Someone sued because they wanted raw sprouts on their Jimmy John’s sandwich? Maybe they work at Kansas State University

Lee Schafer of the Star Tribune wrote in mid-Oct (yes, I’m playing catch-up, taxes and hockey and pumpkins are a bitch) about an announcement of a proposed class-action settlement to readers who somehow suspect they got cheated out of some alfalfa sprouts by the sandwich shop Jimmy John’s.

sprout.apple_.aug_.141In the case of Starks v. Jimmy John’s LLC et al., filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, a customer claimed that Jimmy John’s did not put alfalfa sprouts on her sandwich. The notice of proposed settlement said “sandwiches,” plural, so that suggests it happened to her more than once.

Since alfalfa sprouts were advertised on the menu, there was a problem.

In a subsequent court filing, the customer alleged interference with contract, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, violation of California’s False Advertising Act and so on.

Jimmy John’s has agreed to “cease and desist from advertising or otherwise representing” to sell sandwiches with sprouts and then not put them on the sandwich, and it agreed make a charitable donation of at least $100,000.

The vouchers issued to customers can only add up to a maximum of $725,000, less the actual costs of the settlement administration, which are estimated at $15,000.

So, if you ordered a sandwich with sprouts from February 2012 through July 21, 2014, and didn’t get sprouts, then you may fill out a form, send it in and get the $1.40.

jimmy.johns_.sprouts2-300x225The lead plaintiff is to get $5,000 in addition to her $1.40 voucher. The plaintiffs’ attorneys are to receive $370,000 in fees and expenses. That’s cash, incidentally, not 264,286 vouchers for a pickle or chips at Jimmy John’s.

Meanwhile, business was brisk Friday at a Jimmy John’s in downtown Minneapolis. There were several sandwiches like the Totally Tuna and Turkey Tom listed with “sprouts* optional” with the asterisk leading to a menu warning that eating raw or undercooked sprouts poses a health risk.

Jimmy John’s has become the poster child for raw sprouts in the U.S. with numerous outbreaks; WalMart and Kroger no longer sell raw sprouts; much of food service stopped years ago.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons.

From November 2010 into 2011, an outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. and involving sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s sickened 140 people. This was the third sprout related outbreak involving this franchise, yet the owner of the Montana Jimmy John’s outlet, Dan Stevens, expressed confidence in his sprouts claiming that because the sprouts were locally grown they would not be contaminated. By the end of December 2010 a sprout supplier, Tiny Greens Farm, was implicated in the outbreak. Jimmy John’s owner, John Liautaud, responded by stating the sandwich chain would replace alfalfa sprouts with clover sprouts since they were allegedly easier to clean. However, a week earlier a separate outbreak had been identified in Washington and Oregon in which eight people were infected with Salmonella after eating sandwiches containing clover sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant. This retailer was apparently not aware of the risks associated with sprouts, or even outbreaks associated with his franchisees.

sprout.santa_.barf_.xmas_1-300x254In late December, 2011, less than one year after making the switch to clover sprouts, Jimmy John’s was linked to another sprout related outbreak, this time it was E.coli O26 in clover sprouts. In February 2012, sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s announced they were permanently removing raw clover sprouts from their menus. As of April 2012, the outbreak had affected 29 people across 11 states. Founder and chief executive, John Liautaud, attempted to appease upset customers through Facebook stating, “a lot of folks dig my sprouts, but I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.” He also informed them the franchise was testing snow pea shoots in a Campaign, Illinois store, although there is no mention regarding the “consistency” or safety of this choice.

Despite the frequent need for sprout-based risk communication, messaging with industry and public stakeholders has been limited in effectiveness. In spite of widespread media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks, improved production guidelines, and public health enforcement actions, awareness of risk remains low. Producers, food service and government agencies need to provide consistent, evidence-based messages and, more importantly, actions. Information regarding sprout-related risks and food safety concerns should be available and accurately presented to producers, retailers and consumers in a manner that relies on scientific data and clear communications.

