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Hungary tries to prevent repeat of Listeria outbreak

February 3, 2020 - 12:03am

A system in Hungary to prevent a repeat of the deadly Listeria outbreak traced to a frozen vegetable factory in the country in 2018 is working well, according to those involved.

The Hungarian Deep Freezing and Canning Association (MHKSZ) revealed the first-year operational experience of the system was positive.

After the outbreak source was found nearly a year and a half ago, some members of MHKSZ and Campden BRI Hungary Nonprofit Ltd. developed a voluntary audited Listeria Prevention System. It includes Listeria troubleshooting, identifying potential contaminant sources and focal points as well as possible routes of contamination.

Outbreak source and audit
In 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) linked frozen corn from Hungary to a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in five EU member states.

Greenyard’s frozen vegetable factory in Baju was the source of the Listeria outbreak that sickened 54 people in six countries, killing 10 of them. The outbreak is thought to have started in 2015. Implicated frozen products were distributed to 116 countries. In June 2019, Greenyard sold the plant to Roger & Roger, a producer of potato and corn snacks.

A DG Sante audit in May 2019 was critical of Hungarian authorities for not strengthening the system of official controls for food businesses despite the outbreak.

Official controls and enforcement would not help prevent further Listeria monocytogenes contamination in frozen food of non-animal origin, or limit the risk of non-compliant products being placed on the market, according to the audit report.

Positive results from year one
Introducing and efficiently operating the Listeria Prevention System can reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes in traditional frozen vegetables and fruit products based on results from the first year, according to MHKSZ.

The risk of Listeria monocytogenes in the environment has been reduced for MHKSZ members who have properly applied the system requirements. With presence in the ready-to-market product only rarely detected and often below the limits permitted by regulation.

The system also includes assistance to design a sampling plan, hygienic factory design and cleaning, sanitation and disinfection help. It is based on requirements in EU Regulation No 852/2004.

MHKSZ advises that quick-frozen vegetables should be cooked before consumption and consumers should follow the instructions for use on the packaging.

Participating companies will continue work with it in the current season and other firms have indicated an intention to join the Listeria Prevention System.

MHKSZ is also a member of Profel (European Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors) and AETMD (European Association of Transformers of Sweetcorn).

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FDA puts companies on notice with warning letters

February 3, 2020 - 12:01am

As part of its enforcement activities, the Food and Drug Administration sends warning letters to entities under its jurisdiction. Some letters are not posted for public view until weeks or months after they are sent.

Business owners have 15 days to respond to FDA warning letters. Warning letters often are not issued until a company has been given months to years to correct problems.

Yost Foods, LLC. — Brunswick, OH

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Sept. 10, 2019, to the President of Yost Foods LLC, William Yost.

During an inspection at Yost Foods LLC Ready-to-Eat (RTE) spice manufacturing facility on March 18 through April  24, 2019, FDA investigators found serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food regulation.

FDA investigators collected environmental samples from various areas in the processing facility. They also found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. They also gathered documentation that one of the company’s customers tested and found Yost Foods LLC aji amarillo paste to be positive for L. monocytogenes. The company voluntarily recalled and destroyed the product.

The FDA received a response dated Aug. 8, 2019, to the FDA 483a FSVP observations form issued on June 28, 2019.

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483, Inspectional Observations report that lists deviations observed at the facility.

The violations noted by the FDA:

Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (21 CFR Part 117, Subpart C):

  1. “You did not implement preventive controls to provide assurances that any hazards requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented, and the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by your facility will not be adulterated under section 402 or misbranded under section 403(w) of the Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 342 or 343(w)), to comply with 21 CFR § 117.135(a)(1). Specifically, your food safety plan identified environmental pathogens as a hazard requiring preventive controls and identified sanitation controls to address the hazard, but you did not fully implement your “Sanitation Standard Operating procedure (SSOP), Yost Foods, Inc, Food Basics.” Your SSOP specifies that (redacted). Our investigator observed that the QA review occurred after cleaning but prior to the (redacted) step. Further, your SSOP states (redacted). However, your records dated February 22, 2019, April 1, 2019, and April 3, 2019, only document rinsing of the equipment during corrective actions.”

“In addition, a review of records of your weekly environmental monitoring program for Listeria spp. shows that (redacted).  (redacted) collected by FDA during our most recent inspection were positive for L. monocytogenes. Furthermore, your finished aji amarillo paste product was found to be positive for L. monocytogenes (redacted). Whole genome sequencing analysis showed the L. monocytogenes isolates from the environmental swabs collected by FDA were the same strain as that in the finished product aji amarillo paste tested by your customer. Your environmental testing results and these findings demonstrate that your sanitation procedures have been inadequate to significantly minimize or prevent the hazard of L. monocytogenes in your facility, as required by 21 CFR §§ 117.135(a)(1) and (c)(3).”

“We have reviewed your May 14, 2019 response indicating that your firm is implementing a number of corrective actions, including updating your cleaning procedures, updating your Sanitation Pre-Operational Checklist, hiring a sanitation consultant to re-train associates on proper cleaning technique, reassessing your food safety plan, conducting additional sanitation activities, and testing environmental swabs for L. monocytogenes. We will verify the adequacy of your corrective actions during a future inspection.”

  1. “You did not implement your written corrective action procedures to address the presence of an environmental pathogen or appropriate indicator organism detected through your environmental monitoring, as required by 21 CFR 117.150(a)(1)(ii). Specifically, in your food safety plan, you identified (redacted). (Environmental monitoring is a verification activity for preventive controls as reflected in 21 CFR 117.165(a)(3).) Your environmental monitoring program lists the following corrective actions after a presumptive positive for Listeria spp.: (redacted). Your weekly environmental monitoring program for Listeria spp. (redacted). Each time, your corrective actions were limited to (redacted). You did not perform an investigation to locate a potential source of contamination or make any changes to your sanitation practices.”

“We have reviewed your May 14, 2019 response indicating that your firm has updated your Environmental Pathogen Monitoring Program to include corrective action and investigation procedures. We will verify the adequacy of your corrective actions during a future inspection.”

Current Good Manufacturing Practice (Subpart B):

  1. “You did not clean and sanitize utensils and equipment in a manner that protects against allergen cross-contact and against contamination of food, food-contact surfaces, or food-packaging materials, as required by 21 CFR 117.35(a). On March 28, 2019, our investigator observed an employee using a high-pressure hose to spray the mezzanine floor with water while performing sanitation operations. Water overspray created a mist surrounding the open medium ribbon blender used to manufacture aji amarillo paste. On April 2, 2019, our investigator observed water overspray around the blue (redacted) pallets on which employees were cleaning product transfer hoses, (b)(4) blades, a (redacted), (redacted) hopper, and (redacted) fixtures used in the manufacture of the aji amarillo paste. Our investigator also observed an employee cleaning a product transfer pipe without cleaning the full interior of the pipe.”

