Costco calls customers to let them know of recalled fruit

While it might make data conspiracy folks antsy Costco continues to put purchase tracking to good use (sorta, as this Listeria/stone fruit situation may not be that much of a public health risk). According to  Costco has been directly calling members who purchased recalled Wawona Packing Co. fruit based on a real-time database of purchases.Unknown-2

Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety at Costco, told HuffPo that the company keeps a log of every single item customers purchase.

We know every item that everybody purchases every day. If there’s an issue with an item — be it ground beef, peaches, socks or tires — we can contact the members that purchased the item, because we have a record of that purchase.

So, seems all that creepy data collecting can be put to good use once in a while. In fact, this isn’t the first time Costco has used its consumer data to help in cases related to foodborne illness: The company teamed up with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and local investigators to help track the source of a salmonella outbreak in 2010.

According to Wilson, Costco even mailed follow-up letters to consumers after the initial phone calls. If only our roommates could be this thorough when warning us the milk has gone bad.

Identifying and connecting with customers that have purchased recalled items is a good strategy. That’s the kind of action that demonstrates the food safety culture of a business. Telling customers how this incident changes Costco’s supplier specifications/verification (at all) and how internal decisions are made are a next step in pulling back the curtain on food safety for the public.

3 dead from Listeria in Macedonia

Three people infected with the bacteria Listeria, which was detected in seven patients in Macedonia, died in a month, Dnevnik daily reports.

listeriaThe Committee on Infectious Diseases held meeting late Monday, third in the past four days, in the presence of the Health Minister Nikola Todorov, after receiving information from the Institute of Public Health that seven cases in which laboratory tests confirmed the presence of listeria were registered in a month.

Five of the reported cases were diagnosed with listeria caused meningitis or meningoencephalitis and two newborn babies were diagnosed with listeria sepsis.  Three of the seven reported cases ended with death – one patient aged 72, the second patient aged 59 and a newborn child.

California company pulls some stone fruits in response to possible Listeria contamination

Dierbergs Markets is pulling from its stores a number of tree-ripened stone fruits from a California-based packing company.

Dierbergs MarketsWawona Packing Co. has issued a voluntary recall of conventional and organic varieties of yellow peaches and nectarines, white peaches and nectarines, plums and pluots because of possible contamination with listeria.

No illnesses have been reported and Wawona is issuing the recall as a precautionary voluntary measure, according to a statement released Saturday by Dierbergs.

Pair deny hospital Listeria charges in NZ

A Napier food company director and factory manager have pleaded not guilty to charges relating to a deadly outbreak of listeriosis in 2012.

listeriaLast year, Bay Cuisine was charged with 153 charges under the Food Act, while director Garth Wise faced four indictments, and factory manager Christopher Mackie six. On Thursday, Wise and Mackie’s defence counsel entered not-guilty pleas to all the charges at Napier District Court, after two elderly patients died at Hawke’s Bay Hospital from eating meat contaminated with listeria in June and July 2012.

The three defendants will face a judge-alone trial at Hastings District Court in about 12 months’ time.

Company officials in NZ Listeria outbreak to face trial in 2015

The factory manager and a company director implicated in a deadly outbreak of listeriosis are accused of trying to deceive the Ministry for Primary Industries over laboratory reports on suspect meat.

amy.pregnant.listeriaIn the Napier District Court yesterday, lawyers entered not guilty pleas for Napier company Bay Cuisine, its director Garth Wise, and factory manager Christopher Mackie.

Wise, 53, faces four charges, Mackie, 41, six, and the company 153 charges.

The three parties will face a judge-alone trial in the Hastings District Court after May.

One of the charges the men face carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $100,000.

The outbreak, which occurred in mid-2012, claimed the life of 68-year-old Patricia Hutchinson on June 9 that year, and contributed to the death of an 81-year-old woman on July 9. Two other people were infected.

Listeria was found in pre-packaged ready-to-eat meats that had been supplied to Hawke’s Bay Hospital. Listeria was also found at the Bay Cuisine factory. The company was the sole supplier of pre-packaged meats to the hospital. 

Diet alert for mums-to-be

Whenever I get a chance to expound, I always put a plug in for Listeria, and the havoc it can wreck in pregnant mothers. Last year in New Zealand, five women between 23 and 36 weeks pregnant were struck down with listeriosis, and three of their babies died. From 2010 to 2012 there were 12 cases of perinatal listeriosis, with six baby deaths.

