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Faces of Food Safety: Meet Maria Frazier of FSIS

Sun, 11/26/2017 - 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.

Most people know about foodborne illnesses, but how many people have had their lives drastically affected by one? Maria Frazier, an import inspector in the Alameda district, knows three such people. Her personal brush with foodborne illness at a young age made such an indelible mark on her that she chose food safety to be her life’s work.

“When I was barely a teenager, I saw my 25-year-old cousin, Romulo, suffer for five years with trichinosis from eating undercooked pork. He would scream in pain because his head would hurt,” Frazier said. “During that time, I learned that food could cause diseases and death. Later, I saw firsthand how an inspector can help keep food safe, which began my path toward a career in food safety.”

Maria Frazier prepares to check the condition of containers in a facility in Bell Gardens, CA.

If family and friends become ill and don’t know why, Frazier strongly encourages them to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Frazier recalls two more recent incidents related to organisms that cause foodborne illness.

“I lost my uncle, Spartaco, three years ago in Ecuador because he was sickened with E. coli. He complained about his stomach hurting a lot, so I kept telling him to go to the doctor. When he finally went, which was three weeks later, he died. Before this, he was a healthy 50-year-old man. It affected me deeply,” Frazier said. “I also have a friend who lives in Spain. He thought he was having a stroke because one of his eyes was droopy. I insisted that he see his doctor. When he did, he learned he had two Trichinella roundworms and their eggs in his brain. Luckily, doctors were able to remove the worms and the eggs. My friend is doing better now.”

From South America to FSIS
Frazier credits her drive to achieve and to care for others to the wise adages she would hear her mother say about dealing with hardships while growing up in an impoverished country.

“My father died eight days after I was born and my mother taught me that when you’re on the bottom the only choice you have is to go up,” Frazier said. “Mom also taught me that in the face of adversity only the strong survived. I was a weird kid with interest in animal feces and she said that was OK.”

It took Frazier, her sister and her mother 11 years to emigrate to the U.S. from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Their new home was Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and it was there that Frazier’s food safety career began. She obtained a position as an assistant supervisor in a large poultry plant, which eventually led her to FSIS.

Her life’s calling
Her personal experiences with foodborne illnesses, along with the knowledge she’s gained in her 10 years of experience with FSIS, motivate Frazier as she performs her job duties every day.

“My re-inspection duties consist of verifying that product labels are legible and correct; package containers are not dented, damaged, swelling or leaking; and products contain appropriate certifications. I also prepare product samples for testing,” Frazier said.

“Beef from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil; chicken from Chile; pork from Poland and Mexico; processed egg products from the Netherlands and Canada; and Siluriformes fish from Vietnam and China can be found on Americans’ dinner tables on any given day or at any given time. It is my mission to keep people from getting sick, or worse.”

Frazier likens the entire FSIS workforce to superheroes. “We may not use a cape to save people’s lives, but I do believe we make a difference to the American consumer,” she said. “All the hard work that we do is worth it, if we can save just one person. I know we make a difference.”

Making food safety a family affair
Frazier considers educating Spanish-speaking consumers about being food safe an added bonus to her day job. She volunteers and conducts outreach events far and wide, and has encouraged her entire family to get involved.

“Since 2013, I have been visiting Rivera Middle School in Pico Rivera, California (close to Hollywood), speaking with students and teachers about using food thermometers and food safety, in general,” Frazier said.

Over the summer, Frazier and her husband, Kevin, an FSIS consumer safety inspector in the Alameda district, along with their kids, Wesley, 19, and Kristen, 12, volunteered to staff the USDA’s Food Safety Discovery Zone.

“We didn’t mind driving four hours each way from our home in Pico Rivera to Las Vegas, and then five hours to and from home to Sacramento,” Frazier said. “We did it because educating the public about food safety is a passion of mine, and I take the extra step to inform people about protecting their households.”

On a personal note
In her free time, Frazier enjoys searching for celebrities while visiting Hollywood. She’s had a fascination with celebrities since childhood. “Watching TV and dreaming about movie stars were the only outlets I had because I grew up in complete poverty and they allowed me to dream of something better for my life,” she said.

Frazier has spied Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Harrison Ford, Cameron Monaghan and Elijah Wood, to name a few.

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Vomit machine reaffirms need for deep clean after noro ‘event’

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 00:19

The change of seasons can bring a chance of snow for some and a chance of viruses for even more. Sharing time, meals and close spaces from Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Day all too often means sharing bugs, which don’t discriminate.

Although they’re the last living creatures on any invitation list, when pathogens make surprise appearances it’s important to know how to handle cleanup, especially if norovirus is the culprit. The highly contagious virus usually has sudden onset of vomiting as a primary symptom, which helps the bug reach travel farther and faster than other pathogens.

Research that’s been underway for a couple of years at North Carolina State University is generating data that some may find less than appetizing, but it provides further evidence for the need for specific cleanup procedures in homes, schools, restaurants, etc.

Grace Tung-Thompson’s Vomit Machine demonstrates the aerosolization of the virus that occurs when an infected person vomits. Others can ingest the virus by breathing air that has been contaminated by the process. The aerosolized virus can also land on hard surfaces, where it can live for long periods of time.

“I’ve talked to lots of environmental health specialists, retailers and foodservice food safety folks about what Grace and fellow graduate student Dominic Libera put together and many respond with a weird level of enthusiasm for the barf project,” Ben Chapman, an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, wrote recently in

Chapman added that the main question those folks struggle with is how far the virus particles travel in a vomiting event, writing “knowing this, and then cleaning and sanitizing helps limit the scope of a potential outbreak.”

So what’s the app for that?
Professor Lee-Ann Jaykus, who heads norovirus research with NoroCORE at NC State is known as The Norovirus Woman. She has said “there is no known technology that will eliminate norovirus if it’s in the air.” Jaykus believes such technology is “really, really important” but wonders “how the heck we’re going to develop it? I’m at a loss for words.”

“And norovirus can hang around for weeks, so anyone that touches (contaminated surfaces) and then puts their hand to their mouth could be at risk for infection,” Jaykus wrote in a 2015 report. Since then, cleanup recommendations have changed as the scientists’ understanding of vomiting has broadened.

So, how large of a diameter from the barf spot should be deep cleaned? In 2016 the thought was a 25-foot diameter was enough, but Lee-Ann Jaykus has been quoted this year saying 100 feet is needed.

“The best you can do is get yourself far away from a vomiting incident,” Jaykus says. “If you were in the middle of a meal at a restaurant and someone at the next table threw up, you’d probably be wise to stop eating, and to wash yourself and your clothes when you are able.”

With this, Jaykus stresses the importance of doing a “really, really good job of the cleanup.”

Commercial vomit and fecal matter cleanup kits are being used by more and more foodservice operators and schools. These kits provide the material required to clean up the mess, as well as personal protection equipment including disposable coveralls and respirator masks for the person doing the cleaning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of water to clean surfaces.

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FSVP compliance with FSMA achievable with A, B, C approach

Sat, 11/25/2017 - 00:00

Provisions of the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, were enacted in 2015. They mandate that foreign suppliers provide the same level of food safety protection for their products as domestic suppliers are required to provide for theirs.

This is needed as outbreaks of foodborne illness continue to occur both in foreign and domestically sourced foods. Under this law, importers, also known as FSVP importers, must perform a verification step to ensure that foreign suppliers of food destined for sale in the United States have complied with at least two major rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)— the Produce Safety Rule and the Current Good Manufacturing Processes (CGMPs) and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food.

FDA will hold importers legally liable for ensuring compliance among their foreign suppliers. Importers must approve foreign suppliers before bringing food into the United States. The level of scrutiny applied to the importer approval process is based on a risk assessment of any given supplier’s performance and the historical risk of the commodity, akin to a Hazard Analysis in a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.

While the traditional HACPP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) risk assessment model is complex, the FSVP makes risk assessment a straightforward process. What is required in the FSVP version of hazard analysis, which focuses on prevention, is to determine the “reasonably foreseeable hazards” based on the history of safety of the commodity, the history of the supplier meeting their own nation’s regulations, and conformance with U.S. buyers’ requirements.

