Maytag farms to restart blue cheese production

In Feb. 2016 Maytag Dairy Farms recalled about 900 pounds of cheese after the Iowa Dairy Products Control Bureau discovered listeria contamination during routine testing.

maytag_dairy_farms1Now, the owners of Maytag Dairy Farms said they have plans to restart production at their Newton cheese plant.

Patt Johnson of The Des Moines Register reports that while on long-term hiatus, the 75-year-old company has been “completing significant renovations and remodeling our small cheese plant in an effort to meet and exceed new regulatory requirements mandated by the federal Food Safety Modernization Act,”  said John Dannerbeck, chairman of the Maytag Dairy Farms board of directors.

“We’re very excited and very optimistic,” Dannerbeck said. “We are going to be stronger than ever.”

There’s no specific date for getting production back on track, but Dannerbeck estimated that it would be early next year.

“The silver lining to all this is that we’ve been able to do significant work to adapt to new food safety standards,” he said.

 “While we now know this was a very isolated occurrence and there was no widespread problem, we believe our decision to vastly expand the recall, though expensive and immensely complicated, was the prudent decision at the time,” the company said in a statement late last week.

Losing my religion: Salmonella victim says be more forgiving

An Iowa County woman says people need to work to be more forgiving after a recent salmonella outbreak sickened roughly 25 people, including her.

Sharon+FrySharon Fry says she came down with salmonella after eating potato salad from the Big G Food Store in Marengo earlier this month. The sickness put Fry in the hospital for several days, which was especially difficult on her because she is also battling terminal cancer in her stomach.

“I didn’t want to get sick, who wants to get sick? But show a little Christian charity, they’re good people doing the best they can,” Fry said of the family owned grocery store that sold the potato salad. “For everybody to get up in arms when this is the only time they’ve had a problem, I just think it’s mean.”

Fry said the sickness left her dehydrated for several days. Symptoms included throwing-up, diarrhea, stomach cramping and a headache, Fry said.

“[Big G] is very much a family owned business, they give back to the community all the time,” Fry said.

Going public: 167 people with the runs in Iowa

That moment happened.

Usually it takes until puberty, but it happened.

diarrhea.toiletMy 7-year-old daughter, who was in a local Dettol commercial, which I had nothing to do with (that’s her, at the end, second row from the bottom, far rightin the pic below; I’ve always shamelessly promoted my children).

Yet this morning, she was too embarrassed to answer what number 1 meant, and number 2, while watching some other video this morning before school, something about poop.

And it happened.

Sure, kids find me hilarious until about 11-years-old, then it’s embarrassment for 10 years, then they come around.

Maybe the folks in Dubuque County, Iowa feel the same way, maybe they have state laws limiting what they can say.

But when 167 people have diarrhea since Oct 1, public health has to step in (not in the #2).

Seriously, no public announcement until April 11, 2011, on an outbreak that started Oct. 1, 2015?

 “This is a high number of diagnosed cases that we have had,” said Patrice Lambert, executive director of the Dubuque County Health Department.

Shigellosis is a disease caused by the bacterium shigella, which causes watery and sometimes bloody diarrhea, according to Lambert.

 “Wash your hands with soap and water,” Lambert said. “That’s the easiest thing to do, not only for shigellosis but for all communicable diseases.

Handwashing is never enough.

 

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.

Going public: E. coli secrecy must end

The Des Moines Register Editorial Board writes that last December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other health agencies around the nation, allegedly detected a spike in E. coli food-poisoning cases in people who had eaten at Pizza Ranch restaurants.

communicationOn Jan. 31, Richard Simmons Jr. of Kansas took his family, including his 7-year-old daughter, to the Pizza Ranch in Emporia, Kan. Simmons says his daughter ate food from the restaurant’s buffet, including chicken, salad and dessert pizza. A few days later, the girl fell ill, experiencing stomach cramps and diarrhea. After testing positive for E. coli, she was hospitalized in Wichita on Feb. 12, where she placed in the intensive-care unit care after her kidneys failed. She remained hospitalized for two weeks.

The CDC later concluded Simmons’ daughter was one of 13 individuals believed to have been sickened by food from Pizza Ranch outlets in several states. Still, the CDC said nothing to the public about Pizza Ranch being the source of contaminated food. In fact, it wasn’t until The Des Moines Register contacted the federal agency on March 16, asking about the matter, that the CDC acknowledged the contaminated food had come from Pizza Ranch.

The CDC says its policy is to identify the providers of contaminated food only when “we perceive there are actions people can take to protect themselves.” In this case, a spokeswoman said, the restaurant chain stopped using the product suspected to be the cause of the illnesses, curtailing the outbreak. There was nothing else consumers could do at that point to avoid illnesses, she said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health, which was aware of the outbreak, took a similar stance. Even last week, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the department’s medical director, refused to discuss the business involved in the outbreak with a Register reporter. She said the department’s investigations remain confidential unless the department believes disclosure is necessary to protect the public health.

This is not the first time this has happened. Last fall, more than 50 people were sickened by cooked taco meat that was served to the staff at Des Moines’ Roosevelt High School. The cooked meat was purchased from a grocery store shortly before it was served as part of a staff luncheon for the school. State officials said the food was likely tainted during preparation at the store since the bacteria wouldn’t have had enough time to grow between the time the meat was purchased and the time it was served.

communication.context.13Unfortunately, county and state health officials chose not to disclose the name of the store that provided the meat. Thanks to a state law that was written not to protect the public health but to protect Iowa business and industry, Iowa’s public health reports on food-poisoning cases must be written in a manner that doesn’t identify the business believed to be at fault. The law goes on to say that the identity of the business may be shared with the public only when the state epidemiologist or the director of public health “determines such a release of information (is) necessary for the protection of the health of the public.”

