1900 sickened: DeCosters appeal jail time in Salmonella egg case

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and Peter DeCoster were sentenced April 13, 2015 to three months in prison for introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce after eggs from their Iowa farms were linked to a 2010 national salmonella outbreak which sickened at least 1,900 people.

decostersU.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett required the father and son to complete a year of probation following prison and pay $100,000 each. The DeCosters’s former company, Quality Egg LLC, was fined nearly $6.8 million.

More than 1,900 people across the country reported getting sick from Salmonella enteritidis linked to tainted eggs supplied by Quality Egg. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.

Quality Egg pleaded guilty in June 2014 to bribing public officials and misbranding eggs to make them appear fresher.

The DeCosters’s sentences — especially the prison time — were viewed as a warning to other food producers.

Jack DeCoster, 82, of Turner, Maine, and Peter DeCoster, 52, of Clarion, are now trying to get out of their jail time. They filed an appeal April 27, 2015, asking the U.S. District Court of Appeals 8th Circuit to remove incarceration from their sentence.

“They’re arguing that, based upon the type of offense, any sentence of jail time is not appropriate,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said last week.

Pro-business groups, including the Cato Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers, filed briefs in support of the DeCosters, arguing executives shouldn’t serve jail time for this type of crime.

“If executives can be imprisoned for criminal violations of strict liability laws by virtue of the position they hold within a company, the United States economy would suffer,” attorneys for Cato and the manufacturing association argued. “Executive business decisions would be motivated less by good business principles and more by fear of possible future prison sentences.”

The 8th Circuit heard oral arguments in the appeal March 17 in St. Paul, Minn., and the parties are now waiting for a decision.

231 sickened with Salmonella in Singapore

Salmonella contamination has been determined as the cause of mass food poisoning among 231 people who ate food prepared by Kuisine Catering in February

raw.eggsInitial reports said that about 130 people were known to have become ill after consuming food from the caterer, but a total of 231 are now linked to the case.

The alarm was first sounded when 33 people fell ill after a birthday party in February. Later, more affected consumers said they experienced vomiting and had diarrhorea after consuming food prepared by the caterer from Feb 12 to 14.

In its latest report, Lianhe Wanbao reported that the company has since shut its business, and its signboard has been removed from the space it occupied in Jurong.

According to the Chinese daily, authorities found that the eggs used by the company were contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis, which can be caused by improper food handling.

A probe also found that there were expired food items in the kitchen, and that the company did not keep temperature records for its freezers and chillers.

Lowering loads on the farm: Australia still has an egg problem

Introduction: Salmonellosis is a significant public health problem, with eggs frequently identified as a food vehicle during outbreak investigations.

raw.egg.mayo.may.13Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis are the two most frequently identified causes of egg-associated disease in industrialized countries. In Australia, a comprehensive review of egg-associated outbreaks has not been previously undertaken.

Methods: Using a national register of foodborne outbreaks, we undertook a descriptive review of egg-associated outbreaks between 2001 and 2011. Included in our review was additional detail from the findings of trace back investigations conducted to the farm level. Evidence classifications were developed and applied to each outbreak based on descriptive and analytical epidemiology, food safety investigations, and microbiological testing of clinical, food, and trace back-derived samples.eggs-for-sale-at-the-arab-market-of-jerusalems-old-city-in-israel-B1K785

Results: Over the study period, the proportion of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs increased significantly (p < 0.001). In total, 166 outbreaks were identified, with 90% caused by Salmonella Typhimurium. The majority of outbreaks were linked to commercial food providers, with raw egg use the major contributing factor. These events resulted in more than 3200 cases, more than 650 hospitalizations, and at least 4 deaths. Fifty-four percent of investigations used analytical epidemiology, food microbiology, and trace back microbiology to demonstrate links between human illness and eggs. Trace back investigations identified S. enterica indistinguishable from outbreak-associated clinical or food samples runny-egg-yolkson 50% of sampled egg farms.

Conclusion: Effective control of egg-associated salmonellosis remains a challenge in Australia, with Salmonella Typhimurium dominating as the causative serotype in outbreak events. Although outbreaks predominantly occur in the settings of restaurants, the high recovery rate of indistinguishable Salmonella on epidemiologically implicated egg farms suggests that further efforts to minimize infection pressure at the primary production level are needed in Australia.