To make such determinations, an importer must be a “Qualified Individual” as well as an “FSVP Importer” and must be able to read and understand food safety documents such as audits, monitoring, training records, and microbial test results. Qualifications for the person designated as the FSVP Importer are not explicitly spelled out in the rules, however, education, training and experience are mentioned.

Importers of food act as the intermediary between foreign suppliers and U.S. customers. They arrange for cross-border shipments by preparing U.S. customs filings for each food item brought into the US. The customs forms have been updated by FDA to include an entry for the “FSVP Importer” for each line item of food.

It is estimated that 15 percent of the U.S. food supply is imported, including 50 percent of fresh fruits, 20 percent of fresh vegetables and 80 percent of seafood, making the importers’ new food safety role very significant for foreign and domestic trade. For example, an importer may have to disapprove a supplier and discontinue using them, thereby preventing the supplier’s food from entry.

Placing the burden of verification of foreign suppliers’ compliance on U.S. food importers may have some unique benefits and improve public health protection, but it raises conflict of interest questions. Shifting the compliance role to importers will change how importers, suppliers, food brokers, customs brokers, manufacturers and retailers operate. The entire supply chain must communicate now, and make buying decisions considering the new FSVP regulations. How everyone in the supply chain will comply with these new laws, while protecting their business interests and maintaining transparency, remains to be seen.

Importers must be competent to make sometimes challenging decisions about their suppliers’ performance when granting entry approval.

To verify that a food item is safe to import, importers look at the hazard analysis and Food Safety Plan prepared by the supplier. The importer evaluates the plan, considering the importer’s own hazard analysis. Importers also must evaluate the supplier’s compliance with food safety laws in a food’s country of origin and research the history of reports of contamination through The Reportable Food Registry. Importers should know about past and current compliance issues with the Preventive Controls or Produce Safety rules. Perhaps most importantly, an importer must stay informed about reported foodborne illness outbreaks associated with every commodity and/or supplier, product recalls, market withdrawals, and import refusals at ports of entry.

The FSVP is both a law, and a program that importers must have in place, with policies and procedures for foreign supplier approval, evaluation, verification, and corrective actions, all of which require extensive recordkeeping.

Records are the key to compliance, and FDA will often inspect records by sending staff to the office of the registered FSVP Importer. Or, FDA can request the records be sent to them in electronic form or as paper copies.

The FSVP rule requires that the FSVP Importer be in the United States and register with Dunn and Bradstreet to obtain a unique facility identifier or “DUNS number.” The DUNS number key for filing customs forms.

It cannot be overemphasized that the FSVP Importer named on the customs record must be a “Qualified Individual” under the FSVP law, through education, training and experience, and possess the depth of knowledge needed to perform somewhat complex risk assessments at several levels of the supply chain.

Not all food importers will be comfortable in their new role as FSVP importer. Not all will have the technical and scientific knowledge and experience needed to successfully develop their own risk assessment, and assess risk assessments done by others. Additionally, the FSVP Importer must document this entire process for a variety of foods and facilities, including farms, packing houses, processors, manufacturers and distributors.

Therefore, there is a growing need for many “FSVP Qualified Individuals.” All in the food supply chain should become more familiar with the FSVP rule so they can improve compliance throughout the food industry, minimize the potential for unsafe food and protect our nation’s interests in foreign food trade.

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Miller’s Guild customers infected with unusual Salmonella bug

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 00:03

The operational status of Miller’s Guild in Seattle is unclear as county health officials apparently continue their investigation into foodborne illnesses among the restaurant’s customers, including three who have tested positive for Salmonella infections.

Seattle-King County Public Health officials closed the restaurant Tuesday, according to their initial outbreak investigation report, which they posted Wednesday.

“Environmental Health investigators plan to revisit the restaurant on Wednesday, Nov. 22, prior to reopening to ensure all of the identified risk factors have been addressed and all public health interventions were implemented to prevent further Salmonella infections,” according to the city-county health department report.

“During the field inspection (on Nov. 21), potential risk factors, such as practices that contribute to the risk of cross contamination, were identified and discussed with the owner.”

As of 9 p.m. PST Thursday, the health department had not updated the outbreak investigation report. The restaurant’s phone number was directed to a a recording indicating calls could not be received.

Public health officials did not indicate how long they have been investigating the Salmonella outbreak, which includes people from four different groups that dined at the restaurant between Aug. 15 and Nov. 3. Miller’s Guild is known for its 9-foot-long open flame “Infireno” grill.

One of the restaurant’s customers had symptoms so severe that hospitalization was required. Three customers tested positive for infections from Salmonella Braenderup, a relatively uncommon strain of the pathogen. At least another three people who were not tested are considered “probable cases” because of their symptoms and the timing of their illnesses in relation to when they ate at Miller’s Guild.

Using genetic analysis, health officials determined the victims have a “common source of infection.”

“In past years, fewer than five cases of this strain of Salmonella Braenderup were reported in King County,” according to the health alert.

Anyone who ate or drank anything at Miller’s Guild and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, chills and abdominal cramping. People are usually sick for several days and can spread the infection to others even after symptoms resolve.

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Egg man starts 3-month term as ‘responsible corporate official’

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 00:00

Austin “Jack” DeCoster

On Thanksgiving eve, 83-year-old Austin “Jack” DeCoster surrendered to federal prison authorities in Massachusetts, about 40 miles west of Boston.

DeCoster traveled from his home in Turner, ME, about 170 miles north of the “administratively secure” Federal Medical Center – Devens (FMC Devens), a unit of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The man who was once among the most significant egg producers in the United States will, for the next three months, be BOP inmate No. 02686-029.

Instead of heading the dining room table back in Maine for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner, DeCoster found himself sharing a meal with unfamiliar faces at the prison for male inmates needing specialized or long-term medical or mental health care. Among the 1,126 inmates at Devens, including 137 at the adjacent minimum security satellite camp are:

  • Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff’s 72-year-old brother Peter Madoff, serving 10 years for securities fraud;
  • 54-year-old Danny Heinrich, doing 20 years for child pornography but better known for his recent confession in the 1989 kidnapping and murder of a Minnesota boy; and
  • Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, convicted for sex-texting photos of his private parts to an underage girl.

Like son, like father
The BOP released 54-year-old Peter DeCoster on Oct. 23, after he served 90 days at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, MN. The medical or mental condition that required the younger DeCoster’s incarceration at one of BOP’s premier healthcare facilities has not been made public.

“Jack” DeCoster, however, has been entirely public about his medical needs. He asked for assignment to the Satellite Prison Camp at FCI Berlin, NH. He said it was the “closest minimum security facility to his family that would allow for meaningful visitation” and permit “consulting with a cardiologist and having certain cardiac tests performed, as recommended by his primary care provider in response to recent episodes of dizziness and weakness.”

At FMC Devens, the elder DeCoster will be under the care of cardiology specialists, and the medical center does not hesitate to take its inmates off campus for care.

His time at the prison, on the grounds of the U.S. Army’s former Fort Devens, is going to mean DeCoster will have to get used to a schedule that includes as many as six roll calls a day, including one at 3 a.m.

“Jack” DeCoster reported to the federal medical prison two years and seven months after being sentencing by a federal judge who had mixed feelings about the egg man.

“What really makes Jack DeCoster’s case unique is the fact that he is a business crime defendant who has a record of other business crimes,” said federal sentencing Judge Mark W. Bennett.

The DeCoster family corporation Quality Egg LLC along with corporate officials Peter and “Jack” DeCoster pleaded guilty in federal court in Sioux City, IA, in 2014. The plea deal was part of an agreement by which Quality Egg and the DeCosters accepted responsibility for a 2010 Salmonella outbreak that is estimated to have sickened as many as 56,000 people in the United States.

Quality Egg entered pleaded guilty to felony bribery of a public official, introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce with intention to defraud or mislead, and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. For the three-count conviction, including the felony, the corporation paid a $6.8 million fine.

The father and son fro the DeCoster family pleaded guilty only to one misdemeanor count of putting misbranded food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead. Each was fined $100,000 and together the DeCosters were charged $83,000 in restitution.

