We’re in waste managment: Liechtenstein thieves steal 1.3 tonnes of Listeria cheese

Germany’s food inspection office is concerned bad cheese will be sold either directly or indirectly, posing a health risk to anyone who consumes it, ATS reported on Tuesday.

sopranos.don't.fuck.with.usThe problem is the “Alp Sücka” cheese was found to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a potentially deadly infection.

Liechtenstein’s food office had banned the cheese but during a check discovered that 236 five-kilogram wheels of the dairy product had gone missing, ATS said.

They were probably stolen from open containers where they were stored temporarily before planned destruction, the news agency reported.

The country’s prosecutor has launched an investigation into the cheese’s disappearance.

Blessed are the cheese makers (except those that have an import alert)

Following the don’t-age-on-wood-boards-uh-just-kidding incident earlier this year, the U.S. FDA are again raising the hackles of cheese purveyors. This time over an import alert.

According to Janet Fletcher of the L.A. Times Daily Dish, an FDA-issued alert on certain manufacturers of raw milk cheeses due to presumed insanitary conditions is keeping some top-selling cheeses off of baguettes.

In early August, these cheeses and many more landed on an FDA Import Alert because the agency found bacterial counts that exceeded its tolerance level. Cheeses on Import Alert can’t be sold in the U.S. until the producer documents corrective action and five samples test clean, a process that can take months.hqdefault

Of course, French creameries haven’t changed their recipes for any of these classic cheeses. But their wheels are flunking now because the FDA has drastically cut allowances for a typically harmless bacterium by a factor of 10.

The limits for nontoxigenic E. coli were cut from 100 MPN (most probable number) per gram to 10 MPN. These are bacteria that live in every human gut; they are typically harmless and we coexist happily. But the FDA considers them a marker for sanitation: If a cheese shows even modest levels of nontoxigenic E. coli, the facility that produced it must be insufficiently clean.

Dennis D’Amico, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut whose specialty is dairy microbiology, says this premise is flawed.

“There was no health risk in all the years we operated at 100 MPN,” says David Gremmels of Oregon’s Rogue Creamery, which produces several raw-milk blues. “We look at this as an arbitrary change.”

Gremmels and others say they felt blindsided by the revised FDA guidelines, learning about them only when European cheeses began being held. The agency hasn’t offered any scientific support for the altered E. coli allowance, prompting unease about its decision making.

The stepped-up testing creates headaches for companies like Gourmet Imports, a Los Angeles cheese importer and distributor.

“In the past year, we’ve had delays on things you never would have imagined would be held before,” reports general manager Alex Brown. Even Parmigiano-Reggiano, a well-aged, low-moisture cheese unlikely to have microbial issues, was recently held for testing.

“It’s the safest cheese on the planet,” Brown says.

An import alert allows FDA to ask for more data (micro or inspection from an exporting country) and according to the Alert page, This import alert represents the Agency’s current guidance to FDA field personnel regarding the manufacturer(s) and/or products(s) at issue. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person, and does not operate to bind FDA or the public.

After a bit of digging I found a 2009 FDA Staff Compliance Policy Guide Sec. 527.300 Dairy Products – Microbial Contaminants and Alkaline Phosphatase Activity (CPG 7106.08) that states:

The presence of Escherichia coli in a cheese and cheese product made from raw milk at a level greater than 100 MPN/g (Most Probable Number per gram) indicates insanitary conditions relating to contact with fecal matter, including poor employee hygiene practices, improperly sanitized utensils and equipment, or contaminated raw materials. The presence of Escherichia coli at levels greater than 10 MPN/g in a dairy product, other than a cheese or cheese product made from raw milk, also indicates insanitary conditions. The presence of Escherichia coli at levels greater than 10 MPN/g in a dairy product made from pasteurized milk indicates that contamination occurred after pasteurization.

Any government agency needs to clearly and effectively communicate risk-based decisions, (especially changes) and provide the evidence to back a particular decision.

