Food Safety News

Subscribe to Food Safety News feed
Breaking news for everyone's consumption
Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

Suspected Norovirus at Seattle-area Wild Ginger

Sat, 12/30/2017 - 05:24

Seattle/King County Department of Public Health is investigating an outbreak of gastroenteritis with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea associated with Wild Ginger in Bellevue.

On December 26, 2017, Public Health learned of 5 ill persons from one meal party that became ill after consuming food and beverage from the restaurant on December 22. We have since identified 4 employees who experienced similar symptoms dating back to December 21.

According to health authorities, they do not have laboratory confirmation of the pathogen responsible for the illness, but symptoms are suggestive of norovirus. Often in norovirus outbreaks, no laboratory testing is done. The exact food or drink item that caused the illness has not been identified, though this is not uncommon for norovirus outbreaks where multiple food items may be contaminated.

Listeria Prompts Biscuit Warning

Sat, 12/30/2017 - 05:20

A voluntary recall has been issued for two kinds of SEG biscuits sold in Winn-Dixie grocery stores amid concerns of “possible” listeria, according to a Friday (Dec. 29) announcement by Southeastern Grocers (SEG), the Jacksonville, Fla.-based parent company of Winn-Dixie and other grocery chains.

The voluntary recall was issued due to the “possible presence of listeria monocytogenes,” the company said in the news release.

The recall includes the following products at all Winn-Dixie stores:

*SEG Buttermilk Biscuits – UPC code 3825911726 (25 oz. /12-pack case)

*SEG Southern Style Biscuits – UPC code 3825911892 (44 oz. /eight-pack case)

The recall also includes SEG and Southern Home-brand biscuits at all BI-LO and Harveys Supermarket stores, which are operated by Southeastern Grocers.

The products, regardless of the “best by” date, should be thrown away or returned to any Winn-Dixie store for a full refund, according to Southeastern Grocers.

Second Hepatitis A Positive Tim Horton’s Employee Prompts Another Vaccine Call

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 05:13

Monroe County Health Department (MCHD) has confirmed a second case of Hepatitis A in an individual who works at a local restaurant. MCHD is providing information to alert residents and guests to the possible exposure and to recommend prompt Hepatitis A vaccination or Immune Globulin (IG) treatment to potentially exposed individuals.

The diagnosed individual works at Tim Hortons Restaurant located at 404 S. Monroe Street in Monroe. Anyone who consumed food and/or drink from the restaurant between December 10, 2017 and December 28, 2017 may have been exposed.

MCHD is working with the restaurant to vaccinate all employees, determine if there are any additional cases and to eliminate any additional risk of exposure. Concerned individuals are urged to contact MCHD or their health care provider with questions.

Anyone who has consumed food and/or drink at Tim Hortons from December 10th to December 28th, should monitor for symptoms of Hepatitis A which include fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain or tenderness, nausea or vomiting, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin (jaundice). Most children less than 6 years of age do not experience symptoms. Symptoms typically appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure. Individuals with symptoms should call their health care provider and seek medical care.

Earlier, The Department is extended their free Hepatitis A walk-in clinic, through the week of December 18 through the 22 where at least 1,800 people were vaccinated after the first employee with hepatitis A was announced. The clinic was for anyone who consumed food and/or drink between November 21 and December 8 from the same Tim Horton’s location.

Hepatitis A vaccine or Immune Globulin (IG) treatment may provide protection against the disease if given within two weeks of exposure. Anyone potentially exposed to Hepatitis A should contact their healthcare provider to be assessed for vaccination or IG treatment. Hepatitis A vaccine is available from health care providers, pharmacies and at MCHD. People who have had Hepatitis A disease or have previously received two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine do not need to be vaccinated.

Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus, and it can cause damage to the liver and cause other health problems.

The most effective method to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. The Hepatitis A vaccine is now routinely recommended for children at 1 year of age. Most adults, however, may not be vaccinated, unless they did so for travel or other risk factors.

The Hepatitis A virus is most commonly spread from person-to-person by the fecal-oral route. Most infections result from contact with an infected household member or sex partners. Sometimes, infection results from food or drink that is contaminated with the virus. It is not spread through coughing or sneezing. Anyone who has Hepatitis A can spread the virus to others for 1-2 weeks prior to symptoms appearing.

Frequent hand-washing with soap and warm water after using the restroom and before handling food can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. Thoroughly preparing foods can also help prevent infection. Freezing food does not kill the virus.

Outbreak in Southeast Michigan From August 2016 to December 20, 2017 there have been 630 cases of Hepatitis A diagnosed in Southeast Michigan. Monroe County has 14 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A. Learn more about the Southeast Michigan outbreak at www.mi.gov/hepatitisaoutbreak.

For more information regarding the free Hepatitis A vaccine clinics, please call the Monroe County Health Department at 734-240-7800, Bridget Huss at 734-240-7831 or Chris Westover at 734-240-7921 or visit http://www.co.monroe.mi.us/publichealth.

Romaine Lettuce Suspected in US E. coli Outbreak

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 19:26

CDC, several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections (STEC O157:H7) in 13 states. Seventeen illnesses have been reported from California (3), Connecticut (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (1), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (2), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1), Virginia (1), Vermont (1) and Washington (1). Illnesses started on dates from November 15 through December 8, 2017. The Public Health Agency of Canada also is investigating an outbreak of STEC O157:H7 infections in several provinces. There are now a total of 41 cases of E. coli O157 under investigation. There was one reported death.  There appears to be an ongoing risk of E. coli infections associated with the consumption of romaine lettuce in Canada’s eastern provinces.

CDC is performing whole genome sequencing on samples of bacteria making people sick in the United States to give us information about whether these illnesses are related to the illnesses in Canada. Preliminary results show that the type of E. coli making people sick in both countries is closely related genetically, meaning the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified romaine lettuce as the source of the outbreak in Canada. In the United States, state and local public health officials are interviewing sick people to determine what they ate in the week before their illness started. CDC is still collecting information to determine whether there is a food item in common among sick people, including leafy greens and romaine.

Because we have not identified a source of the infections, CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food. This investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Food Safety News returns on January 2nd

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 00:06

Editor’s Note:

As 2017 draws to a close, we’d like to extend our warmest wishes to the readers of Food Safety News.  In 2018, we are going to celebrate our 9th Birthday and begin our first full decade of service.  As we approach these milestones, we’ve been working with the technical gurus at Lexblog on some changes that won’t be that noticeable, but that will improve the way our digital news sites functions.

