On-line cheese from Austria presents risk

Online shopping saves time and provides an enormous product choice, but when buying cheeses, this may lead to a quality compromise, according to a new study from Vetmeduni Vienna.

3294_Cheese shutterstock_117291487According to a German market study, six per cent of all fresh foods sold today are purchased online – and this rate is on the rise. For perishable foods, however, it is necessary to follow certain hygienic rules.

Dagmar Schoder from the Institute of Milk Hygiene at the Vetmeduni Vienna was interested above all in one especially high-risk food – raw milk cheese. Raw milk cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk, which puts them at a higher risk of microbiological contamination.

Ms Schoder and her colleagues ordered 108 different raw milk cheeses from 21 online retailers in seven European countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium).

“We chose raw milk cheese because it is a high-risk product. As raw milk is unpasteurised, it can be easily contaminated with harmful bacteria.

“Even a small amount of bacteria, for which raw milk cheese offers ideal growing conditions, can reach critical proportions after a longer ripening, storage and transport time.

“The product is then no longer edible and may even make consumers ill. For this reason, special care must be taken during production, storage and transport,” said Ms Schoder.

The researchers found Listeria monocytogenes in two cheese products: one from France and one from the Netherlands.

The fecal bacteria Escherichia coli was found in 32 products. It indicates poor conditions of hygiene during production. Salmonella were not found in any of the cheese samples.

“Some of the producers apparently have shortcomings in terms of hygiene,” said first author Ms Schoder. “Furthermore, when making online purchases, I recommend consumers to check if a product is adequately packaged and cooled when it arrives.”

The shipping period of the online products was between one and five days.

“Cheese must be cooled,” Ms Schoder stressed. But this was not the case with 61.5 per cent of the raw milk products purchased.

“If raw milk cheese is not cooled, bacteria will grow more quickly. A longer transport journey and improper packaging increase the risk for consumers.”

Only 19 cheeses fulfilled the EU labelling requirements (Directive 2000/13/EC and Regulation 853/2004). Of the cheeses purchased, 37 were not labelled as “raw milk cheese” and 43 labels had no “use by date”. Information on storage requirements was missing in more than half of the cheeses.


Canadian cheese update: Inverlock Cheddar recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes

The food recall warning issued on November 20, 2015 has been updated to include additional distribution information. This additional information was identified during the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) food safety investigation.

listeria.cheese.cdn.nov.15Glen Echo Fine Foods is recalling Inverloch Cheddar Cheese imported from Scotland from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

What you should do

Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased.

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Isle of Kintyre Laird’s Mustard Mature Cheddar & Whole Grain Mustard 1 kg 10/13-06 5 060020 410338
Isle of Kintyre Applesmoke Mature Cheddar 900g 3-03-16 5 060020 410260

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, the infection can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by the company. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

Foodborne outbreaks in Canada 2008-2014

Background: Enteric outbreak investigation in Canada is performed at the local, provincial/territorial (P/T) and federal levels. Historically, routine surveillance of outbreaks did not occur in all jurisdictions and so the Public Health Agency of Canada, in partnership with P/T public health authorities, developed a secure, web-based Outbreak Summaries (OS) Reporting System to address this gap.

canada.colbert.oct.14Objective: This analysis summarizes the foodborne outbreak investigations reported to the OS Reporting System between 2008 and 2014.

Methods: Finalised reports of investigations between 2008 and 2014 for all participating jurisdictions in Canada were extracted and descriptive analysis was carried out for foodborne outbreaks on etiological agent, severity of illness, outbreak duration, exposure setting and outbreak source.

Results: There were 115 reported foodborne outbreaks included in the analysis. This represents 11.2% of all outbreaks reported in the enteric module of the OS Reporting System between 2008 and 2014. Salmonella was the most commonly reported cause of foodborne outbreak (40.9%) and Enteritidis was the most common serotype reported. Foodborne outbreaks accounted for 3,301 illnesses, 225 hospitalizations and 30 deaths. Overall, 38.3% of foodborne outbreaks were reported to have occurred in a community and 32.2% were associated with a food service establishment. Most foodborne outbreak investigations (63.5%) reported a specific food associated with the outbreak, most frequently meat.