“We have reviewed your May 14, 2019 response indicating that your firm has updated your cleaning procedures and hired a sanitation consultant to re-train associates on proper cleaning technique. We will verify the adequacy of your corrective actions during a future inspection.”

A complete list of the violations can be found in the FDA’s warning letter.

Cerreta Candy Company Inc.  — Glendale, AZ

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter dated Aug. 19-26, 2019, to the Vice President of Cerreta Candy Company, Inc., Jonathan Cerreta.

During an inspection at Cerreta Candy Company Inc.’s manufacturing facility FDA investigators found serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food rule.

In response to these deviations, the FDA issued an FDA 483 Inspectional Observations form that lists deviations observed at the facility.

The violations noted by the FDA:

Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (Subparts C and G):

  1. “Your hazard analysis did not identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards for each type of food manufactured, processed, packed or held at your facility to determine whether there are any hazards requiring a preventive control, as required by 21 CFR 117.130(a)(1). Your hazard analysis for your RTE peppermint snow mints, chocolate pretzel clusters, and cinnamon honey peanut butter did not include an evaluation of all ingredients used to manufacture these products.”
  2. “The hazard analysis for “[Chocolate] Molding,” which applies to its use in peppermint snow mints, did not identify or evaluate potential hazards for the ingredient crushed peppermint/candy cane, such as recontamination with environmental pathogens and unapproved colors/additives.”
  3. “The hazard analysis for “[Chocolate] Molding,” which applies to its use in chocolate pretzel clusters, did not identify or evaluate potential hazards with the ingredient pretzels, such as recontamination with environmental pathogens.”
  4. “The hazard analysis for (redacted), which applies to the performance of this activity to make cinnamon honey peanut butter, did not identify or evaluate potential hazards for the ingredient ground cinnamon, such as Salmonella spp. and heavy metals, and for the ingredient honey, hazards such as drug residues and pesticides.”

“Although you stated in your response that you have revised your hazard analysis for each of the production processes and evaluated each ingredient and process step to ensure any hazards are being controlled, you did not provide this documentation in your response, so we are unable to evaluate the adequacy of these corrections.”

  1. “You did not establish and implement adequate written procedures for environmental monitoring, as required by 21 CFR 117.165(b). You manufacture RTE foods such as candies, chocolates, candy-coated popcorn, nuts, taffy and snack foods, which are manipulated by employees and exposed to the environment at numerous stages of manufacturing and do not receive a subsequent control to significantly minimize or prevent environmental pathogens. For example, your peppermint snow mints are exposed to the environment after entering the (redacted) tank, during the molding process, including employee placement of molds onto a conveyer belt as well as (redacted) addition of ingredients into a (redacted), through a (redacted), when employees remove product from molds (at the “popping” station) and when bulk packaged into boxes. Further, you use (redacted) peanuts as an ingredient which could be a source of environmental pathogens such as Salmonella. You have identified a “Cleaning and Sanitation Program” (i.e., sanitation controls) as a preventive control to significantly minimize or prevent the hazard of environmental pathogens (identified in your hazard analyses for molding, (redacted), and roasting). Your environmental monitoring procedure (2.4.8) specifies “6 Salmonella swab tests on equipment and/or stations that come into contact with finished or RTE products on an (redacted) basis”; however, the number and location of sampling sites as well as frequency of sampling are not adequate to determine whether your sanitation preventive controls are effective. You (redacted) of equipment in the kitchen, retail, and chocolate production areas. Of these swabs, you (redacted) swab related to your peppermint snow mints production at the popping station. Further, performing environmental monitoring (redacted) is not sufficient to determine whether your controls are effective. In addition, you should evaluate whether Listeria monocytogenes is an environmental hazard for your RTE foods that are exposed to the environment and whether you should also conduct environmental monitoring for Listeria spp. to verify sanitation controls.”

“In your written response you committed to revising your environmental monitoring program and indicated you would conduct a study of (redacted) in your facility to evaluate the potential risk of environmental pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. We are unable to evaluate the adequacy of your intended corrective action as you did not include the study of your facility or a revised environmental monitoring program.”

  1. “You did not implement preventive controls to provide assurances that any hazards requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented and the food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by you facility will not be adulterated under section 402 or misbranded under section 403(w) of the Act, as required by 21 CFR 117.135(a)(1). You receive (redacted) peanuts from your supplier that are used in your RTE nut butters and milk chocolate peanut clusters. Your hazard analysis for “Roasting” identifies Salmonella as a food safety hazard requiring a preventive control and specifies that this hazard is controlled through your supplier assurance program in which a Certificate of Analysis (COA) is provided by the supplier. The documentation provided by the supplier identifies (redacted) and indicates that peanut products that have undergone their (redacted).” (redacted) and is not a kill step for Salmonella. Furthermore, the (redacted) peanuts are received with a label that states that ” it is recommended that (redacted) peanuts (redacted).” There is no indication that your supplier is controlling Salmonella in the (redacted) peanuts. Therefore, you cannot control the hazard through supplier controls. The (redacted) peanuts are roasted at your facility. Although roasting is generally a preventive control for Salmonella in (redacted) peanuts, you do not treat the roasting process as a control for Salmonella. To establish your roasting as a process preventive control, you would need to, among other things, validate that the process is adequate to significantly minimize the hazard (Salmonella) in accordance with 21 CFR 117.160.”
  2. “You did not implement a risk-based supply-chain program for those raw materials and other ingredients for which you have identified a hazard requiring a supply-chain-applied control as required by 21 CFR. 117.405(a)(1).”
  3. “You identified in your hazard analysis for “Roasting” a “Supplier Assurance Program” as the preventive control for pathogens in tree nuts such as almonds, pecan halves, cashews, filberts, and Brazil nuts, but you have not established supplier verification activities in accordance with 21 CFR part 117 subpart G for your suppliers of tree nuts.”
  4. “You identified in your hazard analysis for “[Chocolate] Molding” a “Supplier Assurance Program” as the preventive control for natural toxins and for pesticides in raisins; your hazard analysis states that the product is received from a “supplier who only receives product and services from partners that are required to act in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations,” but you did not specify any supplier verification activities. This was also the case for pathogens, natural toxins, and pesticides in dried cranberries.”

“Although your written response stated you are obtaining documentation proving the hazards associated with the raw materials are being eliminated by your supplier; you did not provide these documents in your response, so we are unable to evaluate the adequacy of your corrective action.”

