send it to the gallery’s main email, which frustrated several reporters who were unaware of the CFIA’s response.

Kelsey, it’s all about trade.

And while barfblog.com is only 20-years-old, the Rolling Stones released their first album, 51 years ago today (thank you, Buddy Holly).


Owner sad: TV expose shows employees changing best-before dates at Canadian company

The president of Valoroso Foods, the Kelowna, B.C. company facing allegations of tampering with best before and expiry dates, says his team has spent the weekend doing a full inventory check of their product. Joe Valoroso says they are throwing away anything that is outdated. He adds they are planning to provide a full report to the public and to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Joseph-ValorosoThis comes after Global News conducted an investigation into allegations from former employees. One of them, James Summers-Gill documented some of the alleged tampering with a hidden camera for several weeks before he quit. Some of the footage shows employees discussing how to make the new tags more professional looking.

However, Valoroso denies the accusations. He says the inventory review is taking place at all of the company’s locations and warehouses. There are two retail stores and a warehouse in the central Okanagan as well as a warehouse in the Lower Mainalnd. Valoroso says he is sad and his priority is getting the trust of his customers and community back.

“We are going to assure them that their trust should not be violated and we are going to make sure that we can regain whatever trust we lost and we apologize if we have caused any inconvenience to their patronizing at our place,” says Valoroso.

inventory-in-progressThe CFIA says before Global News’ story aired, it conducted an inspection of the facility “which included reviewing with the owners, requirements pertaining to best before and expiration dates,” said Tammy Jarbeau with the CFIA in an e mail statement to Global News. “The CFIA will continue to work with and monitor the company to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation.

Jarbeau added that changing the best before date on food is not a violation of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations however it is illegal to sell food that is known to be unsafe.

Valoroso Foods has operated in Kelowna for almost 20 years. They specialize in Italian and European cuisine.