Conclusion: The OS Reporting System supports information sharing and collaboration among Canadian public health partners and offers an opportunity to obtain a national picture of foodborne outbreaks. This analysis has demonstrated the utility of the OS Reporting System data as an important and useful source of information to describe foodborne outbreak investigations in Canada.

Funding for this program was provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

An overview of foodborne outbreaks in Canada reported through Outbreak Summaries: 2008-2014

CCDR: Volume 41-11, November 5, 2015: Foodborne Illness

Bélanger P, Tanguay F, Hamel M, Phypers M



Food companies, step it up: US multistate foodborne outbreaks, 2010-2014

Multistate outbreaks cause more than half of all deaths in foodborne disease outbreaks despite accounting for only a tiny fraction (3 percent) of reported outbreaks in the United States, according to a new U.S Centers for Disease Control report.

fact-sheet-vs-final-thumbnail-page-3_cropRecent outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to tainted cucumbers, ice cream and soft cheeses show the devastating consequences when food is contaminated with dangerous germs before it reaches a restaurant or home kitchen.

Highlights from the report on multistate foodborne outbreaks during 2010-2014 include:

• An average of 24 multistate outbreaks occurred each year, involving two to 37 states.

  • Salmonella accounted for the most illnesses and hospitalizations and was the cause of the three largest outbreaks, which were traced to eggs, chicken and raw ground tuna.
  • Listeria caused the most deaths, largely due to an outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 people.
  • Imported foods accounted for 18 of the 120 reported outbreaks. Food imported from Mexico was the leading source in these outbreaks, followed by food imported from Turkey.

The report recommends that local, state, and national health agencies work closely with food industries to understand how their foods are produced and distributed to speed multistate outbreak investigations. These investigations can reveal fixable problems that resulted in food becoming contaminated and lessons learned that can help strengthen food safety.

The report highlights the need for food industries to play a larger role in improving food safety by following best practices for growing, processing, and shipping foods. In addition, food industries can help stop outbreaks and lessen their impact by keeping detailed records to allow faster tracing of foods from source to destination, by using store loyalty cards to help identify what foods made people sick, and by notifying customers of food recalls.

“Reacting to problems isn’t sufficient in today’s food system, nor is it the best way to practice public health,” Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer, director of FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response & Evaluation Network, said in a teleconference.

TSA4Gensheimer stressed that in the past, food safety has been focused on reacting to outbreaks, but new regulations set to take effect in 2016 will require companies to take a science-based approach to building safety controls into food production.

“Industry is a very critical partner,” she said.

For example, although it is still not clear what caused the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle, Gensheimer said on the call that the company has shared “all of their records and is working with us in any way possible to give us information about their suppliers.”

Gensheimer also said after the current investigation ends, the company expressed interest in meeting with FDA and the CDC to work out ways to prevent future outbreaks.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said state-of-the-art disease tracking tools, and the introduction of gene tools, are helping to quickly track down the source of food-borne outbreaks in collaboration with state and national partners.

Frieden said disease detectives are “cracking the cases much more frequently than in past years because we have this new DNA fingerprinting tool being used increasingly,” but many cases still go unsolved.

He said companies are also stepping up to help, noting new requirements at Wal-Mart Stores Inc for food suppliers that set new control for suppliers to reduce contamination and the wholesaler’s Costco’s use of membership card lists to notify customers about recalled foods.

The leading causes of multistate outbreaks – Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria – are more dangerous than the leading causes of single-state outbreaks. These three germs, which cause 91 percent of multistate outbreaks, can contaminate widely distributed foods, such as vegetables, beef, chicken and fresh fruits, and end up sickening people in many states. 

“Americans should not have to worry about getting sick from the food they eat,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Top-notch epidemiology and new gene sequencing tools are helping us quickly track down the source of foodborne outbreaks – and together with our national partners we are working with the food industry to prevent them from happening in the first place.”

Introduction: Millions of U.S. residents become ill from foodborne pathogens each year. Most foodborne outbreaks occur among small groups of persons in a localized area. However, because many foods are distributed widely and rapidly, and because detection methods have improved, outbreaks that occur in multiple states and that even span the entire country are being recognized with increasing frequency.

Methods: This report analyzes data from CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System to describe multistate foodborne outbreaks that occurred in the United States during 2010–2014.