  1. “You did not document the monitoring of allergen preventive controls, as required by 21 CFR 117.145(c)(1).”
  2. “Your Product Tracking Sheet records from January to August 2019 show that you manufactured both peanut butter and almond butter on January 9, February 11, April 11, 2019, April 29, June 12, and July 2, 2019. Your procedure 2.8.1 Allergen Management for Food Manufacturing states in section that (redacted), labels are gathered with ingredients and approved by a production manager” and ” [t]inished product is inspected by production manager (redacted).” However, you did not document on your Product Tracking Sheet or any other monitoring record maintained by your firm that labels were approved (redacted) and that finished products were inspected (redacted) in order to significantly minimize or prevent the hazard of undeclared allergens due to incorrect labeling.”
  3. “Your procedure 2.8.1 Allergen Management for Food Manufacturing, states in section “[i]f a changeover between allergen[ s] becomes necessary, all equipment, utensils, and food contact surfaces are to be properly and effectively cleaned and sanitized.” Your firm manufactured both peanut butter and almond butter on January 9, February 11, April 11, April 29, June 12, and July 2, 2019; however, your (redacted) Cleaning and Sanitation Tracking records did not document that cleaning/sanitation of the (redacted) occurred between the production of peanut and almond butter on four of these six dates (February 11, April 11, June 12, and July 2, 2019), and you could not locate the (redacted) Cleaning and Sanitation Tracking record for April 29, 2019.”

“Although you stated in your response that you have updated the Product Tracking Sheets to include start times for production, packaging, and cleaning and sanitation processes, you did not provide these documents in your response, so we are unable to evaluate the adequacy of your changes.”

Current Good Manufacturing Practice (Subpart B):

“You did not take effective measures to exclude pests from your food plant and to protect against contamination of food by insects, as required by 21 CFR 117.35(c). Specifically, on August 19-20, 2019, the following conditions were observed:”

  1. “In the ambient storage room where boxes, packing materials, label rolls, and various other pieces of equipment are stored, apparent rodent excreta pellets (AREPs) were observed on the floor along the east wall and in front of the west wall, which appeared to be rodent damaged. A gap of approximately two inches was observed at the bottom of the double doors located on the south side of the ambient storage area. Because these double doors exit to the exterior of the building, the gap provides an entry for rodents and other pests.”
  2. “In the cold room where raw materials and finished products are stored, apparent rodent gnaw marks were observed on the corner of (redacted) boxes of jumbo runners/peanuts, on a piece of milk chocolate raspberry candy, and on the wrappers of a partially opened box of individually-wrapped one-ounce milk chocolate bars.”
  3. “AREPs were observed in the cold room on the floor behind and on the bottom of one pallet of jumbo runners/peanuts, on top of a pallet of cashews stored beside the peanuts, on the floor along the south wall where pallets with boxes of bulk finished product and in-process materials were stored, on the bottom shelf along the north wall toward the east side of the cold room where finished/packaged products are stored, on the bottom shelf in the middle of the north wall, and in the northeast corner where boxes of chocolate candies and packing materials are stored.”
  4. “A pallet containing apparent re-work material of peppermint snow mints in the cold room was observed to have AREPs inside the box and outside of the plastic bag containing the product.”
  5. “Apparent rodent gnaw marks were observed on a bag of un-popped corn kernels in the production area on the south side of the facility near the kitchen where popcorn, caramels, and various other products are manufactured. AREPs were observed underneath a table adjacent to where the kernels were stored.”
  6. “A gap of approximately two inches was observed at the bottom of the double doors located on the south wall of the receiving area. These double doors exit to the exterior of the building, and the receiving area opens directly into the production area.”

“During the inspection, you cleaned areas where AREPs were observed, repaired damaged areas of the walls and gaps found in the doors that exit the building, and voluntarily destroyed product with suspect rodent activity, including raw materials and finished product. Your written response further indicates you will be monitoring for rodent activity and are conducting (redacted) inspections for pest activity. Implementation of these corrective actions will be verified during the next inspection.”

“As a responsible official of a facility that manufactures/processes, packs, or holds food for human or animal consumption in the United States, you are responsible for ensuring that your overall operations and the products that you distribute are in compliance with the law.”

 A complete list of the violations can be found in the FDA’s warning letter.


Win or lose today, leftover food safety can give you a post-game touchdown

February 2, 2020 - 12:04am

Whether your team wins or loses Super Bowl LIV, you probably have leftovers — leftovers that will be consumed as you watch your team’s highlights the next day or consumed  as you try to forget your team’s loss by watching Monday night’s episode of “The Bachelor.”

Here are some Food Safety tips from the USDA on how to keep you celebrating on track or keep post-game woes from getting worse.

Avoid bacterial growth

  • Divide perishable food items into smaller portions or pieces, place in a shallow container and refrigerate (or freeze) within two hours after the party.
  • Most refrigerated leftovers must be used within three to four days or place in the freezer.
  • Use the Cold Food Storage chart to know how long to store food in the refrigerator to avoid spoilage.

Take care of the staples

  • Chicken Wings are safe to eat for 3 -4 days in the refrigerator.
  • Chili should be reheated to 160 degrees F for ground beef chili and 165 degrees F for ground turkey chili. And kept at a holding temperature of 140 degrees F. Chili will stay good as long as the meat in the dish does, 3-4 days in the refrigerator for meat and poultry.
  • Pizza is safe to eat for 3-4 days if refrigerated at 40 degrees or below.
  • Guacamole will also be safe to eat for 3-4 days if put in a container and put in the refrigerator.


  • If food is being heated in the microwave, ensure that the contents are evenly dispersed. Since microwaved food can have cold spots, stir food evenly until the food has reached 165 degrees F in multiple places.
  • Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil.
  • Do not use slow cookers for reheating.
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends using a stove, microwave or a conventional oven to reheat leftovers.
  • Leftovers are safe to eat once they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  •  If you decided to freeze your leftovers, use the Safe Defrosting Methods when you want to reheat.

Throw out anything left out too long

  • Discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in air temperatures above 90 degrees F.  There are some exceptions to this rule: such as cookies, crackers, bread and  whole fruits.

For more information call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 888-674-6854 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, or email or chat at

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Campylobacter common at low levels in Australian chicken

February 2, 2020 - 12:03am

Retail chicken meat often contains Campylobacter but the level of contamination is generally low, according to a recent research report.

Researchers collected 1,490 chicken, beef, lamb, and pork samples from Australian supermarkets and butchers from October 2016 to October 2018.

The work, published in the Journal of Food Protection in December, covered Campylobacter species in fresh and frozen meat and offal products from retail outlets in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, and Victoria.

“By identifying the types of meat and offal products types that pose the greatest risk of Campylobacter infection to consumers, targeted control strategies can be developed,” said researchers.

Variation by meat type
Most chicken meat and chicken offal samples were positive for Campylobacter spp., whereas percentages of Campylobacter-positive samples were lower in lamb, pork, and beef offal.

Campylobacter spp. were detected in 90 percent of chicken meat and 73 percent of chicken offal products such as giblet and liver, with a lower prevalence in lamb at 38 percent, pork at 31 percent, and beef at 14 percent offal like kidney and liver.

