Food fraud: US man faces 5 years for false claim that beef was free of E. coli

Hucksters. Snake oil salesthingies. Bullshit artists.

From Dr .Kellogg to Dr. Oz to the Wizard of Oz, this is the part that concerns me about marketing microbial food safety.

Wizard-of-Oz-Caps-the-wizard-of-oz-2028565-720-536It has to be verified. Justified. Testified..

Technology is helping with that — DNA barcoding, QR codes, cameras – but regardless of the magical elixer someone is selling, food purchases remain faith-based.

And that’s not good enough.

A Downey man who worked as a consultant to a meat packing company is facing five years in federal prison after pleading guilty this week to falsifying records saying beef was free of the E. coli bacteria in 2010.

Jim Johnson, 67, will be sentenced March 3 by U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin.

Johnson worked for the now-defunct Huntington Meat Packing Company when he created and used false certifications from the USDA stating a ground beef sample had tested negative for E. coli, when in fact lab tests showed some of the meat was contaminated. The company in 2010 wound up recalling 864,000 pounds of meat.

No illnesses were linked to the recalled product.

“The defendant’s lie created a public health hazard, and such conduct will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “The public is entitled to have confidence in the food that makes it to its tables. The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute aggressively those whose conduct undermines that confidence.”

13 sick with E. coli from apple cider in California

The El Dorado County HealthDepartment says unpasteurized juice from High Hill Ranch has tested positive for E-coli.

high.hill.ciderHealth officials say 13 people got sick after drinking the juice. It’s unclear how the juice became contaminated.

High Hill voluntarily discontinued the production and sale of the juice dated on or after Oct. 6, 2015.

Here are the dates of the investigation:

On October 23, the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services says there were at least seven cases of E. coli illness among residents of Sacramento County who consumed unpasteurized apple juice either sampled at or purchased from High Hill Ranch between October 10 and October 12, 2015.

On October 23, High Hill Ranch voluntarily discontinued the processing, sale and distribution of unpasteurized apple juice currently in stock. Unpasteurized apple juice was replaced with a flash  pasteurized apple juice product produced and bottled by another local vendor.

On October 23, the County of El Dorado issued a press release advising the public of a voluntary recall of unpasteurized apple juice initiated by High Hill Ranch due to suspected contamination with bacteria, likely a strain of E. coli. Consumers were advised not to consume unpasteurized apple juice purchased on or after October 6, 2015, and to dispose of any remaining product.

On October 29, the California Department of Public Health notified the County that there were 13 ill patients associated with the consumption of unpasteurized apple juice from High Hill Ranch. Three of these patients were laboratory confirmed with E. coli. Two additional patients were subsequently confirmed to have E. coli. 
On October 30, High Hill Ranch notified the County that they had submitted samples of unpasteurized apple juice to an independent laboratoryfor testing for E. coli. The juice samples tested were from a separate and subsequent production run after the suspected processing period that may have contained harmful bacteria.

On November 4, the County was notified by the CDPH that a sample of unpasteurized juice obtained from one of the ill Sacramento County patients had tested positive for E. coli.

On November 5, the County was notified by the CDPH that all laboratory samples collected from High Hill Ranch on October 21, by CDPH were negative for the presence of E. coli.

High Hill Ranch has voluntarily discontinued the production and sale of unpasteurized apple juice indefinitely. No other High Hill Ranch products are being investigated. High Hill Ranch continues to fully cooperate with local and state health officials during this ongoing investigation.
A table of juice-related outbreaks is available at:

An emerging pathogen: Helicobcter pullorum in chicken

Meat and meat products are important sources of human intestinal infections. We report the isolation of Helicobcter pullorum strains from chicken meat.

icarly.chicken.handsBacteria were isolated from 4 of the 17 analyzed fresh chicken meat samples, using a membrane filter method. MIC determination revealed that the four strains showed acquired resistance to ciprofloxacin; one was also resistant to erythromycin, and another one was resistant to tetracycline. Whole-genome sequencing of the four strains and comparative genomics revealed important genetic traits within the H. pullorum species, such as 18 highly polymorphic genes (including a putative new cytotoxin gene), plasmids, prophages, and a complete type VI secretion system (T6SS). The T6SS was found in three out of the four isolates, suggesting that it may play a role in H. pullorum pathogenicity and diversity.

This study suggests that the emerging pathogen H. pullorum can be transmitted to humans by chicken meat consumption/contact and constitutes an important contribution toward a better knowledge of the genetic diversity within the H. pullorum species. In addition, some genetic traits found in the four strains provide relevant clues to how this species may promote adaptation and virulence.