We are going to take a break now and return with normal operations on Jan. 2nd.   We need to take these few days to help us leap into the new year of 2018.    Don’t worry, during the break, we will be monitoring for recalls, outbreaks and other food safety news that might occur.    We are not expecting much more will happen as 2017 exits the scene.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak – 25th Anniversary

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 19:59

Editor’s Note:  The following remembrance of the Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak was penned by our Publisher Bill Marler and first posted in Food Poison Journal on Dec. 26.   We are republishing it here on the eve of one of the most infamous outbreaks of all time.

In January 1993, the Washington State Department of Health launched an investigation into an uncommonly high incidence of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) among Seattle-area children. It traced the source of their illnesses back to E. coli O157: H7 bacteria that had contaminated hamburger patties sold at area Jack in the Box restaurants. In the following weeks, Idaho, California, and Nevada reported numerous cases of E. coli infection among residents that had eaten at Jack in the Box restaurants. The scope of the outbreak widened.

Ultimately, 73 different Jack in the Box locations were linked to the E. coli outbreak. The bacteria sickened over 700 people in four states (602 of them from Washington) and led to 171 hospitalizations and 4 deaths. The investigation into the outbreak eventually identified five slaughterhouses in the United States and one in Canada as possible sources of the bacteria, but the exact source of the contaminated meat, produced by the Von Corporation of California, was never pinpointed. Further investigation revealed that Foodmaker, Inc., parent company of Jack in the Box, had been warned by local health departments and its own employees that its hamburgers were being undercooked, but had decided that cooking them to the required 155 degrees made them too tough.

Brianne Kiner, nine years old at the time, suffered one of the worst of the illnesses resulting from this culinary choice.  Brianne was admitted to Seattle’s Children’s hospital days after eating a hamburger from a Redmond, WA Jack in the Box.  She developed HUS, which caused her to become puffy and jaundiced.  She began to bleed from every orifice in her body and required months if dialysis.

Brianne would eventually slip into a coma, during which doctors removed her large intestine and hooked her heart, lungs, and kidneys up to machines to keep them functioning. Though expected to die, Brianne eventually emerged from the coma, and began the slow process of recovery, to the extent she would be able to recover. Many effects of her infection were permanent, including diabetes, asthma, brain damage and future kidney problems that will eventually lead to the need for a transplant.

William Marler represented Brianne in a claim against Jack in the Box and Foodmaker, and obtained a $15.6 million settlement on her behalf, in addition to successfully resolving cases on behalf of dozens of other victims of the outbreak.

The 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat, by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and the rise of Bill Marler as a food safety attorney.

For the last 20 years, Bill has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States, filing lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Chipotle, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Through his work, he has secured over $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Botulism and other foodborne illnesses.

Among the most notable cases he has litigated, Bill counts those of nineteen-year-old dancer Stephanie Smith, who was sickened by an E. coli-contaminated hamburger that left her brain damaged and paralyzed, and Linda Rivera, a fifty-seven-year-old mother of six from Nevada, who was hospitalized for over 2 years after she was stricken with what her doctor described as “the most severe multi-organ [bowel, kidney, brain, lung, gall bladder, and pancreas] case of E. coli mediated HUS I have seen in my extensive experience.”

New York Times reporter Michael Moss won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Smith’s case, which was settled by Cargill in 2010 for an amount “to care for her throughout her life.” Linda’s story hit the front page of the Washington Post and became Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s touchstone for successfully moving forward the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010.

Bill Marler’s advocacy for a safer food supply includes petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.

At little or no cost to event organizers, Bill travels widely and frequently to speak to food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about the litigation of claims resulting from outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria and viruses and the issues surrounding it.  He gives frequent donations to industry groups for the promotion of improved food safety, and has established numerous collegiate science scholarships across the nation.

He is a frequent writer on topics related to foodborne illness.  Bill’s articles include “Separating the Chaff from the Wheat: How to Determine the Strength of a Foodborne Illness Claim”, “Food Claims and Litigation”, “How to Keep Your Focus on Food Safety”, and “How to Document a Food Poisoning Case” (co-authored with David Babcock). He is the publisher of the online news site, Food Safety News and his award-winning blog, www.marlerblog.com is avidly read by the food safety and legal communities. He is a frequent media guest on food safety issues and has been profiled in numerous publications, including the ABC News, New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.

In 2010 Bill was awarded the NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education and in 2008 earned the Outstanding Lawyer Award by the King County Bar Association.  He also received the Public Justice Award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.

Bill graduated from the Seattle University School of Law in 1987, and in 1998 was the Law School’s “Lawyer in Residence.”  In 2011, he was given Seattle University’s Professional Achievement Award.

 

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Paris prosecutors launch probe into dairy’s Salmonella problem

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 00:03

Paris prosecutors with expertise in public health have launched an investigation into a salmonella outbreak associated with an international recall of baby milk sold by Lactalis, one of the world’s largest dairies based in western France.

The baby milk recall is the largest since the melamine scandal rocked China a decade ago. Prosecutors are investigating what happened around concerns involving fraud, negligence and endangering the lives of others.

Public health officials say, 31 French infants have suffered from Salmonella infections in recent months after consuming baby milk produced by the Lactalis plant in Craon, located in Western France. All the infants recovered, but 16 did require hospital care.

The French dairy found Salmonella in the Craon plant after renovations earlier this year. It apologized to customers and recalled products in about 30 countries. The latest expanded recall includes products produced as far back as February 2016. The large-scale recall started on Dec. 10 when Lactalis recalled 7,000 tons of baby milk packets with Salmonella contamination.

Lactalis was one of the companies that moved aggressively into the Chinese baby milk market after China’s local dairies in 2008 were found using melamine, an industrial chemical, as a bulking agent in milk and infant formulas.

At least 300,000 Chinese infants were sickened, and six died as a result of the melamine scandal. Melamine caused kidney stones and other renal damage to infants.

Lactalis is one of the world’s largest dairy companies. It gained market share in China from parents more concerned about food safety than higher prices.

The family-owned company is the largest dairy group in the world with 230 industrial plants in 43 countries employing 75,000. In Europe, it is the largest in dairy and cheese, milk collection and cheese production.  In addition to Europe, its products are sold in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  It owns numerous French and international brands.  It has done business under the name of Lactalis since 1999.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

State with biggest apple crop girds against more Listeria

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 00:01

Shaken by apple recalls back East for Listeria contamination, Washington State’s large apple industry has pinned its hopes for staying pathogen free on research.

