Food fraud: Brazil bored bureaucrat mob-influenced version

Federal authorities announced Friday they’re investigating evidence that companies including JBS SA and BRF SA, the nation’s largest meat producers, bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of soiled meat. Federal police served hundreds of court orders, including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history.

Police released transcripts of recorded conversations showing how agricultural inspectors were bribed, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of beef. It’s alleged that some of the meat, including sausages and cold cuts, was adulterated with ingredients including pig heads, and that suspect smells were masked by applying acid. Inspectors who refused to comply, it’s alleged, were reassigned elsewhere by the meat companies.

“It seems like magic realism,” Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the judge responsible for overseeing the so-called Weak Flesh investigation, said in a court order. “Unfortunately, it is not.”

In a statement, the Brazilian unit of Wal-Mart said it fully trusts its internal food safety procedures.

But should consumers?

The story trickled around the globe over the weekend and is now like a Brisbane downpour.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said Saturday Brazil fears that it may lose foreign markets for its agricultural products.

The minister confirmed earlier media reports that the United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against the unscrupulous meat producers. However, none of these countries has so far announced that it was closing its market for animal products from Brazil.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police arrested members of a major criminal group involved in trade of tainted food, mostly meat. According to police, the operation involved almost 1,100 police officers and became the country’s largest ever. The operation targeted major Brazilian meat producers selling their products both domestically and internationally.

Investigators detained a number of meat industry employees, who are suspected of bribing agriculture watchdogs to receive quality certificates for low-quality goods without proper checks. Some of those money were reportedly used to finance political parties.

Police says that the suspects also used acid and other chemicals to make the rotten meat appear fresh.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment has stated it is taking the issue seriously and will investigate if spoiled meat has been brought to Finland.

In Finland, Brazilian meat has been sold in stores belonging to S Group.

One dead, six hospitalised with Listeria in Australian food poisoning surge

Emily Woods of the Age reports one person has died and at least six others have been taken to hospital with listeria during a surge in food poisoning cases in the weeks before Christmas.

listeria4The tragedy is one of seven cases of listeria reported in the last three weeks, although none are believed to be linked.

Victoria’s acting chief health officer Dr Finn Romanes advised doctors and other health professionals to “educate at-risk patients” about safe food-handling and which foods to avoid.

The department was unable to reveal further details about the patient’s death.

The seven recent cases are among 25 that have been reported in Victoria so far this year. In 2015, there were 22 cases of listeria in the state. 

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the incidents were a timely reminder for pregnant women, and other at-risk people, in the days leading up to Christmas.

“Food-borne illnesses typically increase during the summer months, when bacteria can multiply quickly. With a recent rise in listeriosis notifications it’s particularly important pregnant women take extra precautions this Christmas,” Ms Hennessy said.

“Pregnant women should remain vigilant and avoid eating salads prepared well in advance of consumption, cold seafood and cold deli meats, soft cheeses, soft-serve ice cream, dips and any unpasteurised dairy products.”

All of the other patients have since left hospital and are recovering. 

Because serving certain foods to old folks is dumb: Listeria infections frequently reported among the EU elderly

European experts have noted an increasing trend of listeriosis since 2008, but they highlight that the number of affected people stabilised from 2014 to 2015. Infections were mostly reported in people over 64 years of age. These are some of the findings of the latest annual report by EFSA and ECDC on zoonotic diseases, which also includes the latest trends on salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, and foodborne outbreaks in the European Union.

listeria4Listeriosis affected about 2,200 people in 2015, causing 270 deaths – the highest number ever reported in the EU. The proportion of cases in the over 64 age group steadily increased from 56% in 2008 to 64% in 2015. Additionally, in this period, the number of reported cases and their proportion has almost doubled in those over 84 years.

“It is concerning that there continues to be an increasing trend of Listeria cases which mostly occur in the elderly population. ECDC is working together with Member States to enhance surveillance for food- and waterborne diseases, starting with Listeria, as earlier detection of relevant clusters and outbreaks can help prevent further cases,” said Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC. “This is a public health threat that can and needs to be addressed”, he added.

Dr. Marta Hugas, Head of Biological Hazards and Contaminants at EFSA, said: “Listeria seldom exceeded the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods, the most common foodborne source of human infections. However, it is important that consumers follow manufacturers’ storage instructions and the guidelines given by national authorities on the consumption of foods.”