Helicobacter pullorum isolated from fresh chicken meat: Antibiotic resistance and genomic traits of an emerging foodborne pathogen

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 81, Number 23, December 2015

V Borges, A Santos, C Correia, M Saraiva, A Menard, L Viera, D Sampaio, M Pinheiro, J Gomes, M Oleastro


Chicken and campy: Foodnet Canada 2011-2012

FoodNet Canada (formerly known as C-EnterNet) is a preventive, multi-partner sentinel site surveillance system, facilitated by the Public Health Agency of Canada, that identifies what food and other sources are causing illness in Canada.

chickenEach sentinel site is founded on a unique partnership with the local public health unit, private laboratories, and water and agri-food sectors, as well as the provincial and federal institutions responsible for public health, food safety, and water safety. The pilot sentinel site (ON site), comprised of the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, has approximately 525,000 residents, with a mix of urban and rural communities and innovation in public health and water conservation.

A second site (BC site) was officially established in the Fraser Health Authority, British Columbia in April of 2010. This BC site includes the communities of Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack and has approximately 450,000 residents.

In the ON site, enhanced surveillance of human cases of enteric disease in the community is performed, as well as active surveillance of enteric pathogens in water, food (retail meat and produce) and on farms. In the BC site in 2010, enhanced human disease surveillance began, as did active surveillance of enteric pathogens (for retail produce only).

The following key findings are based on the surveillance data from 2011–2012 in the ON and BC sites:

  • A total of 1663 human cases of 11 bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases were reported within the ON and BC sites between 2011 and 2012. The three most frequently reported diseases (campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and giardiasis) accounted for 82% of the cases.
  • Campylobacteriosis remained the most commonly reported enteric disease in both sentinel sites, with Campylobacter jejuni being the most common species associated with human campylobacteriosis. The majority of raw chicken samples tested were also contaminated with Campylobacter jejuni. Possible exposure factors included living on a farm or country property, contacting on-farm poultry, contacting household pets, contacting animal manure and consuming spoiled food. Overall, as found in the past, retail chicken meat was considered to be the most important vehicle of transmission for Campylobacter.

Distributions of patient age and gender among the human salmonellosis cases between 2011 and 2012 were similar to those observed historically in both the ON and BC sites. The most commonly reported serovars for human cases of salmonellosis were Enteritidis, Typhimurium, and Heidelberg. Phage type alignment continues to be observed among isolates from endemic human cases, chicken meat, and broiler chicken feces for both Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Enteritidis. A slight decrease was observed in the rate in both sites (in 2011–2012 combined compared to 2010), which is comparable to the national trend observed during the same time period (2, 3, 7, 8). The prevalence of Salmonella on ground chicken was twice the level found on chicken breast. This may highlight the greater chance of product contamination during processing. Overall, possible salmonellosis exposure factors included contact with pet reptiles, retail poultry products, and broiler chicken manure (Table 4.6). The most important possible vehicle of transmission is considered to be retail poultry products.

• Verotoxigenic E. coli (O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 serotypes) infections continue to be primarily acquired domestically, as demonstrated by the low number of travel-related cases in 2011–2012. E. coli O157:H7 PFGE patterns in both human and non-human samples from 2011–2012 continued to show considerable diversity, as observed nationally and within the FoodNet Canada sites, in past years.

• As in previous years, the majority of Yersinia cases are domestically acquired. Among travel-related cases, the majority reported travel to Central or South America in 2011–2012. The incidence in domestically acquired cases was much higher in females than males. None of the swine manure samples in the ON site in 2011 were positive for pathogenic Yersinia (biotype 4, serotype O:3). • As in previous years, pathogenic strains of Listeria monocytogenes were recovered in 2011–2012 from samples of skinless chicken breasts, ground beef, ground chicken and ground turkey, as well as uncooked chicken nuggets. The scientific literature suggests that abattoirs and meat processing environments rather than farm animals may be an important source of L. monocytogenes (21). The retail meat data from many historical surveillance years indicate that pathogenic serotypes of L. monocytogenes are present on raw chicken, beef, and pork meat sold at retail, as well as in bagged leafy greens. Although, based on one PFGE enzyme, there was a match between a human case and a sample of uncooked chicken nuggets in 2011–2012, there were no matches between sources and sentinel site cases of listeriosis in 2011–2012 when both PFGE enzyme patterns were compared. Also, based on one enzyme, a few matches were identified between meat isolates (chicken and beef) and four of the top five PFGE patterns reported at the national level in humans (according to PulseNet Canada data). In 2012, fresh herbs were tested for L. monocytogenes though the pathogen was not detected.

• The majority of Shigella infections were travel-related, with Asia being the most frequently reported travel destination.

FoodNet Canada surveillance identified human pathogenic strains of norovirus on retail soft berries and fresh herbs in 2011–2012. Historically, pathogenic subtypes have also been found in food animal manure, as well as retail pork chops and leafy greens.