Ines Hanrahan, the post-harvest physiologist at the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, told the Capital Press that studies currently underway should help the state apple industry get the maximum bacterial reduction.

Her comments came after the Dec. 12, and Dec. 13 recalls by the Kroger and Aldi grocery store chains of apples grown in Michigan and the Southeast over concerns about possible Listeria contamination.

Hanrahan says that’s something the Washington State apple industry wants to avoid. “We are very concerned in Washington about Listeria and have been trying to do everything possible to set up processes to avoid problems,” she said.

Every state in the United States grows apples, and 29 states raise apples commercially, but Washington State produces about 70 percent of the apples in the United States. And, the Evergreen State manufacturers about 40 percent of all U.S. apple juice products.

Hanrahan says the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Washington State University, and the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California Davis are all involved in apple studies. She says these efforts will help the industry determine the best operating procedures to “get the maximum bacterial reduction.”

A Washington State apple grower, Crunch Pak, recalled sliced apples in 2013 for Listeria contamination. Then in late 2014 and early 2015, caramel apples all sourced to fresh apples from Bidart Brothers in Bakersfield, CA caused a major Listeria outbreak.

A total of 35 individuals in 12 states were sickened. All but one case required hospital care and seven people died. Bidart recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples after environmental testing found Listeria contamination in the firm’s apple-packing facility.

Hanrahan says apple growers “have no way of controlling or knowing when a potentially deadly strain enters our post-harvest environment,” but adds that they can set up extensive systems to make sure they are alerted as soon as Listeria enters storage and packing. Then she says: “we can eradicate them by thorough cleaning and sanitation programs for equipment.”

The Washington State growers are looking into various interventions–continuous flow ozone generators to controlled atmosphere storage–to bring about the highest bacteria reductions.

The apple recalls by Aldi, and Kroger so far has not been associated with any illnesses. Aldi’s removals of Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp apples involved sales after Dec. 13 at stores in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

Kroger recalled Fuji and Gala apples sold between Dec. 12 and 19 at stores in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. It’s recall included 5-pound bags of Michigan-grown apples.

Listeria is a deadly pathogen with a fatality rate as high as 40 percent with its most significant threat to young children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. In the caramel apple outbreak 11 of the 35 victims where “pregnancy-related” involving either pregnant women or new-born baby, and one resulted in the loss of an unborn baby.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

JBS recalls beef stew products made in Cactus, TX

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 21:14

On Christmas Eve,  HEB grocery stores in San Antonio opened boxes of multi-vac packages of stew meat only to find them contaminated with pieces of plastic and metal.  HEB pulled all the stew meat from its shelves in all stores and to be sure locked any sales out of its registers.

On Tuesday, the day after Christmas,  about 4,702 pounds of stew meat was recalled from the Swift Beef-JBS USA plant in Cactus, TX because of the foreign matter contamination.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said the boneless stew items found with plastic and metal contamination by HEB on Dec. 24 were produced at Cactus on Dec. 13, 2017.  Subject to the recall, according to FSIS, are:

  • Cases containing six 5-lb. bulk plastic bags containing fresh beef stew meat intended for HEB grocery store retailer re-package.  The affected case code is 69404.
  • Re-packaged various weight beef stew meat trays that also contain separately wrapped vegetables. The meat trays are marked with establishment 7231 on the side of the tray.
  • Re-packaged various weight beef stew labeled as HEB brand: Beef Stew Meat Tenderized RP, Beef Stew Meat RP, Beef Stew Meat VP, Beef Stew Meat-CR VP, Beef Stew Meat Tenderized VP, Beef Stew Meat CP, and Beef Stew Kit.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 3D” next to the USDA mark of inspection or Est. 7231 on the side of the tray. Only  HEB retail stores in Texas received shipments of the product.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

FDA responds to OIG Recall Critique

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 17:48

In August 2016, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not have an efficient and effective food recall initiation process that helps ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply. Specifically, FDA did not have policies and procedures to ensure that firms or responsible parties initiated voluntary food recalls promptly.

Today, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced improvements in the recall process.  According to Dr. Gottlieb, “the OIG reviewed a selective sample of 30 food recalls initiated from 2012 to 2015, including some very challenging ones, which occurred over this 3-year period.”

Gottlieb noted that the FDA does have mandatory recall authority, but allowed that “often the fastest and most efficient way to ensure unsafe foods are recalled quickly is by working directly with the involved companies while simultaneously providing the public with timely, accurate information that they can act on.”  On the significant step, which has been advocated by consumer groups for some time:

The FDA is examining in what situations it can help consumers get information about the stores and food service locations that may have sold or distributed a potentially unsafe, recalled food, and what company may have supplied the product. “If we’re able to disclose this information, consumers would have an easier time knowing if they might have or have been, exposed to a recalled product that could cause potential risks if it were consumed,’ the commissioner said.

In addition, in April of 2017 a team of FDA senior leaders, called the SCORE team (which stands for “Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution”) were gathered.  In Gottlieb’s view, the Score team has made recalls quicker in the following situations:

  • Lead contamination of a dietary supplement,
  • Salmonella contamination of powdered milk,
  • E. coli O157: H7 in soy nut butter, and
  • Listeria in hummus, soft cheese, and smoked fish.

The SCORE team also “initiated or helped to expedite the process for suspending the registration of two food facilities, actions that block the facilities’ ability to distribute food to the marketplace.”

Further, the Score team in 2017 “developed a new strategic plan that outlines actions to improve FDA’s recall management.” According to Gottlieb, the plan helps to standardize how the FDA assesses a company’s recall efforts and provides additional training to our staff involved in recall efforts so they can properly monitor and assess the effectiveness of a recall.

Finally, the commissioner announced that in 2018 the FDA will take additional policy steps “as part of a broader action plan to improve our oversight of food safety and how we implement the recall process.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Smoked Salmon Recalled After Listeria Test

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 17:47

Nodine’s Smokehouse, Inc. of Torrington, Connecticut is recalling Smoked Salmon 1.5 lbs, 8 oz packages. Lot numbers 40173 and 33173 because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, with high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea as its primary symptoms. In rare cases, listeriosis is fatal; it can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention. Pregnant women the very young, elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are
the most susceptible.

The Smoked Salmon was distributed nationwide in retail stores and through mail orders. The product comes in 1.5 lb and 8 oz packages with lot numbers 40173 and 33173.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The recall was initiated as a result of environmental and product sampling by the Rachael’s Food Corporation. It revealed the presence of Listeria moncytogenes
in some Smoked Salmon 1.5 lob and 8 oz packages. Distribution has been suspended while Rachael’s Food Corporation continues their investigation into the source of the problem.