A total of 98 percent of chicken meat samples had less than 10,000 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) of Campylobacter per carcass, with 10 percent showing below 21 CFU per carcass. Higher levels of contamination were seen on whole bird samples, where 11 percent of them positive for Campylobacter spp. had more than 10,000 CFU per carcass detected.

Campylobacter coli was most frequently recovered in chicken meat collected in NSW and Victoria and in chicken offal in NSW, Queensland, and Victoria. In beef, lamb, and pork offal, Campylobacter jejuni was generally the most common species, except for pork offal from NSW, where Campylobacter coli was more prevalent.

Campylobacter prevalence was higher in fresh lamb and pork offal than in frozen offal. For chicken, beef, and pork offal, the prevalence of Campylobacter spp. was significantly higher on delicatessen products compared with prepackaged items.

Frequent detection at low levels
In 2018, 32,086 Campylobacter cases were reported in Australia. The CampySource project aims to apply genomics, epidemiology, and source attribution modeling to identify locally relevant risk factors and sources to reduce illness from this pathogen in the country.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) guidelines for poultry meat set a microbiological target for Campylobacter at the end of processing at below 10,000 CFU per whole chicken carcass to verify suitable control. The Campylobacter dose required to cause illness has been reported at between 360 and 800 CFU.

“Our findings suggest that even though raw chicken meat commonly harbors Campylobacter spp. at retail, the level of contamination in most products is likely below the national guideline used to reduce risk of campylobacteriosis associated with retail chicken meat,” said researchers.

Chicken was either conventionally farmed or free range. Conventionally farmed fresh prepacked chicken had a lower prevalence of Campylobacter compared with fresh prepacked chicken product farmed by free range.

In total, 785 samples of chicken (meat and offal) were tested for Campylobacter spp., along with 216 of beef, 208 of lamb, and 281 of pork offal.

Consumer role
Prevalence of Campylobacter on chicken meat was 84 percent in NSW, 90 percent in Queensland, and 96 percent in Victoria. It was slightly lower on chicken offal with 83 percent in NSW, 65 percent in Queensland, and 88 percent in Victoria.

Whole chicken carcasses had a lower prevalence of Campylobacter than most meat cuts across the three areas, whereas thighs and wings had the highest prevalence.

The proportion of Campylobacter-positive samples was low for beef offal in Queensland at 10 percent and NSW at 21 percent, whereas pork offal in Queensland and NSW was 13 and 48 percent and lamb offal in Queensland and NSW was 30 and 54 percent, respectively

Some chicken had levels of Campylobacter above the FSANZ microbiological target of less than 10,000 CFU per carcass for raw chicken meat before distribution.

“Reducing bacterial load below this target will limit the risk of campylobacteriosis to consumers. However, consumers should continue to practice good food safety, including adequately cooking meat products and avoiding cross-contamination of raw meat with fresh ready-to-eat foods,” said researchers.

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CFIA inspection of bottled clams brings recall for Clostridium botulinum contamination

February 1, 2020 - 8:58pm

Cielo Glamping Maritime has recalled bottled clams because they are potentially contaminated with the presence of dangerous bacteria, namely Clostridium botulinum.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a warning over the Feb. 1 recall. The bottled calms were distributed in New Brunswick.

The bottled clams from Cielo Glamping Maritime were recalled from the marketplace because they may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum. CFIA warned consumers not consume the recalled products described below.


Brand Product Size UPC Codes None Bottled clams (no label) 500 ml None None – Sold from Cielo Glamping Maritime, 232 Chemin des Huîtres, Haut-Shippigan NB None Bottled clams (no label) 1 L None None – Sold from Cielo Glamping Maritime, 232 Chemin des Huîtres, Haut-Shippigan NB

Anyone who thinks they became sick from consuming a recalled product, call a doctor.

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

Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

Symptoms in adults can include facial paralysis or loss of facial expression, unreactive or fixed pupils, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, difficulty speaking, slurred speech, and a change in the sound of the voice, including hoarseness.

Symptoms of foodborne botulism in children can include difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, generalized weakness, and paralysis. In all cases, botulism does not cause a fever. In severe cases of illness, people may die.


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

The CFIA is verifying that the recalled product is removed from the marketplace.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of the recalled clams.

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DG Sante finds ‘weak points’ in Greek Salmonella control

February 1, 2020 - 12:03am

A low sampling frequency and Salmonella detection rate by food companies in Greece means contribution to a national control program is “practically ineffective,” according to DG Sante.

The unit responsible for the European Commission’s policies on health and food safety led an audit in Greece last year to evaluate Salmonella National Control Programs (SNCPs) in different poultry including breeders, laying hens, broilers and turkeys.

The audit, in September 2019, included visits to two breeding and laying hen holdings and two hatcheries. A turkey fattener and broiler holding and the national reference laboratory and a private lab were also on the agenda.

An assessment in 2012 found the SNCPs were correctly implemented and covered relevant poultry. Deficiencies included some lack of effective official controls at farm level to detect food business operator (FBO) deficiencies on sampling frequency and with biosecurity rules; FBO frequency of own-check sampling in laying hen flocks and lack of SNCP implementation for some turkey flocks.

Salmonella found less often by companies
Greece has good results with the SNCPs as only breeding flocks are exceeding the EU prevalence target. However, the 2019 audit found FBO’s sample with lower frequency than required for almost all poultry without enough action from authorities. Also, the lower rate of Salmonella detection in company versus official sampling means the FBO contribution to the SNCPs is practically ineffective, according to the report.

In breeding hens, from more than 1,000 official samples, 12 were positive but from slightly more FBO samples it was only two. In laying hens, from slightly under 2,000 official samples, 14 were positive while none of more than 2,000 FBO samples were positive.

Official controls did not detect some food company non-compliances such as sampling frequencies and documentation and did not always take adequate actions to ensure correction of detected deficiencies, according to DG Sante.

During June 2017 to June 2019, there were no notifications linked to Salmonella in table eggs and egg products, poultry meat and meat products of Greek origin in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

Greece had one of the lowest reporting rates of human Salmonella infections for EU countries in 2017, according to the European Food Safety Authority and European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The audit team reviewed nine cases where a sample tested positive for Salmonella enteritidis or typhimurium. Epidemiological investigations by veterinary services and food firms have frequently not managed to identify source of infection.

Issues with confirmatory and frequency of sampling
Greek authorities said there are 1,066 broiler holdings, 608 for laying hens, 44 for fattening turkeys and seven turkey breeders.

Authorities are developing a system for online submission of information related to official labs’ SNCP testing. A pilot phase was planned to start in mid-October 2019 and cover most users. Subsequent to training needs and adjustments, a final rollout is planned for mid-February this year.