L. monocytogenes in a cheese processing facility: Learning from contamination scenarios over three years of sampling

The aim of this study was to analyze the changing patterns of Listeria monocytogenes contamination in a cheese processing facility manufacturing a wide range of ready-to-eat products. Characterization of L. monocytogenes isolates included genotyping by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multi-locus sequence typing (MLST).

listeriaDisinfectant-susceptibility tests and the assessment of L. monocytogenes survival in fresh cheese were also conducted. During the sampling period between 2010 and 2013, a total of 1284 environmental samples were investigated. Overall occurrence rates of Listeria spp. and L. monocytogenes were 21.9% and 19.5%, respectively. Identical L. monocytogenes genotypes were found in the food processing environment (FPE), raw materials and in products. Interventions after the sampling events changed contamination scenarios substantially. The high diversity of globally, widely distributed L. monocytogenes genotypes was reduced by identifying the major sources of contamination.

Although susceptible to a broad range of disinfectants and cleaners, one dominant L. monocytogenes sequence type (ST) 5 could not be eradicated from drains and floors. Significantly, intense humidity and steam could be observed in all rooms and water residues were visible on floors due to increased cleaning strategies. This could explain the high L. monocytogenes contamination of the FPE (drains, shoes and floors) throughout the study (15.8%). The outcome of a challenge experiment in fresh cheese showed that L. monocytogenes could survive after 14 days of storage at insufficient cooling temperatures (8 and 16 °C). All efforts to reduce L. monocytogenes environmental contamination eventually led to a transition from dynamic to stable contamination scenarios. Consequently, implementation of systematic environmental monitoring via in-house systems should either aim for total avoidance of FPE colonization, or emphasize a first reduction of L. monocytogenes to sites where contamination of the processed product is unlikely. Drying of surfaces after cleaning is highly recommended to facilitate the L. monocytogenes eradication.

International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 189, 17 October 2014, Pages 98–105, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2014.08.001

I. Rückerla, M. Muhterem-Uyara, S. Muri-Klingera, K.-H. Wagnerc, M. Wagnera, B. Stessl

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168160514003924

State-sponsored jazz fail: unlocking France’s secrets to safer raw milk cheese?

Leave it to U.S. National Public Radio to glorify raw milk cheese from France, based on some secret manuscript that requires $20,000 to translate (Amy could probably do it for nothing, but I wouldn’t want to speak on her behalf).

UnknownWhat NPR left out was that some former raw milk cheese producers have switched to using pasteurized milk.

In 2007, while Amy and I were touring around France, she wrote, two of France’s (and thus the world’s) top lait cru Camembert producers, Lactalis and Isigny-Sainte-Mère, announced that they are forgoing the status of “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” and switching to cheese made exclusively with heat-treated micro-filtered milk (not quite pasteurized but still an affront to purists).

Lactilis’ spokesperson, Luc Morelon said that although they recognize the importance of Camembert traditions, they’re making the change “[b]ecause consumer safety is paramount, and we cannot guarantee it 100 per cent. We cannot accept the risk of seeing our historic brands disappearing because of an accident in production.” In response to his critics Morelon added, “I don’t want to risk sending any more children to hospital. It’s as simple as that.”

Nice research, NPR.

Cheese recalled in Canada because of E. coli O26:H11

La Fromagerie Hamel is recalling La fromagerie Hamel brand “St-Felicien lait cru France (Rhone-Alpes)” cheese from the marketplace due to possible E. coli O26:H11 contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

La Fromagerie HamelRecalled products

Brand Name: La Fromagerie Hamel

Common Name: “St-Felicien lait cru France (Rhone-Alpes)”

Size: 180 g

Codes on Product: 11772104 Best Before 19/08/2014

UPC: None

What you should do

Check to see if you have recalled product in your home. Recalled product should be thrown out or returned to the store where it was purchased.

Food contaminated with E. coli O26:H11 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions and kidney dialysis or live with permanent kidney damage. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by a recall in another country. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (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 this product.

Should have been done initially: FDA issues clarification on using wood shelving in artisanal cheesemaking

Recently, you may have heard some concerns suggesting the FDA has taken steps to end the long-standing practice in the cheesemaking industry of using wooden boards to age cheese. To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese. Nor does the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) require any such action. Reports to the contrary are not accurate. 

cheese.wood.boardThe agency’s regulations do not specifically address the use of shelving made of wood in cheesemaking, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue. Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves. 