Judge Bennett added the 90-day sentences in what the DeCosters claimed was an out-of-bounds move in relation to their plea agreements.

Defense attorneys argued against the sentences in the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa, in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and all the way to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. They said that jailing the DeCosters was not an option. They’d pleaded guilty, the lawyers told the courts, as “responsible corporation officials” for an offense they had no personal knowledge about.

At sentencing, Bennett admitted as much. Sioux City’s federal judge said “it is true that there is no evidence that Austin Jack DeCoster or Peter DeCoster had actual knowledge of all of the horrendous sanitary conditions related to, and un-objected to, in the presentence report. But how could you be a chief operating officer and somebody who’s been described as a very hands-on in terms of Austin Jack DeCoster, it’s shocking to me that somebody could run a company like this and not know about it.”

Bennett gave the DeCosters the “benefit of the doubt” because there was no evidence they knew about the condition of the eggs their company shipped.

“You darn well should have known about it,” the judge said. “I don’t know how you could be chief operating officer and (not) know that this is massively circumventing food safety regulations,” Bennett said.

“You two were the captain(s) of the ship, and the ship went down.”

Judge Bennett also cited redacted parts of the government’s pre-sentencing report that show the DeCosters’ sanitation and pest control ranged from shoddy to non-existent between 2006 and 2010.

Bennett acknowledged “Jack” DeCoster as “self-man” man.

“You earned it the hard way, and you became fabulously wealthy,” the judge said, moments before adding jail time to the fines and restitution payments.

It’s fair to say “Jack” DeCoster is in prison today because he finally ended up in a federal courtroom with a judge who knew his history.

Food safety violations were only the latest in a long record of infractions that had often put “Jack” DeCoster on the opposite site of governors and cabinet secretaries. His egg empire stretched from Maine to Iowa, and both of those states in the 1990s fined DeCoster repeatedly.

Iowa labeled “Jack” DeCoster as a “habitual violator” of the state’s environmental regulations, banning him from expanding in the state. He did so anyway, keeping his interests secret until the ban expired.

Female employees at one of the DeCosters’ Iowa egg production facilities filed a sexual harassment and assault lawsuit. It cost DeCoster $1.5 million to settle. He agreed to conduct employee training.

DeCoster’s had also previously pleaded guilty to the federal offense of knowingly hiring illegals aliens in 2003. Then, 51 illegal workers were arrested at six DeCoster egg farms in Iowa in 2007, but DeCoster did not even face a probation violation.

And, two months before the 2010 Salmonella outbreak, DeCoster pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges in Maine after animal activist took undercover video of the conditions of egg-laying hens.

Bennett allowed the DeCosters to remain free while they appealed the “responsible corporate official” issue. An Eighth Circuit appeals panel voted 2-1 to uphold Bennett’s sentencing decision. When the St. Louis court declined any further review, attorneys for the DeCosters filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The DeCosters gained support from the broader business community on the issue. The National Association of Manufacturers, Cato Institute, Washington Legal Foundation, Chamber of Commerce of the United States, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America all supported the DeCosters in amicus briefs.

Jailing corporate officials who did not have personal knowledge of a crime is not constitutional, the big business interests argued. They also said the issue is ripe for the Supreme Court because rulings now vary by circuit.

However, on May 22 the U.S. Supreme Court opted to not hear the case.

It meant their issue might remain unresolved, but it’s jail time for “Jack” DeCoster.

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Hepatitis A outbreak reaches Kentucky; vaccine running low

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 00:00

Kentucky has become the fifth state to declare an outbreak of hepatitis A, reporting the 31 cases so far this represent a 55 percent increase over the annual averages for the past 10 years.

California was the first to identify an outbreak, followed by Michigan, Colorado and Utah. Outbreak updates are inconsistent across the five states, but the most recent statistics as of Nov. 21 show 1,350 cases with 41 deaths. California reported 21 deaths as of this week and Michigan has reported 20.

Though Michigan officials are referring to the outbreak there as being in “Southeast Michigan,” there are confirmed cases in other parts of the state. Most of the California cases, 553 out of 649, are in San Diego.

In Kentucky, 31 cases of acute hepatitis A, defined partially by the rapid onset of symptoms, had been confirmed as of Tuesday. Of those, 19 are in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, KY, making it the most populated and most urban county in the state. The state usually records an average of 20 cases annually, according to a health alert from the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

“… laboratory specimens from recently diagnosed cases have been sent for specialized genetic testing of the hepatitis A virus at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,” according to the Kentucky alert.

“Thus far test results match the genotype associated with an acute Hepatitis A outbreaks in California.”

Vaccination efforts
As in California, Michigan and other states, health officials in Kentucky are working to vaccinate adults, focusing on homeless people and substance abusers. Since its approval in recent years, most children have received the hepatitis A vaccine as part of standard preventive care, so adults are generally considered at higher risk of contracting the infection.

In California about two-thirds of confirmed victims are substance abusers and/or homeless. In Michigan about three-fourths of confirmed cases fall into those categories. The remaining cases in both states and a number of victims on other outbreak states are neither homeless nor substance abusers.

San Diego County alone has administered more than 100,000 doses of hepatitis A vaccine in California. For at least three months, health officials there have been strategically scheduling vaccination efforts in areas with large numbers of homeless people to reach those most at risk of contracting the viral infection.

A similar plan is in the works in Kentucky, according to state Epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Ballard of the Department of Public Health (DPH).

“DPH is working with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and other local health departments to develop an emergency vaccine distribution plan for the area most impacted by the outbreak,” Ballard said in the Kentucky health alert.

In addition, DPH is activating the State Health Operations Center to Level 3 status to help coordinate the public health response in Kentucky.

CDC says vaccine supplies ‘constrained’
Federal officials have been working with state and local health departments for several months to address the need for the hepatitis A vaccine. Local media outlets in several parts of the country have reported that public health officials are struggling to secure enough of the vaccine to meet needs.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has included updates on its vaccine supply website, posting “notes” in mid-October and Wednesday this week. Both notes state that demand for the hepatitis A vaccine for adults has “increased substantially over the past six months.”

The two CDC vaccine supply notes are virtually identical, citing efforts by the federal agency to work with states to “provide guidance about how best to target vaccine distribution.”

“In addition, U.S.-licensed manufacturers of adult hepatitis A vaccine are exploring options to increase domestic supply and are working collaboratively with CDC to monitor and manage public and private vaccine orders to make the best use supplies,” according to the CDC vaccine supply update this week. “Of note, the constraints described in this footnote do not apply to the pediatric hepatitis A vaccine supply in the U.S.”

Advice to the public
Other than vaccination, the best way to keep from contracting hepatitis A infection is to wash your hands using warm water and soap, to handle uncooked food appropriately and to fully cook food, according to the Kentucky health alert.

“Always wash your hands before touching or eating food, after using the toilet and after changing a diaper. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers,” Kentucky officials recommend, echoing advice offered in recent months by federal, state and local officials across the country.

“The virus is found in the stool of people infected with hepatitis A and is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth, even though it might look clean, that has been contaminated with the stool of a person infected with hepatitis A.”

Anyone with symptoms of hepatitis A should seek medical attention. Anyone who has had close contact with someone infected with the virus should also seek medical attention to determine if they should receive the post-exposure vaccine.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark-colored urine, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea and fever.

Not everyone with the acute hepatitis A virus infection will develop symptoms, however, if symptoms do develop, they may include fever, jaundice or yellowing of the skin, vomiting, fatigue, and grey-colored stools.  Persons with symptoms should seek medical care for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

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Briefly: Venison jerky — Allergen recalls — Shellfish safety

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 00:41

Every hour of every day people around the world are living with and working to resolve food safety issues. Here is a sampling of current headlines for your consumption, brought to you today with the support of Alchemy Systems.

Allergens top reason for recalls
Undeclared food allergens found in food products have climbed 19 percent, for a total of 106.6 million food units recalled during the third quarter of 2017.

“It is a growing concern because as the number of allergen-caused recalls have increased, so has the number of people with food allergies in the U.S.,” said Mike Good, vice president of Stericycle Expert Solutions, which tracks recalls in the United States.