Salmonella Typhimurium and Outbreaks of Egg-Associated Disease in Australia, 2001 to 2011

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease; March 2016; DOI: 10.1089/fpd.2015.2110

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299515711_Salmonella_Typhimurium_and_Outbreaks_of_Egg-Associated_Disease_in_Australia_2001_to_2011

Way forward for safer eggs: Forget faith-based food safety, inspections and audits are never enough

The editorial board of The Des Moines Register writes that if there’s one lesson to be learned from the 2010 salmonella outbreak that originated in Iowa and sickened thousands of consumers nationwide, it’s the high cost of failing to properly regulate egg audit.checklistproduction.

Maybe.

But what constitutes proper regulation?

What constitutes proper audits and inspections?

How can consumers choose?

Jack and Peter DeCoster, who were criminally charged for the way they ran the Quality Egg operation in Iowa, were bad actors, as the Iowa egg industry now admits. But what sort of regulatory system do we have that allows scofflaws to not only flourish but also become some of the industry’s biggest players?

That’s a question our governor and state legislators have steadfastly, and very deliberately, refused to address. Still, it has to be asked, particularly in light of the recent revelations that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship indefinitely suspended its inspection of egg production facilities last year to eliminate any risk of inspectors spreading the bird flu virus.

After the 2010 salmonella outbreak and shortly before leaving office, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver proposed a series of reforms aimed at addressing five vulnerabilities in Iowa’s egg production regulations. None have been acted upon by the Branstad administration.

Among the proposed reforms:

More stringent state oversight of the smaller egg farms — those with fewer than 3,000 laying hens — that are exempt from federal regulations.

AIB.audit.eggsState-mandated reporting, by both testing laboratories and egg producers, of positive tests for salmonella enteritidis.

Accreditation and certification standards for laboratories that perform testing for salmonella.

Creation of a state-mandated salmonella detection and prevention program, with minimum training and competency standards for the staff.

Creation of a new funding stream to support the implementation of a comprehensive, statewide egg-safety program.

But that’s not enough.

Consumers and their pocketbooks will drive food safety innovation and accountability at retail.

Market food safety at retail so consumers can choose.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Iowa egg oversight ended last year

Jason Clayworth of The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa, the epicenter of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands of people nearly six years ago, has suspended its egg facility inspections to guard against a recurrence of bird flu. While the risk may be slight, state agriculture officials say they fear that inspectors might spread the virus from one flock to another as they visit egg facilities.

egg.farmGovernment officials and egg industry supporters contend that suspending inspections, which stopped almost a year ago, has not compromised food safety. Farmers are still expected to follow safety regulations, some put in place after the 2010 egg recall.

But critics say the lack of inspections in the nation’s top-producing egg state jeopardizes food safety for biosecurity and leaves the precautions up to corporate farm operators. And they point to the most recently available reports from federal or state inspections, done before the checks ended, to emphasize why such oversight is necessary.

Those records show:

STRAY ANIMALS: Multiple incidents of stray animals getting inside poultry houses, including one site where “approximately eight” frogs were found. Contact between poultry and other animals that can carry disease is forbidden in the facilities. That includes amphibians, which can carry salmonella and cause serious illness to humans.

REFRIGERATION: Not washing or storing eggs at appropriate temperatures at multiple facilities.

BOTCHED TESTS: Improper or no testing for salmonella as required by federal rules in at least 14 sites.

RODENTS: Evidence of rodent infestations, including

“This is jaw-dropping. I just don’t know what else to say,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and an author of books on food safety. “The inspectors are turning up potential hazards. Why anybody would tell you with a straight face that suspending these inspections is no big deal is beyond my comprehension.”

cafe-free.eggOscar Garrison, a food safety executive for United Egg Producers, said stopping bird flu also impacts human health. The virus led to the destruction of more than 31 million chickens, turkeys and other birds in Iowa last year.

Garrison said he believes that suspending the inspections was an appropriate step, given the context of the bird flu catastrophe.

Other top-producing egg states have either continued to inspect egg producers during the outbreak or stopped temporarily and later resumed them, the Register found. Ohio, the second-largest egg-producing state, and Texas, the nation’s fifth-top egg producer, resumed their inspections late last year. Indiana, the third-largest, continued its inspection throughout, as did fourth-largest Pennsylvania, state officials said.

Pennsylvania officials changed their protocol after the outbreak, instructing inspectors to wait at least seven days between inspection visits to different farms. Such an alternative — or requiring inspectors to wear biosafety gear — is more sensible than suspending inspections entirely, said William Marler, a Seattle attorney whose firm represented more than 100 victims of the 2010 nationwide salmonella outbreak whose origins were traced to Iowa.