At issue is a January 2014 communication from the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services, which was sent in response to questions from New York State.  

The FDA recognizes that this communication has prompted concerns in the artisanal cheesemaking community. The communication was not intended as an official policy statement, but was provided as background information on the use of wooden shelving for aging cheeses and as an analysis of related scientific publications. Further, we recognize that the language used in this communication may have appeared more definitive than it should have, in light of the agency’s actual practices on this issue.  

The FDA has taken enforcement action in some situations where we have found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes at facilities that used such shelving. Since 2010, FDA inspections have found Listeria monocytogenes in more than 20 percent of inspections of artisanal cheesemakers. However, the FDA does not have data that directly associates these instances of contamination with the use of wood shelving. 

In the interest of public health, the FDA’s current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be “adequately cleanable” and “properly maintained.” Historically, the FDA has expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and these concerns have been noted in its inspectional findings. However, the FDA will engage with the artisanal cheesemaking community, state officials and others to learn more about current practices and discuss the safety of aging certain types of cheeses on wooden shelving, as well as to invite stakeholders to share any data or evidence they have gathered related to safety and the use of wood surfaces. We welcome this open dialogue.

Why assume conspiracy when stupidity works? Keep your government hands off my cheese

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has, apparently, started to enforce a rule  after the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition issued citations to several New York State cheesemakers for the use of wood shelves, which prompted an inquiry from the state government, which allows the practice.

cheese.wood.boardIn response, the FDA clarified its position, saying that the use of wood shelves violates a provision of its Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations that requires “all plant equipment…to be adequately cleanable.” The agency is applying this interpretation to all imports as well — an important aspect, since the majority of cheeses imported from Europe are aged on wood.

With the Intertubes that discussion has, within 24 hours, turned conspiratorial.
“A sense of disbelief and distress is quickly rippling through the U.S. artisan cheese community,” according to the Wisconsin blog Cheese Underground.

Naturally, conservatives and libertarians see this move as yet another assault on liberty by the Obama administration. It’s not. It’s a dumb mistake by the F.D.A., not a metaphor for overreach that implies the government should also stop regulating coal emissions and health insurance policies

This afternoon, responding to the uproar in the cheese world, FDA. issued a statement saying it was willing to work with artisanal cheese makers to determine if some cheeses could be safely made on wooden boards. The agency is “always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese,” the statement said, according to the Associated Press.

Any government agency needs to clearly and effectively communicate risk-based decisions, and provide the evidence to back a particular decision.

Otherwise, a risk information vacuum is created, and others will rush in to fill that space.

Best and safest food in the world: UK cheese edition

China has banned imports of British cheese after the country’s food inspectors were dissatisfied with standards at a UK dairy.

Chinese officials, visiting plants in Europe ahead of the country’s new food safety law coming into force on May 1, reportedly complained about maintenance, raw milk transport temperatures, chemical storage and air sanitization, insisting that all UK dairies exporting cheese to China must now pass council inspections before the restriction is lifted.

However, it has emerged that the unnamed dairy visited does not even supply cheese to the country.

George Eustice, UK farming minister, said: “British cheese is the best in the world and produced to the highest safety and quality standards so it is disappointing that China have put a temporary block on cheese imports.”

Multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to soft-ripened cheese — United States, 2013

On June 27, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Health notified CDC of two patients with invasive Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) whose clinical isolates had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. A query of PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, identified clinical and environmental isolates from other states. On June 28, CDC learned from the Food and Drug Administration’s Coordinated Outbreak crave.brothers.cheeseResponse and Evaluation Network that environmental isolates indistinguishable from those of the two patients had been collected from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese during 2010–2011. An outbreak-related case was defined as isolation of L. monocytogenes with the outbreak PFGE pattern from an anatomic site that is normally sterile (e.g., blood or cerebrospinal fluid), or from a product of conception, with an isolate upload date during May 20–June 28, 2013. As of June 28, five cases were identified in four states (Minnesota, two cases; Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, one each). Median age of the five patients was 58 years (range: 31–67 years). Four patients were female, including one who was pregnant at the time of infection. All five were hospitalized. One death and one miscarriage were reported.