The public deserves to know who is responsible for serving food than can seriously injure, or even kill, consumers. They also deserve to know what our “public health” officials are up to, and passing laws that specifically muzzle these officials and require them to remain silent about the source of contaminated food can’t possibly be in the public interest.

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.

Going public: Iowa paper says food-poisoning cases should result in more disclosure

I never liked Hy-Vee in Manhattan, Kansas.

They were sorta uppity and didn’t seem to know shit about food safety.

hy-vee.food.safeAn editorial in The Des Moines Register echoes those sentiments:

More than 50 people were sickened by cooked taco meat that was served to the staff at Des Moines’ Roosevelt High School last month.

The cooked meat was purchased from a grocery store shortly before it was served at the school as part of a staff luncheon. Subsequent testing detected a temperature-sensitive bacteria in the meat. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals said the food was likely tainted during preparation at the store since the bacteria wouldn’t have had enough time to grow between the time the meat was purchased and the time it was served.

The official public report from the Polk County Department of Public Health said that while a “specific point” in the preparation and handling process couldn’t be identified as the culprit, food-safety and food-handling guidelines were reviewed “with those involved.” The state inspections agency said the store had given assurances the staff was being retrained.

The trouble is, the county and the state chose not to disclose the name of that store. Fortunately, community members stepped forward and identified the business as the Hy-Vee store in Windsor Heights. Had they not done so, the identity of the food supplier might still be unknown.

A Hy-Vee spokeswoman acknowledged the store provided the food, but denied that it was responsible for the food poisoning. She then appeared to cast blame on the store’s own customers, saying, “We can’t control how food is handled after it leaves our stores.”

That statement contrasts sharply with the state’s calming reassurance that the Hy-Vee staff is being retrained, and it only serves to underscore — perhaps unintentionally — the importance of disclosing the names of food suppliers in cases like this.

But public disclosure is traditionally the road less traveled in Iowa, a state where regulations are written largely to protect business and industry — even at the expense of the public welfare.

Our state law says public health reports should be written in a manner that doesn’t identify a business that may be at fault. It goes on to say that “information disclosing the identity of the business may be released to the public when the state epidemiologist or the director of public health determines such a release of information (is) necessary for the protection of the health of the public.”

In the Roosevelt High School case, state health officials say, no public health threat was identified, as only those people who attended the school luncheon were sickened. The logic in that position is hard to fathom, especially when one considers the volume of food a store such as this is capable of dispensing on any given day.

When public health officials identify a supplier of food that is later found to have sickened 50 people, that supplier should be publicly identified. People in the community deserve to know who may have been responsible — not so they can organize a torch-bearing mob, but so they can make fully informed decisions as consumers.

Over 50 teachers sickened: Iowa food poisoning caused by C. perfringens in meat

Food poisoning that made more than 50 teachers and staff members at Roosevelt High School sick, prompting classes and many activities to be canceled Oct. 22, was caused by a bacteria in meat purchased and served to staff, a report found.

hot.for.teacherThe Polk County Health Department released an investigation summary Wednesday that points to the bacteria Clostridium perfringens, which the CDC says causes more than 1 million cases of food poisoning a year.

The bacteria is among the most common causes of food poisoning. It’s often found in poultry, gravies and dried or pre-cooked foods.

Cooking kills the bacteria, but does not necessarily kill its spores. If not properly refrigerated, meat that contained the bacteria can grow and produce new cells, the report says. It can grow quickly at room temperature but not at colder temperatures in a refrigerator or freezer.

The report did not include information about the origins of the food that contained the bacteria, and department spokeswoman Nola Aigner cited state law in not disclosing the kind of meat or where it was purchased from.

“I can’t reveal that due to our public health confidentiality laws, I can’t discuss the specific details of the case,” she said.

That sucks. How are others supposed to learn?

Iowa school dismissed early because of suspected food poisoning outbreak among staff

Another catered meal, another staff (staph) outbreak.

Roosevelt High SchoolReminds me of those catered lunches Kansas State would get from Jimmy Johns, even though sprout outbreaks were rampant.

Classes at Roosevelt High School were dismissed early Thursday because a large number of the school’s staff was struck down with suspected food poisoning.

In an e-mail to students’ parents Principal Kevin Biggs said they don’t have enough staff to continue with normal activities, so the decision was made to dismiss school early and cancel all indoor school activities after school. Outdoor activities are still going forward.

Parent-teacher conferences are being postponed.

The Polk County Health Department believes the staff is suffering from food poisoning.

Biggs said the food served to the staff was from a catered luncheon Wednesday, with food prepared by two outside businesses, and was not served to students.

E. coli turns into nightmare for Iowa toddler

When the Meincke family of rural Stockton got together in July at husband and father Kyle’s softball game, 3-year-old Logan just wasn’t himself.

logan.MeinckeThe toddler had a touch of diarrhea, which meant his mother, Jenny, took him to the restroom several times. On the other hand, the little fellow also ran around and chased after foul balls that left the field.

“Initially it looked like the flu,” Jenny Meincke said.

But when the family went home, Logan vomited after drinking some milk, so his parents decided to take him to a hospital emergency department.

Once the family got there, Logan was quickly admitted. The Meinckes spent two nights in Davenport before doctors decided to refer the case to University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. 

Once Logan was admitted to that hospital, the diagnosis came quickly: It was an Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacterial infection.

While many people recover from such infections in a week or two, young children such as Logan can have serious complications, and that is what happened. He developed a life-threatening form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

In January, the toddler underwent a kidney transplant with his mother as the donor.

The Meinckes have health insurance coverage, but the travel and other costs still have added up through a difficult situation that has continued for seven months. Friends of the couple, Jamie and Jason Collier, organized the Team Logan Benefit taking place Saturday night in Walcott.