Feed aggregator

More Cyclospora infections in outbreak linked to Del Monte pre-cut fresh vegetables

Food Safety News - 21 hours 24 min ago

New parasitic infections linked to Del Monte brand pre-cut fresh vegetables continue to be reported even though the multi-national company initiated a recall on June 8.

At least 144 people are confirmed to be infected by Cyclospora, a microscopic parasite, according to an outbreak update posted June 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

However, in Wisconsin, where the vast majority of the infected people live, public health officials report 149 confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis. In all of 2017 Wisconsin had only 23 laboratory confirmed cases of Cyclospora infection.

“Of people with completed interviews (in the current outbreak), 106 of 115 cases report consuming a Del Monte vegetable tray purchased at a Kwik Trip location in Wisconsin. Most ill persons reported purchasing the tray on or after May 16,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which also posted an outbreak update June 21.

It isn’t unusual for there to be lag time between when state officials receive confirmed test results and when they are reported to the CDC, regardless of the foodborne pathogen involved.

“Illnesses that began after May 10 might not have been reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported,” according to the CDC outbreak update.

The CDC and state officials continue to warn consumers and retailers not to eat or sell anything on the recalled Del Monte vegetable trays, which containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip. The recalled products had various best-by dates, but the latest date was June 17.

Investigators from the Food and Drug Administration have not yet identified which of the ingredients in the vegetable trays is the vehicle for this outbreak. The agency is checking each component of the products. Also, FDA is reviewing distribution and supplier information related to the vegetable trays.

Washing or other cleaning processes may not be sufficient to eliminate the parasite from fresh produce or other raw foods, according to the FDA.

Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores in five states sold the 6-ounce and 12-ounce Del Monte vegetable trays that are implicated in the outbreak. Those states are Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the recall notice on the Food and Drug Administration’s website. Additionally, Del Monte recalled “small veggie trays” that were distributed to unidentified retailers in Illinois and Indiana. Those 28-ounce trays also includes broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery and dill dip.

In addition to the Kwik Trip and Kwik Star locations, Del Monte reported to the FDA that it also distributed the implicated vegetable trays to Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, FoodMax Supermarket and Peapod. 

Symptom onset for the cases included in the CDC’s tally as of June 21 ranged from May 14 through June 8. The victims range in age from 20 to 79 years old. Six people have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported. Most of the sick people reported eating Del Monte brand pre-cut vegetables in pre-packaged trays, the CDC reported.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any items from the recalled Del Monte vegetable and dip trays and developed symptoms of cyclosporiasis should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to Cyclospora parasites.

Symptoms usually include diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted.

Some people who are infected with Cyclospora parasites do not have any symptoms. If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times, making diagnosis difficult.

“The Cyclospora parasite needs time — days to weeks — after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person,” according to the FDA notice. “Therefore, it is unlikely that cyclosporiasis is passed directly from one person to another.”

Cyclospora parasites can contaminate foods or beverages, but in the United States they are most often found on fresh produce. A spike in U.S. cases has been recorded during the summer months in recent years among people who consumed fresh cilantro from Mexico.

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

NC restaurant remains open after E. coli confirmed in customer

Food Safety News - 21 hours 25 min ago

The Mexico Viejo restaurant in Taylorville, NC, about 60 miles north of Charlotte, remained open Friday after as many as 45 customers reported illnesses to the local health department.

Officials from the Alexander County Health Department said on Friday that one E. coli infection has been confirmed. One person was hospitalized due to the illness.

County Health Director Leeanne Whisnant said the health department was notified Friday morning about the confirmed case of E. coli. The health department issued a press release on the outbreak to local media and on Facebook on Friday afternoon.

She said at least 30 individuals have reported getting sick after eating chicken at the Mexico Viejo restaurant on June 20. Most reported nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were experienced within hours of eating at the restaurant located on Highway 90 East.

The health department sent Environmental Health Specialists to the restaurant on Friday and brought in the State Communicable Disease Branch and the State Environmental Health Division to work on the outbreak.

Anyone who ate at the Mexican restaurant on June 20 and who has since become ill should call the county health department at 828-632-9704. Anyone experiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea should stay hydrated and seek medical attention if the symptoms do not subside or become worse, according to Whisnant.

If the illnesses remained linked to only June 20, Whisnant says the outbreak could be an isolated event. Alexander County has not had any multiple E. coli cases in 20 years.

At this point, dishes containing chicken served on June 20 are the suspected source of the illnesses. Those who’ve reported their illnesses to the Health Department also say they’ve recovered quickly.

The Health Department’s plan is to closely monitor Mexico Viejo. They said the restaurant management is being fully cooperative in the investigation.

E. coli can be deadly in rare instances for young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

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

129 tons of pork lard products recalled for lack of inspection

Food Safety News - 21 hours 25 min ago

Skokie, IL-based Quay Corp. is recalling approximately 258,121 pounds of pork lard products that were produced without the benefit of federal inspection, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The shelf stable packaged pork lard products were produced on July 29, 2016, through June 22, 2018. The following products are subject to recall:

• 28-oz. sealed plastic cups containing “MARGARITA MANTECA PORK LARD” with sell-by dates ranging from Jan. 29, 2017 through Dec. 22, 2018.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17445” inside the USDA mark of inspection on their labels. These items were shipped to retail locations in Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS personnel visited the establishment after receiving information that the product was being labeled for sale without inspection.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction 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 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.)

U.S. follows Canada with recall of Now Real Food seed snacks

Food Safety News - June 22, 2018 - 12:01am

A snack mix sold under the Now Real Food brand that was recalled in Canada a few days ago is now being recalled in the United States because clover seeds in the product are implicated in Salmonella outbreak investigations.

In a recall notice for Now Real Food brand Zesty Sprouting Mix that was posted Thursday on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, officials referenced multistate outbreaks linked to clover seeds, but did not provide any specific details. 

The seed mix was sold nationwide at retailers and online in the United States and Canada. As of Thursday night, the recalled product was still available on a number of websites that self identify as selling health foods, natural foods, and dietary supplements. Now Health Group Inc. describes the recalled product as having crimson clover seeds as its primary ingredient.  

“Evidence of potential contamination was implicated in ongoing FDA and CDC investigations into multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections, of which the clover seed supplier was notified,” according to the Now Health Group recall notice.

Neither FDA nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could respond immediately to questions Thursday night about the outbreaks mentioned in the recall. 