Case–case analysis of Listeria Initiative* data (1) was conducted, comparing food exposure frequencies among the five outbreak-related cases identified by June 28 with food exposure frequencies in 1,735 sporadic listeriosis cases reported to CDC during 2004–2013. The analysis indicated that any soft cheese consumption during the month before illness onset was associated with outbreak-related listeriosis: five of five (100%) in the outbreak-related cases versus 569 of 1,735 (33%) in the sporadic cases (odds ratio = 10.8; 95% confidence interval = 1.8–∞).

The five patients were reinterviewed to assess their cheese exposures. All five patients had definitely or probably eaten one of three varieties of Crave Brothers soft-ripened cheese (Les Frères, Petit Frère, or Petit Frère with truffles). Three patients had purchased the cheese at three different restaurants, and two had purchased the cheese at two different grocery stores. The cheeses were shipped as intact wheels to the three restaurants and two grocery stores, where they had been cut and served or repackaged and sold to customers.

Testing at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture identified the outbreak pattern of L. monocytogenes in two cheese wedges (Les Frères and Petit Frère with truffles) collected from two different grocery stores in Minnesota. Inspection of the cheese-making facility revealed that substantial sanitation deficiencies during the cheese-making process itself, after the milk was pasteurized, likely led to contamination. On July 1, Crave Brothers halted production of Les Frères, Petit Frère, and Petit Frère with truffles. On July 3, Crave Brothers issued a voluntary recall of these products with a production date of July 1, 2013, or earlier. On July 11, the company voluntarily halted production of all cheese products manufactured at the facility. After product recall, one additional case was identified in Texas through whole genome sequencing, bringing the total case count for the outbreak to six.

This outbreak was linked to soft cheeses that were likely contaminated during the cheese-making process (2,3). Pasteurization eliminates Listeria in milk. However, contamination can occur after pasteurization. Cheese-making facilities should use strict sanitation and microbiologic monitoring, regardless of whether they use pasteurized milk.†

Persons at greater risk for listeriosis, including older adults, pregnant women, and those with immunocompromising conditions, should be aware that certain soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, or made under unsanitary conditions, regardless of whether the milk was pasteurized, have been shown to cause severe illness. These soft cheeses include fresh (unripened) cheeses, such as queso fresco (4), and soft-ripened cheeses, such as the cheeses implicated in this outbreak.

Mary J. Choi, Kelly A. Jackson, Carlota Medus,  Jennifer Beal, Carrie E. Rigdon, Tami C. Cloyd, Matthew J. Forstner, Jill Ball, Stacy Bosch, Lyndsay Bottichio, Venessa Cantu, David C. Melka, Wilete Ishow, Sarah Slette, Kari Irvin, Matthew Wise, Cheryl Tarr, Barbara Mahon, Kirk E. Smith, Benjamin J. Silk

7 sickened, 1 dead: why Delaware didn’t inspect cheese plant that caused Listeria outbreak

Delaware’s decision not to inspect cheese producers like Roos Foods in Kenton allowed the plant’s cheese operation to run with infrequent oversight before it was shut down in the wake of a deadly listeria infection outbreak.

Jeff Montgomery of Delaware online writes that unlike Maryland and other states, Delaware never sought expanded food safety inspection powers that would have led to state inspectors regularly checking the roos-foods-logo-300x187Roos cheese plant for safe and healthy operation. Instead, state rules kept blinders on local inspectors who made quarterly sanitation and compliance checks in a separate section where sour cream was produced in the same plant building that sent cheese to 10 eastern states as well as Texas and California.

The split oversight sheltered Roos Foods’ deteriorating cheese plant from more-frequent inspections, with federal inspectors visiting only three times in five years. The last regular federal inspection, in June 2013, turned up pooled water, sanitation failures and other problems.

The issue came to light earlier this month, when the Food and Drug Administration suspended Roos Foods’ approval to sell its products after one person died and seven others were sicked by listeria in cheese from Kenton.