The would-be food safety gurus at Kansas State still order Jimmy John’s with sprouts for their various really important meetings.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been arecurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

Judge denies dismissal in PrimusLabs cantaloupe cases

The Packer reports that a Colorado judge has refused to dismiss at least 24 cases filed against PrimusLabs by victims and their families related to the 2011 listeria outbreak involving cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.

cantaloupe.salmonellaThe judge also refused to dismiss cross claims filed against PrimusLabs by distributor Frontera Produce Ltd. and Dillon’s, one of the Kroger Co. banners.

Judge Charles Pratt filed orders Oct. 28 requiring the cases to move forward. The cases are among 66 victim cases pending in courts across more than a dozen states.

At least 147 people became sick and at least 33 died because of listeria infections after eating the Jensens’ cantaloupe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates at least 10 other people who had the outbreak strains of listeria had eaten the Jensen cantaloupe, but health officials had not confirmed the link when filing out death certificates.

Judge Pratt sided with the plaintiffs, saying PrimusLabs “knew or reasonably should have known that until it completed the audit the cantaloupe would not be released for sale to the public.”

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler, who is directly representing 46 of the victim plaintiffs directly and several more indirectly, declined to comment on Judge Pratt’s refusal to dismiss the cases against PrimusLabs.

In his order denying the PrimusLabs’ request to dismiss the victim cases and the cross claims filed by Frontera and Dillon’s, Judge Pratt said he is bound by law to allow the cases to proceed.

Here’s what we think of audits:

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

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.

5 dead, 5 sick in Listeria outbreak: French labs confirm source as smoked pork in Macedonia

Two prominent French reference laboratories confirmed the source of Listeria outbreak here was the smoked pork product “Extra Mein” made by a Kumanovo-based company, Macedonian health minister said on Friday.

EkstraMein1The test results from Paris-based Louis Pasteur Institute and Anses confirmed the primary findings of the source explored by Macedonian institutions. And the results will be submitted to Macedonian Public Prosecutor’s Office where the case has already been filed.

Ten patients were infected with Listeria bacteria in July and August in Macedonia, five of whom died.

1 dead, two others sick; Oasis Brands Inc. cheese recalls and investigation of human listeriosis cases

Several recalls of cheese and dairy products produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination have been announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

listeria4On August 4, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from quesito casero produced by this firm.

On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after FDA isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.

On October 16, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled various cheese and dairy products sold under the Lacteos Santa Martha brand.

Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and two persons who became ill in June and August 2014.

These three ill persons were reported from three states: New York (1), Tennessee (1), and Texas (1).

All ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. One illness was related to a pregnancy and was diagnosed in a newborn.

oasis.listeria.oct.14All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. The two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any of the recalled cheese and dairy products. Restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Although limited information is available about the specific cheese products consumed by ill persons, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the cheese consumption history of the patients suggests that these illnesses could have been related to products from Oasis Brands, Inc.

This investigation is ongoing, and new information will be provided when available.

At least three sick with E. coli O157 in Canada from unpasteurized apple cider

I confess. I experimented with something else while a university undergraduate: unpasteurized apple cider.

powell.kids.ge.sweet.corn.cider.00The ex and I would go to the Guelph Farmer’s Market and stock up, including unpasteurized cider.

After moving to Kitchener (that’s in Ontario, Canada), we would bike with the kids out to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s also in Canada) on Saturday mornings, buy some local wares, including cider, although we preferred the Waterloo County Farmer’s Market across the street.

By the time we moved back to Guelph in 1997, I’d finished my PhD in food science, and had become exceedingly wary of unpasteurized cider.

So had the U.S. government.

In October, 1996, 16-month-old Anna Gimmestad of Denver drank Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. of Half Moon Bay, Calif. She died several weeks later; 64 others became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia after drinking the same juices, which contained unpasteurized apple cider –and E. coli O157:H7. Investigators believe that some of the apples used to make the cider may have been insufficiently washed after falling to the ground and coming into contact with deer feces.