Consumers in Canada and the United States can identify the recalled seed snack mix, which is packaged in 16-ounce plastic bags, by looking for the following label codes: UPC number 733739072719; and either lot number 3031259 or lot number 3038165.

Now Health Group Inc., based in Bloomingdale, IL, posted the recall on its U.S. website, but not on its Canadian website. A link on the company’s Canadian site redirects to the U.S. recall notice. The same product, with the same product codes, is under recall in both countries.

Public health officials in Washington state reinforced the recall notice Thursday with their own public alert. The state’s Department of Health urged local public health officials to be proactive to help make sure consumers are aware of the situation.

“Due to the uncertainty of this product being involved in a multistate outbreak, and Salmonella (infection) being a very serious illness, we are recommending local health jurisdictions contact affected retailers to verify they have been notified of the recall, confirm they have removed the product from sale, and ask how they are informing customers of the recall,” according to a Thursday announcement from the Washington Department of Health.

The Washington alert and the company’s recall notice said the recalled seed snacks had been sold online and at retailers since December 2017.

Advice to consumers
Consumers should check their homes for unused portions of the recalled Zesty Sprouting Mix, according to the Now Health Group recall notice. No one should eat any of the recalled seed snacks. The product should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled seed mix and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen. Specific tests are required to diagnose Salmonella infection, which can be mistaken for other illnesses.

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria may not look or smell spoiled. Tiny amounts of the microscopic organism are enough to make people sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing serious and sometimes deadly infections, according to public health officials. 

Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. People with serious infections can develop complications including sepsis. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

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

Trump wants a single federal food safety agency put under USDA

Food Safety News - June 22, 2018 - 12:00am

President Donald J. Trump wants to consolidate federal food safety under a single agency housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

President Barack Obama also wanted to consolidate food safety, only he preferred housing it in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Food and Drug Administration.

Obama failed because Congress would not extend him the power to reorganize government. Trump is picking up where Obama left off on that one, seeking executive reorganization authority under his “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century” project.

Food safety is but one of many federal government functions that Trump wants to reorganize. His reorganization project’s report says federal food safety efforts are currently marked by “inconsistent oversight, infective coordination and inefficient use of resources.”

The Government Accountablity Office (GAO) of Congress has also issued numerous reports, going back years, all calling for a single federal food safety agency and listing numerous criticisms of the existing system.

The FDA along with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are the two top federal food safety agencies now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assists with foodborne outbreak investigations, but does not have responsibility for food safety rules or enforcement of them.

“There are many examples of how illogical our fragmented and sometimes duplicative food safety system can be,” says the Trump Administration report issued Thursday.

“For example: while FSIS has regulatory responsibility for the safety of liquid eggs, FDA has regulatory responsibility for the safety of eggs while they are inside their shells; FDA regulates cheese pizza; but if there is pepperoni on top, it falls under the jurisdiction of FSIS; FDA regulates closed-faced meat sandwiches, while FSIS regulates open-faced meat sandwiches.”

Trump’s executive budget office says consolidation is the answer.

“To address this fragmented and illogical division of federal oversight, FSIS and the food safety functions of FDA would be consolidated into a single agency within USDA called the Federal Food Safety Agency,” according to Trump’s Office of Executive Management and Budget (OMB).

The new USDA food safety unit would pick up about 14,200 employees with the annual budget authority of about $2.3 billion by combining existing FSIS and FDA food safety workforces and budgets. Currently, FSIS employes about 9,200 with a $1 billion budget. The FDA’s food safety work involves about 5,000 employees and budgets totaling about $1.3 billion.

Others who’ve called for a single food safety agency, according to the report, include the National Research Council and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The outside groups have “recommended that the core federal food safety responsibilities should reside in a single entity or agency, with a unified administrative structure, clean mandate, a dedicated budget, and full responsibility for the oversight of the entire U.S. food supply.”

The most frequently offered congressional  solutions to the single agency question aren’t mentioned in the report. Bills offered by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, over the years have sought a single, independent food safety agency.

The single, independent food safety agency is the model that is usually favored by groups representing consumers and victims of foodborne illness. They believe an independent agency would have the highest visibility and focus to gain public support and resources.

Obama set out six years ago, after Democrats lost control of Congress to the Republicans, to ask for the authority to reorganize government. Down through history, executive reorganization on occasion has been a bipartisan issue. Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower, and Carter are among those who’ve reorganized the executive branch. So too did George W. Bush who consolidated multiple protective units into Homeland Security after 9/11.

Obama’s plan was to first merge six business agencies and then follow up by building a single food safety agency at FDA. From Herbert Hoover through Ronald Reagan, presidents had the power to reorganize the federal government, subject only to a veto by Congress.

But Congress killed that process during the Reagan Administration and instead put itself at the center of reorganization proposals for the past 30 years. Obama was not able to get Congress to return to the congressional veto system.

Some observers say the reason reorganizations die in Congress is that any changes by  the executive branch of government also change legislative branch committee lineups.

Take, for example, the $70 billion food stamp program now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s a USDA program now and falls under the House and Senate agriculture committees. Trump wants to move it out of USDA and house it with other public assistance programs. That would mean less power and influence for ag committee members.

“USDA is well poised to house the Federal Food Safety Agency,” Trump’s new proposal says. “USDA is a strong leader in food safety; has a thorough understanding of food safety risks and issues all along the farm to fork continuum, and many agencies with USDA focus on food safety.”

The report notes that USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) spends $112 million “on in-house food safety research, and ARS scientists work with both FSIS and FDA to help develop research priorities and food safety practices.”

Other USDA food safety programs involve managing wildlife on farms, monitoring animal health, collecting pesticide residue data on fruits and vegetables and working with the states.

If the Trump reorganization went through, FDA would be renamed the “Federal Drug Administration” and continue with its focus on drugs, medical devices, biologics, tobacco, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.

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

Beef pastrami recalled after company discovers curing problem

Food Safety News - June 22, 2018 - 12:00am

To view photos of case labels for the recalled pastrami, please click on either image.

An Iowa company is recalling more than a ton of beef pastrami after a consumer complaint spurred tests that showed enough curing solution may not have been used during production.

Agri Star Meat and Poultry LLC of Postville, IA, reported the problem to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Thursday, according to the recall notice.