Consumers who have purchased Smoked Salmon in 1.5 lb and 8 oz packages are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Nodine’s Smokehouse, Inc. at 1-800-222-2059, Monday through Friday between 9 am and 4 pm.

Listeria Recall for Fresh Pac Apple Slices

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 17:45

Detroit’s Fresh Pak Inc. Tuesday announced a lot specific recall of red/green apple slices.

It’s supplier, Jack Brown Produce Inc., requested Fresh Pak Inc. conduct a recall for the reason that they could have potentially been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although others may suffer only short‐term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with this problem.

The recalled apple slices were distributed in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin in retail stores and through distributors. A potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company Nyblad Orchards revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a random single sample that was taken from related gala apple products.

We ask retailers to remove this product immediately from your shelves and/or inventory staging areas. After removal, we ask that you destroy this product immediately.

Consumers that are in possession of any of the recalled products are urged to discard or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. For any questions or concern contact Josue Cortez at (313) 841-7911 Mon-Fri 7am-2pm eastern time.

The products come in a 2.2, 2.5, 9, and 7-ounce bags and or plastic packages as well as 3 Lb. bags and are marked as follows:

Item Description Brand Name Lot Number UPC Use BY Range: 3lb Bag Dice Red Apples None 312544,312807 None Dec 29‐ Jan 2 3lb Bag Slice Red Apples None 312542 None Dec 28‐ Jan 1 (5/2.2oz) Slice Apple Bags in clamshells Michigan Apples‐ Aunt Mid’s 312547, 312806 7122817430 Dec 28‐ Jan 1 (5/2.5oz) Slice Apples w/ grapes bags in clamshells Aunt Mid’s 312546 7122817431 Dec 31 9oz Slice Apples Container Fresh Pak Inc 312447, 312537,
312666, 312780,
312943 7122817686 Dec 17‐21 9oz Mix (red/green) Slice Apples Container Fresh Pak Inc 312448, 312538,
312781, 312944,312667 7122817687 Dec 17‐21 7oz Fruit and cheese Snacks None 312422, 312511,
312641,312755, 312918 7122817684 Dec 17‐21

Listeria is the latest pathogen to rock Scotland’s Errington Cheese

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 00:05

Two days before Christmas, Scotland’s troubled Errington Cheese Ltd. recalled all batches, all sizes, and all date codes of its Dunsyre Blue cheese because the product contains Listeria monocytogenes.

The recall notice puts Errington’s Dunsyre Blue back in the news just two months after the Crown decided not to prosecute the company for the product. Health Protection Scotland found Dunsuyre Blue was the source for a 2016 E. coli O157 outbreak that killed a 3-year old girl and sickened 25 others.

The latest Dunsyre Blue problem surfaced on Dec. 12 when Errington recalled a single batch (J9) because “routine customer testing” found Listeria in a pasteurized sample. “We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused,” Errington said.

But on Dec. 23, the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom and Food Standards Scotland announced that because further testing by Errington found Listeria in other batches, it was all recalled.

Errington put up a point of sale notices in every location selling the award-winning cheese. It asked customers to dispose of any Dunsyre Blue cheese they’d purchased and offered refunds.

Listeria causes symptoms that are much like the flu, including high temperatures, muscle aches, chills, diarrhea, and feeling sick. Rare cases of the infection can cause more severe complications, including meningitis. The elderly, pregnant women and unborn babies, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

Errington, based in Lanarkshire, has never accepted that it’s unpasteurized Dunsyre Blue was the cause of the deadly E. coli outbreak.

When it expanded the current recall to include all batches of the Dunsyre Blue product, it posted a statement on the company’s website saying it was “terribly sorry” to have made the decision “amid Listeria fears.”

Since the Health Protection Scotland report that linked them to the E. coli outbreak, Errington has produced Dunsyre Blue with pasteurized milk on new equipment.

The Dunsyre Blue cheeses involved in this recall have not yet caused any illnesses.

While it escaped criminal prosecution, Errington still has a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) and civil actions to deal with from the E. coli outbreak. The company reports spending more than $1 million to restore its name to where it was before the E. coli outbreak.

Food Standards Scotland’s management of that investigation has come in for its share of criticism. Professor Hugh Pennington, one of Britains best-known food safety experts, called that probe “a mess.” And a Committee for the Defense of Artisan Food was formed to defend Errington and prevent future injustices.

Errington was a pioneer in artisanal cheese-making in Scotland.

The incident management team investigating the outbreak found E. coli bacteria was about to contaminate Errington’s cheese production.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

FSIS inspection personnel report on “key 2017 achievements”

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 00:04

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is out with its report card of “key 2017 achievements in protecting public health, preventing foodborne illness and promoting confidence in the U.S. food supply.”

In 2017, FSIS says it inspected more than 155 million head of livestock and 9.45 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS Inspectors also reported conducting 6.9 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure that meat, poultry, and processed egg products were safe and wholesome.

“FSIS’ dedicated public servants take their public health mission seriously and work tirelessly to prevent foodborne illness,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg. “The U.S. food safety inspection system is the most reliable and trusted in the world, and we will continue to earn that trust by protecting public health and modernizing systems and processes.”

Targeting Foodborne Illness

FSIS continued its multipronged approach to combat Salmonella in fiscal year (FY) 2017. FSIS continued sampling of poultry carcasses, established new pathogen reduction standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in comminuted poultry and chicken parts. FSIS also sampled raw beef while continuing the sampling program for Salmonella in pork products to determine the presence and levels of Salmonella in five types of processed pork products.

Collaboration

FSIS continued to strengthen coordination of federal foodborne outbreak response responsibilities with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In collaboration with our partners, FSIS bolstered its approach to preventing illnesses and deaths associated with multistate foodborne outbreaks by stopping outbreaks rapidly, when they occur, and by avoiding future foodborne outbreaks. FSIS accomplished this by enhancing coordination among federal foodborne outbreak detection and response agencies, ensuring the roles and responsibilities of the different national organizations are defined and well-integrated, improving processes to stop foodborne outbreaks rapidly and communicating food safety system gaps identified during investigations to inform efforts to prevent future outbreaks.