However, FDA food recalls declined 11 percent during the quarter, for a total of 158 recalls. A decrease in food recalls would normally be positively received, but given the volume and severity of these recalls, the increase of allergen-related cases are concerning, according to the Stericycle report.

“Allergens continue to be a leading cause of food recall activity, and manufacturers still struggle to find a solution.” The CDC reports 30,000 emergency room treatments and 150 deaths each year due to food allergies.

The FDA reported that the top allergens from Q3 2016 through Q3 2017 were milk, nuts, soy, and wheat.

The number of pounds of food recalled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture dropped (by 27 percent for the quarter, with allergens accounting for 62.5 percent of the agency’s recalls.

Red dye helps gauge shellfish safety
The Washington State Department of Health, along with other public health agencies, are scheduled to perform a dye test Dec. 1 through 4, to identify areas where pollution is so severe that shellfish are not safe to eat.

The dye is not harmful to people, marine life, or the environment, according to the state department. However, the red dye will that will be added to treated wastewater from the main treatment plant in Shelton, WA, and will likely be visible in Oakland Bay and Hammersley Inlet the first day of the testing period.

Monitoring stations near Shelton will be used to track the wastewater and measure dye levels in order to help the DOH determine pollution levels that indicate the safety of shellfish.

Oh deer, what can the matter be
Deer hunting season brings fresh venison for the freezer, canned venison for cupboards, and, an increased risk for foodborne illness. According to the Michigan State University Extension Service, some of the lesser-known venison preparation precautions involve jerky.

“E. coli is a bacteria that lives in the guts of deer and can get transferred to the meat during field dressing,” according to the extension service. “Parasites are living organisms that live in many wild game species and include things like tapeworms and Trichinella.” Proper venison handling is essential for preventing food poisoning from these pathogens.

The extension service recommends the following three-step process for preparing venison as jerky:

  1. Freeze, at 0 degrees F, the meat in pieces less than 6 inches thick, for a minimum of 30 days. Freezing helps kill certain parasites and their eggs.
  2. Steam or roast the meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. This will reduce the risk from E. coli.
  3. Place the meat in a 140 degree F pre-heated food dehydrator for 10 to 24 hours.

Although steps 2 and 3 can be switched in order, the USDA adds that E. coli can become heat-resistant if dehydrated at lower temperatures recommends that venison be heat treated prior to dehydrating.

Jerky can be sealed in containers at room temperature for a maximum of two weeks. Freezing jerky can increase its shelf life.

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CDC says all Udder Milk customers need medical treatment

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 00:03

Anyone who consumed raw milk or raw milk products from Udder Milk in the past six months, especially pregnant women, should immediately seek medical care and start antibiotic therapy for brucellosis.

The Tuesday warning from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the strongest yet in a series of state and federal alerts about unpasteurized milk sold by Udder Milk, an apparent distributing business based in New Jersey.

Public health investigators have not yet been able to find out what dairies supply Udder Milk. That is complicating traceback efforts and making it impossible to narrow the number of people potentially exposed to Brucella bacteria in the suspect milk.

“Because health officials have no direct way to let people know they may have drunk contaminated milk, everyone who consumed milk from Udder Milk in the past six months should receive antibiotics now to avoid having long-term health effects from the bacteria,” said Dr. William Bower, team lead for the CDC group that investigates infections from Brucella bacteria.

State officials in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island are working with the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on the investigation. The FDA reported that attempts to contact the operators of Udder Milk have been unsuccessful.

People who drank or ate raw dairy products from Udder Milk may have been infected with a rare, serious bacterium called Brucella abortus RB51, according to the CDC.

“Until more information is available about which farms may be supplying contaminated milk or until officials can test milk from the farms, CDC recommends that anyone who drank raw milk or consumed raw milk products from Udder Milk in the past six months visit their doctor for antibiotics to prevent illness,” the Tuesday warning said.

Multi-drug resistant strain of Brucella
The strain of Brucella abortus RB51 — which CDC confirmed to have infected at least one person in New Jersey who drank unpasteurized, raw milk from the Udder Milk company — is resistant to more than one “front-line” antibiotic. That makes it even more important for everyone who consumed unpasteurized Udder Milk products to immediately seek medical attention, according to the CDC.

“… people who consumed raw milk from Udder Milk should tell their doctor that they may have been exposed to this particular Brucella strain. Doctors can learn more about testing patients for RB51 and which antibiotics can prevent or cure infection at,” the CDC advised.

In addition to seeking medical attention, anyone who consumed raw products from Udder Milk or gave them to their children should check daily for fever for 30 days after they last ate or drank anything from Udder Milk. They should watch for other brucellosis symptoms for six months.

Symptoms can include muscle pain, lasting fatigue, arthritis, depression and swelling of the testicles. Untreated Brucella RB51 infection can result in long-term health problems like arthritis, heart problems, enlargement of the spleen or liver, and in rare cases, nervous system problems like meningitis.

Brucella abortus RB51 can cause severe illness in young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. It can cause pregnancy complications, including miscarriages.

People in at least four states at risk
Federal law prohibits the interstate sale of unpasteurized dairy products, but as recently as this past weekend, the Udder Milk website showed delivery locations in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

It is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in New Jersey. In New York it is illegal to sell it anywhere other than the farm where it was produced. Rhode Island allows the sale of raw goat milk, under strict licensing regulations. Connecticut allows on-farm and retail sales of raw milk but has specific licensing and inspection regulations.

New Jersey’s Department of Health ordered Udder Milk — self-described as a “co-op on wheels” — to cease and desist its illegal sales of raw milk on Nov. 9. The business appears to have continued operating, according to a notice from the FDA on Friday evening.

Rhode Island officials issued a similar cease and desist order for Udder Milk on Nov. 15. New York officials followed suit on Nov. 17.

The Udder Milk company hit public health radar screens in late September when a New Jersey woman became ill after drinking raw milk from the company. CDC confirmed her illness was Brucella RB51 in late October.

The New Jersey patient is the second known domestically acquired illness caused by Brucella RB51 in raw milk in the United States this year. The other was in Texas in July and was traced to the K-Bar Dairy near Paradise, TX.

The Texas and New Jersey incidents are not connected, according to federal officials. However, Texas officials have been working with the CDC and several other states because of reports of illnesses with symptoms consistent with brucellosis among people who drank raw milk from K-Bar.

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UK helps food, beverage businesses defend against attacks

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 00:01

Businesses involved in the food and beverage industries need to understand what motivates people to sabotage their products, according to the latest version of a 58-page guidance document issued by the government of the United Kingdom.

Published earlier this week by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the British Standards Institute, the revised guidance for industry suggests how food and beverage businesses might protect themselves from deliberate attacks. It is the fourth version of the U.K. guidance document, which was first issued in 2008.

To get manufacturers thinking about how to prevent attacks, the guidance document suggests they consider the motivations of those with the potential to do harm.

Individuals with extortionist, opportunist, extremist, irrational, disgruntled, malicious or professional criminal motivations are often among those with harmful intentions. The guidance says the type of threats may vary and may include economically motivated adulteration, malicious contamination, extortion, espionage, and counterfeiting.

The food safety and standards agencies used actual cases studies to show how the food supply has been tampered with and otherwise harmed in recent years. Among the first ten case studies were:

Case 1: In 2016, customs officials in Nigeria confiscated 2.5 tonnes of rice which they suspected was made from plastic.

Case 2: Olive oil has been a frequent target for adulteration, often by other vegetable oils. In 2017 Italian authorities disrupted an organized crime ring that was exporting fake olive oil to the United States. Similarly, Brazilian officials reported that a very high proportion of olive oils tested did not meet the quality standards required by their labeling.

To view a larger version of this graphic, please click on the image.

Case 3: Spanish police have accused a beef burger manufacturer of using minced pork and soya to increase the perceived meat content of their products for many years. It is not clear whether the burgers actually contained enough beef to satisfy regulations.

Case 4: In 2014, the Kenyan Dairy Board claimed that hawkers were putting lives at risk by adding the preservatives formalin and hydrogen peroxide in a what officials described as a “probably futile” attempt to extend the shelf life of milk.