“The problem was discovered on June 20 after the firm received a consumer complaint about product discoloration. The firm conducted an investigation and product testing and determined that not all products contained an adequate amount of the curing solution,” the recall notice states.

The recall includes more than 3,500 pounds of ready-to-eat beef pastrami sold under the Aaron’s Best and Shor Habor brands. The weight of the individual packages of pastrami vary. All of them have the establishment number “EST. 4653A” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection on their labels.

Other information consumers and retailers can use to identify the recalled beef pastrami includes:

  • 21.6-pound average case weight of fully cooked pastrami that is vacuum-packed using clear plastic and labeled “Aaron’s BEST Beef French Roast Pastrami WATER & CARRAGEENAN PRODUCT.” Both the product and the shipping box display a sticker indicating “BEST BEFORE 09/10/18.”
  • 23.1-pound average case weight of fully cooked pastrami that is vacuum-packed using clear plastic and labeled “SHOR HABOR GLATT KOSHER Beef French Roast Pastrami WATER & CARRAGEENAN PRODUCT.” Both the product and the shipping box display a sticker indicating “BEST BEFORE 09/11/2018.”

Agri Star Meat and Poultry LLC shipped the pastrami to distributors in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Washington. The recall notice did not indicate whether the products were further distributed to other states.

“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,” according to the recall notice.

“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.”

Anyone with questions about the recall can contact Lisa Beatty, quality assurance manager, at 563-864-7811; or Yaakov Labowitz, vice president of sales, at 514-648-8171 Ext. 260.

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

Texas company recalls raw, frozen ground beef for E. coli

Food Safety News - June 21, 2018 - 1:03am

Photo illustration

Texas Naturals Meats is recalling almost 500 pounds of raw frozen ground beef that was produced almost a year ago because its own tests this week returned positive results for E. coli O103.

The recalled “Green Fields Farms Rogers Texas Ground Beef” sparked concern at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) because its expiration date is more than two years away — Aug. 8, 2020. The recall notice did not indicate whether any illnesses have been reported in connection with the recalled hamburger.

“FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers,” according to the recall notice posted shortly after midnight June 20. “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.

“The problem was discovered on June 19 by FSIS during routine inspection activities. The product was tested by the establishment and found to be positive for (E. coli) O103 under their sampling program.”

There is little labeling information on the 1-pound plastic bags that can be used to identify the recalled ground beef. The plain white labels have black printing with a production date of Aug. 8, 2017, and an expiration caste of Aug. 8, 2020. The labels say “COOK USE ONLY” and have the instruction “DO NOT refreeze after defrosting.” 

The recalled ground beef also has the establishment number “EST. 34449” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection on the labels. The raw, frozen hamburger was shipped to a retailer who sold it at a farmer’s market in Roger, TX, according to the FSIS recall notice.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled ground beef and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose E. coli infections, which can be confused with other illnesses. Antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended for E. coli infections.

Symptoms usually begin two to four days after exposure. Symptoms usually include diarrhea which is often bloody, and vomiting for most people. Most healthy adults recover within a week. However, high risk groups can develop life-threatening conditions, including kidney failure.

High-risk groups include children younger than 5 years old, older adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.   

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

Researchers warn against raw milk, cheese after testing dairies

Food Safety News - June 21, 2018 - 12:01am

Research recently published by scientists in The Netherlands shows that E. coli and Campylobacter bacteria are so common on goat and sheep dairy farms that pasteurization is necessary to prevent contamination of raw milk and products made with it.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority joined forces for the project. The government agencies annually investigate how common pathogens of zoonoses are on different types farms. Cattle, meat pig and laying hen operations have already been examined.

For the recent report, scientists looked at 181 dairy goat farms and 24 dairy sheep farms. Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and Campylobacter bacteria was found on most of the animals. The pathogens were also found among farmers and their family members.

“STEC appeared on virtually all the farms studied,” according to the research report.

“Campylobacter has been demonstrated in one out of three goat farms (33 percent) and almost all sheep farms (96 percent).”

Listeria was less common. It was found on about 9 percent of the goat farms and 17 percent of the sheep farms. It was not found in farmers and their families. The percentage of farms with Listeria is relevant, the researchers wrote, because “unpasteurized soft cheese is the most important source of Listeria infection in humans.”

The study also looked at Salmonella and ESBL-producing bacteria, which were not very common on the farms that were surveyed.

Bacteria including E. coli lives in animals’ intestines and is shed in their manure. The pathogens cannot be seen by the human eye and tiny amounts can be life threatening to humans.

“A small amount of manure can contaminate raw milk or raw milk cheese,” the researchers said. “Contamination can be prevented by drinking only pasteurized milk.”

Infection of pathogens like STEC, Campylobacter and Listeria are often present in farm environments and can infect people who have contact with the animals, their bedding, manure and other environmental surfaces. Along with owners, visitors can reduce the risk of illness by washing their hands after contact with the animals or their environment.

The study concluded that the pasteurization of milk, paired with proper hygiene after visiting or working with farm animals, is key to preventing disease.

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

Appellate mandate ends biggest food safety criminal case in history

Food Safety News - June 21, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s over.

After 1,952 days in federal trial and appellate courts, the case of the United States versus Stewart and Michael Parnell et al is no longer active.

It became history Wednesday when David J. Smith, Clerk of Court for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, entered as the mandate or final word of the appellate court the 21-page ruling a three-judge panel issued last Jan. 23.

And if that were not final enough, Smith also returned seven boxes of exhibits to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Those actions end the criminal prosecution of brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell and their associate Mary Wilkerson, which began in the District Court five years, four months and six days ago on Feb. 15, 2013.

On that date, after a four-year federal investigation, federal prosecutors brought a 76-count felony indictment against five former executives and associates of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). The peanut processing company was blamed for the 2008-09 multi-state Salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands and resulted in at least nine deaths.

Charges involved business practices, including fraud and conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction of justice, along with allowing misbranded and adulterated food to reach the market. No charges were brought directly involving illnesses or deaths.

A jury trial convicted the Parnells and Wilkerson. Two other PCA testified for the government at trial in exchange for reduced sentences.

As reported on June 13, the Eleventh Circuit denied a petition for rehearing either by another three-judge panel or, En Banc, by the entire court. That set up Wednesday’s action to enter the January opinion as the “mandate” so the Eleventh Circuit could be done with it.