Frankenface.berry• Cryptosporidium was found in 2011–2012 on retail soft berries and in untreated surface water. Giardia was detected on retail soft berries and herbs, and water in the same period. Also, Cyclospora was found on soft berries. However, the viability of these pathogens was unable to be determined.

• Travel outside of Canada continued to add to the burden of enteric disease observed in Canada during 2011–2012, with 27% of the reported cases from both sites (combined) likely involving infections acquired abroad. Safe travel practices continue to be important considerations among Canadians.

• Enhanced, standardized laboratory testing across all FoodNet Canada surveillance components (human, retail, on-farm, and water) has allowed for the identification of patterns in subtype distributions among human cases and potential exposure sources over time. Continued surveillance and addition of more sentinel sites will help in refinement of the key findings and inform prevention and control measures for enteric diseases in Canada.


UK supermarket chicken price war ‘putting health at risk’

When I showed up in Australia and started shopping at my local stores – as you do without a car – I noticed the whole chickens were leaking all kinds of bacterial crap.

moneyI spoke with the manager and said, in the U.S., they have additional plastic bags in the meat section and antibacterial wipes.

He said, that’s a great idea, I’ll bring it up at our fortnightly food safety meeting.

The company decided not to do anything because the wipes would cost half-a-cent each.

Other customers I’ve chatted with say they grab a plastic bag from the produce section to further enclose their chicken.

UK professor, Chris Elliott, who led the official inquiry into the horsemeat scandal, says supermarkets are reluctant to bring in changes that could reduce potentially fatal infections from chicken because of the cost.

Food safety versus economics.

Promote food safety at retail: UK may do it to control Campylobacter

The UK Food Standards Agency is to ramp up its campaign against shops that continue to sell a high proportion of chickens with Campylobacter, admitting that “much further work needs to be done.”

campy.chickenThe bug makes 280,000 people ill each year, with 20,000 admitted to hospital.

Under proposals to be discussed this week, shoppers could be told to avoid certain supermarkets if they continue to sell high numbers of infected chickens in an explicit bid to change consumers’ “purchasing habits.”

The highly unusual intervention is likely to provoke legal challenges from retailers if it is forced through.

Officials will also consider whether the law should be changed to make it illegal to sell highly-contaminated poultry. Shops that fail to meet new requirements might be told to cook or freeze the infected chickens to kill the bacteria before the birds go on sale.

In a document outlining the proposals, Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA said: “The indications are that the prevalence of campylobacter in chickens is beginning to come down.


Chlamydia in women gutting chickens in France

Eight cases of psittacosis due to Chlamydia psittaci were identified in May 2013 among 15 individuals involved in chicken gutting activities on a mixed poultry farm in France.

Chlamydia psittaciAll cases were women between 42 and 67 years-old. Cases were diagnosed by serology and PCR of respiratory samples. Appropriate treatment was immediately administered to the eight hospitalised individuals after exposure to birds had been discovered. In the chicken flocks, mainly C. gallinacea was detected, a new member of the family Chlamydiaceae, whereas the ducks were found to harbour predominantly C. psittaci, the classical agent of psittacosis. In addition, C. psittaci was found in the same flock as the chickens that the patients had slaughtered. Both human and C. psittaci-positive avian samples carried the same ompA genotype E/B of C. psittaci, which is widespread among French duck flocks.

Repeated grassland rotations between duck and chicken flocks on the farm may explain the presence of C. psittaci in the chickens. Inspection by the veterinary service led to temporary closure of the farm. All birds had to be euthanised on site as no slaughterhouses accepted processing them. Farm buildings and grasslands were cleaned and/or disinfected before the introduction of new poultry birds.

Outbreak of Psittacosis in a Group of Women Exposed to Chlamydia Psittaci-Infected Chickens

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 24, 18 June 2015

K Laroucau, R Aaziz, L Meurice, V Servas, I Chossat, H Royer, B de Barbeyrac, V Vaillant, J L Moyen, F Meziani, K Sachse, P Rolland

Facepalm-inducing chicken cooking messages from FSA

I don’t know exactly how much it costs to produce a video and put on a massive media campaign in the U.K..

That’s really a question for the folks at McCann-Erickson or Holloway Harris.tumblr_mo5rk6sgpd1qf6r9co2_5001

A rudimentary calculation leads me to believe that the UK FSA spent at least a couple of million pounds on production, media buying and message placement for their current chicken hero (not to be confused with chicken gyro) campaign (below, exactly as shown).

Roughly equivalent to the cost of 300,000 digital tip-sensitive thermometers.

The very tool that they must not think that U.K. households have.

Because they never mention temperatures.