Case 5: Staff at a European meat packing company felt, mistakenly, that they could avoid a product being condemned for contamination from foot and mouth disease by covering it with disinfectant.

Case 6: In 2005, a major British bakery reported that several customers had found glass fragments and sewing needles inside the wrappers of loaves.

Case 7: In 1984, the Rajneeshee sect in Oregon attempted to affect the result of a local election by contaminating food in 10 different salad bars, resulting in 751 cases of food poisoning from Salmonella.

Case 8: In 2013, a major soft drink supplier was forced to withdraw product from a key market when it was sent a bottle that had had its contents replaced with mineral acid. The attackers included a note indicating that more would be distributed to the public if the company did not comply with their demands.

Case 9: In 2007, a bakery found piles of peanuts dumped in its nut-free factory. It withdrew products and closed for a week-long deep cleaning to re-establish its nut-free status.

Case 10: In 2009, a former police officer was convicted of extortion after contaminating baby food with glass and demanding money from the multi-national manufacturer of the product.

The U.K.’s user-friendly guide has been published to help provide advice to businesses on the steps they can take to strengthen resilience in their operations to protect against a range of potential risks.

The latest version of the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) guidance titled: “PAS 96:2017 Guide to Protecting and Defending Food and Drink from Deliberate Attack,” has been jointly sponsored by the FSA and the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It uses risk management strategies which can be adapted to operations of all sizes at different points in the supply chain. It also provides advice on how businesses can detect potential vulnerabilities and the steps that they can take to mitigate them.

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18.5 tons of Trader Joe’s chicken, turkey salads recalled

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:50

Green Cuisine is recalling 18.5 tons of Trader Joe’s deli salads because of consumer complaints of hard silica and glass fragments in the turkey and chicken salad products.

The individual-serving salads have use-by dates through today, according to the recall notice on the USDA’s Food Service and Inspection Service (FSIS) website. Green Cuisine of San Fernando, CA, distributed the salads to retailers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana,
New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

“Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase,” according to the recall notice.

All of the recalled chicken and turkey salads have the establishment number “P-40299” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection on their labels.

Consumers can identify the recalled products by looking for the following label information:

  • 10.5-ounce clear plastic individual serving packages containing “Trader Joe’s White Meat Chicken Salad with celery, carrots and green onions” with “Use By” dates from Nov. 10-21;
  • 11-ounce clear plastic individual serving packages containing “Trader Joe’s Curried White Chicken Deli Salad with toasted cashews, green onion and a bit of honey” with “Use By” dates of Nov. 10-21; and
  • 10.25-ounce clear plastic individual serving packages containing “Trader Joe’s Turkey Cranberry Apple Salad Turkey Breast Meat With Sweet Dried Cranberries, Tangy Green Apples, Pecans And Sage” with “Use By” dates of Nov.10-21, 2017.

The FSIS has not received any reports of injury or illness from consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

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New York officials warn against raw milk from Udder Milk

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:31

New York health and agriculture officials are warning the public to not buy or consume unpasteurized, raw milk from Udder Milk in New Jersey because of the danger of contracting an antibiotic-resistant form of food poisoning.

Federal law prohibits transporting unpasteurized milk across state lines for sale. New York law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized, raw milk except for “on-farm” direct-to-consumer sales. New Jersey and Rhode Island have already ordered the Udder Milk company to cease and desist its “illegal sales” of unpasteurized milk.

“A New Jersey resident was recently diagnosed with a disease called brucellosis after her reported purchase of raw milk from a home delivery company named Udder Milk in New Jersey,” according to the public health alert from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“Drop off locations for the purchase of raw milk and other products from Udder Milk have been identified in New York City and Long Island.”

No confirmed illnesses in New York have been linked to raw milk from the Udder Milk company. However, state officials warned of the serious risks that come with consuming unpasteurized milk and products made with it.

Pasteurization involves heating raw milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time in order to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites including Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella. Raw milk also has been found to carry the pathogens that cause typhoid fever and tuberculosis.

“Pasteurization standards are in place to ensure the public’s health, but it’s important for New Yorkers to understand the dangers of raw milk and avoid consumption,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in the public alert.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in the alert that the department is working with other states and federal officials on the investigation. Investigators are working to find out what diaries are supplying raw milk to the Udder Milk company.

“… we believe Udder Milk has delivered raw milk illegally in New York. As we continue to collaborate with our federal and state partners in this investigation, we want to alert New Yorkers to the potential dangers of purchasing raw milk from this company,” Ball said in the public health alert.

New Jersey officials previously announced a person tested positive in late October for a rare bacterial infection caused by Brucella RB51, which is resistant to antibiotics. It was the second U.S. case of Brucella RB51 infection this year associated with raw milk.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is investigating a separate case connected to a dairy company in Paradise, TX, that also sells raw milk products. Federal officials do not believe the Texas case is related to the New Jersey case, though no definitive information has been released.

A health advisory is scheduled to be distributed to New York City area healthcare providers and laboratories to raise awareness of the confirmed case in New Jersey and remind doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms of Brucella infection.

While primarily passed among infected animals, eating or drinking Brucella contaminated raw milk products can cause human infection. Brucellosis can cause a range of symptoms including fever, sweats, chills, weight loss, headache, fatigue and muscle and joint pain.

Symptoms may appear up to six months after exposure. In severe cases, infections of the bones, joints, reproductive organs, central nervous system or lining of the heart may occur. The infection also can cause fetal loss in pregnant women.

People who experience symptoms and may have consumed raw milk should see a doctor right away.

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Company dinner blamed for illness outbreak in Georgia

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:03

Hundreds of people in Northwest Georgia became sick after eating a catered company Thanksgiving dinner in recent days according to local news reports out of Bartow County.

Local and state public health officials have confirmed that they are investigating an apparent foodborne illness outbreak related to a two-day catered event this past week at the Toyo Tire plant in White, GA.

“While we suspect this is a foodborne-related outbreak, that hasn’t been confirmed. Cause of the outbreak is not yet known,” according to a Monday statement from the Georgia Department of Health. “We know of two hospitalizations in Bartow, but there may have been more. We are working with Toyo (human resources) to determine how many people potentially may have been affected.

“Bartow County Health Department environmental health specialists are investigating the caterer’s food preparation and handling practices. We are investigating if there may have been other sources of food at this event and if the event caterer may have provided food to other locations.”

The public health agencies did not name the caterer, but posts on the Bartow Discussions Facebook page indicate a local Italian/pizza restaurant catered the event.

Several local media outlets reported that 1,800 people attended the company dinner, which took place over two days. Some of those reports, as well as comments on the Bartow Discussions page say hundreds of people have reported symptoms consistent with Salmonella poisoning.

The public health “situation update” posted Monday reported lab tests are pending. They hope to know this week if a foodborne pathogen such as Salmonella or Campylobacter is the cause of the illnesses.

In the meantime, Georgia health officials are urging anyone with symptoms of food poisoning to seek medical attention and tell their doctors about possible exposure to a foodborne pathogen. The situation update listed the following symptoms to watch for:

  • High fever with a temperature over 101.5 degrees F, measured orally;
  • Blood in stools;
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping fluids down, which can lead to dehydration;
  • Signs of dehydration, including a marked decrease in urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up; and/or
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than three days.

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Disney, AIG head into arbitration on ABC’s settlement with BPI

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 00:02

A federal judge has ordered AIG Specialty Insurance Co. into arbitration with The Walt Disney Co. in a dispute about a $25 million liability policy held by the ABC television network, which Disney owns.

Disney wants to tap ABC’s  insurance to partially offset its payout to Dakota Dunes, SD-based Beef Products Inc. (BPI). The payout is part of an out-of-court settlement in a defamation lawsuit BPI filed against the television network’s news division and reporter Jim Avila.

Neither Disney nor BPI disclosed details of the settlement, but Disney’s financial filings with Securities and Exchange Commission show the payout might have been as much as $177 million.

BPI filed the civil action after ABC’s 2012 news reports about lean finely textured beef, which repeatedly called the product “pink slime.” The parties settled midway through a jury trial in June in South Dakota’s state court.