Modernization

In 2017, FSIS continued its initiatives to modernize operations and inspection systems. FSIS continued to upgrade poultry inspection under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) through its science-based, precautionary approach poultry inspection. In 2017, FSIS continued to achieve successful conversion of poultry establishments that chose to opt-in to NPIS. FSIS regulations, which changed under NPIS rulemaking, mandate that all poultry establishments – even those that do not opt-in to NPIS – take steps to prevent contamination, rather than addressing disease after it has occurred. With NPIS, food safety inspectors are now better positioned to verify that establishments maintain efficient food safety systems by increasing food safety and sanitation verification tasks. These verifications are a more effective and efficient use of resources due to their focus on food safety-related tasks.

FSIS also enhanced its science-based approach to illness prevention with the introduction of whole genome sequencing. This technology will allow the agency to accurately identify and respond to outbreaks, enrich collaborations with other federal and state agencies and conduct active illness investigations back to the source. The organization is poised to address the 21st century’s public health challenges with the continued modernization of processes, policies, and technologies.

Siluriformes Inspection

In 2017, FSIS successfully implemented inspection of Siluriformes fish by transitioning regulatory oversight from the FDA to FSIS. Following an 18-month transition period, full implementation of Siluriformes inspection began September 1, 2017. Also, 100 percent re-inspection of imported shipments of Siluriformes fish started August 2, 2017. FSIS worked with stakeholders to identify businesses, both domestic and international, that would be impacted to provide information and training on FSIS inspection requirements to ensure a smooth transition. FSIS also worked diligently with foreign countries to provide feedback on documentation submitted by nations seeking equivalence to import Siluriformes products to the United States.

In FY 2017, FSIS protected public health by preventing the entrance of or removing over, 715,000 pounds of adulterated or ineligible imported Siluriformes product from U.S. commerce.

Foreign Country Equivalence Oversight and Import Reinspection Programs

FSIS strengthened its oversight and reinspection of products coming into the United States. FSIS conducted equivalence determinations, audited foreign country systems and reinspected imported products to ensure that all imported products are safe and wholesome for American families. In 2017, FSIS completed ongoing equivalence verification audits of 17 countries to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Currently, more than 185 establishments and 33 nations are deemed eligible by FSIS. In 2017, approximately four billion pounds of meat and poultry products came to FSIS for re-inspection from countries that are actively exporting product to the United States.

Outreach

Outreach is an important part of FSIS’ efforts to inform and educate a variety of audiences (including consumers and regulated industry) on FSIS policies, activities, and foodborne illness prevention.

In addition, our outreach is critical to our continued efforts to modernize and ensure that small and very small plants have access to resources and valuable FSIS guidance. The agency issued guidance to the industry on several critical topics, including how to label product correctly and support those labeling claims. Additionally, FSIS posted advice to further assist establishments in distinguishing whether or not a label must be submitted for approval.

FSIS provided consumer information through new and enhanced channels including Pinterest and extended hours of operation for the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline. In addition, FSIS conducted significant outreach to consumers leading up to major holidays and during weather emergencies to achieve 53 million consumer impressions.

Next Steps

“FSIS will continue to increase our use of whole-genome sequencing and develop key informational tools and resources for inspection personnel,” said Acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “We’ll continue to ensure that U.S. meat, poultry, and egg products are the safest in the world.”

FSIS currently employs more than 9,000 employees, of which over 8,000 work in federally-regulated establishments, laboratories, import establishments or in-commerce facilities.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

U.S., Canada: under-the-radar ingredient implications

Tue, 12/26/2017 - 00:03

Already the focus of two warning letters from Health Canada this year, Lithium orotate is a “questionable ingredient” used in some products for treating psychiatric disorders. However, NutraIngredients says that similar products are sold ‘south of the border’, and contain the salt mineral, but have not raised as high a concern for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Advocates of orotates claim support of the salt’s ability (as an orotic acid) to deliver trace minerals like magnesium and lithium in treating various health conditions including alcoholism. However, in a Dec. 1 recall notice, Canadian officials warned people in Canada that “the unauthorized health product ‘Smart Brain Formulations Serotonin Support’ may pose serious health risks.” According to the recall, testing by Health Canada found bacterial contamination with E. coli and the company who sells the contaminated product “currently does not hold a site license or any product licenses with Health Canada.”

Under Canadian law, dietary supplement manufacturers must register their facility and apply for premarket approval in order to receive a Natural Product Number (NPN) for each product label.

Additionally, a May 30 ‘safety alert‘ by Health Canada warned consumers about The SmartBrain Formulations products; “multiple unauthorized products labelled to contain L‑tryptophan or lithium orotate” were for sale on amazon.ca, “and may pose serious health risks”, as “L‑tryptophan (at doses higher than 220 mg per day) and lithium orotate are prescription drugs in Canada and should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare professional.”

This drug concerns people in the US as well. Specifically, in 1989, L-tryptophan (an amino acid ingredient for mood support products) contributed to 37 deaths and 1,500 serious injuries to people in the US. Since then, “properly manufactured” versions of the ingredient have been used with no issues, along with drugs that contain “lithium formulations” according to the NutraIngredients report. However, Canadian officials are concerned that “lithium orotate has also been marketed apparently without adverse events as a dietary ingredient in supplements sold in the US.”

Although there have been few accounts, one 2014 warning letter (issued to Bio-Recovery Inc. by the FDA) concerned a company that was selling a lithium orotate dietary supplement that warranted “significant violations” of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations for dietary supplements. Additionally, the firm’s website also contained “evidence of intended use in the form of personal testimonials recommending or describing the use of products for the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease”, according to the website.

Vasilios Frankos, Ph.D., Director of FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, advises the following information regarding supplements:

“Today’s dietary supplements are not only vitamins and minerals. They also include other less familiar substances such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes. Check with your health care providers before combining or substituting them with other foods or medicines. Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your healthcare providers to determine how best to achieve optimal health.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Faces of Food Safety: Meet Suresh Dua of FSIS

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 00:00

Editor’s note: This is a recent installment in a series of employee profiles being published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, republished here with permission.

Dr. Suresh Dua is a supervisory public health veterinarian (SPHV) and 39-year FSIS employee in the Raleigh district. Dua credits his longevity in the agency to his parents and to his tenacity in learning as much as he could about microbiology, bacteriology and epidemiology.

“Knowledge is very important to me and my parents taught me from a very young age, growing up in the Mhow district of Indore, India, that having an education helps you become independent,” Dua said.

Supervisory public health veterinarian Dr. Suresh Dua, third from left, and Robin Brown, right, a consumer safety inspector and inspector-in-charge, observe employees perform operational sanitation procedures in the processed product room during hog carcass fabrication at an establishment in Thurmont, MD.