And go with the increasingly frustrating – and not science based – steaming hot, no pink meat and clear juices suggestion.

Maybe investing in thermometers instead of commercials is a better approach to the Campy issue.

Foster Farms, regulators and a game of chicken

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian writes in a comprehensive feature that over the course of a decade, hundreds of people from Eugene to Baker City to Portland and Seattle were struck by bouts of food poisoning so severe they fled to their doctors or emergency rooms for treatment.

chicken.south.parkThey had no idea what made them sick. But federal regulators did.

Oregon and Washington public health officials repeatedly told the U.S. Department of Agriculture they had linked salmonella outbreaks in 2004, 2009 and 2012 to Foster Farms chicken.

State officials pushed federal regulators to act, but salmonella-tainted chicken flowed into grocery stores, first in the Northwest, then across the country. Oregon investigators became so familiar with the culprit they gave it a name: the Foster Farms strain.

The outbreaks tied by state health officials to Foster Farms first occurred in Oregon and Washington. Then in 2012, illnesses spread to almost a dozen states. The next year, a new outbreak emerged that sickened more than 600 people across the country.

Much has been written about that last 16-month ordeal and the USDA’s slow response. But the way the federal agency handled it was not an isolated case, an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found.

Time after time dating to 2004, Oregon and Washington officials alerted the USDA’s food safety agency about salmonella illnesses, but the federal government chose not to warn the public or ask Foster Farms for a recall.

Foster-Farms-Chicken-BreastWith no reason to worry, people kept eating contaminated chicken.

Foster Farms processes hundreds of thousands of birds a day, and only a small fraction of its customers ever got sick.

But from 2004 through 2014, state or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials identified nearly 1,000 infections they said were linked to Foster Farms chicken in four separate outbreaks. About 300 of those cases occurred in Oregon and Washington. The overall toll was possibly much higher. The CDC estimates that for every confirmed salmonella infection, more than 29 go unreported.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reviewed thousands of pages of government records related to Foster Farms and interviewed dozens of health officials, inspectors, food safety experts and federal managers for this story. The records and interviews reveal for the first time an agency that over a 10-year span had repeatedly failed to protect consumers when confronting one of the nation’s largest poultry processors.

During that time, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued hundreds of citations at the company’s sprawling plant in Kelso, Washington. But the agency allowed the plant to operate even though people kept getting sick.

Since the last outbreak ended, no known illnesses have been tied to the company, the largest poultry processor in the West. Foster Farms says it now has one of the lowest salmonella rates in the industry, having invested tens of millions of dollars to improve its plants and procedures.

It’s a different story at the USDA.

The agency has boosted its food safety budget and has made some strides to protect consumers, including introducing stricter standards for salmonella and ordering more random tests.

But many of the same practices and cultural hurdles that contributed to the way the agency handled public health concerns during that 10-year span remain in place today.

chicken.shock.may.13USDA officials are so worried about being sued by companies that they’ve set a high bar for evidence, even rejecting samples of tainted chicken that state health agencies believed would help clinch their case, records and interviews show.

Union officials said the government inspectors they represent are pressured to go easy on food processors, citing one notable case in which the USDA transferred an inspector after Foster Farms complained he wrote too many citations. And after strong pushback from Foster Farms, the USDA retracted a reference in a public document that unequivocally linked the company to illnesses in 2004, a move that baffled state health officials who described the investigation as “rock solid.”

And there’s much more, including USDA’s unwritten rules for going public at

Shock over Checkers chicken blunder in South Africa

Cell phones and their cameras are everywhere.

Be accountable. Checkers store in Cape Town, South Africa,  has left a bitter taste in the mouth of a consumer after he saw raw marinated chicken on the floor in the deli.

This stomach-turning experience took place at the Checkers outlet in Bayside Mall in Table View.

The consumer, who wants to remain anonymous, was so appalled by what he saw that he snapped an image to capture the shocking discovery.

He says nothing indicated to him that an accident may have occurred because no sign was put up and there was no rush to pick up the chicken from the floor.

“I stood in the queue waiting to be assisted … there were three customers in front of me and two behind me.  For this whole time the chicken was just laying on the floor.

“Then a woman came from the back and packed the chicken in a white container. It seemed very normal. She was so relaxed.”

He said what looked like the manager watched on as the employee packed over the chicken to the container without even assuring customers that there is no need to worry.

Health24 checked in with the Shoprite Checkers group and handed over the image.

Sarita van Wyk, spokesperson for the retailer, said Checkers views the perception created by the photograph in a serious light.

“The supermarket group regards food safety and hygiene in its stores of utmost importance and therefore our stores adhere to stringently monitored food safety hygiene and product handling requirements to ensure that food products prepared on the premises remain fresh and safe to eat at all times.”