Disney and AIG engaged in non-binding mediation until about Sept. 1 without agreement. After that, Disney asked the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to compel AIG to proceed with arbitration. AIG countered with a 257-page complaint in the Supreme Court for New York State.

AIG claims the ABC defendants are not eligible to make claims against the policy for any malicious act, error or omission. U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu ordered both parties into arbitration at JAMS Los Angeles, a well known commercial dispute resolution service.

In the New York state court, AIG wants a decision to end arbitration and a ruling that the policy is not required to pay any part of the settlement.

In the confidential out-of-court agreement, BPI and ABC Television settled what could have been a $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit. The case gained national attention, as had the news reports that spawned it.

New York Times reporter Michael Moss was the first news person to report the phrase “pink slime.”

After a 2009 New York Times article quoted a USDA official who referred to BPI’s lean finely textured beef (LFTB) as “pink slime,” numerous other news outlets repeated the phrase.

The ABC legal team pointed to those other reports, contending BPI’s demise was well underway before ABC aired its news stories in 2012. McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell stopped using LFTB in 2011. They had been BPI’s three largest purchasers.

However, BPI’s civil lawsuit claimed ABC News’ use of the term “pink slime” constituted defamation, partly because of the number of times the network and reporter Avila used the two-word phrase. BPI’s legal team counted more than 350 occasions on which ABC used the phrase during a 27-day period in 2012.

Ultimately, three BPI closed three processing plants. Hundreds of its employees lost their jobs. BPI sued under South Dakota’s agriculture defamation law, which provides for triple damages. A dozen other agricultural states have similar statutes.

Before the settlement, the jury had only heard from BPI’s witnesses, causing Avila to express regrets that the proceedings ended before he could tell his side of the story.

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FDA posts alert for Puerto Rican poultry for lack of inspections

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 20:36

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) late Monday issued a public health alert to inform consumers that 6,907 pounds of chicken products produced by Puerto Rico’s Productos Dany Inc. may contain products that have been recalled because they contain previously recalled ingredients.

These products were imported by the Puerto Nuevo-based Trafon Group but were not presented for FSIS re-inspection and were subject to FSIS Recall 123-2017 on Nov. 16

The not ready-to-eat chicken products were produced and packaged on various dates from Oct. 30, through Nov. 7. The following products are subject to the public health alert:

  • 6.72-lb. plastic wrapped cases containing 24-count of individually wrapped “Productos Dany Inc., Cheese Dog” with lot code(s) 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 309 or 310.
  • 9.10-lb. plastic wrapped cases containing 24-count of individually wrapped “Productos Dany Inc. Doggie Pizza” with lot code(s) 302, 304, 305, 306, 309 or 310.

The products bear establishment number “P-45932” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in Puerto Rico.

FSIS Inspection Program Personnel were gathering distribution information for FSIS Recall 123-2017 when the problem was discovered.

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

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare all raw and not-ready-to eat meat and poultry products, including fresh and frozen. These foods should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer that measures the internal temperature.

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Casa Sanchez expands guacamole recall for Listeria risk

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 20:07

Casa Sanchez of Hayward, CA, has expanded its recent recall of a limited amount of guacamole to include all of its “Real Guacamole” and “Spicy Guacamole” products  because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The initial Nov. 16 recall involved only select lot numbers of the “Real Guacamole” distributed in the San Francisco Bay area.

The expanded recall covers products distributed to retail stores throughout California, Nevada and Hawaii.  Most of the recalled products were distributed in 9-ounce, clear plastic containers. The products should be discarded or returned to the grocery store where purchased for a full refund.

No illnesses have yet been reported in connection with the recalled products, and no consumer complaints have been received.

“Some of this product is beyond the expiration date and is no longer available for sale in stores,” according to the expanded recall notice.

The potential contamination was identified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after random sample testing found Listeria monocytogenes in two sampled packages.

Listeria is a microorganism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in pregnant women, fetuses, young children, frail or elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled guacamole and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should immediately seek medical attention. They should their doctors about the possible exposure to Listeria to that the proper diagnostic tests can be performed.

It can take up to 70 days after exposure to the bacteria for symptoms to develop. Consequently, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled guacamole should monitor themselves during the next two months for symptoms.

To identify the recalled guacamole, consumers should look for expiration dates of 11/10/2017 through 12/19/2017 on white stickers on the bottom label of the containers. Also, the following label information can be used to to identify the recalled guacamole:

UPC numbers LOT numbers PRODUCT SIZE 0 78732 00412 2 276, 277, 278, 279, 282, 283, 284, 285,
289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 296, 300, 303,
306, 310, 313, 317, 318 Real Guacamole 9 OZ 0 78732 00426 9 276, 277, 278, 284, 285, 289, 291, 296,
310, 313, 318 Spicy Guacamole 9 OZ 78732 00431-3 275, 276, 285, 289, 313 Real Guacamole 9 OZ


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Don’t be a turkey, practice food safety for Thanksgiving meals

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 00:00

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than 45 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving Day. That’s more than 45 million opportunities for Food poisoning, not even counting side dishes.

Proper handling and cooking can prevent foodborne illness from spoiling a table of food, family, friends, and fun. Tips and tricks for a successful turkey day aren’t just for the kitchen, though


Thirsty? Do not drink water, coffee, tea or anything with ice on a plane. In an Environmental Protection Agency study, one in eight planes do not meet water safety standards. If you or your relatives are flying in for a bit of bird, stick to bottled water you buy at the gate.

Tray tables are another possible pitfall. Do not eat directly off the tray table; In‘s discussion of a National Science Foundation study, tray tables house almost 10 times more bacteria than the flusher for the toilet. Use disinfecting wipes on surfaces once you buckle up, or better yet, eat out of the package or off a napkin.

Turkey talk 

Whether your turkey is at the top of your shopping list, or in your freezer, proper thawing and preparation can make or break your Thanksgiving feast. Turkey, like other meat, should never be defrosted on the counter top. The refrigerator is the safest method for thawing frozen turkey, which needs 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight. Once the turkey thaws it should be cooked within 1 to 2 days.

Turkey tub?

Wash your hands, not your turkey! Really, it does more harm than good. According to the USDA, 68 percent of consumers wash their poultry in the kitchen sink.

“Research shows that washing meat or poultry can splash bacteria around your kitchen by up to 3 feet, contaminating countertops, towels and other food.” The only way to eliminate bacteria is to cook your turkey to the correct internal temperature.

Thermometers matter

To view the entire infographic on turkey food safety, from freezer to leftover status, click on the image. Courtesy of the USDA, FDA and Ad Council

Always, always, always take the temperature of the turkey. No matter the cooking method, the only way to kill all bacteria is by cooking the turkey to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.

The turkey’s temperature should be taken in three areas to make sure the entire bird is done: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh. All three of these locations must reach 165 degrees F. If one does not, continue cooking until all three locations reach the correct internal temperature.

Two-hour rule

Mind the Danger-Zone.  All perishable foods should be tossed after sitting out for longer than two hours at room temperature. After two hours, these foods reach the “Danger Zone” of temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees where bacteria multiplies the quickest. Food sitting in the Danger Zone could be eaten by unaware guests, causing foodborne illness.

Tupperware tidbits

Turkey can be sliced into smaller pieces for the refrigerator along with other perishable items like potatoes, gravy and vegetables. With proper storage practices, leftovers can stay safe in the refrigerator for four days. View the USDA’s refrigeration guidelines here.


Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, Purdue Extension educator in Elkhart County, suggests planning a preparation “timetable.” Such a plan starts by cooking foods that can be prepared well in advance and then frozen. Next, prepare dishes that can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or so. Save the most perishable foods to make on Thanksgiving Day.

“Consider the number of guests, the menu and the quantities of food. Be sure there is plenty of refrigerator space, heating units and hot serving to maintain correct temperatures. I encourage you to extend cold storage by cleaning out the refrigerator,” she recommends.

Insulated coolers packed with ice are a great option for day-of storage, or if food is being transported to another location. They can keep foods cold for several hours.