Dua pursued his higher education, earning a Bachelor of Veterinarian Science in Animal Husbandry in 1965, and a Master of Veterinary Microbiology from Agra University in 1967. He chose these fields of study because he wanted to identify causes of foodborne illness with, hopes of curtailing it.

“I studied microbiology, a science that studies extremely small forms of life such as bacteria and viruses; bacteriology, which is the study of bacteria; and epidemiology, which is the study and analysis of the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. These are the three scientific approaches to identifying, understanding and hopefully preventing human foodborne-related illnesses and hazards,” Dua said.

His parents believed that attending an American university would help their son obtain his goal of earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. With their encouragement, Dua immigrated to the United States in 1972 and landed in his new hometown, Buffalo, NY. To Dua, Buffalo was a large city with foreign weather, and the living conditions were strange to him.

“The first week I arrived in the U.S., it snowed,” Dua said. “I didn’t like the cold of New York, my run-down apartment or the 40-minute bus ride to and from my job at the University of New York at Buffalo.”

After a year of work, Dua found his way back to what he loved — learning. He fulfilled his dream in 1978, when he earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Minnesota’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

That same year, Dua obtained a position at FSIS as a veterinary medical officer (VMO) in DeKalb, IL. In the years that followed, he assumed roles as a supervisory VMO, staff officer, international affairs coordinator and district epidemiology officer. Since 2004, he has been in his current role as an SPHV in Mt. Airy, MD, a city with less than 10,000 residents. Dua explains how his nearly four decades in the agency play a role today.

“I was fortunate enough to work in three different levels of the Agency over the years. I’ve been on the inspection line, in the district office and at the headquarters level. It has offered me a broad view of FSIS,” Dua said.

“All that experience is contributing to my performance in my current role as a supervisor of five consumer safety inspectors, who are assigned to nine very small red meat and poultry establishments. These establishments produce different products, such as sausages, smoked bacon, fully cooked hams, breakfast loafs, beef jerky and poultry. I’ve worked with each of these products in the past.”

As an SPHV, Dua is responsible for enforcing federal meat and poultry inspection procedures on a daily basis. This includes responsibilities associated with live animal handling, including humane slaughter oversight, as well as overseeing inspection procedures throughout the entire establishment, including processing operations. His actions help ensure a safe food supply for consumers.

Aug. 26, 2018, will mark Dua’s 40th year of service. He has no plans to retire, but looking back he says: “I really have enjoyed my career with FSIS. It has been my pleasure to work with different supervisors as they have been helpful in guiding me and keeping the focus on the Agency’s objective: protecting the public’s health by ensuring the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products. I enjoyed working for them, although, many of them have retired. I’m not ready to leave though because I still haven’t completed my mission in FSIS.”

Dua and his wife Nisha, have two sons, three grandsons and a granddaughter. Dua loves watching his grandchildren practice and play in basketball tournaments.

To keep himself fit, he takes early morning and evening walks. He enjoys Bollywood movies, and watching football — the American version — including the Super Bowl. Of all the sports, Dua enjoys cricket most.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

IG gets Bipartisan call for FSIS misconduct investigation in Montana

Sun, 12/24/2017 - 00:11

Montana’s congressional delegation wants USDA’s Inspector General (IG)  to investigate “alleged misconduct within the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and its effect on meat processing facilities in Montana.”

In signing the letter to the IG, Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte are asking for an investigation into allegations that began before any of them held federal office.

In September, the Montana Standard newspaper published a two-part series showing how the state’s small meat plants had come under vindictive harassment by a supervising FSIS inspector, veterinarian Jeffrey Legg.

One incident reported in that series was a 2006 complaint filed with FSIS by Bart Riley of Riley’s Meats in Butte, MT. The congressional delegation, one Democrat and two Republicans, told the IG how unsatisfied they are with the response.

FSIS admitted some of Riley’s allegations were substantiated. “However,” they wrote, ” FSIS did not publicly enumerate which allegations those were and what, if anything, was done to mitigate or correct the situation. Our offices pressed FSIS for additional information on this report as well as other documents pertaining to their internal review of the situation and were repeatedly told that information could not be shared publicly.”

Montana’s two senators and its only congressman say they met recently with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about FSIS inspections in their state. “We are pleased that USDA performed an additional review, but we are frustrated by the internal nature of the review and the lack of documentation provided in a transparent manner,” the trio wrote.

In asking for the IG to step in, they said: “We believe the long-running nature of this situation calls for an independent review that can be provided to the public, a task your office is best suited to perform.”

The Montana Standard series depicted how FSIS has allowed its remote “Billings District” to be a one-man fiefdom where made up Noncompliance Reports or NRs are known among meat plant managers as “Legg regs.”

The small business owners, affected Montana communities, local and state governments are all waiting for answers out of FSIS, according to the congressional delegation. And the Trump, Obama, and Bush administrations have all “failed to come up with a clear, satisfactory answer on the outcomes of investigations..” Nor have has there been any “official agency response to the alleged misconduct.”

John Munsell, who advocates for small plants through the Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement (FARE), says an IG investigation would be the first outside FSIS to ever look at what has gone on in Montana.  Munsell ran an FSIS-inspected meat plant in Miles City, MT for 34 years, and sold the family-owned business in 2005 after 59 years.

 

FDA’s adulteration watchdogs talk about food terrorism

Sun, 12/24/2017 - 00:00

FDA’s Ryan Newkirk, left, and Jon Woody work to prevent and defend against intentional contamination of food.

As part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration issued on May 27, 2016, a final rule to require domestic and foreign food facilities, with some exceptions, to address hazards that may be introduced with the intention to cause wide-scale harm to public health.

These food facilities are required to identify significant vulnerabilities and take steps to minimize or prevent them. The first compliance date is July 26, 2019.

Ryan Newkirk, senior advisor for intentional adulteration with the Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff at FDA, and Jon Woody, director of the Food Defense and Emergency Coordination Staff, talk about the new rule and what the FDA is doing to support industry compliance.

Q: Can you tell us in a nutshell what the rule is all about?

Newkirk:  Sure. The purpose of the rule is to protect food from a person or group of people who are intentionally doing something to the food to either cause illness or death on a large scale. The rule does this by requiring that certain facilities develop and implement a food defense plan.  It applies both to domestic facilities and foreign facilities that export food to the United States.

Q: Why isn’t adulteration that is economically motivated, such as substituting an ingredient for something cheaper, included in this rule?