“Given the black eye Iowa’s egg production got in 2010, it just seems shortsighted to suspend the inspections,” Marler said. “It sends a completely wrong message to consumers.”

In 2010 eggs contaminated with salmonella from Wright County Egg showed up in 23 states and resulted in a recall of 550 million eggs.

salmonella.eggsThe government reported that at least 1,939 cases of illness were likely associated with the outbreak. But some believe the number to be more than 50,000 people, citing  Centers for Disease and Prevention reports that estimate that for every reported illness, more than 38 go unreported.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, were sentenced in April to 90 days in jail and fined $100,000 each for their role in the outbreak.

Their trials brought to light what federal officials said was a deliberate and routine effort to avoid proper health regulations. That included falsifying paperwork to a firm that inspected the plant. On the eve of each audit, workers were given blank, signed audit forms and told to fabricate data for the report, prosecutors said.

After reports of human illness, regulators made findings that included rodent infestations and as much as 8 feet of manure beneath some of the facilities.

Salmonella in not-so-Lucky’s mayo sickens 77, leads to egg recall

An Ohio family farm is voluntarily recalling shell eggs for a possible Salmonella contamination. Kenneth Miller Farms in New Lebanaon said the eggs were sold to Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery and the Mudlick Tavern.

moe_pickled_eggsThe recall come after the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected samples that tested positive for Salmonella. Kenneth Miller Farms supplies Lucky’s Taproom with eggs, the popular Oregon District restaurant had to shut its doors earlier this month after dozens of customers became sickened. Tests later revealed that mayonnaise made locally tested positive for Salmonella.

The rise and fall of the American Salmonella empire

Salmonella enterica causes an estimated 1 million domestically acquired foodborne illnesses annually. Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis (SE) is among the top three serovars of reported cases of Salmonella.

roman.empireWe examined trends in SE foodborne outbreaks from 1973 to 2009 using Joinpoint and Poisson regression. The annual number of SE outbreaks increased sharply in the 1970s and 1980s but declined significantly after 1990.

Over the study period, SE outbreaks were most frequently attributed to foods containing eggs. The average rate of SE outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods reported by states began to decline significantly after 1990, and the proportion of SE outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods began declining after 1997.

Our results suggest that interventions initiated in the 1990s to decrease SE contamination of shell eggs may have been integral to preventing SE outbreaks.

The rise and decline in Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis outbreaks attributed to egg-containing foods in the United States, 1973–2009

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 144 / Issue 04 / March 2016, pp 810-819

P. Wright, L. Richardson, B. E. Mahon, R. Rothenberg, and D. J. Cole

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10170793&utm_source=Issue_Alert&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=HYG

Not just an Australian problem: Salmonella in raw-egg mayo apparent culprit in Lucky’s restaurant outbreak with 77 sick

Nine people who became ill after eating at Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery tested positive for salmonella, and so did mayonnaise that the restaurant made in-house, local health officials said Monday.

mayonnaise.raw.eggThe number of people who complained of being sickened after eating at Lucky’s rose to 77 by Monday, an increase of 17 since Friday, according to John Steele, spokesman for Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County. Those who became ill reported stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

Five people were admitted to hospitals, although health officials said they don’t know whether anyone remains hospitalized. The restaurant shut down Monday, Feb. 29. Health officials expect the number of confirmed salmonella cases to rise as test results are completed, Steele said.

Drew Trick, the owner of Lucky’s, said Monday that the eatery will never make its mayonnaise in-house again. On the tap room’s Facebook page, Trick wrote, “Well, it seems our efforts to source locally and make our food from scratch has failed our customers and ourselves. Know that we are doing all that is possible to rectify the situation and eliminate the chance of this happening again.”

Lucky’s, at 520 E. Fifth St. in Dayton’s Oregon District, will remain closed “for an unknown period of time,” Trick wrote, but hopes “to open with a clean bill of health very soon.” The restaurant and craft-beer bar had been gearing up for its 5th anniversary celebration this week.

A table of raw egg-related outbreaks in Australia is available at:

http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-12-1-15.xlsx

Eggs from modern farms are safe and wholesome

Ken Klippen of the U.S. National Association of Egg Farmers writes in support of Will Coggin’s letter to the editor on the Massachusetts ballot initiative on caged layers producing eggs. The group I represent, The National Association of Egg Farmers, is in support of free choice for eggs from different production systems, but the ballot initiative will eliminate that free choice.

cage.eggsAs it relates to food safety, every egg farmer knows that eggs laid on the same ground where manure is located increases the likelihood of contamination.