National annual data shows FBOs of breeding and laying hen populations are not respecting minimum required sampling frequencies, while FBOs of broilers and turkey breeders and fatteners did not hit the frequency in two of the last three years from 2016 to 2018. For laying hens this shortcoming was found in the 2012 audit and actions implemented are no longer effective.

DG Sante found FBO sampling in broilers and turkey fatteners is sometimes done too early to respect the maximum interval for slaughter, so flocks infected at later stages of production would not be detected. A fact the authorities had failed to notice.

Auditors said performing confirmatory sampling when the FBO requests it for breeding and laying hen flocks without good reason to suspect false positives is not in line with requirement for it to be done only in exceptional cases.

“This can have negative impacts when Salmonella is present but not detected with the confirmatory test, resulting in a continued contamination and mistakenly reporting lower Salmonella prevalence. Those negative impacts are only partially reduced by the lower number of tests, in the last two years, which were initially positive but became negative after confirmatory testing,” the report says.

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Two Seattle area restaurants closed by Public Health in January remain closed

February 1, 2020 - 12:01am

Public Health for Seattle-King County ended January with two restaurant closures continuing into February.

The most recent closure occurred Jan. 29 when a public health inspector shut down the restaurant, Zita Only at 1928 Commons Mall, #3, in Federal Way, WA.

Zita Only was ordered closed because of the imminent health hazard of no available hot water. The inspector must confirm hot water is restored before the restaurant may reopen.

Dirty Dog, a mobile food vendor, also remains closed. Public health shut it down at Jan. 18 at 1700 1st Ave. S in Seattle. The Dirty Dog had to close because it lacked hot water for the handwashing sink; lacked handwashing facilities, its food worker card was expired, and its temperature control equipment was inadequate.

Public Health may order the immediate closure of foodservice establishments within its Seattle-King County jurisdiction for any of the following reasons:

  • A high score on the routine inspection
  • Sewage backing up in the kitchen and/or bathroom
  • No hot water/running water
  • Electricity goes out
  • Other imminent health hazards: broken refrigeration, damage caused by accidents or natural disasters, or when the establishment is linked to a foodborne illness outbreak
  • Other: No permit to be operating (The permit assures that they have met all of the structural & equipment requirements for the menu items they are going to serve); the owner/manager interferes with the inspector’s ability to do her/his duties.

Public health inspections are based on a 400 point system. The violations are added up between red and blue violations. If the total red or critical violations is 90 or more, or the total of red and blue is 120 or more, then the establishment will be closed.

Seattle-King County’s Public Health is one of the largest metropolitan health departments in the United States.  With 1,400 employees, 40 sites, and a biennial budget of $686 million, Public Health serves a resident population of 2.2 million people.  Over 100 languages are spoken in the area, which also welcomes 40 million visitors annually.

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Lettuce research, pathogen control pursued on academic, industry fronts

January 31, 2020 - 12:05am

On one hand, leafy greens growers, including romaine growers, are exploring food safety mitigation for lettuce and other greens grown in open fields. On the other hand, the USDA has given $2.7 million to Michigan State University for research into indoor growing techniques.

The two moves are not related, but they touch on the same topic — environmental pathogens and leafy greens.

MSU’s research project on indoor lettuce
A multi-university squad of horticulturists, engineers and agricultural economists are set to work for four years on the study of the indoor production of leafy greens. In addition to the $2.7 million from the federal government the researchers have industry grants bringing the project total to $5.4 million.

Most often consumed raw without a kill step, leafy greens such as lettuce present production challenges outdoors, leading to interest in growing these specialty crops hydroponically in controlled environments, according to a statement from the MSU team. However there is little information on whether this is economically viable.

“Indoor farming, which is also known as vertical farming, using LEDs has a lot of advantages,” according to a statement from Erik Runkle, the MSU horticulture professor who is the official grant recipient. 

“It takes much less space, there is more efficient use of water and nutrients, production is year-round, and there are virtually no pesticides. But there is little science-based information about best growing practices, and very little economic data around indoor farming.”

Runkle is collaborating on the project with Roberto Lopez in the MSU Department of Horticulture, Simone Valle de Souza in the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, and Chieri Kubota at Ohio State University, Cary Mitchell at Purdue University and Murat Kacira at the University of Arizona.

In addition to data gathering, the researchers plan to encourage indoor farming stakeholders to collaborate with academic and industry groups. 

Research is planned to include the review of economic aspects of indoor farming, which involve energy prices that can be cost prohibitive. However, the scientists also are interested in finding out if the quality — in addition to quantity per square foot — of leafy greens will be enhanced by indoor conditions and grow lights. If nutrition, taste, texture or other aspects of leafy greens are improved with indoor growing techniques, the greens would command premium prices.

Growers reviewing options, imposing standards
In an ongoing response to a string of E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce in the past two years powerful industry groups are on the trail of food safety. Both California and Arizona have organizations called Leafy Greens Marketing Agreements (LGMAs). The organizations say they are unique in the world in terms of certain aspects of food safety.

“As an important reminder, when the LGMA makes changes to our requirements, they are implemented on thousands of farms that produce over 90 percent of the leafy greens grown in the U.S.,” according to a statement released this week by LGMA. 

“Government auditors will then verify growers are following the new practices through mandatory government audits. No other food safety program in the world has this capability.”

But those audits aren’t anything without strong standards behind them, and strengthening those standards even more is in the works.

“As public health agencies last week called an end to the latest E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce from Salinas, (CA), the leafy greens community, government regulators and the entire produce industry continue efforts on multiple fronts to prevent future outbreaks,” the industry groups’ statement says. 

The groups imposed stricter standards in spring 2019 in response to outbreaks. New rules for overhead irrigation and setback distances between feedlots and growing fields are two of the biggest changes. 

Additional changes are being considered, as recommended by LGMA leadership in December 2019 in the midst of two outbreaks.

“Toward this end, the LGMA has appointed industry experts to serve on a series of new subcommittees to address specific areas involved in the production of leafy greens,” according to the organizations’ statement.

More research into how and why romaine lettuce and other leafy greens are subject to contamination in open growing fields is also in the works via industry and government cooperation. The organizations refer to the work with the Food and Drug Administration as notable. 

“We absolutely must know more about why and how our products are being exposed to pathogens in the environment. A few notable projects with support from the U.S. FDA are underway to monitor and collect data in Arizona and California growing regions,” the LGMAs reported. Click here to read more about the LGMA plans.

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Tiger Brands CEO to retire; replacement identified

January 31, 2020 - 12:04am

The chief executive officer of Tiger Brands is to leave the role beginning at the end of this month.

Lawrence MacDougall will retire from the company effective Jan. 31, having reached the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 63.

MacDougall has been at the helm of Tiger Brands since May 2016. Prior to that he was executive vice president and regional president for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Mondelez.