Newkirk:  Economically motivated adulteration is very different because the goal is financial gain. We decided that addressing economically motivated adulteration worked better under the preventive controls framework, which focuses on hazards that are known or reasonably foreseeable. So the final rules on preventive controls for human and animal food address economically motivated adulteration if it can affect the safety of the food. Economically motivated adulteration that affects product integrity or quality, but not food safety, is out of the scope of those rules. Substitution for something cheaper could result in misbranding, which is subject to the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Ryan Newkirk

Q: What does a food defense plan consist of?

Newkirk: There are several main components to the plan. First, facilities must conduct a vulnerability assessment, which means finding the points in their processes that pose the greatest risk for intentional adulteration. Second, facilities must put in place mitigation, or preventive, strategies to address these vulnerabilities. Third, a system must be put in place for food defense monitoring, food defense corrective action, and food defense verification, which together ensure the system is working as intended to address the vulnerabilities. Fourth is recordkeeping.  Finally, there are training requirements. Personnel, and their supervisors, working at the most vulnerable points in a facility are required to take food defense awareness training and to have the education, training, or experience to properly implement mitigation strategies. In addition, preparing the food defense plan, conducting vulnerability assessments, identifying mitigation strategies, and engaging in reanalysis activities must be done or overseen by personnel with additional training or experience.

Q: Are there certain foods that we are targeting with these food defense plans?

Newkirk:  No, on the contrary. One food is not inherently more at risk than another. It’s the processes that are the drivers of vulnerability.

Q: Can you give me an example of a vulnerability?

Newkirk:  Yes. Examples include an open access hatch on a large, liquid food storage silo or a very large mixing vat that is open without a lid. But keep in mind that these aren’t automatically vulnerabilities—it depends on the assessment carried out by the facility.

Q: I understand that the main components of the rule stem from more than 15 years of working with industry. Does that mean the requirements are familiar to industry?

Woody:  For the most part, yes. We began focusing on food defense back in 2001, working with other federal and state agencies that protect food. Assessing vulnerabilities and putting in place preventive measures to address them are familiar steps to the food industry. A presidential directive was issued in 2004 to require FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct food defense vulnerability assessments with industry. So we’ve had some time to learn what works and what doesn’t, and industry has played a major role in that. In fact, the main requirements of the rule come from our collaborative efforts with industry.

What’s new is that this is the first time that industry is required to take these steps—that part is novel. Up to now, food defense activities have been voluntary.

Q: If the major requirements are familiar, why have some members of the industry voiced concerns about this regulation?

Newkirk:  There is concern that the costs of complying with the rule are too high when considering the remote chance of an incident happening. We know that the likelihood of an incident happening is low, and thank goodness it’s low. But it’s not zero. And a single act could lead to wide-spread harm, causing illness, death and economic disruption of the food supply. If you look at the largest outbreaks of foodborne illness, you can see what could potentially happen.

We are aware that industry has many questions regarding implementation of the rule in their facilities and the costs associated with implementation. That is why we are working on draft guidance that will provide additional information to help industry comply with the rule. We believe that the information contained in the guidance will help address many of the concerns raised by industry.

Jon Woody

Q: How are you responding to these concerns about costs?

Woody:  We’ve built as much flexibility into the rule as possible to keep costs down. This is by no means a “one size fits all” regulation. For example, we don’t specify what method must be used to conduct the vulnerability assessment. Any method is acceptable as long as it has certain elements. For example, we have identified four key activity types that FDA considers significant vulnerabilities. They are bulk liquid receiving and loading, liquid storage and handling, secondary ingredient handling, and mixing and similar activities. Instead of conducting a broader vulnerability assessment, a facility can identify actionable process steps for these specific activity types.

And we do not specify what preventive steps must be used. Companies have significant flexibility in choosing which mitigation strategies are most appropriate for them. Several years ago, we made available a free, Mitigation Strategies Database that contains examples of preventive measures.

Additionally, there is significant flexibility built into the requirements related to food defense monitoring, food defense corrective actions, food defense verification, and training.

Q: Did you visit any facilities to learn how food defense is being handled now?

Woody: Because of our long history of working on food defense, we’ve carried out many site visits —even before FSMA was enacted. We’ve seen many different types of facilities and products. Additionally, since the final rule published, we’ve continued with site visits, and our discussions with industry regarding their current food defense programs.

Q: Are there any exemptions to the requirements?

Newkirk: The law requires us to focus on the greatest risks and the areas of most concern, so we have been able to provide some exemptions to minimize the burden on industry. The rule is designed to primarily cover large companies whose products reach many people, exempting smaller companies. For example, the requirements do not apply to very small businesses averaging less than $10 million in sales per year. They do have to document that they are exempt, however. There are also other exemptions, including the holding of food, except for liquid food, and for farms.

Q: When do facilities have to comply with the requirements?

Newkirk:  Larger businesses—those that are not considered small or very small businesses under the rule—have until July 26, 2019 to comply with the requirements. Small businesses, which employ fewer than 500 people, have until July 27, 2020 to comply. Very small businesses are exempt from most of the requirements, but by July 26, 2021, they must document that they meet the requirement to be exempt. About 9,800 food facilities are covered.

Q: When can industry expect to see guidance documents? 

Newkirk: In August, we published a small entity compliance guide, and we are now working on the other guidance documents on topics such as conducting a vulnerability assessment; identifying and implementing mitigation strategies; and writing procedures for food defense monitoring, corrective actions and verification. We believe that the information contained in these guidance documents will help address many of the concerns raised by industry.

Q: What are your plans for training?

Woody: We need training for both industry and inspectors who will be checking to make sure the requirements are met. The Intentional Adulteration Subcommittee within the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance is developing food defense training resources for industry and inspectors alike. Training will include a combination of online and instructor-led formats, and we expect it to be ready by summer 2018. We’ve already initiated a series of webinars that can be viewed online  . And we are updating the Food Defense Plan Builder software, which now exists under our voluntary program.

Q: How soon after the compliance dates are reached will you begin inspecting?

Woody: When the compliance dates come, we first plan to do “quick check” inspections, which will be combined with other food safety inspections already scheduled. Inspectors will simply evaluate the food defense plans to make sure the required components are there. Our second stage of inspections will be more comprehensive and requires more detailed training for inspectors. You may have heard the phrase “educate before and while we regulate.” That certainly holds true for the intentional adulteration requirements. We believe a collaborative approach is the best approach for good compliance with the rule requirements.

For more information

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Naughty and Nice thoughts about 2017

Sat, 12/23/2017 - 00:00

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue would make a great Jolly Old Elf. In fact, he’s looked upon as Santa Claus in about 300 congressional districts where a visit from the Secretary of Agriculture is an event much like Christmas morning.