No more severe convictions or sentences have ever been handed down for food safety-related crimes. Stewart Parnell, 64, has 22 years left to serve on his sentence. He was PCA’s chief executive. His peanut broker brother, Michael Parnell, 59, has 15 more years to serve.

Wilkerson has two years left on a 5-year sentence for her conviction for obstruction of justice.

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

Virulent Newcastle Disease means backyard chicken craze needs to clean up its act

Food Safety News - June 21, 2018 - 12:00am

Orange color Polish crested chicken on exhibition in a cage.
Photo illustration

Homeowners with backyard chickens have now given federal agriculture officials reason to worry. A contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry is spreading through backyard exhibition chickens in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties in California.

Virulent Newcastle Disease or vND is not a foodborne illness, but humans working with or around sick birds can be infected and develop mild symptoms. For infected poultry, however, vND means certain death.  

Commercial poultry in the United States has been vND-free since 2003, according to federal officials. If the disease migrates to commercial flocks from the backyard flocks in California, international markets could be shutdown overnight.

“Samples from the (backyard) flocks, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS). The APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirms all findings,” APHIS reported when it announced nVD had been found in San Bernardino County.

“APHIS is working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to respond to these findings, and is investigating any potential links between these cases and the case recently identified in Los Angeles County. Federal and state partners are also conducting additional surveillance and testing in the area.”

If vND shows up in commercial poultry flocks, APHIS is ready with a 164-page emergency response plan called “The Red Book.”

For now, however, the agency wants to remind all owners of backyard poultry to strictly follow “solid biosecurity practices” to protect their birds from infectious diseases. According to APHIS, owners of backyard chickens should follow three basic steps, including:

  • Washing hands and scrubbing boots before and after entering an area with birds.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting tires and equipment before moving them off the property; and
  • Isolating any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock.

Owners of backyard flocks should report any unusual bird deaths to their state veterinarians or by using USDA’s toll-free number at 866-536-7593. Birds and poultry will die without showing any clinical signs once vND strikes a flock.

Veterinarians say most local ordinances that have enabled the backyard chicken craze have little to say about public health. Instead, they’ve focused only on controlling nuisances, like prohibiting roosters. One result of that focus is backyard chickens somewhere are almost always involved in a Salmonella outbreak.

In a current outbreak, backyard poultry flocks infected with six strains of Salmonella are responsible for 124 illnesses across 36 states, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. A third of the victims are children younger than 5.

It is the 71st multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry since 2000.

The CDC says those outbreaks sickened 4,794 people, including 894 who were hospitalized and seven who died. The largest number ever recorded of Salmonella illnesses from backyard flocks occurred in 2017 when the CDC recorded 1,120 cases in 48 states; 249 people were hospitalized and one died.

USDA’s “Red Book”  says vND  “is a zoonotic disease, though not one that poses a significant threat to public health. Infections in humans are usually characterized by conjunctivitis, though mild, self-limiting influenza-like symptoms have been reported.”

It says individuals most at risk for vND are those exposed to large quantities of the virus through direct contact with infected poultry, like laboratory workers and vaccination crews. 

The Red Book also says no known human infections have occurred from eating poultry products. In very rare instances people working directly with sick birds can become infected, according to the document. Symptoms are usually very mild and limited to conjunctivitis. Infection is easily prevented by using standard personal protective equipment, the APHIS emergency response plan says. Officials are ready to protect public health if necessary.

“In the event of an vND outbreak, animal health officials will collaborate with public health officials. In addition to the potential public health threat, there may also be a significant social and psychological impact on flock owners,” according to the plan.

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

New cases of salmonellosis reported in melon-related outbreak

Food Safety News - June 20, 2018 - 12:01am

Ten more people are sick in a Salmonella outbreak that has spread to two more states. Pre-cut melons are implicated, according to public health officials who renewed their public warnings yesterday about the fresh fruit products.

Two view a larger version of this map, please click on the image.

The 10 new confirmed cases of Salmonella Adelaide bring the outbreak count to 70 victims across seven states. Out of 63 for whom the information is available, more than half have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals. No deaths have been reported, according to the June 19 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the most recent person having become ill on June 3, the CDC reported it is expected more outbreak illnesses will be confirmed. 

“Illnesses that occurred after May 28 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks,” according to the CDC update.

In an update earlier this month, the CDC reported most of the ill people ate pre-cut cantaloupe, watermelon, or a fruit salad mix with melon purchased from grocery stores before they became sick. Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicated that Caito Foods LLC supplied pre-cut melon to those stores.

Initially, the implicated pre-cut melon was reported to have been distributed to only nine states. However, in its own update yesterday the Food and Drug Administration updated that count to 22 states. Others might be added to the list as state and federal officials continue their traceback investigations.

Both FDA and CDC repeated their warnings to consumers and retailers yesterday, urging them to not eat, serve or sell the implicated melon products. However, it is likely difficult to identify some of them because of the number of distributors and retailers involved. Also, the products were packaged in clear, plastic clamshell containers under several different brands or labels.

Distributors are known to have distributed the implicated melon products to Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Whole Foods/Amazon. Other retail locations may be added to the list, the FDA reported.

On June 8 Caito Foods LLC recalled some freshcut melon products and some individual retailers have followed suit, but there haven’t been any recalls from other distribution channels.  

“The FDA has posted a list of stores and states where recalled pre-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fruit medley products were sold. Additional stores and locations may be added as FDA receives more information,” the CDC update said. 

“Do not eat recalled products. Check your fridge and freezer for them and throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund. If you don’t remember where you bought pre-cut melon, don’t eat it and throw it away.

“Retailers should not sell or serve recalled pre-cut melon products distributed by Caito Foods Distribution, Gordon Food Service, and SpartanNash Distribution.”

The FDA reported the implicated melon products have been distributed in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

States reporting illnesses and the number of case each has confirmed as of yesterday were: Illinois with 7; Indiana with 11; Kentucky with 1; Michigan with 38; Missouri with 10; Ohio with 2; and Tennessee with 1.

Advice to consumers
Public health officials continue to remind consumers that it is particularly important for young children, adults older than 65, and pregnant women to avoid exposure to Salmonella because they are at higher risk of being infected. 

Anyone who has eaten pre-cut melon recently and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure. Specific tests are necessary to find Salmonella infections, which can be easily misdiagnosed as other illnesses.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In some people, diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. 

Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. In some cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

The illness usually lasts about a week or less in healthy adults, but other groups are at a higher risk of developing serious infections and complications. High-risk people include children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, transplant recipients and HIV patients.

