Where’s the leafy greens lobby? Feds to seek listeria, leafy green connections after Dole outbreak

Mike Hornick of The Packer writes that health officials will begin routinely asking listeria outbreak victims if they consumed leafy greens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

lettuce.skull.noroThe addition of leafy greens to the standard federal questionnaire on listeria comes in response to last winter’s outbreak linked to a Dole Fresh Vegetables salad plant in Springfield, Ohio. That outbreak sickened 33 in the U.S. and Canada and was tied to at least one death. Dole stopped production in January and reopened the plant in April.

It was the first reported listeria outbreak in the U.S. associated with leafy greens, and the eighth with fresh produce. All occurred since 2008, according to an Aug. 26 report by the CDC.

“It is unclear whether the appearance of these outbreaks might be attributed to improved outbreak detection, changes in consumer behavior, or changes in production and distribution,” the report says. “Fresh produce processors are advised to review food safety plans and consider incorporating measures to avoid the growth and persistence of listeria.”

In the Ohio centered outbreak, the older questionnaire failed to identify a common source for seven infections reported by Nov. 30.

Then in December and January, eight new or previously interviewed patients or their representatives took part in open-ended interviews or provided shopper card records.

That revealed the connection. All reported consuming leafy greens in the month before the onset of illness.

Among these, seven reported romaine and six reported spinach, higher than national food consumption estimates of 47% and 24%, respectively. Six patients recalled consuming packaged salad, according to the report.

Dole Fresh Vegetables denied responsibility in two foodborne illness lawsuits that followed the outbreak.

Face palm: Jeni’s says its ice cream is ‘absolutely 100 percent safe’

One of my daughters got married on the weekend. I have two grandsons. The Tragically Hip may never play live again (it’s a Canadian thing, but 1-in-3 Canadians watched the concert Saturday night from Kingston).

jauce.weddingMy other 30-year bookmark is my formal and informal interests in the interactions between science and society. In 1997, I co-wrote a book called Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk: The Perils of Poor Risk Communication.

We had a top-10 list of conclusions to be applied in whatever risky business might come along:

  • a risk information vacuum is a primary factor in the social amplification of risk;
  • regulators are responsible for effective risk communication;
  • industry is responsible for effective risk communication;
  • if you are responsible for communicating about risks, do it early and often;
  • there is always more to a risk issue than what science says;
  • always put the science in a policy context;
  • educating the public about science is no substitute for good risk communication practice;
  • banish no risk messages;
  • risk messages should address directly the contest of opinion in society; and,
  • communicating well has spinoff benefits for good risk management.

I watch these microbial food safety risk shitfests, document them in barfblog.com, and sigh-a-sigh worthy of someone who didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Or maybe I did.

Who knows, at this point.

Following the Listeria-Blue-Bell-ice-cream debacle, some of Ohio-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams tested positive for Listeria in April, 2015.

At the time, I applauded Jeni’s CEO John Lowe for the proactive steps they announced after finding Listeria in their ice cream, but also wondered why they weren’t looking before?

Lowe also said, “Finally, let me reiterate: we will not make or serve ice cream again until we can ensure it is 100% safe. Until we know more about reopening, we are going to continue to keep our heads down and to work hard to get this issue resolved. But know this: you’ll be hearing from us soon.”

Sounds like some cookie-cutter MBA approach to crisis.

And no one can ensure 100% safe.

triple.face.palmJeni’s possibly found this out, on Aug. 9, 2016, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fired off a warning letter saying Listeria had again been found in Jan. and Feb. 2016 in their Columbus facility.

“Two of 75 samples were found to have listeria by the FDA’s lab. Those two samples came from:

* The floor adjacent to the prep room, nine feet from a prep table where the base for Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso was being processed and packaged.

* The floor of the wash room by a drain, two feet from a sink used to wash, rinse and sanitize equipment parts, utensils and containers used in production.”