The range and depth of the USDA bag of goodies now carried by the Secretary of Agriculture isn’t unlimited, but it’s pretty damn deep. He is executing his duties more like a mayor for rural American than a mere federal department head.

Perdue’s at the top of the wrong list this year, closely followed by another federal administrator and one of the world’s top businessmen.

Thankfully, there were also elected officials and other individuals watching out for us all and working for safer food in the future.

We asked Santa for lemons and coal in these stockings

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue discusses his reorganization plans for the federal agriculture department.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue heads 2017 Naughty List for 3 reasons: The first and foremost reason is his insistence on removing the U.S. Codex office from food safety to trade. Codex is responsible for organizing multi-agency involvement in setting world food standards, which include food safety.

Second, from what we see, Perdue hasn’t lifted a finger to get the White House to nominate the next Under Secretary for Food Safety.

More than four years vacant, the USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety is the highest food safety job in the federal government, providing immediate oversight of the $1 billion — yes, that’s billion with a”b” — Food Safety and Inspection Service operations. The sub-agency of the USDA has about 8,000 inspection personnel assigned to almost 6,500 meat, poultry, egg and catfish businesses. They are the frontline of USDA’s food safety efforts.

Finally, Perdue does not seem interested in food safety. He was governor of Georgia during the Peanut Corporation of America debacle, which caused a deadly nationwide Salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands and killed nine in 2008-09. Perdue’s critics said he pretty much just kept his head down through the outbreak and ensuing criminal investigation and federal prosecution of company officials.

We always look for private sector executives who’ve created a culture of food safety and who stay continually as signs of a company that gets it. If Secretary Perdue is missing those qualities, it’s more than a Naughty problem.

There was a kerfuffle this past weekend about news reports regarding words that had allegedly been banned from the vocabulary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The original reporting was probably more nuanced, but reports airing all weekend said CDC scientists could not use phrases such as “science-based.”

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the former public health commissioner for Georgia and CDC’s new director, took way too long to set the record straight.

CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Her tardy response was consistent with reports that she is turning out to be less than a hands-on manager.

She’s even failed to show up for some of the CDC’s annual press events, like rolling out new flu shots and similar uncontroversial events. She still has financial holdings that have raised conflict of interest issues, and that issue is taking up her time.

All of which adds up to Dr. Fitzgerald getting on the Naughty list for 2017: Being in the leadership at CDC is not an easy job. We hope she does better in 2018.

We are putting Jeff Bezos on the Naughty List because as far as we can tell that’s the only penalty he’s going to suffer: He earned his spot with other bad girls and boys because he was still selling soy nut butter in September that had been recalled in March.

Laboratory tests showed people in a dozen states were infected with the same strain of E. coli as was found in the recalled products.

Bezos can get packages delivered around the world, but his mammoth Amazon operation gave us pause this year when we discovered it was still peddling recalled soy butter that had sickened 32 people, including 26 children.

We did have to wonder if an Amish farmer was selling poison soy butter from the back of a horse-drawn buggy if FDA might have moved in with their guns drawn. But we seriously doubt if FDA’s lawyers even talked to Bezos lawyers about this little infraction.

Sending the good guys wishes for sugar cookies & sugarplums

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder is on our Nice List for 2017 for his veto of a Michigan bill:  The legislation would have eliminated a training requirement for people who sell wild mushrooms to restaurants and other food establishments.

Snyder said mushroom picking is risky in Michigan because many species are highly toxic. He decided mushroom picking without training would not only not be prudent, but it could also be deadly.

That level of risk might be OK for untrained people who are eating the mushrooms themselves, but selling those mushrooms with the intent that they will be served to consumers is over the line.

Patrick Quade, founder of iwaspoisoned.com, is on our Nice List for sticking with it: We’re recognizing our friend because of the increased success of his crowd-sourced website in providing early detection of foodborne illness clusters.

Quade, an Austrailian who made his way to Wall Street, formed iwaspoisoned.com after he was stricken with a bout of foodborne illness. He left the street of finance in his dust as he raced onto the Information Superhighway. Using his own savings, sweat, and perseverance he has grown iwaspoisoned.com to be a respected, reliable source.

State and local health authorities are finding the crowd-sourcing tool can provide a reliable early warning of outbreaks as they are happening. Such early information is one of the most important factors in identifying outbreaks sooner rather in later. That translates into fewer foodborne illnesses.

IAFP Executive Director David Tharp at the 2017 annual conference in Tampa, FL.

David Tharp, executive director of the International Association for Food Protection, is on the Nice List for his bridge-building abilities: IAFP is essential for many reasons, but especially for bringing academia, industry, and government together to advance food safety.

Tharp moves comfortably in all three realms where he is known and respected. The success of IAFP is in no small part a result of Tharp’s efforts in the past 25 years to bring researchers, business people, and regulators to the same table.

Tharp and the IAFP’s Des Moines, IA-based staff annually put on food safety’s most thorough annual conference. Tharp came to the association without a food safety or science background, but his CPA and finance expertise helped grow IAFP to more than 4,000 members worldwide.

In addition to the annual conference in the U.S., the organization brings food safety events to China, Dubai, Latin America and the South Pacific.

IAFP’s next annual meeting is July 8-11 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

+++

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Venison, ‘exotic meat’ jerky generates public health alert

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 01:58

A variety of jerky produced by Katie’s Snack Foods LLC and made from venison and “exotic meats” is the subject of a public health alert from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The company, based in Hilliard, OH, distributed the products through its online outlet at www.katiesbeefjerky.com and potentially retail outlets, according to the Thursday alert.

“Consumers should be aware that the products were produced outside ODA protocols for such products and supporting documentation for safe production could not be established,” according to the alert from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA).

The implicated products carry labels including the Katie’s Snack Foods LLC label and were packaged in 1.7-ounce packages with various product codes.

Products subject to this alert include:

• Alligator Jerky Original

• Alligator Jerky Cajun Spicy

• Bison Jerky Original

• Bison Jerky Half Heat

• Bison Jerky Garlic Spicy

• Elk Jerky

• Elk Jerky Spicy

• Venison Jerky Original

• Venison Jerky Teriyaki

• Venison Jerky Spicy

There have been no reports of illness involving products addressed in this alert. Individuals exhibiting signs or symptoms of foodborne illness are encouraged to contact a physician immediately. Consumers with questions about food safety can contact the ODA’s Division of Food Safety at 614‐728‐6250.

Pages