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

Canada reports more ill in outbreak traced to frozen chicken

Food Safety News - June 20, 2018 - 12:00am

An outbreak in Canada that has been traced to raw, frozen chicken patties is continuing to make people sick, with nine new cases confirmed by federal officials.

The new cases brings the number of ill people to 68. At least 15 people have been so sick they were admitted to hospitals, according to an update from Health Canada. The Salmonella enteritidis outbreak is spread across nine provinces. Illness onset dates reported so far rance from March 4 through May 13. The sick people range in age from 1 to 85 years.

“Several of the ill individuals involved in the outbreak reported having eaten No Name brand chicken burgers before their illness occurred,” according to the Health Canada outbreak update. 

“A food sample of No Name brand Chicken Burgers — 1 kilogram packages — with a best before date of February 6, 2019, tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis. The positive food sample had the same genetic fingerprint, using whole genome sequencing, as cases of human illness reported in this outbreak.”

The nine jurisdictions reporting illnesses and the number of sick people confirmed in each are as follows: British Columbia 8, Alberta 9, Manitoba 9, Ontario 15, Quebec 23, New Brunswick 1, Nova Scotia 1, Newfoundland and Labrador 1, and the Northwest Territories 1.

As part of the outbreak investigation, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a food recall warning on June 2 for No Name brand chicken burgers with a best-before date of Feb. 6, 2019. The CFIA reported Loblaw Companies Ltd. distributed the raw, frozen breaded chicken patties nationally.

The Loblaw’s recall includes a warning urging consumers to check their home freezers for the raw frozen chicken product. Public health officials are concerned its long shelf life will result in people consuming it in the coming months because they are unaware they have food that has been recalled. 

The recalled chicken has a date code of Feb. 6, 2019, on the outer package. Other label information that consumers can use to identify the 1-kilogram packages of chicken recalled by Loblaw Companies is a code of 0378M on the inner package and the UPC number 0 60383 16636 6. 

Both the CFIA and Canada’s federal health agency say the unbranded, raw frozen chicken patties are not safe to eat.

“Do not use or eat the recalled product. Secure the recalled product in a plastic bag and throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased,” the public health officials urged. 

“If you do not have the original packaging of a frozen raw breaded chicken product and you are unsure of whether it is included in the food recall warning, throw it out just to be safe.”

Additional products may be recalled as the CFIA progresses with its investigation.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has consumed the recalled “no name” frozen chicken and developed symptoms of salmonellosis should immediately contact your health care provider. Food that is contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella usually doesn’t look or smell spoiled.

Photo illustration

Some raw, frozen chicken products may appear to be cooked, according to Canadian officials. As with any raw chicken, anyone handling frozen raw chicken products should exercise safe food practices to kill foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella. Special care is also necessary to avoid contaminating preparation areas, utensils and hands.

Frozen raw breaded chicken products and raw poultry pieces must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees C (165 degrees F) to ensure that they are safe to eat, according to Canadian officials. Whole poultry must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 82 degrees C (180 degrees F). 

Health officials recommend the following tips for the safe handling of raw poultry.

  • Wash hands and surfaces often when handling raw poultry.
  • Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate or freeze raw poultry promptly after purchasing.
  • Cook all raw poultry to an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions provided on product packaging.
  • Place cooked poultry on a clean plate or platter before serving.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but children younger than 5, people older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and pregnant women, are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are more fragile.

Many people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, abdominal pains, fever, and vomiting that lasts for several days. 

Bloodstream infections can occur, but are rare, and can be quite serious in the very young and older people.

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

Chicago meat company closes to avoid federal court action

Food Safety News - June 20, 2018 - 12:00am

A Chicago meat company owner has agreed to cease operations and stay out of the meat and poultry business in exchange for the Justice Department backing off of an enforcement action sought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By signing the consent decree agreement, Kingdom Farms Wholesale Meats Inc. and owner Kieran Moran will avoid further litigation for trading in adulterated and misbranded meat and poultry. The federal government filed a complaint against Moran and his business on June 14.

Federal Judge Joan H. Lefkow put her signature on the consent decree on Tuesday, June 19. Moran signed off on the agreement on June 12, two days before Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig A. Oswald filed the complaint on behalf of the USDA.

Events that led to the complaint date back to at least Dec. 11, 2012, when Kingdom and Moran used federal marks of inspection on meat packages without authorization. It involved the reuse of shipping containers and repackaging.

A year later, Kingdom offered 115 pounds of adulterated and misbranded meat products for sale that did not undergo federal inspection. Other misbranding and adulteration violations of meat and poultry laws occurred through 2016.

The government’s complaint said “unless enjoined, restrained and prohibited,” Kingdom Farms would continue to sell and transport in commerce misbranded and mislabeled meat and poultry for human consumption.

Under the consent decree, Moran and Kingdom Farms Wholesale Meats are permanently enjoined from selling, transporting, offering for sale or transportation or receiving for transportation, in commerce, any poultry, poultry food products, meat or meat products that are adulterated or misbranded.

Nor can the defendants act to cause any such items to become adulterated or misbranded or to engage in any conduct in violation of federal meat or poultry laws or their regulations.

Chicago attorney Eric F. Greenberg represented Kingdom Farms Wholesale Meats and Moran on the case. The consent decree also requires them to maintain records at Kingdom’s business premises, which also must provide USDA full access during business hours.

The agreement also gives USDA the right to detain and destroy any adulterated or misbranded meat and poultry or meat and poultry products. USDA may impose fines from $500 to $1,000 per pound on Kingdom for any violations.

Kingdom and Moran may ask for termination of the consent decree to after three years. If Moran sells or transfers ownership in Kingdom, the agreement provides for him being personally released from the decree.

Kingdom Farms is a wholesale meat and poultry distributor located at 2300 W. Lake St. in Chicago. Moran is the owner and president.

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

High-pressure pasteurization facility focuses on food safety

Food Safety News - June 19, 2018 - 12:01am

A Michigan couple is killing foodborne pathogens and extending the shelf life of foods while making their state home to one of the largest high-pressure processing machines in the world. Garden Fresh Gourmet’s founders have the Great Lakes HPP Food Innovation Center officially up and running.