Results: During this 5-year period, 120 multistate foodborne disease outbreaks (with identified pathogen and food or common setting) were reported to CDC. These multistate outbreaks accounted for 3% (120 of 4,163) of all reported foodborne outbreaks, but were responsible for 11% (7,929 of 71,747) of illnesses, 34% (1,460 of 4,247) of hospitalizations, and 56% (66 of 118) of deaths associated with foodborne outbreaks. Salmonella (63 outbreaks), Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (34), and Listeria monocytogenes (12) were the leading pathogens. Fruits (17), vegetable row crops (15), beef (13), sprouts (10), and seeded vegetables (nine) were the most commonly implicated foods. Traceback investigations to identify the food origin were conducted for 87 outbreaks, of which 55 led to a product recall. Imported foods were linked to 18 multistate outbreaks.

Conclusions: Multistate foodborne disease outbreaks account for a disproportionate number of outbreak-associated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths relative to their occurrence. Working together, food industries and public health departments and agencies can develop and implement more effective ways to identify and to trace contaminated foods linked to multistate outbreaks. Lessons learned during outbreak investigations can help improve food safety practices and regulations, and might prevent future outbreaks.

MMWR November 3, 2015 / 64(Early Release);1-5

Samuel J. Crowe, PhD1,2; Barbara E. Mahon, MD2; Antonio R. Vieira, PhD2; L. Hannah Gould, PhD



Sanitizers and produce: What works?

The aim of this study was to perform a meta-analysis of the effects of sanitizing treatments of fresh produce on Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes.

lettuce.skull.noroFrom 55 primary studies found to report on such effects, 40 were selected based on specific criteria, leading to more than 1,000 data on mean log reductions of these three bacterial pathogens impairing the safety of fresh produce. Data were partitioned to build three meta-analytical models that could allow the assessment of differences in mean log reductions among pathogens, fresh produce, and sanitizers. Moderating variables assessed in the meta-analytical models included type of fresh produce, type of sanitizer, concentration, and treatment time and temperature. Further, a proposal was done to classify the sanitizers according to bactericidal efficacy by means of a meta-analytical dendrogram.

The results indicated that both time and temperature significantly affected the mean log reductions of the sanitizing treatment (P < 0.0001). In general, sanitizer treatments led to lower mean log reductions when applied to leafy greens (for example, 0.68 log reductions [0.00 to 1.37] achieved in lettuce) compared to other, nonleafy vegetables (for example, 3.04 mean log reductions [2.32 to 3.76] obtained for carrots). Among the pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 was more resistant to ozone (1.6 mean log reductions), while L. monocytogenes and Salmonella presented high resistance to organic acids, such as citric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid (∼3.0 mean log reductions). With regard to the sanitizers, it has been found that slightly acidic electrolyzed water, acidified sodium chlorite, and the gaseous chlorine dioxide clustered together, indicating that they possessed the strongest bactericidal effect.

The results reported seem to be an important achievement for advancing the global understanding of the effectiveness of sanitizers for microbial safety of fresh produce.

 Meta-analysis of the Effects of Sanitizing Treatments on Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes Inactivation in Fresh Produce

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Volume 81, Number 23, December 2015

L Prado-Silva, V Cadavez, U Gonzales-Barron, A Rezende, A Sant’Ana



Seek and ye shall find: Don’t be bobbing for these apples

Northstar Produce Inc. of St. Louis Park, MN is recalling 33 cases of Granny Smith Size 175ct apples, because a test performed on a sample of the apples indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and / or Enterohemorrhagic E. coli.

The Granny Smith Size 175ct apples were sold at Mike’s Discount Foods, 230 Osborn Ave., Fridley, MN and Mikes’s Discount Foods, 516 East River Road, Anoka, MN

The apples were sold in tray packs between October 1, 2015 and October 19, 2015

No illnesses have been reported to date.


How investigators cracked the Blue Bell listeria outbreak case

Some good investigative work by CBS News figuring out how a beloved Texas icon could be crass when it came to public health.

blue.bell.jul.15There’s the usual stuff about how workers said the places were dumps, after the outbreak became public, but didn’t say much when they were working there.

Guess everyone needs a paycheck.

Three deaths caused by ice cream tainted by bacteria last spring were part of an outbreak that had been going on for years.

In April, Blue Bell Creameries recalled all of its products in 23 states. The ice cream was contaminated with listeria which can be fatal to people who are ill or have compromised immune systems.

In part two of the investigation, investigators show CBS News how the case of the mystery deaths was solved.