Tempting treats 

Last, but not least…

Pet owners shouldn’t give in to those big doggie eyes or purrs of affection. It can be tempting to feed food off the table to begging or patient pets, but such treats could send your furry friends to the hospital. Remind your family and guests that the following popular Thanksgiving foods are a “no-no” for animals:

Turkey skin and bones — swallowing can splinter in the throat, and fatty turkey skin can cause gastrointestinal distress and life threatening inflammation in the pancreas.

Turkey twine — string can cause choking, block intestines and carry salmonella bacteria.

Corn on the cob — the cobs can cause bowel obstruction, which requires surgery.

Garlic and Onions — damage red blood cells in dogs, which leads to anemia. Common, often delayed, symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, and pale gums.

Grapes/Raisins — poisonous to dogs, can shut down their kidneys.

Gravy and trimmings — high fat content can cause gastrointestinal distress and life threatening inflammation.

Bread dough — yeast can continue to rise in a dogs’ stomachs, casuing bloating or a twisted stomach. Ethanol, a byproduct of fermenting yeast, can also be quickly absorbed into your dog’s blood stream and cause alcohol poisoning.

Chocolate — contains a chemical called theobromine, which dogs cannot metabolize. Small amounts will give your dogs vomiting and diarrhea, but chocolate in large quantities can produce seizures, muscle tremors, irregular heartbeats and sudden death.


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Supplement maker warned about insanitary conditions, labels

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 00:00

A dietary supplement manufacturer is on notice from the FDA because the firm’s products were prepared, packed, or held under conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to heath.

Staff from the Food and Drug Administration inspected the Ixonia, WI, location of Create-A-Pack Foods Inc. from Jan. 23 to April 20, and discovered  “serious violations” of the Current Good Manfacturing Practice (CGMP) regulation for foods, according to a Nov. 2, warning letter, made public by the FDA in recent days.

Additionally, review of the firm’s product labels resulted in misbranding violations. “We conclude that your Herbal Cleanse 5 Day Cleansing Program Dietary Supplement boxed kit and its bottled components Herbal Cleanse Intensive Cleansing Blend and Herbal Cleanse Precleansing Blend products violate section 403 of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 343, and regulations implementing the food labeling requirements of the Act,” according to the letter sent to Glenn M. Cochrane, president of Create-A-Pack Foods Inc.

Specifically, FDA’s Division 1, West Director Michael Dutcher, noted the following observations logged during the inspection:

  • The firm used the ingredient “burdock root extract” that exceeded their microbiological specifications in the manufacture of their Herbal Cleanse Precleansing Blend and Herbal Cleanse Intensive Cleansing Blend Dietary Supplement products.
  • The firm used the ingredient nettle leaf extract lot in the manufacture of their Herbal Cleanse Precleansing Blend Dietary Supplement and Herbal Cleanse Intensive Cleansing Blend Dietary Supplement products, but the ingredient did not meet its established component specification for identity.
  • The firm released into distribution Herbal Cleanse Precleansing Blend and Herbal Cleanse Intensive Cleansing Blend products, for which the nettle leaf extract lot was found to not meet its identity specification because testing of the component on two separate occasions found the component to consist of nettle leaf.
  • The firm failed to confirm the identity of other components (not including dietary ingredients) and determine whether other applicable component specifications established are met.
  • The firm failed to maintain documentation of how they qualified the supplier, and periodically reconfirm the supplier.
  • The bottle labels fail to list the serving size in common or usual household measure, i.e., one bottle.
  • The box label fails to list the number of servings per container (box) of each of the dietary supplement components contained
  • The labels fail to bear a domestic address or domestic phone number through which the responsible person may receive a report of a serious adverse event with such dietary supplement.
  • The products contain extracts of burdock root, milk thistle seed, nettle leaf, and Uva ursi leaf, but the product labels fail to state that the ingredients are extracts.
  • The firm failed to list magnesium lactate as an ingredient, even though it is used in the product.
  • “Maganese” is incorrectly spelled on the Supplement Facts labels for the three products.

The FDA noted a response letter from firm on May 10, but were “unable to evaluate the adequacy of your corrective actions because you did not provide documentation showing that you have qualified your supplier or the supplier’s COA, and the third party laboratory COA does not include identity testing.” The FDA said they would evaluate the adequacy of the firm’s corrective actions at their next inspection.

Food companies are given 15 working days to respond to FDA warning letters. “You should take prompt action to correct the violations noted in this letter. Failure to do so may result in regulatory action by FDA without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction,” according to the warning letter.

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Handwashing for Life Olympics: Battle at Waterloo

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 00:00

Jim Mann, with microphone, explains the rules of the Handwashing for Life Olympics. The screen, right of center at top, shows how effective a contestant is when they’ve finished their turn at the sink.

Pathogens met their Waterloo as more than 400 culinary professionals staged a two day pursuit of the latest advances in nutrition and food safety. The annual campaign is sponsored by Martin Brothers, a regional distributor focused on the culinary needs of hospitals and nursing homes.

The location was the Waterloo Convention Center, celebrating the famous five Sullivan Brother patriots who fought together and unfortunately died together in WWII.

The two-day event opened Nov. 15 with an afternoon of competition to determine the best-of-the-best culinary handwashers. The Handwashing for Life Olympics continued the spirit of war, a war on healthcare acquired infections, the dreaded HAIs. Contestants pledged to do their part by stepping up their handwashing, the single greatest contributing factor to the 380,000 annual deaths attributed to infections acquired in long-term care residences across the United States.

Participants learned by active engagement. The goal was to deliver the knowhow and support materials to conduct this unique behavior-changing training program back at their base facilities.

The instructional design of the program is based on the power of personalized and visualized learning. Contestants discover for themselves that effective handwashing is a skill and must not be trivialized at any organizational level. Many were surprised to discover that their handwashing was less than perfect and in a few cases, far less. They learned how calloused skin is hard to clean and how important it is to keep hands hydrated.

Jim Mann, left, congratulates Gold Medalist Mark O’Connell at the Handwashing for Life Olympics.

Scoring of the handwashing skills followed the Handwashing for Life ProGrade protocol. Brevis simulated germ UV-lotion is applied and washed off.

Missed spots get a 1 point deduction and missed areas cost contestants 5 points. A perfect score of 100 was achieved by one person, Mark O’Connell, who is culinary services coordinator at Evergreen Senior Living in Chillicothe, IL.

Administrators were reminded of their role of leadership in the pursuit of enhanced handwashing as they rolled up their sleeves and entered the competition. There was a common concern expressed in the chitchat surrounding the event. Implementing responses to the constant flow of new regulations is a “major competitor” to hand-washing training.

Multi-topic training sessions and motivational presentations rounded out an the agenda. Roxanne Hassman, a Martin Brothers category manager, summed up the event: “Our culinary clients return every year hungry to learn and appreciate the environment created by our staff, a staff that truly cares and it shows.”

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Letter From The Editor: What is Sonny Perdue thinking?

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 00:00

Sonny Perdue

In case you missed it, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue took his finger off the pause button last week to implement his reorganization of USDA.

He’s removed the U.S. Codex Office from the Food Safety and Inspection Service to the Office of the Under Secretary for Trade and Agricultural Affairs. And he eliminated the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) as a standalone agency.

The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines, and codes of practice adopted by the 188-member Codex Alimentarius Commission. Codex standards exist to ensure that food is safe so it may be traded in world commerce.

Dr. Richard Raymond, who was USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety under President George W. Bush, says while Codex involves both food safety and trade, it’s really about public health.

Public health and food safety are the losers in Perdue’s game of musical chairs, which he says is for “improving customer service and efficiency.” The Under Secretary for Food Safety is also a loser, but only in theory. That top USDA post remains vacant.

Those most familiar with the situation say the big winner is Ted McKinney, the new Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. He is a past director of global corporate affairs for Elanco, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company. Then Gov. Mike Pence picked McKinney in 2014 as director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and President Trump named him to USDA’s trade job in 2017.

Trade is sexy for sure, especially in the Trump Administration. But trade is not where developed countries serious about food safety put their Codex duties. Oh, yes, Congo, Guinea, Lesotho, Madagascar, and Samoa do, but those are not the top-of-mind countries for food safety.