In 2015, there were 229,213 reported cases of campylobacteriosis. This disease remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, showing an upward trend since 2008. Campylobacter is mostly found in chickens and chicken meat.

The number of cases of salmonellosis, the second most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, increased slightly – from 92,007 in 2014 to 94,625 in 2015. The increase observed in the past two years is partly due to improvements in surveillance and better diagnostic methods. However, the long-term trend is still declining and most Member States met their Salmonella reduction targets for poultry populations.

Salmonella is mainly found in meat (poultry) intended to be cooked before consumption.

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.

Headline hype isn’t science: ‘Avocado can prevent Listeria in food’

High standards regarding Listeria monocytogenes control and consumer demands for food products without synthetic additives represent a challenge to food industry. We determined the antilisterial properties of an enriched acetogenin extract (EAE) from avocado seed, compared it to two commercial antimicrobials (one enriched in avocado acetogenins), and tested purified molecules.

avocado-pair-cob_16Acetogenin composition in pulp and seed of Hass avocado was quantified. EAE were obtained by two sequential centrifuge partition chromatography separations and molecules purified by preparative chromatography and quantified by HPLC-MS-TOF and HPLC-PDA. Avocado seed extracts which are the following two: 1) EAE and 2) the commercially available antimicrobial Avosafe®, presented similar inhibition zones and chemical profiles. Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values of extracts and two isolated acetogenins varied between 7.8 and 15.6 mg/L, were effective at 37 and 4 °C, and showed a bactericidal effect probably caused by increased membrane permeability and lytic effects, evidenced by flow cytometry at 10 and 100× MIC. Activity was comparable to Mirenat®. Most potent acetogenins were Persenone C (5) and A (6), and AcO-avocadenyne (1), the latter exclusively present in seed. Common features of bioactive molecules were the acetyl moiety and multiple unsaturations (2 to 3) in the aliphatic chain, some persenones also featured a trans-enone group. Seeds contained 1.6 times higher levels of acetogenins than pulp (5048.1 ± 575.5 and 3107.0 ± 207.2 mg/kg fresh weight, respectively), and total content in pulp was 199 to 398 times higher than MIC values.

Therefore, acetogenin levels potentially consumed by humans are higher than inhibitory concentrations. Results document properties of avocado seed acetogenins as natural antilisterial food additives.

Inhibitory activity of avocado seed fatty acid derivatives (acetogenins) against Listeria monocytogenes

Journal of Food Science, 21 November 2016, DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.13553

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1750-3841.13553/abstract

Know thy water: If it’s dry, I’m gonna water rather than lose a crop

Foodborne disease outbreaks associated with fresh produce irrigated with contaminated water are a constant threat to consumer health. In this study, the impact of irrigation water on product safety from different food production systems (commercial to small-scale faming and homestead gardens) was assessed.

drip-irrigation-carrots-jun-16Hygiene indicators (total coliforms, Escherichia coli), and selected foodborne pathogens (Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7) of water and leafy green vegetables were analyzed. Microbiological parameters of all irrigation water (except borehole) exceeded maximum limits set by the Department of Water Affairs for safe irrigation water. Microbial parameters for leafy greens ranged from 2.94 to 4.31 log CFU/g (aerobic plate counts) and 1 to 5.27 log MPN/100g (total coliforms and E. coli). Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 were not detected in all samples tested but L. monocytogenes was present in irrigation water (commercial and small-scale farm, and homestead gardens).

This study highlights the potential riskiness of using polluted water for crop production in different agricultural settings.

Assessment of irrigation water quality and microbiological safety of leafy greens in different production systems

Journal of Food Safety, 2 November 2016, DOI: 10.1111/jfs.12324

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfs.12324/abstract;jsessionid=883317B2001984CC39815B1792B68759.f04t01

Listeria and leafy greens

Internalin A is an essential virulence gene involved in the uptake of the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes into host cells. It is intact in clinical strains and often truncated due to Premature Stop Codons (PMSCs) in isolates from processed foods and processing facilities. Less information is known about environmental isolates.