Jeni’s said it took immediate corrective actions and prevented any spread to food contact surfaces or areas around food contact surfaces. It also noted that it has taken more than 2,000 environmental swabs in the past year and listeria has never been detected on food contact surfaces or around food contact surfaces and that its “test-and-hold” procedures, which have been in place for a year, have not turned up a single positive test for listeria.

Dan Eaton of Columbus Business First quotes founder Jeni Britton Bauer, CEO John Lowe and Quality Leader Mary Kamm as jointly writing in a Wednesday blog post“As a result of our sanitation and other food safety procedures, our environmental testing program and our test-and-hold procedures, we can assure everyone that the food we produce is absolutely 100 percent safe.”

Triple face palm, like Neapolitan.

 

 

Going public: Schumer wants FDA’s food recall process overhauled

Maybe Chuck Schumer is eyeing a career in comedy like his somewhat related cousin, Amy.

Chuck says federal regulators are too slow getting bad food off the shelves.

amy.schumer.sexThe New York Democrat is calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review its recall process from top to bottom to determine if it’s doing enough to prevent contamination-related food illnesses.

The action follows a preliminary report by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggesting the FDA has taken far too long to initiate food recalls.

Schumer notes that a 21-state E. coli outbreak linked to tainted flour began in December but the recall wasn’t issued until May.

Whole genome sequencing takes time. So does any foodborne illness investigation, especially ones that are now leading the world in linking together previously unconnected victims and food vehicles.

A better approach might be a standardized guide for going public, so everyone knows the rules, even if they don’t agree with them.

Salmonella-positive serrano peppers recalled

Warren Produce, Edinburg, Texas, has voluntarily recalled 200 cartons of serrano peppers after a sample tested positive for salmonella.

serrano.pepperThe cartons were from 18 orders, but Warren Produce managing member Jimmy Henderson said none of the product is expected to make it to retail.

Henderson said the company was notified of the issue at 4:30 p.m. July 22 after the Food and Drug Administration sampled a single lot. Warren Produce recalled that lot along with two others from the same grower, although those lots did not test positive for salmonella. The recalled lots are #115181, #115158 and #115186.

By the morning of July 25, Henderson had received confirmation from 15 of the 18 destinations for the peppers that the product was pulled from the supply chain.

Henderson described the recall as “very effective.”

More STEC found: Multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infections linked to flour

On July 25, 2016, General Mills expanded its recall to include more production dates. A list of all the recalled flours and how to identify them is available on the Advice to Consumers page.

sorenne.doug.usa.today.jun.11Four more ill people have been reported from two states. The most recent illness started on June 25, 2016.

An infection with another serotype, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC O26), has been added to this outbreak investigation. STEC O26 was isolated from a sample of General Mills flour (pic, left, from 2011; Sorenne did not eat the flour and awareness of cross-contamination was robust).

One person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections.

46 people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O121 or STEC O26 have been reported from 21 states.

Thirteen ill people have been hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicate that flour produced at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri is a likely source of this outbreak.

Several recalls and recall expansions have been announced as a result of this investigation.

In July 2016, laboratory testing by General Mills and FDA isolated STEC O26 from a sample of General Mills flour. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that the STEC O26 isolated from the flour sample was closely related genetically to isolates from an ill person. The flour tested was not included in the earlier General Mills recalls.

On July 25, 2016, General Mills further expanded its flour recall to include additional lots.

CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and retailers do not use, serve, or sell the recalled flours.

Do not eat raw dough or batter, whether made from recalled flour or any other flour. Flour or other ingredients used to make raw dough or batter can be contaminated with STEC and other pathogens.

Consumers should bake all items made with raw dough or batter before eating them. Do not taste raw dough or batter.

Restaurants and retailers should not serve raw dough to customers or allow children and other guests to play with raw dough.

This investigation is ongoing, and we will update the public when more information becomes available.

 

 

FDA shares data on cucumber and hot pepper testing

Tom Karst of The Packer reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released preliminary results of pathogen testing of cucumbers and hot peppers.

animal.house.cucumberStarting November 2015, the agency began microbiological surveillance sampling and testing of cucumbers and hot peppers because these products have previously been involved in large-scale outbreaks, according to the FDA report. The outbreaks were linked to hospitalizations, and in the case of hot peppers, two deaths, according to the FDA.