When Megan Davis and her team from the South Carolina Department of Health randomly sampled ten products from a local Blue Bell distribution center in January — the last thing they expected to find was listeria.

“It was unbelievable actually,” said Davis. “We never in a million years thought we’d find a positive sample.”

Two of the ten samples tested positive, but just to be sure, they went back and collected 30 more.

“All 30 of the samples that we tested, tested positive for listeria,” said Davis. “Yes, stunning. A little scary that those products were going to consumers.”

Davis uploaded their findings into Pulsenet, a database of DNA fingerprints the Center for Disease Control monitors to identity outbreaks nationwide.

“The listeria germs found in South Carolina in the ice cream matched illnesses in a hospital in Kansas,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Foodborne Disease Division.

That hospital was Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. Listeria had sickened five of their patients over the past year, but the hospital couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. The listeria patterns found in South Carolina solved the mystery in Kansas.

Turns out, all five of the patients had been served milkshakes made with Blue Bell ice cream.

In mid-February, Blue Bell quietly pulled all the ice cream made on the machine that had produced the ice cream testing positive in South Carolina, citing a quality issue. But Via Christi still had plenty of other Blue Bell products in its freezers. The Kansas Department of Health tested 45 of them, and found another hit.


It’s the stick: Listeria grows on caramel apples at room temp

A 2014 multistate listeriosis outbreak was linked to consumption of caramel-coated apples, an unexpected and previously unreported vehicle for Listeria monocytogenes. This outbreak was unanticipated because both the pH of apples (<4.0) and the water activity of the caramel coating (<0.80) are too low to support Listeria growth.

caramel.appleIn this study, Granny Smith apples were inoculated with approximately 4 log10 CFU of L. monocytogenes (a cocktail of serotype 4b strains associated with the outbreak) on each apple’s skin, stem, and calyx. Half of the apples had sticks inserted into the core, while the remaining apples were left intact. Apples were dipped into hot caramel and stored at either 7°C or 25°C for up to 11 or 28 days, respectively. Data revealed that apples with inserted sticks supported significantly more L. monocytogenes growth than apples without sticks under both storage conditions.

Within 3 days at 25°C, L. monocytogenes populations increased >3 log10 in apples with sticks, whereas only a 1-log10 increase was observed even after 1 week for caramel-coated apples without sticks. When stored at 7°C, apples with sticks exhibited an approximately 1.5-log10 increase in L. monocytogenes levels at 28 days, whereas no growth was observed in apples without sticks. We infer that insertion of a stick into the apple accelerates the transfer of juice from the interior of the apple to its surface, creating a microenvironment at the apple-caramel interface where L. monocytogenes can rapidly grow to levels sufficient to cause disease when stored at room temperature.

No growth of L. monocytogenes occurred on refrigerated caramel apples without sticks, whereas slow growth was observed on refrigerated caramel apples with sticks. In contrast, significant pathogen growth was observed within 3 days at room temperature on caramel apples with sticks inserted. Food producers should consider interfaces between components within foods as potential niches for pathogen growth.

Growth of Listeria monocytogenes within a Caramel-Coated Apple Microenvironment

doi: 10.1128/mBio.01232-15; 13 October 2015; mBio; vol. 6; no. 5; e01232-15

Kathleen A. Glass, Max C. Golden, Brandon J. Wanless, Wendy Bedale, Charles Czuprynski


Maple Leaf Foods blows itself

Eight years after Maple Leaf Foods cold cuts laden with Listeria killed 24 Canadians and sickened another 50, the company now announces, with fanfare, it will require all of its protein, ingredient and packaging suppliers to become food safety certified to a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standard in 2017.

Audits and inspections are never enough.

Organizations, groups, awards, they’re all designed to blow the insiders.

The families of the victims probably don’t feel they were blown.

Great. Make the data public.

  • More than 225,000 farms and food manufacturing facilities are certified to GFSI recognized standards globally.

No one cares if you kill people.

Maple Leaf is doing a tap-dance to avoid substantive issues.

  • Put a warning label on your cold-cuts, especially for expectant mothers;
  • make your testing results public; and as I frequently remind my daughters.
  • stop dicking around.

Regarding your audit claims, Maple Leaf sucks.