listeria4We sequenced the inlA alleles and did Multi Locus Variable Number Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA) on 112 L. monocytogenes isolates from a 3-year period from naturally contaminated watersheds near a leafy green growing area in Central California. The collection contained 14 serotype 1/2a, 12 serotype 1/2b, and 86 serotype 4b strains. Twenty-seven different inlA alleles were found. Twenty-three of the alleles are predicted to encode intact copies of InlA, while three contain PMSCs. Another allele has a 9-nucleotide deletion, previously described for a clinical strain, indicating that it is still functional. Intact inlA genes were found in 101 isolates, and 8 isolates contained the allele predicted to contain the 3-amino acid deletion. Both allele types were found throughout the 3-year sampling period. Three strains contained inlA alleles with PMSCs, and these were found only during the first 3 months of the study. SNP analysis of the intact alleles indicated clustering of alleles based on serotype and lineage with serotypes 1/2b and 4b (lineage I strains) clustering together, and serotype 1/2a (lineage II strains) clustering separately. The combination of serotype, MLVA types, and inlA allele types indicate that the 112 isolates reflect at least 49 different strains of L. monocytogenes. The finding that 90% of environmental L. monocytogenes isolates contain intact inlA alleles varies significantly from isolates found in processing plants.

This information is important to public health labs and growers as to the varieties of L. monocytogenes that could potentially contaminate fresh produce in the field by various means.

The majority of genotypes of the virulence gene inlA are intact among natural watershed isolates of Listeria monocytogenes from Central California Coast

PLoS ONE 11(12): e0167566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167566

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167566

 

What is the infectious dose of Listeria? Who are susceptible?

The relationship between the number of ingested Listeria monocytogenes cells in food and the likelihood of developing listeriosis is not well understood.

listeria4Data from an outbreak of listeriosis linked to milkshakes made from ice cream produced in 1 factory showed that contaminated products were distributed widely to the public without any reported cases, except for 4 cases of severe illness in persons who were highly susceptible. The ingestion of high doses of L. monocytogenes by these patients infected through milkshakes was unlikely if possible additional contamination associated with the preparation of the milkshake is ruled out.

This outbreak illustrated that the vast majority of the population did not become ill after ingesting a low level of L. monocytogenes but raises the question of listeriosis cases in highly susceptible persons after distribution of low-level contaminated products that did not support the growth of this pathogen.

Infectious dose of listeria monocytogenes on outbreak linked to ice cream, United States, 2015

Emerging Infectious Diseases, December 2016, Volume 22, Number 12, https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2212.160165

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/12/16-0165_article

Recall: Apples and goat milk may not mix

This is a little old, but I’m playing catch-up.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises consumers not to eat goat cheese products manufactured by Apple Tree Goat Dairy of Richfield, Penn. (Apple Tree), because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

apple-tree-goat-dairyApple Tree manufactures pasteurized and 60-day aged, semi-soft, and hard goat cheeses under the Apple Tree Goat Dairy brand. The products were sold in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey through Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, West End Farmers Market in Alexandria, Va., Ambler (Penn.) Farmers Market, and Doylestown (Penn.) Farmers Market.

On September 12, 2016, FDA began its inspection of Apple Tree’s manufacturing facility in Richfield, PA. In addition to observing poor sanitation practices, FDA took environmental samples that identified Listeria monocytogenes in 18 environmental samples from Apple Tree’s processing, packaging, and storage areas, including food-contact surfaces such as a cheese slicer, cheese mold, tables, and plates used to hold cheese before packaging. FDA also tested Apple Tree’s goat cheese. Two of the finished goat cheeses and 18 of the environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

On September 20, 2016, Apple Tree initiated a voluntary recall of the four lots of goat cheeses that PDA tested and found positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Later in September, Apple Tree expanded its recall to include all of its goat cheeses, but FDA is not aware of any public notification to consumers announcing the expanded recall. Accordingly, FDA is issuing this release and working with PDA to monitor this situation and take appropriate actions to protect consumers from Apple Tree goat cheeses that may have been exposed to or contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Although no illnesses have been reported to date in association with Apple Tree’s goat cheeses, Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious, potentially life-threatening infection called listeriosis.

Schnapps, herring and Listeria

To continue with the Danish theme, Royal Seafood Baza, Inc. of Staten, Island, New York is recalling various refrigerated ready to eat herring productsdelicious with Danish schnapps and that’s about it — because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

schapps-denmarkThe affected ready to eat herring products were distributed to customers located New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and North Carolina. Wholesale customers of bulk containers must discontinue sales of existing stock of these items immediately and destroy any returned product as soon as possible.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The recall of the products was the result of environmental sampling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during an inspection of the firm which revealed the presence of Listeria in the plant.  The company has ceased production and distribution of the products and is working closely with FDA to monitor this situation to determine the source of the environmental contamination, and make the appropriate corrective actions.

listeria-herring-16