High-pressure pasteurization (HPP) can kill a variety of pathogens in food. The process, which can be applied to food after packaging, also extends shelf life. Co-founders of Garden Fresh Gourmet, Jack and Annette Aronson, opened the center with public tours and demonstrations.

The high-pressure process kills yeasts, bacteria and pathogens such as E.coli, Aronson said.

“Single cell organisms can’t live under the pressure — 87,000 pounds of pressure,” he said. “The 220,000-pound machine is wrapped with 200 miles of cable so it can’t explode, and it doesn’t smash the food because the pressure is equal on all sides.”

Garden Fresh Gourmet did not have access to food technology in Michigan until they were acquired by Campbell Soup Co. in 2015. The Aronsons said they were having to “send out” all of their food to be processed in Wisconsin.

“There was nobody in our state that had the machine,” Jack said.

The Aronsons said they purchased the machine for $8 million dollars from Avure Technologies Inc., a supplier based in Ohio. According to the couple, the machine is capable of processing 70 million pounds of food per year.

This machine is in a 40,000-square-foot facility, but in hopes of expanding, the Aronsons are looking to give Great Lakes HPP space to support more food entrepreneurs.

“If we buy the whole building, we can have more food entrepreneurs come in to manufacture in the building,” Jack Aronson said.

In addition to Garden Fresh Gourmet, the facility currently has contacts with Clean Planet Foods and Drought Juice. Functioning at full force, the facility will employ approximately 50 employees. Aronson said the food innovation center has plans to support Clean Planet Foods, Drought Juice and Garden Fresh’s overflow production.

According to Aronson, “This can extend Drought Juice’s shelf life from three days to 40 days, which can help make them a national brand,” and “they can deliver all over the United States now.”

The Great Lakes HPP center will also offer lab testing for food businesses. The innovation kitchen includes services like product preparation, packaging, and high-pressure processing to test shelf life on site.

The facility was built by Shelby Township-based Sterling Contractors Inc. Designers of Oakland County hubs like the Vinsetta Garage in Berkley and Union Woodshop in Clarkston, the center was designed by Ann Stevenson Catallo and her husband Curt Catallo.

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

Canada changing beer standard to help brewers, consumers

Food Safety News - June 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Changes sought by brewers to Canada’s National Beer Standard are open for comments during the next 90 days, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Beer is one of the industries that made Canada great again and again as its 817 brewing facilities account for 84 percent of the beer purchased in Canada.

Domestic wines satisfy only 33 percent and domestic hard liquors only 56 percent of the country’s drinkers.

Nevertheless, Canadian brewer associations favor  “modern beer standards” with a handful of changes. CFIA opened a 90-day comment period on the change last Saturday (June 16) that will continue until Sept. 14, 2018. Amendments would include:

  • “Other micro-organisms” in addition to yeast will be permitted in the alcoholic fermentation process. Brewers say the change will support innovation.
  • Sugar will be limited to 4 percent by weight, preserving beer’s “traditional reputation” for being low in residual sugar. The hard limit would replace language on how beer should possess “aroma, taste, and character commonly attributed to beer.”
  • Another change recognizes herbs and spices as ingredients in beers along with flavoring preparations. Flavor development is consistent with growth in the beer industry.
  • The changed beer standards will also label disclosure of flavor prepreations used by brewers in such creations so they can be distinguished by consumers.

“Proposed changes would remove duplication of the standard for ale, stout, porter, and malt liquor, make it clearer for brewers which ingredient would be used, and allow industry to be more innovative in product development while maintaining the integrity of beer,” according to CFIA.  The proposed changes, under Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations, include label changes that will require brewers to identify food allergens, gluten sources, and added sulfites.

CFIA’s began the consultation process last year, including letting the World Trade Organization (WTO) know about the potential changes in the Canadian Beer Standard. It collected 161 submissions during 2017 from consumers, brewers, provincial liquor board, and trade associations.

CFIA said it has gained the most support for these changes to the National Beer Standard:

  • Repealing the standard for Ale, Stout, Porter and Malt Liquor
  • Removing references to specific additives from the beer standard, since these already appear in the Lists of Permitted Food Additives from Health Canada
  • Removing the statement related to the aroma, taste and characteristic associated with beer
  • Clarifying the term carbohydrate matter by providing examples, and when such ingredients may be added
  • Allowing flavouring preparations if declared as part of the common name

The agency said “mixed reactions” have been received to these additional changes:

  • Mandatory “barley or wheat malt” in the definition of beer
    • Comments were received stating that the malt portion should not need to include barley or wheat and should be derived from any cereal grain to allow for greater flexibility and innovation for industry; and allow current beer-like products derived from non-gluten containing grains to be included under the beer standard.
    • The majority of brewers provided comments that barley be maintained as a mandatory ingredient in beer.
  • Adding a 4 percent limit in weight of sugar
    • The majority of respondents supported this new requirement to maintain the integrity of beer.
    • Those who were not supportive were concerned that this may exclude some styles of beer, hinder craft beer development and creativity, and may have trade implications.
  • Repeal of the exemption for beer from the mandatory labelling of food allergens, gluten source and added sulphites
    • The majority of respondents, who were consumers, supported this change to require full labelling of all food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites.
    • Those who were not supportive of the labelling exemption repeal indicated that consumers are already aware that beer is made from barley or wheat malt.

While Canadians strongly favor their owns beers, national sales were off about 1.1 percent in 2017.

Beer is also facing new competition from recreational marijuana, which Canada’s House of Commons voted to legalize Monday. (Commons and the Senate have passed differing versions that now much be reconciled before weed will be legal throughout Canada.)

Beer Canada, the national trade association, and the Alberta Small Brewers Association, Barley Council of Canada, British Columbia Craft Brewers Guild, New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association, Nova Scotia Craft Brewers Association, and the Ontario Craft Brewers are backing the amended Beer Standard. More than half of Canada’s brewing facilities are located in either Ontario or Quebec.

Here’s how to submit comments

By email: labelling_consultation_etiquetage@inspection.gc.ca

By mail:
Director, Consumer Protection and Market Fairness Division
Food Safety and Consumer Protection Directorate
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
1400 Merivale Road, Tower 2, Floor 6
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0Y9

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

Investigators link raw milk cheese to E. coli outbreak in France

Food Safety News - June 19, 2018 - 12:00am

Investigators in France have confirmed a link between the cases of several children with a disease that destroys blood-clotting cells, causes low red blood counts and kidney failure and the consumption of cheese made with raw milk.