  • safety audits and inspections are a key component of the nation’s food safety system and their use will expand in the future, for both domestic and imported foodstuffs., but recent failures can be emotionally, physically and financially devastating to the victims and the businesses involved;
  • many outbreaks involve firms that have had their food production systems verified and received acceptable ratings from food safety auditors or government inspectors;
  • while inspectors and auditors play an active role in overseeing compliance, the burden for food safety lies primarily with food producers;
  • there are lots of limitations with audits and inspections, just like with restaurants inspections, but with an estimated 48 million sick each year in the U.S., the question should be, how best to improve food safety?
  • audit reports are only useful if the purchaser or  food producer reviews the results, understands the risks addressed by the standards and makes risk-reduction decisions based on the results;
  • there appears to be a disconnect between what auditors provide (a snapshot) and what buyers believe they are doing (a full verification or certification of product and process);
  • third-party audits are only one performance indicator and need to be supplemented with microbial testing, second-party audits of suppliers and the in-house capacity to meaningfully assess the results of audits and inspections;
  • companies who blame the auditor or inspector for outbreaks of foodborne illness should also blame themselves;
  • assessing food-handling practices of staff through internal observations, externally-led evaluations, and audit and inspection results can provide indicators of a food safety culture; and,
  • the use of audits to help create, improve, and maintain a genuine food safety culture holds the most promise in preventing foodborne illness and safeguarding public health.


ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMAudits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety


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.

Poop in the field

Two new studies assess the risk of various manures in broccoli and spinach respectively.

cow.poop2In 2011 and 2012, trials consisting of experimental plots were carried out to evaluate the presence of pathogenic (Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella) and prevalence of indicator (Escherichia coli) microorganisms in broccoli fertilized with liquid hog manure or mineral fertilizers and irrigated zero, one, or two times with E. coli–contaminated water.

In 2011, results showed that E. coli contamination in broccoli heads was affected by the interval between irrigation and sampling (P = 0.0236), with a significant decrease between the first and third day following irrigation (P = 0.0064). In 2012, irrigation frequency significantly increased E. coli prevalence in broccoli samples (P = 0.0499). In 2012, E. coli counts in the soil were significantly influenced by the type of fertilizer applied, as plots receiving liquid hog manure showed higher bacterial counts (P = 0.0006). L. monocytogenes was recovered in one broccoli sample, but geno-serogrouping differentiated the isolate from those recovered in manure and irrigation water. The L. monocytogenes serogroup IIA, pulsotype 188 strain was found in six soil samples and in irrigation water applied 5 days before soil sampling.

This study highlights the link between E. coli levels in irrigation water, irrigation frequency, and interval between irrigation and harvest on produce contamination. It also demonstrates that L. monocytogenes introduced into the soil following irrigation can persist for up to 5 days.

In the second study, the authors write that concerns about the microbiological safety of fresh produce have attracted attention in the past three decades due to multiple foodborne outbreaks. Animal manure contaminated with enteric pathogens has been identified as an important preharvest pathogen source.

This study investigated the survival of Salmonella enterica in dust particles of dehydrated turkey manure and how association with manure dust may enhance the survival of salmonellae on leafy greens in the field. The survival of a cocktail of multiple Salmonella serotypes in the dried fecal material of various particle sizes (125 to 500 μm) was examined at varying moisture contents (5, 10, and 15%). Survival times of the pathogen were inversely related to moisture content and particle size of manure dust, with viable Salmonella still detectable for up to 291 days in the smallest particle size (125 μm) with 5% moisture. Association with manure dust particles increased the survival of Salmonella when subjected to UV light both under laboratory conditions and on the surface of spinach leaves in a greenhouse setting.

poop ice creamThe results of this study suggest that aerosolized manure particles could be a potential vehicle for Salmonella dispersal to leafy greens if the microorganism is present in the dry manure.



Persistence of indicator and pathogenic microorganisms in broccoli following manure spreading and irrigation with fecally contaminated water: field experiment

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 10, October 2015, pp. 1776-1924, pp. 1776-1784(9)

Généreux, Mylène; Breton, Marie Jo; Fairbrother, John Morris; Fravalo, Philippe; Côté, Caroline



Survival of Salmonella Enterica in dried turkey manure and persistence on spinach leaves

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 10, October 2015, pp. 1776-1924, pp. 1791-1799(9)

Oni, Ruth A.; Sharma, Manan; Buchanan, Robert L