The agency is in the midst of testing approximately 1,600 samples for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in cucumbers, and Salmonella spp., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and E. coli O157:H7 in hot peppers, according to the report. 

So far, the FDA said it has tested 452 samples of hot peppers and 352 samples of cucumbers. Of those, 13 of the hot pepper samples and three cucumbers samples tested positive for Salmonella. The rest tested negative for the targeted pathogens, according to the FDA.

The FDA report said the testing continues and offered no conclusions about the results so far.

Sanitation sucks: Federal court orders Minnesota sprout and noodle company to cease operations

On July 15, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., doing business as Canton Foods; its president and owner, Vieta “Victor” C. Wang; and its vice-president, Juney H. Wang, for significant and ongoing violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and its implementing regulations. The business, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sells rice and wheat noodles, and mung bean and soy bean sprouts.

Canton 2The U.S. Department of Justice brought the action on behalf of the FDA. The complaint that accompanied the consent decree alleges that Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has an extensive history of operating under unsanitary conditions in violation of current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations and the FD&C Act. The FDA conducted multiple inspections, most recently in 2014 and 2015, and the FDA investigators observed repeated unsanitary conditions, including, rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count, improper cleaning, mold-like substances on equipment, failure to prevent cross-contamination from allergens and improper employee sanitation practices. Despite receiving a Warning Letter and participating in regulatory meetings with the FDA, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., and Victor and Juney Wang failed to take adequate corrective actions to ensure the safety of their food. Additionally, the FDA worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to resolve this matter.

“The FDA expects food companies to follow cGMP regulations, and when a company does not address violations and sanitary protocols are being neglected, it poses potentially hazardous conditions,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA is taking the necessary actions to protect consumers and the U.S. food supply.”

Food, especially produce, is vulnerable to contamination with pathogenic microorganisms if exposed to unsanitary conditions during growing, harvesting, packing, holding or manufacturing, processing or transportation. Rodents in a facility are an additional cause for concern as they can sometimes carry and transfer bacteria and pathogenic microorganisms, like Salmonella, onto food. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

As a result of this action, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. is prohibited from directly or indirectly receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, and/or distributing any article of food at or from its facility. If Kwong Tung Foods Inc. intends to resume operations, the company must notify the FDA, and, among other requirements, retain an independent food safety expert to ensure Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has and implements, to the FDA’s satisfaction, an appropriate written Sanitation Control Program. If it resumes operations, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. must also retain an independent laboratory to conduct analyses of its food processing environment and food products, and provide employee training on sanitation and appropriate food handling techniques.

Although no illnesses have been reported in connection with Kwong Tung Foods Inc., consumers with complaints about any FDA-regulated products can report problemsto their district office consumer complaint coordinator.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

8 sickened, 1 dead: CDC says Listeria linked to frozen produce is over

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the investigation into frozen fruits and vegetables produced at CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Washington.

veggierecallHowever, people could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be freezers and people who don’t know about the recalls could eat them. Retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat recalled products. Read the Recall and Advice to Consumers and Retailers.

CDC, several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis).

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness.

Nine people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria have been reported from four states since September 13, 2013.

All nine people were hospitalized, and three of them died. Listeriosis was considered to be a cause of death for one person in Connecticut. For the two deaths in Maryland and Washington, listeriosis was not considered to be a cause of death.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington and sold under various brand names were a likely source of illness in this outbreak.

On April 23, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because of potential Listeria contamination.

On May 2, 2016, CRF Frozen Foods expanded the initial recall to include all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed in its Pasco, Washington facility since May 1, 2014. More than 350 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands were recalled, as well as at least 100 other products prepared by other companies that contained recalled ingredients from CRF Frozen Foods.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat, and restaurants and retailers do not serve or sell, recalled organic and traditional frozen vegetables and fruit products and recalled products containing these items.

Recalled items were sold nationwide and in Canada.