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of scientists investigating the different production systems for eggs, finished their two-year study of the available research including food safety. The conclusions from their analysis of the research is that eggs produced in caged environments had less fecal contamination compared to cage-free eggs. This is logical since cages allow for the eggs to be removed from the environment of the hen compared to cage-free, where the eggs come into contact with manure. Any reasoning person would conclude that keeping eggs clean and away from manure is better from a food safety perspective.

Caged eggs allow for cleaner eggs.

The scientific articles that support this claim are below:

1) The Journal Poultry Science in 2011 [90, pp. 1586-1593] published “Comparison of shell bacteria from unwashed and washed table eggs harvested from caged laying hens and cage-free floor-housed laying hens.”

This study found that the numbers of bacteria on eggs was lower in housing systems that separated hens from manure and shavings.

2) The Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014, entitled “Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems.” The conclusions state, “Battery caged hens are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens. Conversely, free-range hens laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected. The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts (pathogenic bacteria) on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged eggs.”

One of the letters to the editor claims that caged layers increases salmonella, citing a government survey. This is not true. It’s not even logical when considering the federal agency responsible for food safety has issued regulations to protect the consumer. The Food & Drug Administration has issued the regulation entitled Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation (21 CFR part 118) on July 9, 2009, requiring shell egg farmers to implement measures to prevent SE from contaminating eggs on the farm. If caged environments increased salmonella, it’s inconceivable that FDA would issue regulations governing the production of eggs in caged environments.

Who knows it’s all marketing BS: Where did your egg come from?

Every industry has a few bad eggs. For the egg industry, it was DeCoster Egg Farms. In 2010, DeCoster was harboring foul cages full of sick hens.

egg.dirty.feb.12Those hens laid 550 million eggs tainted with a toxic strain of Salmonella enteritidis, which in turn ended up on grocery store shelves. The eggs were broken into skillets, whisked into mayonnaise, and ended up sickening as many as 6,200 Americans in what would become the largest egg recall in U.S. history. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration quickly passed laws to reform egg safety—but not before consumers had seen the crack in the industry’s veneer.

TEN Ag Tech, a Southern California–based startup aims to take the existential crisis out of your egg purchase. The tech company seeks to keep the egg industry accountable in two ways. First, it offers mobile-based apps that increase transparency on farms by monitoring human behavior—i.e., keeping track of who enters and leaves a hen house. Second, it engraves each individual egg with its own (nontoxic, naturally) gold laser barcode. Input that barcode onto the Naturally Smart Egg website, and you’ll instantly know everything about that egg’s origins: the breed of hen that laid it, the production method that spawned it (cage-free, traditional caged production, or free-range), and the moment it was packed within 180 seconds.

If this is all beginning to sound like a certain Portlandia skit—you know, that one where the couple interrogate their waitress about Colin, the chicken they will be enjoying—then you’re on the right track.

 It’s that, plus data. TEN Ag Tech seeks to “reconnect consumers to the farms that feed them,” according to its website. Since last July, consumers have been buying the company’s Naturally Smart eggs on the shelves of Chicago’s high-end Mariano’s grocery stores, a division of Kroger.

TEN Ag Tech’s vision is not limited to eggs: In February, the company will debut its traceable technology for coffee and meat. The goal is to prevent foodborne illness debacles like the recent outbreaks at fast-casual chain Chipotle. “As monoculture grows, companies like Chipotle are creating alternative realities, fresh food, local foods coming from local places,” says Jonathan Phillips, the company’s president and CEO. “The question is: When you’re dealing with 40,000 farms, how on Earth do you ensure that they’re all producing food for you safely? Our tech begins to solve that problem.”

But when it comes to helping us avoid outbreaks in the first place, this kind of data may be useless, says Ken Anderson, a poultry-extension specialist at North Carolina State University who focuses on egg processing, production, and safety. That’s because in most cases, contamination takes place after the production process, whether in a grocery store, a restaurant, or in your own kitchen. “It’s workers at a grocery store. It’s consumers opening up the egg cartons. It’s people transferring eggs to plastic cartons in their fridge,” says Anderson. “Those little things all add up and add a potential for contamination totally separate from how the eggs were produced.”