In March 2018, a listeriosis outbreak in South Africa was traced to a ready-to-eat processed meat product called polony made at a plant in Polokwane run by Enterprise Foods, which is owned by Tiger Brands. The outbreak began at the start of 2017 and ended in September 2018 with 1,065 confirmed cases and 218 deaths.

The current chief financial officer at Tiger, Noel Doyle, has been appointed as CEO effective Feb. 1.

Board chairman, Khotso Mokhele, said: “We want to thank Lawrence for almost four years of devoted service which involved many accomplishments and wish him all the best in his upcoming retirement and future endeavours.

“After a rigorous and extensive search process, the board and I are pleased to have appointed someone of Noel´s calibre, experience and ability to fill the CEO position.”

Tiger Brands said an update on the CFO position will be made in the future.

The company is considering selling its Value Added Meat Products (VAMP) business, which includes Enterprise Foods with the formal due diligence process underway. A strategic review was started in 2017 but the outbreak and closure of manufacturing facilities delayed the evaluation. When the business re-opened at the beginning of the 2019 financial year, a review was started.

Tiger Brands plans to fight a lawsuit relating to its part in the deadly outbreak. The first stage of the process deals with liability. Damages would be handled at a second stage if the court finds the firm liable.

Richard Spoor Attorneys is representing more than 1,000 people affected by the listeriosis outbreak. The Seattle firm of Marler Clark LLP is serving as a consultant for the case attorneys.

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Food safety game plan for your Super Bowl Sunday

January 31, 2020 - 12:03am

Super Bowl LIV is set to kick off this Sunday at 6:30 EST. The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will be facing off for the Lombardi Trophy in Miami. This game should be a classic matchup of a great offense against a great defense.

But if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, you’re also going to need to play great offense and defense to prevent food poisoning. Large crowds and the length of the game can contribute to a higher risk of food poisoning. With more than 1.3 billion chicken wings and 8 million pounds of guacamole, a strong food safety game plan is vital for winning this year’s party.

Follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) to avoid getting sick this Super Bowl Sunday:

On the offensive

  • Wash your hands
  • In a recent USDA study, participants who attempted to wash their hands failed 99 percent of the time, not following all the steps of correct handwashing. Make sure you wet your hands with running water and lather them with soap for a full 20 seconds. Then rinse and dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
  • Don’t wash chicken, wings or otherwise. Washing is not recommended because bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can splash and spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces, contaminating them.
  • When you are shopping at the grocery store keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood in separate plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods.
  • Always remember to use a separate cutting board for fresh fruits and vegetables and for raw meats.
  • Raw meat, poultry, seafood and egg products need to be cooked to the right internal temperature. Use a food thermometer to ensure foods have reached the correct temperature to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.
  • Chicken wings and other poultry is safe to eat when they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Before indulging, take the temperature of multiple wings in the thickest part of the wing being careful to avoid the bone.
  • Whole cuts of meat should reach 145 degrees F, with a three-minute rest time.
  • Keep raw meats away from ready-to-eat foods.

Play a strong defense

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Keep food hot at 140 degrees F or above in a slow cooker or chafing dish, or keep half of the food on the table and the other in the oven and replacing what’s on the table with fresh items every hour.
  • Keep cold foods cold at 40 degrees F or below by placing salads, dips and salsa in a tray of ice. When setting food out, be sure to serve cold foods in small portions. and replenish serving dishes often.
  • Don’t leave food sitting out.
  •  Most bacteria grow rapidly at a temperature between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. That temperature range is known as the “Danger Zone.”
  • Refrigerate food promptly. Do not leave food at room temperature for more than two hours. This is especially important as the average Super Bowl length is three hours and 44 minutes, nearly twice as long as food should be left out at room temperature.
  • Serve one portion as the game starts and keep another portion in the refrigerator or oven to set out after halftime to prevent dangerous bacteria from growing.
  • Before those two hours are up, place small portions of leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate them promptly. When you’re reheating leftovers, make sure they reach 165 °F.

If you have questions, contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

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EFSA: All STEC subtypes may cause severe illness

January 31, 2020 - 12:02am

All Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains are pathogenic and potentially associated with severe illness, according to an EFSA scientific opinion.

While serotype is important in epidemiological tracking, including incidence, emergence of new clones, and detection and investigation of outbreaks, it is not possible to exclude pathogenicity or possibility of severe illness based on this information, according to the European agency.

The opinion found all STEC subtypes may be associated with severe illness such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), bloody diarrhea and hospitalization. Although stx2a had the highest rates of these, all other Shiga toxin (stx) subtypes, for which there was sufficient data, were associated with at least one of these severe illness outcomes. There are four stx1 and 12 stx2 subtypes.

Presence of intimin (eae gene) was an aggravating factor, but this virulence marker was not always essential for severe illness. The minimum combination of genes required to cause severe illness is unknown.

Serogroups and outbreak sources
A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion on STEC pathogenicity in 2013 advocated a molecular approach in which presence of eae or aaic and aggR were associated with a “high” risk for serogroups O157, O26, O103, O145, O111 and O104 or ‘unknown’ risk of severe illness.

From 2012 to 2017, 330 STEC outbreaks were reported in 18 countries around Europe, involving 2,841 cases, 463 hospitalizations and five fatalities. The food vehicle was identified in 164 outbreaks.

Source attribution analysis, based on “strong evidence” outbreak data in this period, suggests that “bovine meat and products thereof, milk and dairy products, tap water including well water and vegetables, fruit and products thereof are the main sources of STEC infections but a ranking could not be made due to insufficient data. Other foods are also potentially associated with STEC infections but rank lower.

In at least six of 14 outbreaks linked to milk and dairy products, the actual source was raw milk. Most ‘tap water including well water’ outbreaks occurred in one country.

In the EU, the top five serogroups in human STEC infections in 2012 to 2017 were O157, O26, O103, O91 and O145. Serogroups most frequently associated with severe infections (HUS, hospitalization or BD) were O157 and O26. Serogroups O111, O80 and O145 were among the five-most-commonly reported in HUS cases, O145, O103 and O111 in the hospitalized cases, and O103, O145 and O91 in BD cases. In total, 49, 88 and 95 different O-serogroups were reported in HUS, hospitalized and BD cases, respectively.

In the United States, the STEC serogroups associated with human illness are O157, O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145, according to the CDC.

Surveillance, detecting and reporting
ISO/TS 13136:2012 is under revision. The revised standard will be divided into two parts, one on the detection and isolation of STEC from food and feed while part two will contain specifications for the characterization of isolated STEC strains.

Most current enrichment methods were developed for STEC O157 and may inhibit other STEC.

Molecular methods for screening, detecting, confirming and/or characterizing STEC include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), real-time PCR, other PCR-based genetic methods and metagenomic sequencing but all have limitations including a lack of sensitivity and selectivity and reliability which could be overcome by using whole genome sequencing.