Listeria is one of several food-borne illnesses, including toxoplasma, methylmercury and salmonella, which can cause severe complications in pregnancy, when the immune system is lowered.

The Ministry for Primary Industries principal health advisor, Dr Craig Thornley, said while such cases were rare, it was important pregnant women followed food safety recommendations to avoid any risk.

Listeria bacteria can be found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods such as meat, poultry and seafood, or food made with unpasteurised milk.

Avoiding raw milk and eggs, unpasteurised cheese, processed and undercooked meats, some seafood, and even sushi and hummus would cut down the chance of becoming ill.

New Zealand College of Midwives midwifery advisor Lesley Dixon said women should focus on what they can eat.

“I think we get hooked up on ‘we can’t eat this and we can’t eat that’ and what we forget is what we can eat and what we should be eating,” she said. “Yes we can’t eat brie and camembert anymore but actually we can still eat cheese.”

When Amanda Ashman was pregnant with her son Jake in 1997 she wasn’t warned not to eat certain foods.

So when she fell pregnant again in 2012 with her daughter Mackenzie, the barrage of food safety advice came as a big shock.

“I was constantly saying ‘I was never told any of this when I was pregnant with Jake’.”

The 34-year-old West Auckland mum said as a pregnant 17-year-old she knew not to drink or smoke but doesn’t recall anyone advising her not to eat food that could cause her to become ill such as unpasteurised cheese, pre-cooked ham, and raw eggs.

She ate whatever she wanted and did not have any problems.

She said it was concerning to find out later pregnant women were warned off some food.

“I thought it was strange that I wasn’t warned about it when I was carrying Jake.”

Fifteen years later, when pregnant with Mackenzie, it was a different story.

She was made aware of the guidelines by her midwife and kept to them but thinks they might be a bit over the top.

Know the risks of feeding raw foods to your pets

Despite fawning media coverage, foods like raw milk comprise a small fraction of the U.S. market. so with raw pet foods.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Aministration, raw pet food consists primarily of meat, bones, and organs that haven’t been cooked, and therefore are more likely than cooked food to contain organisms that can make your dog or cat sick, says William J. Burkholder, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Medical Officer in the FDA’s Division of Animal Feeds. Moreover, raw food can make you sick as well if you don’t handle it properly. FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.

The agency therefore recommends cooking of raw meat and poultry to kill harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes before you give the food to your pets. And as always, when working with food, you should follow FDA’s instructions on how to handle it safely.

Feeding raw food to a pet also increases the risk of contaminating food contact surfaces and other places.

“Even if the dog or cat doesn’t get sick, they can become carriers of Salmonella and transfer the bacteria to their surroundings, and then people can get the disease from contact with the infected environment,” Burkholder says.

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination will continue to spread. …

 “Feeding raw foods to pets increases the risk that both the pet and the people around the pet will encounter bacteria that cause foodborne illness, particularly if the products are not carefully handled and fed,” Burkholder says. “This is certainly one factor that should be considered when selecting diets for your pet.”

Pregnancy associated listeriosis – clinical characteristics and geospatial analysis of 10 years in Israel

Whenever I talk, I make sure the women in the crowd know about Listeria and what to do.

amy.pregnant.listeriaThis is an additional reason why.


Clinical Infectious Diseases

Hila Elinav, Anat Hershko-Klement, Lea Valinsky, Josef Jaffe, Anat Wiseman, Hila Shimon, Eyal Braun, Yossi Paitan, Colin Block, Rotem Sorek, Ran Nir-Paz, the Israeli Listeria Study group

Now market it, so consumers know at retail; nearly all Westside melon handlers now certified

Tom Burfield of The Packer reports that as California’s Westside cantaloupe industry kicks off its second season under a safety inspection program, nearly all of the state’s cantaloupe handlers have received the required certification, said John Gilstrap, manager of the Dinuba-based California Cantaloupe Advisory Board.

cantaloupe.washGilstrap said that, to his knowledge, the cantaloupe marketing order that took effect in 2013 is “the only one in the produce industry that invites government auditors to inspect all aspects of the operation.”

To be certified, growers and handlers must comply with a 156-point checklist. If they don’t, they have to make corrections and be reinspected.

They’re also required to have a traceback system.

Names of certified handlers are listed on the board’s website, Companies that are decertified also will be listed, Gilstrap said, but companies that are pending certification will not be.