The investigations carried out by Santé Publique France have confirmed an epidemiological link between these cases and the consumption of reblonchon, the cheese made with raw milk.

In a follow-up on the E.coli O26 outbreak in France earlier this year, investigators learned that some children with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome were infected with E.coli bacteria with the same characteristics.

The link was identified by the National Center for reference E. coli and its associated laboratory, the Institute Pasteur in Paris, and theMicrobiology Laboratory of Robert Debra Hospital also in Paris.

These investigations led to the withdrawal of the sale and the recall of all raw milk reblochons manufactured on the Cruseilles (Haute-Savoie) site of Chabert. Canadian officials initiated a precautionary recall of the cheese in that country, citing the outbreak in France. In France, more than 350 tons of cheese were recalled.

As of June 15,  there were 15 children ages 1 to 5 included in the investigation of this outbreak. Of the 15 who ate the suspect cheese, 12 were affected by the same strain of E. coli O26 and of those, one suffered from diarrhea and 11 developed HUS. One of the 11 died.

Of the other three children, two are infected with an E. coli strain O26 different from that of the other 12 children, and for one child no strain could be isolated. The distribution of cases is nationwide.

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

U.K. retailers report chicken campylobacter levels for Q1

Food Safety News - June 18, 2018 - 12:01am

The top nine retailers across the United Kingdom have now published their latest testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens (covering samples tested from January to March), according to the June 15 report by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The latest figures show that on average, across the major retailers, 3.8 percent of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination; these are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of campylobacter. The corresponding figure for the previous set of results (October-December 2017) was 3.6 percent, while for the first publication (July-September 2017) it was 4.6 percent.

Michael Wight,  FDA’s policy and science director said:

‘The latest figures are consistent with previous results and show we are consolidating on the significant progress made so far. We will continue to actively work with retailers and smaller poultry businesses to further reduce campylobacter levels. We would like to thank the major retailers and poultry producers for their efforts in tackling campylobacter and for working alongside the FSA to coordinate the publication of results.”

The method of results analysis has been adjusted to avoid it becoming distorted by variations in sample numbers submitted by retailers. The results still show a low and stable proportion of chickens with the highest level of contamination, which is consistent with previous results.

The average overall percentage levels of campylobacter in the retailers’ data are as follows:

Contamination levels July-September 2017 October-December 2017 January-March 2018 cfu/g less than 10 48.7% 57.7% 59.1% cfu/g 10-99 28.3% 22.0% 23.9% cfu/g 100-1000 18.4% 16.7% 13.2% cfu/g over 1000 4.6% 3.6% 3.8%

The method of results analysis has been adjusted from previous publications so that it more accurately reflects the variations between the sample numbers submitted by retailers. The figures from July-December 2017 have been revised to allow a meaningful comparison across the whole sampling period.

The latest results of campylobacter on chickens sampled, by retailer for January-March 2018:

The sampling and analyses are carried out in accordance with robust protocols laid down by the FSA.

Background information
Retailers have been testing chickens for campylobacter since February 2014 and publishing the results as part of a campaign to bring together the whole food chain to tackle the problem. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.K.

On Sept. 21, 2017, officials announced changes to the survey, having major retailers carrying out their own sampling and publishing their results under robust protocols laid down by the FSA. The agency is continuing to sample fresh whole chickens sold at retail, however, the focus is now on the smaller retailers and the independent market.

Consumer advice
Chicken is safe if consumers follow good kitchen practices:

  • cover and chill raw chicken – cover raw chicken and store at the bottom of the fridge so juices cannot drip onto other foods and contaminate them with food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter
  • don’t wash raw chicken – thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present, including campylobacter, while washing chicken can spread germs by splashing
  • wash used utensils – thoroughly wash and clean all utensils, chopping boards and surfaces used to prepare raw chicken
  • wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, after handling raw chicken – this helps stop the spread of campylobacter by avoiding cross-contamination
  • cook chicken thoroughly – make sure chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving. Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot with no pink meat and that the juices run clear

In previous results, overall average figures were weighted based on sample numbers. While all retailers have agreed to abide by the FSA sample protocol in terms of minimum number of samples taken, with no upper sample number specified, there are continued variations in the actual number of samples taken by individual retailers. Officials therefore consider it more accurate to present the overall position as an unweighted average of the top nine retailers.

The results using the former method, which previously published, are as follows:

Contamination levels July-September 2017 October-December 2017 cfu/g less than 10 44.7% 52.7% cfu/g 10-99 30.5% 24.3% cfu/g 100-1000 20.3% 18.5% cfu/g over 1000 5.1% 4.5%

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

Break up with paper; commit to digital; embrace food safety

Food Safety News - June 18, 2018 - 12:00am

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a four-part series on electronic recording keep to enhance food companies’  food safety efforts. The series is sponsored by PAR Technologies. 

Whether it be for improved business management, safeguarding against food safety compromises or ticking all the boxes to keep the FDA at bay, record keeping is the backbone to a food company keeping the lights on and remaining in operation.

Paper is still the norm… for now
According to Matthew Botos, CEO of food safety software company ConnectFood, although paper-based records are still standard within the food industry, there has been a “slow but steady movement” to digital platforms. 

“The food manufacturing industry is one of the oldest verticals. Once populations started growing and products were shipped over longer distances, there was a need for more regiment to how we told the story of why our products are safe. The food safety instructor’s mantra is: ‘if you have not documented it, you have not done it,’” explains Botos.

“Paper was the natural way to record times, temperatures, and other metrics that show a company is delivering a safe food product. It has always seemed to be the easiest medium to scribble notes of the product onto and sign off quickly. Given the age of the food industry, we find it’s only now starting to think about investments in technology.”

Digital antidotes for headaches
To stay in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, a company must be able to turn over at least two years of its food safety records to the FDA upon request. This is to prove activities such as monitoring and verification within a food safety plan have properly occurred. On condition that records are legible and organized, the FDA will accept them in digital or paper formats. According to Botos, the ability to search for specific information with ease and identify patterns makes digital a more efficient system.

“Think about finger printing – comparing old paper records to data taken from a crime scene was so much more difficult prior to having digital records that can be searched and produced in seconds,” he explains.

“It is the same concept with digital recordkeeping: we will now be able to produce reports and adjust manufacturing on the fly to have a safer and more secure food supply. Digital records are the future of food safety documentation because they are quicker, more accurate, and more efficiently searched in the case of an inspection.”