By 1997, one of my first students was working with a cider producer at the Guelph market, who had gone so far as to set up his own microbiology lab at his farm.

20141030ba_1414719717551_engGood for him.

In the fall of 1998, I accompanied one of my then four daughters on a kindergarten trip to the farm. After petting the animals and touring the crops –I questioned the fresh manure on the strawberries –we were assured that all the food produced was natural. We then returned for unpasteurized apple cider. The host served the cider in a coffee urn, heated, so my concern about it being unpasteurized was abated. I asked: “Did you serve the cider heated because you heard about other outbreaks and were concerned about liability?” She responded, “No. The stuff starts to smell when it’s a few weeks old and heating removes the smell.”

Today, Chapman reported that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency noted an outbreak of E. coli O157 linked to unpasteurized cider sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.

Why CFIA reports an outbreak but relies on Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada to report actual illnesses is baffling. Guess it keeps the different bureaucrats busy.

Fortunately there are a handful of reporters still employed in Ontario, and one at the K-W Record says at least three people have been sickened with E. coli O157 from the unpasteurized cider.

Food safety inspectors are searching across southern Ontario for 2,000 litres of E. coli-contaminated apple cider that’s already made three people ill.

Some of the unpasteurized juice from Rolling Acres Cider Mill, 1235 Martin Creek Rd., near St. Jacobs, is in unmarked, 1.3-litre plastic bags.

local.children.halloween.oct.14A Waterloo health official suspects some of the perishable juice it is already stashed away in household freezers for use weeks or months later.

Health officials are also tracking cider made for other retailers on Oct. 10, which is also likely contaminated with the bacteria that causes brutal stomach upset.

“The tracing is still ongoing,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager, at Waterloo Region public health.

Suspect cider pressed Oct. 10 at Rolling Acres has likely been sold as far east as Toronto and west of Waterloo, he said. “It’s all of southern Ontario.”

Rolling Acres is co-operating with the investigation, providing paperwork to track Oct. 10 batches of cider, Komorowski said. Waterloo and federal food inspectors have taken a close look at the apple press operation and found no problems.

“Currently they are meeting all regulatory food safety requirements from both agencies,” Komorowski said. “They’re in full compliance with that.”

The owner of Rolling Acres wasn’t available for comment.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.

Chinese whistle-blowers to get 60% of food safety fines

The Greater Kaohsiung Council has amended municipal food safety rules to offer whistle-blowers 60 percent of the resulting fines levied on convicted companies — the highest cash reward offered in the nation.

wbCouncilors from across party lines unanimously approved the amendment to food industry regulations, a move fueled by the revelation that Kaohsiung-based Cheng I Food Co has been selling substandard oil to food manufacturers in the latest food scandal to rock the nation.

Cheng I has been fined NT$50 million (US$1.67 million) on charges of violating the nation’s food safety laws. That means that if the new rules had been in effect and the news had been broken by an internal whistle-blower, he or she would have been eligible for NT$30 million in cash.

Similar rules in other cities, municipalities and counties pay between 10 and 50 percent of the fine levied on a convicted firm.

Democratic Progressive Party Kaohsiung Councilor Lian Li-jian, who initiated the move to amend the rules, said giving incentives to workers at companies that could be undertaking illegal practices would help deter unethical acts.

He said that the amendment passed by the council also contains provisions that ensure the safety and job security of workers tipping off the authorities.

The amended food safety regulations further require food makers to keep food storage and waste disposal zones separate at their factories.

People barfing everywhere: Dozens sick at NAACP annual gala

Public health officials are investigating a possible case of food poisoning that left more than 50 attendees at an NAACP gala with terrible vomiting and diarrhea.

donald-sterling-naacp-honor-withdrawn__oPtTwelve people were taken by ambulance to hospitals and treated for dehydration, officials said. And several more drove themselves to hospitals Saturday night and early Sunday morning after getting sick during a banquet dinner commemorating the closing of the 27th Annual NAACP State Convention.