A complete list of recalled products is on the FoodSafety.gov website.

Do food producers have any idea what goes in their products? Traceability, another fairytale

For all the food companies that brag about traceability, why does it take so long to figure out that your suppliers are in a recall and maybe you should be too?

HT_betty_crocker_recall_as_160712_12x5_1600The lingering, lasting recalls involving products that contain E. coli O121- tainted wheat from General Mills, Listeria-tainted frozen produce from CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Wash, and Listeria-tainted sunflower kernels from SunOpta, pile up daily.

Yesterday, the girlfriend of my much younger youth, Betty Crocker, recalled cake mix in Canada because it possibly contained E. coli flour from General Mills.

But how could I not lick her spoon, or sample her beater, as a child or an adult?

Randy Shore of the Vancouver Sun asked me those questions the other night during a conversation about risk, cookie dough and preaching.

I said I don’t preach, I provide information, people can do what they like, but it really sucks if your kid gets a Shiga-toxin producing E. coli like O121 because it’s a serious illness, often with lifelong consequences.

And it’s a scam that for all the prowess and profits of these companies, from Betty, to Golden Dipt brand Jalapeño Breader, to Planters Sunflower Kernels, they can’t figure out who is supplying their shit ingredients.

Markets/local/sustainable/whatever adjective are no better.

It’s food fraud.

Rick Holley, a professor emeritus of food safety at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg (that’s in Canada) told CBC News that eating foods that aren’t well cooked is sorta like the risks people take when they jaywalk and don’t cross the street at a traffic light or stop sign.

“We know only too well that there are folks who like to eat food that’s not well cooked or isn’t cooked and against the best advice, because the food we eat is not sterile — there are risks associated with it. Having said that, I enjoy my salad in the summer time. Uncooked.

“Where we need also to do some work is on maintaining and improving the levels of sanitation in all parts of the food system, food processing plants. We know from investigations that have been done both in Canada and the United States that when there are lapses in sanitation, problems occur in food processing plants. We can see it now happening in mills.”

UCM511108According to Shore at the Vancouver Sun, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned people not to eat raw cookie dough, effectively killing the fun of making cookies.

1.) How serious is the cookie dough threat?

In 2009, at least 71 people in 31 states were sickened by Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157: H7. While nobody died, 11 people suffered serious complications. Nestle now uses heat-treated flour.

2.) What about homemade cookie dough?

The flour you use at home to make cookies has likely not been treated to kill salmonella and E.coli, so it should not be eaten raw. Irradiation is used to control insects in flour, not bacteria, so don’t depend on it for food safety.

3.) What about cookie dough ice cream?

Cookie dough ice cream is a guilty pleasure, but you can eat it without risk. Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough is made with pasteurized eggs and heat-treated flour. Most manufacturers, including Dreyer’s and Haagen-Dazs, use similar methods. 

4.) What will happen to me?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, rainbow bits contaminated with E. coli O121 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, people may die.

5.) Should I panic?

While the CFIA is so far silent on the issue, the FDA warns that you should not eat or allow your children to play with raw flour products, including homemade PlayDoh. If you make cake, cookies or pancakes, don’t lick the beaters.

Julia Calderone of Consumer Reports lists her own five ways you could get an E. coli infection from flour.

They’re not that surprising to microbiology-types.

Be the bug. Follow the bug (especially animal poop).

Since December 2015, 42 people across 21 states have developed an E. coli infection after eating uncooked flour. The outbreak is caused by a potentially dangerous strain of E. coli called O121.

Like E. coli O157, which has been responsible for food poisoning outbreaks from undercooked ground beef, O121 is a toxin-producing bacteria that may cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and possibly life-threatening kidney damage. Fortunately, so far no one who has become ill from flour or flour-based products has developed kidney damage or died, but 11 people have been hospitalized. 

Products produced at a General Mills plant in Kansas City, Missouri, in November 2015 are the culprits behind these cases of E. coli infection. The company voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of possibly contaminated flour, including their Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra flour brands. Several cake and pancake mixes that may have used General Mills flour have also been recalled.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently investigating these cases of E. coli infection, and are advising consumers not to eat flour and flour-containing foods that have not been cooked or baked. Consuming raw flour is a potential hazard, says the FDA, since it isn’t meant to be a ready-to-eat product.