Now, the United States of America is on that list. I think I’ll take a knee on that one.

There is no logical reason why anyone in their right mind would do this unless it is to fulfill the demands of those Elanco-like multinational agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations impacted by Codex standards.

The North American Meat Institute, which is usually a serious organization, is trying to paint as much lipstick on this pig as possible. NAMI talks about how the technical and scientific experts at Codex will now have the great privilege to be “educators and consultants” to “those developing trade policy…”

There are reports that Perdue is going to let the USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety chair the U.S. Codex meetings. Other government agencies, especially FDA scientists, are heavily involved in those. It’s a meaningless pledge as long the office remains vacant.

As for Codex experts getting to talk to those cool trader guys, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Peter Lurie recently pointed out that “other key USDA offices are being populated by country club cabana attendants, pesticide lobbyists, and other unqualified political campaign operatives…”

Lurie said that makes the Codex move “more troubling still.”

True that.

Perdue’s other significant action ends GIPSA as it has existed since 1994. However, the former Packers and Stockyards Administration established in 1921, first implemented the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Under Perdue’s reorganization, the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Fair Trade Practices program takes over for GIPSA.

In another part of the restructuring, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is being eliminated as a standalone agency and folded into the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

And finally, in one I genuinely do not understand, USDA’s chief economist is now charged with coordinating federal insecticide, fungicide, and rodenticide policies.

Secretary Perdue, it is your move.

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FDA warns against Udder Milk; urges treatment even if not sick

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 00:00

Additional state and federal investigators have joined New Jersey, issuing public warnings about unpasteurized, raw milk being illegally distributed by Udder Milk. The milk has been linked to a case of antibiotic-resistant brucellosis.

New Jersey’s Department of Health ordered the company — self-described as a “co-op on wheels” — to cease and desist its illegal sales of raw milk on Nov. 9. The business appears to have continued operating, according to a notice from the U.S Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening.

The state and federal officials still have not discovered what dairies are supplying Udder Milk with the unpasteurized milk that it has been illegally selling. Raw milk sales of any kind are prohibited in New Jersey by state law.

Udder Milk’s website stated on its website that it sells raw milk, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese, as well as camel milk. As of Friday night, the products are still listed as available on the company’s site, with cow’s milk going for up to $11 per gallon and raw butter selling for up to $50 per pound.

The company’s website, which had provided contact information only through an email address and cell phone numbers, was inactive as of Nov. 15, according to the FDA. The FDA has been unable to contact Udder Milk to request a recall of the raw milk.

“People who drank or ate Udder Milk raw milk or raw milk products should contact their healthcare provider immediately to disclose that they may have been exposed to the RB51 strain of Brucella and to get antibiotic treatment to avoid infection,” the FDA warned.

“This is important because the RB51 is resistant to certain antibiotics. The only way to diagnose people who are infected with this strain is by growing the bacteria through bacterial culture, as opposed to a blood test.”

Threat continues for months
The danger of infection from the Brucella organism lasts long after contaminated food or drink, usually raw milk, is consumed. Health officials say anyone who ate or drank unpasteurized products from Udder Milk should closely monitor themselves for at least 30 days for symptoms.

But the hazards of raw milk contaminated with Brucella can continue for months. In some cases, symptoms do not appear for six months. In other victims, the symptoms can come and go over a period of months, making it difficult to diagnose the infection.

Federal law prohibits the sale of raw milk across state lines. New York law allows “on-farm” sales only. Rhode Island allows only the sale of raw goat milk under strict regulations. Connecticut allows on-farm and retail sales of raw milk but has specific licensing and inspection regulations. New Jersey does not allow any raw milk sales.

The Udder Milk company’s website was still offering raw milk deliveries to all four states from its New Jersey headquarters as recently as Tuesday, according to its website. As if Friday night, the company’s homepage stated: No Deliveries.

However, the list of delivery points still included a location in Greenwich, CT, and another at a Whole Foods store in Providence, RI.

Rhode Island health officials issued a cease and desist order against Udder Milk dated Wednesday. There have been no cases of brucellosis in Rhode Island in the last five years, according to the notice from the state.

“The FDA is supporting multiple state health departments, New York and New Jersey state agriculture departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this investigation,” according to FDA’s announcement Friday evening.

Texas infection thought to be unrelated to New Jersey illness
A woman in New Jersey was recently confirmed with an infection from the relatively rare strain of Brucella RB51. She told authorities that she drank raw milk purchased from Udder Milk before becoming ill.

“The New Jersey patient is the second known domestically acquired illness caused by Brucella RB51 in the United States this year, the other was in Texas in July. The two incidents are not related,” according to the FDA on Friday.

As of mid-October, the CDC and the Texas State Department of Health Services had received reports from at least seven states, not counting New Jersey, about people who drank raw milk from the Texas dairy. Some people who drank K-Bar milk developed symptoms consistent with brucellosis caused by Brucella RB51 and others who were exposed are at risk of becoming infected.

States reporting illnesses with symptoms consistent with brucellosis are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

K-Bar was stopped temporarily from selling its raw milk, but Texas officials cleared it to resume operations Oct. 11.

“Milk samples from the dairy tested positive for a Brucella strain called RB51,” according to a CDC health advisory posted Sept. 14, which reported thousands of people are at risk.

“Brucella strain RB51 is resistant to rifampin and penicillin. A combination of doxycycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole for 21 days is the recommended first-line PEP regimen for RB51 exposure.”

A month before the CDC advisory, Texas officials warned the public against drinking raw milk from K-Bar Dairy. They also urged anyone who consumed raw milk from K-Bar and developed symptoms consistent with brucellosis to immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to the bacteria.

Also, people who consumed raw dairy products from K-Bar Dairy or Udder Milk and did not quickly become ill should monitor themselves — and their children if they served them the unpasteurized milk — for six months because it can take that long for symptoms to develop, the CDC warns.

Brucella could have come from vaccinated cows
The New Jersey woman was infected with Brucella abortus RB51, a from more serious strains of Brucella.

In some cases, vaccinated cows can shed RB51 in their milk. Pasteurization of milk kills this bacteria and other pathogens.

Raw milk is not pasteurized and therefore can be contaminated with a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are not detectable without laboratory analysis.

From 1993 through 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk that were reported to the CDC. Those outbreaks resulted in 1,909 laboratory-confirmed illnesses.

People infected with Brucella may experience flu-like symptoms that can include fever, sweats, malaise, lack of appetite, headache, muscle, joint and/or back pain, and fatigue.

The symptoms wax and wane over time and that can progress to severe complications, including recurring fevers, arthritis, swelling of the heart, swelling of the testicles, and neurologic symptoms, among others.

Who is at risk?
People can get brucellosis when they are exposed to infected animals or raw or undercooked food from infected animals. Eating or drinking raw dairy products is the most common way that people get the infection.

Veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, and meat-packing plant employees, as well as hunters, can also be infected through close contact with infected animals, or their bodily fluids or carcasses. People can breathe in the bacteria or it can enter through a skin wound.

Advice for restaurants and retailers
Retailers and restaurants should not serve or sell any of the Udder Milk raw milk or raw milk products. Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.

Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated products. Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Retailers, restaurants, and other foodservice operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross-contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.

Retailers, restaurants, and other foodservice operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated products, and should be discarded.

Advice for consumers
If you bought raw milk or raw milk products from Udder Milk, do not eat or drink it. Contact your health care provider immediately and be sure to tell them that you may have been exposed to the RB51 strain of Brucella.

Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria that are harmful to your health. Please consult FDA’s website about The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk.

Consumers who had Udder Milk products in their homes should follow these simple steps:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.

Advice for healthcare providers
Health care providers should administer post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients who drank the contaminated raw milk to avoid infection.

“Brucella strain RB51 is resistant to rifampin and penicillin. A combination of doxycycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole for 21 days is the recommended first-line PEP regimen for RB51 exposure, according to the CDC”

Health care providers can consult the CDC page, Exposure to RB51 through Raw Milk or Milk Products: How to Reduce Risk of Infection, for additional treatment information.

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