Surveillance systems for STEC infections have national coverage in all countries except France, Italy and Spain. The opinion states STEC surveillance should ensure all member states collect data on all STEC infections and not just HUS cases.

Experts said a major overhaul of current STEC testing and reporting for animal, food, feed and human isolates is required in the EU.

“A microbiological criterion has been defined for sprouts only, while the reporting of STEC presence in the remaining food commodities as well as in animal samples are only generically described in the Directive 2003/99/EC, a situation which should change to facilitate a better understanding of sources, pathogenicity and the emergence of novel strains.

“The STEC testing framework within the EU should be harmonized including sampling strategies, sampling methods and reporting. This will require all member states using the same case definition and outbreak investigation systems. Moreover, it should be a mandatory requirement to report all data (animal, food, feed and human) to EFSA/ECDC and this should be enforced by all member states.”

The regulatory limit for sprouts is STEC O157, O26, O111, O103, O145 and O104:H4 must be “absent in 25 grams” for sprouts placed on the market during their shelf-life.

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China halts trade of wild animals due to coronavirus; WHO urges food safety measures

January 30, 2020 - 12:05am

China has banned trading of wild animals until the novel coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.

There are more than 6,000 confirmed cases with almost 7,000 more suspected infections and 132 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The source of infection is still unknown.

Most of those sick are in China but more than 50 cases have been reported in 14 other countries. Five of these are in the United States, two in Canada, four each in France and Germany.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is a lot unknown about the newly emerged 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and how it spreads. There is no evidence to suggest animals or animal products imported from China pose a risk for spreading 2019-nCoV in the U.S., according to the agency’s Jan. 29 update.

The agency advised that due to poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures and there is no evidence to support transmission associated with imported goods.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath and may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Animal source suspected;
person-to-person transmission likely

Coronaviruses cause infection in humans and animals including birds and mammals such as camels, cats and bats. They are zoonotic, which means they transmit between animals and humans. There are currently no vaccines against them.

Coronaviruses can cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). SARS-CoV was transmitted from civets to humans, and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Genetic sequence data shows 2019-nCoV is a close relative of other CoV found circulating in Horseshoe Bat populations. Other reports have suggested it came from snakes. There is suspicion the outbreak may have had an animal source but subsequent transmission appears to be from person to person.

Investigations were triggered by detection of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. A seafood and animal market in the city was reported as a common exposure by some patients. It was closed for environmental sanitation and disinfection. Samples from the market tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Wash hands, cook food, avoid cross contamination
WHO has issued standard precautionary measures to prevent infection spread including regular hand washing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

The organization has advised against applying any trade restrictions. However, media in Armenia quoted the State Service for Food Safety of Armenia saying it has banned imports of all animal products and raw materials from China and imports of animal products from other countries produced from Chinese raw materials.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) welcomed China’s temporary ban on wild animal trade.

“China’s decision to place a temporary ban on all wild animal trade underscores the need for greater public awareness about not just any associated threats to human health posed by illegal or unregulated wildlife trade, but also its impact on wild populations and on global biodiversity.

“This health crisis must serve as a wake-up call for the need to end unsustainable use of endangered animals and their parts, as exotic pets, for food consumption and for their perceived medicinal value.”

Kate Nustedt, World Animal Protection global wildlife director, also supported the move.

“We hope that this courageous step is made permanent and extended to all wildlife imports and exports, to help prevent any future crises of this nature. There are very simple steps that we can all take to prevent any future outbreaks. Stop buying any wild animals, dead or alive, whether it’s a snake, bird or any other wild species.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is offering face masks following the outbreak spreading a so-called go vegan message.

“Filthy factory farms, slaughterhouses, and meat markets threaten the health of every human being on the planet by providing a breeding ground for deadly diseases like coronavirus, SARS, bird flu, and more,” said PETA president Ingrid Newkirk.

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Bill permanently banning horse slaughter and limiting exports gets hearing

January 30, 2020 - 12:03am

As effective as the annual bans on USDA inspections of horse slaughter for human consumption have been, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL want a more permanent solution.

They’ve introduced H.R. 961, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act that deems “equine parts” as unsafe, a notion to which large parts of Asia and Europe might take exception. The bill in the U.S. House of Representatives also bans the “knowing sale or transport of equines or equine parts in interstate or foreign commerce.”

The Schakowsky-Buchanan bill has collected 225 co-sponsors in the House but has not gone far since it was introduced early last year and assigned to two subcommittees.

But yesterday, the bill was allowed to generate a little traction by being included in the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy’s hearing on “Improving Safety and Transparency in America’s Food and Drugs.”

The committee heard testimony from two panels. It wanted to hear about any of the 10 bills, including H.R. 961. The list included:

H.R. 961, the “Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2019”

H.R. 1769, the “Defending Against Imitations and Replacement of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese To Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act” or the “DAIRY PRIDE Act”

H.R. 2117, the “Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2019” or the “FASTER Act of 2019”

H.R. 2267, the “Infant Formula Protection Act of 2019”

H.R. 2827, the “Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act of 2019”

H.R. 4487, the “Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions Act” or the “CURD Act”

H.R. 4712, the “Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act”

H.R. 4866, the “National Centers of Excellence in Continuous Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Act of 2019”

H.R. 5663, the “Safeguarding Therapeutics Act”

H.R. 5668, the “Making Objective Drug Evidence Revisions for New Labeling Act of 2020” or the “MODERN Labeling Act of 2020”

Rep. Schakowsky says a ban on horse slaughter in the U.S. along with the prohibition on exporting horses for human consumption is needed “for the health of consumers and wellbeing of horses.”

“Many of the substances used to treat horses are banned by FDA, making horsemeat dangerous for human consumption,” she said. “As a lifelong advocate for consumer protection and animal welfare, I welcome the focus on this legislation.”

Rep. Buchanan, the co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, calls the slaughter of horses for human consumption a “barbaric practice.” Animal activist groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the Animal Welfare Institution, are backing H.R. 961

The European Union, which claims to have more stringent food safety practices than the United States, requires 200,000 horses per year for human consumption. To satisfy its demand, the E.U. imports horses from Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay.

Horse meat is on the menu in China, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Spain, Iceland, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, and many Eastern European, South American, Southeast, and Eastern Asian countries.

In 2005, shortly after the last U.S. horse slaughterhouse shutdown, the USDA was prohibited from spending any money on equine inspections. USDA must inspect any meat for human consumption in the U.S.

In 2011, President Obama asked Congress to lift the prohibition, and USDA began to review requests for “grants of inspection” from a handful of applicants in rural areas. By 2014, however, bipartisan action re-imposed the ban on equine spending, and it was re-imposed before any applicant was able to obtain a “grant of Inspection” from USDA.

Since then, the budget ban has been re-imposed annually, and there are no prospects for horse slaughter within the U.S.