Some of the ways you could ingest uncooked flour may not be so obvious. Here are five sources of potentially tainted flour that you should watch out for if you want to prevent a possible associated E. coli infection. 

  1. Raw doughs and batters.Of course, cookie doughs, pizza doughs, and cake and pancake batters are risky, so you should be careful not to accidentally or intentionally eat them before they’re cooked.

But raw dough can also make you sick even if you don’t intend to eat it. For example, kneading bread dough often leaves you with floury hands. Some restaurants give children balls of uncooked dough to play with, and they could stick either the tainted ball or their contaminated fingers into their mouth. Even storing uncooked dough next to other foods could cause a problem, so be sure to handle and stash it carefully.

  1. Arts and crafts materials.Websites devoted to pantry-based projects offer recipes for modeling clays, play doughs, spray glue, paper mache, and ornaments with flour as the main ingredient. For now, avoid making these mixtures with kids, and be sure to wash your hands and work surfaces thoroughly afterward if you decide to work with them.
  2. No-cook dishes.Some flour-containing recipes for truffles, icing, and even cookies don’t involve heating or baking. So if the recipe doesn’t call for the dish to be thoroughly cooked, skip it.
  3. Contaminated cooking and eating surfaces.Flour is light and powdery, and can easily fly everywhere in your kitchen if you aren’t careful. Even miniscule amounts of tainted flour can make you sick, so be sure that foods that will be eaten raw don’t come into contact with flour-dusted counters, cutting boards, plates, and the like. Wash these—as well as your hands—in hot soapy water after using them. Be careful if you’re dredging meat or chickenin flour before cooking, so the flour doesn’t go all over the place.
  4. Containers you use to store flour.When you purchase a new bag of flour, you might dump the new flourinto a flour bin or canister that has some old, recalled flour already in it, unwittingly contaminating your new stash. If you’re not sure if the flour you currently have has been recalled, throw it out. Make sure that you thoroughly clean your storage container before using it again.

FDA’s role in the global food system

Michael R. Taylor and Howard R. Sklamberg write in the Harvard International Review (introduction only):

michael.taylor.fdaWe work for a public health regulatory agency – the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — that oversees products accounting for 20 percent of US consumer spending. FDA regulates industries that meet fundamental human health needs in the areas of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, blood and blood products, and medical devices. FDA also regulates the tobacco, dietary supplement, and cosmetic industries. In addition, we regulate the food industry. Twenty-five years ago, the FDA could afford to think and act as the domestic agency we were. Today we can’t. Every industry we regulate has become global in terms of how they source ingredients, manufacture finished products, and seek markets for the products they make here in the United States. Annual import entries of FDA-regulated products have almost tripled from 2004 to 2014, rising to about 33 million. The companies we regulate are often multinationals that have an international outlook and are affected by international standards, which they seek to harmonize.

So, FDA has had to become global, too. Since 2011, the US Congress has given us two new import safety laws with mandates and tools to ensure that imported medical and food products are as safe as domestic products. We now have offices in seven foreign countries compared to zero in 2007. We have full-time staff working on international harmonization of regulatory standards, trade policy issues, and regulatory partnerships with foreign governments. Our international engagement — and the importance of international relations to our success — is only increasing. In this article, we will highlight the international dimension of our food program, which has responsibility for the safety, composition, and labeling of all human and animal food products — except meat, poultry, and some processed egg products regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. We will focus specifically on the global public health and economic challenge of protecting the safety of our food supply to show how fully intertwined our domestic consumer protection mission is with challenges facing the global food system. Furthermore, we will explain how implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 brings home the lesson that when it comes to food safety, we’re all in this together.

Congress and FDA share a vision of how the United States must engage internationally on food safety for the good of its citizens and the good of the global community. Our work in the years ahead is to fully execute that vision.