While keeping track of years’ worth of records to hand over to FDA inspectors in a timely manner comes with its own unique challenges when navigating paper-based filing systems, it also limits accessibility. This is one area food companies find digital records stored on the cloud much more beneficial.  

“At the end of every day you can use technology to automatically review your manufacturing reports to make sure that everything was within tolerances,” adds Botos. “You will be able to easily compare lot codes to times of manufacturing and be able to compare many data points such as flavours, pH levels, times, temperatures, and many other factors to assure product safety and quality.”

Paper does have its uses
Before buying a shredder and going completely paperless, companies need to recognize the benefits of utilizing paper records in conjunction with digital, advises Donna Kristine Manley, president of Food Safety Advisor. Manley is a food safety auditor and consultant with a specialty in records management. 

“In my experience, both hard copy and electronic records are good to have. I don’t believe in just having all electronic records because of computer problems, i.e., computer crashes,” explains Manley. According to her, paper records are especially useful when reviewing temperature logs. “You can always recognize through hand writing who documented temperatures and there is more accountability.”

Making the transition
One of the reasons the movement to digital records has been steady is due an unwillingness to step out of comfort zones, concludes Botos.

“There are several reasons for this hesitation from food companies. The first being that once you are comfortable with a certain way of doing things, it is often difficult to transition to a new way of doing them. What is tried and true is what you innately want to stick with,” says Botos.

“Who would have thought that texting would be such a powerful tool twenty years ago?  Digital record keeping is a similar trend that I am confident will take over. We all carry small, powerful data recorders and super computers on our person every minute of every day. I guarantee you that we will continue to increase their use in recordkeeping.”

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

Campylobacter in chicken liver parfait nearly killed British man

Food Safety News - June 18, 2018 - 12:00am

A British man admitted to intensive care after an awards banquet in October and lost the use of his limbs, his speech and the ability to blink — leaving his eyes wide open and him unable to sleep.

“I remember trying to communicate to my wife that I didn’t want our son to see me as I felt like I was turning into a vegetable,” Philip Earlam told the Evening Standard. “I couldn’t move and I could barely see. It was so frightening seeing parts of my body shut down and having no idea why it was happening or what could be done to stop it.”

Earlam, 47. works for Vodafone, a telecommunications conglomerate, and was one of 63 people Public Health England said were confirmed, or thought to have contracted Campylobacter at The Brewery conference centre in Chiswell Street, Barbican. The center hosted the Digital Impact Awards in October and used Gather & Gather to cater the event.

Earlam, who got sick the next morning at his home in Northwich, Chesire, spent several days in intensive care and then was transferred to a neurological ward at Royal Stoke Hospital, the Evening Standard reported.

“Within the space of 24 hours I’d gone from planning on returning to work to being in intensive care, hooked up to various machines, and with the staff struggling to establish what was wrong with me as my condition deteriorated on an hourly basis. … It just felt like I was silently slipping away.”

He was diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome, which can be triggered by Campylobacter. It causes abnormal muscle coordination, paralysis of the eye muscles, absence of the tendon reflexes and is fatal in 8 percent of cases.

Ultimately, Earlam spent seven weeks in the hospital.

He is suing Gather and Gather. Several other people who ate at the banquet are taking action through Leigh Day solicitors.

Many recipes call for baking chicken liver parfait to only 150 degrees F. However, according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines, such poultry dishes must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill pathogens such as campylobacter.

“Around 500 people attended the event and we are aware of a number of individuals that fell ill after consuming the chicken liver parfait,” Leigh Day attorney told the Evening Standard. “Many attendees may not have been fully aware of the source of their illness and as such the true scale of those affected remains largely unknown.”

An investigation by Public Health England found Campylobacter bacterium in the chicken liver parfait element of a pigeon breast starter.

“Campylobacter was found in samples of food and in samples from attendees at the event, and the likely source of the campylobacter was the chicken liver parfait,” the agency said. “Our health protection team sent a survey to the guests as part of the investigation. Out of 447 guests, 88 people responded and, of these, 63 met the case definition for a confirmed or probable case of Campylobacter.”

Leigh Day is also investigating a possible outbreak of Campylobacter at the Brewery involving Gather & Gather on Sept. 29. The company is no longer catering for the venue at which Earlam was infected.

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

Multiple brands of chicken, beef and pork products recalled

Food Safety News - June 17, 2018 - 12:01am

To view all product labels provided to USDA by the company, please click on the image.

A Michigan company is recalling more than 14 tons of salami, bologna, sausage and hot dogs made from poultry, pork and beef, according to a notice from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Winter Sausage Manufacturing Co. in Eastpointe, MI, had to recall the 28,300 pounds of meat and poultry products because they were made with animals that were slaughtered under religious exemption, which is not declared on the labels as required by federal law.

“(The Food Safety and Inspection Service) FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. 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.

The recalled meat and chicken products are packaged under several brand names, including, Maywood Farms, Smileys Halal, Ozzie’s, and Delta Sunrise. Federal inspectors discovered the problem June 12 during routine labeling verification.

A complete list of products subject to this recall is below. All of the recalled salami, bologna, sausage and hot dogs were produced between March 9 and June 4. They all have the establishment number “P-10158” printed inside the USDA inspection mark on the product labels. 

Winter Sausage Manufacturing Co. shipped the recalled products too retailers and distributors in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The recall notice did not indicate whether the distributors sent the products to other states.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Blanks in this chart are intentional. Some of the recalled products have retail labels and case labels, others have only one or the other.

Retail Product Label

Case Label

Item number
on cases

Sell or
Freeze By













































HOT DOGS” 19094




HOT DOGS” 19094




HOT DOGS” 19094






CHICKEN BOLOGNA, with olives,



CHICKEN BOLOGNA, with Jalapenos,



32OZ- “OZZIE’S BRAND, Natural Casing,



32OZ- “OZZIE’S BRAND, Natural Casing,



32OZ- “OZZIE’S BRAND, Natural Casing,



Zabiha Halal Chicken Bologna,
Smoke Flavor Added”




Zabiha Halal Chicken Bologna with olives,
Smoke Flavor Added”




Zabiha Halal Chicken Bologna with pistachios,
Smoke Flavor Added”













Zabiha Halal Chicken Weiners,
Smoke Flavor Added”







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


Subscribe to Fruit and Vegetable Safety Program aggregator