Among those hospitalized was former Oakland Mayor and Assemblyman Elihu Harris, said George Holland, an attorney who heads the civil rights organization’s Oakland chapter.

More than 300 people, including former San Francisco Mayor and keynote speaker Willie Brown, attended the banquet at the grand ballroom of the Sofitel San Francisco Bay Hotel in Redwood City, Holland said. He didn’t know if Brown had fallen ill.

Several people became sick after eating a dinner that included salmon and salad, Holland said. By 10:30 p.m. attendees were throwing up in the hotel lobby, while more than 20 firefighters and paramedics tended to them.

“It was a terrible scene,” Holland said. “Other hotel guests were very upset.”

Quite a few of the sick were teenagers attending the banquet, Holland said. A 5-year-old also fell ill.

Holland said his wife started vomiting early Sunday, and the illness hit him Monday morning. “I was shivering all day long,” he said.

Sofitel, which is part of a French luxury hotel chain, did not return a call seeking comment. Health officials were unable to produce records Tuesday showing whether the hotel has had similar issues in the past, said Robyn Thaw, spokeswoman for the San Mateo Medical Center.

Raw sprouts with Salmonella strike again; UK wedding guests win compensation

Wedding guests have won tens of thousands of pounds worth of compensation after beansprouts served at a reception caused a deadly outbreak of food poisoning.

wedding.crashersRene Kwartz, 82, died in hospital three weeks after contracting salmonella at a Jewish celebration in Prestwich in August, 2010.

Now 25 other guests who were also struck down with the bug have settled civil cases against caterers Shefa Mehadrin and suppliers Duerden Brothers.

Among them were Colin Thornton, 57, and his wife Rozanne, 53.

Colin, who used to live in Prestwich and now lives in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said: “You expect to go to a wedding reception and have a nice meal, you don’t expect this to happen to anybody.

“I feel very sorry for the family that booked it. They must feel terrible but it wasn’t their fault.”

He added: “It is very annoying that we’ve had to fight for four and a half years for this.

“A person’s life has been lost.”

The outbreak was traced back to a batch of beansprouts served raw in a salmon teriyaki dish.

Expert guidance recommends they are cooked to kill any bacteria.

The bride’s mum Norma Harris was among the others infected, along with the groom and best man.

At the time she said: “We are devastated. My daughter doesn’t want to see her wedding photographs. We are in bits.”

The settlements, negotiated by Slater and Gordon, are understood to range from £1,000 to £5,000.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Z Natural Foods recalls Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder due to possible Salmonella health risk

We all experiment in university. For me it was six months of vegetarianism, and I replaced chocolate with carob powder, as I was cooking everything from scratch.

salm.carobCarob tastes like dust.

Z Natural Foods of West Palm Beach, Florida is recalling 55 lbs of Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available for sale directly through Z Natural Foods website at www.ZNaturalFoods.com. It was not available in retail stores.

The Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available in a 1 lb and 5 lb standup resealable foil pouches either bronze (1 lb) or silver in color (5 lb) and marked with Lot # ZNCARB39513 and a Best By Date of 12/5/2016 at the bottom of the label.

No illnesses have been reported to date and we are issuing this recall purely as a precautionary measure. The potential for contamination was noted after learning that another customer of our ingredient supplier received a positive test for Salmonella. While sampling conducted by the manufacturer did not indicate the presence of Salmonella, we are recalling this product out of an abundance of caution. No other Z Natural Foods products are affected.

25 Japanese tourists isolated at Australia hospital

Twenty-five Japanese tourists have been isolated at a Sydney hospital after suffering from illness and vomiting.

vacation“Symptoms appear to be similar to food poisoning … it’s not confirmed but they are the kind of symptoms that we are looking at,” a southwestern Sydney local health district spokeswoman told AAP.

The tourists were on Tuesday isolated in part of Liverpool Hospital’s emergency department and measures to control any spread of a potential infection have been put in place.