The HSUS estimates 60,000 U.S. horses are exported annually for human consumption. “The fact is American horses should not be on anyone’s dinner menu –here or overseas,” says Kitty Block, HSUS president and CEO. Riders routinely treat their horses with chemical ointments and various drugs, and that leaves them with residues that would be unsafe in food.

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Soft cheese, rotten fish, undeclared allergens earn spots on enforcement list

January 30, 2020 - 12:02am

The Food and Drug Administration uses import alerts to enforce U.S. food safety regulations for food from foreign countries. The agency updates and modifies the alerts as needed.

Recent modifications to FDA’s import alerts, as posted by the agency, are listed below. Click on the links to view the full alerts.

Import Alert

Desc Text



Detention Without Physical Examination of Imported Soft Cheese and Soft Ripened Cheese from France


Detention Without Physical Examination of Seafood and Seafood Products from Specific Manufacturers/Shippers Due to Decomposition and/or Histamines


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Fish And Fishery Products For Importer And Foreign Processor (Manuf) Combinations


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Aquaculture Seafood Products Due To Unapproved Drugs


Detention Without Physical Examination of Seafood Products Due to the Presence of Salmonella


Detention Without Physical Examination and Guidance of Foods Containing Illegal and/or Undeclared Colors


Detention Without Physical Examination of Dietary Supplements And Bulk Dietary Ingredients Containing Ephedrine Alkaloids From All Countries



Detention Without Physical Examination of Drugs From Firms Which Have Not Met Drug GMPs


Detention Without Physical Examination of Unapproved New Drugs Promoted In The U.S.


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Medical Instruments from Pakistan 2


Detention Without Physical Examination of Condoms


Detention Without Physical Examination of Raw Agricultural Products for Pesticides


Detention Without Physical Examination Of Foods Containing Undeclared Major Food Allergens Or Foods That Fail To Properly Label Major Food Allergens





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Experts reflect on Spain’s Listeria outbreak

January 30, 2020 - 12:01am

Nearly 700 professionals met in Seville this past week to talk about Spain’s largest ever Listeria outbreak, which occurred in 2019.

The Minister of Health and Families, Jesús Aguirre, opened the International Symposium on the Andalusian Listeriosis outbreak that sickened more than 200 people.

The listeriosis alert was started in mid-August and ended by mid-October. In those two months, the outbreak from “La Mecha” brand chilled roasted pork meat produced by Magrudis caused three deaths in elderly people and five abortions.

International involvement
Attendees heard about food safety, epidemiological surveillance, clinical management and healthcare organization, and microbiological diagnosis: identification and molecular typing.

A plenary session and two workshops covered the management of information and perspective of the consumer and patient.

The outbreak was reported by Spanish authorities to the World Health Organization, via the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) in late August.

In November, an operation named Monocy, was led by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) with Europol’s support in connection with the outbreak. Six people were arrested and two people held in provincial detention without bail.

An investigation found individuals were aware in December 2018 that some food products contained Listeria but they did not inform authorities and continued to sell it. A total of 17 tons of food contaminated with Listeria was seized and incinerated in Cadiz, Spain.

France and Austria share Listeria expertise
The event, organized by the Ministry of Health and Families, involved Johanna Takkinen of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and Marta Garcia Perez from the Agencia Española de Consumo, Seguridad alimentaria y Nutrición (AESAN).

Marc Lecuit of Pasteur Institute in France spoke about the French experience of Listeria infections and Valentina Rizzi of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was part of a roundtable debate.

Werner Ruppitsch, from the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) spoke about typing tools for Listeria monocytogenes and Javier Tellechea, from DG Sante of the European Commission, helped to conclude the conference.

Jordi Castilla, from FACUA Andalucía, was involved in the symposium. The consumer group has a legal team representing some victims of the outbreak.

A total of 27 people are included in the case while 11 other cases could be added. Nine people have been rejected as the judge considered the relationship with Magrudis products and the Listeria was not proven. The judge of the Court of Instruction No. 10 of Seville, Pilar Ordóñez, is investigating the listeriosis outbreak.

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Kansas becomes 4th state with unconstitutional “ag-gag” law

January 29, 2020 - 12:05am

Federal judges did not much like the newer laws to protect animal agriculture from prying eyes. So-called “ag-gag” laws adopted during the last decade in Utah, Idaho, and Iowa were struck mainly down as unconstitutional when challenged by animal rights activists.

Kansas, North Dakota, and Montana, however, adopted ag-gag laws 30 years ago. Those statutes survived without much controversy or notice. But now a federal judge has ruled that Kansas cannot bar the public from taking pictures or recording videos of animal agriculture even if the intent is to “damage an enterprise.”

To do so, according to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, unconstitutionally criminalizes free speech. She said the Kansas ag-gag law only limits those with negative views of animal agriculture.

The Kansas ag-gag law makes it a crime to enter facilities under pretenses or take pictures or record videos of animal agriculture without the owner’s permission.

Animal activists are challenging state laws because they inhibit their undercover investigations from identifying and documenting animal abuse. With evidence, they do “damage an enterprise,” mostly by associating farms with consumer brands. Brands often drop farms involved in animal abuse controversies.

Farm states, however, are usually open to measures to protect agriculture because their economies depend on the sector. Iowa had one ag-gag law struck down by a federal district court, and the Legislature passed another.

Utah saw its 2012 ag-gag law struck down by a federal district court in 2017.  It was the only one of the more recent ag-gag laws that resulted in someone’s arrest and brief jailing.  Those charges were dropped after the prosecutor acknowledged the defendant, Amy Meyer,  was standing on public land during the entire incident, which involved animals being delivered for slaughter at Draper, UT.

The Utah Attorney General did not appeal the District Court decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Idaho also saw its statute struck down by a federal district court and Gem State did appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It lost there, too, in a landmark decision that for the first time saw appellate judges in a 2-1 ruling say there is a constitutional right to take pictures or make audio-visual recordings on private property.

The 3-judge panel summarized there ruling this way:  “The interference with Agricultural Production was enacted after disturbing secretly-filmed expose of operations at an Idaho dairy farm went live on the internet.   The statute — targeted at undercover investigation of agriculture operations — broadly criminalizes making misrepresentations to access  an agricultural production facility as well as making audio and video recordings of the facility without the owner’s consent.”

The appellate court said the criminalization of innocent behavior “was staggeringly overboard. The 9th Circuit said the law was “targeted at speech and investigative journalists.”   The ruling did uphold the Idaho ag-gag provision that criminalizes obtaining employment by misrepresentation with the intent to cause economic or other injuries.

Iowa’s 2012 ag-gag law, also intended to shield animal agriculture from undercover investigations, was also found unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for Southern Iowa.    The state both appealed to the 8th Circuit and the Legislature adopted a new ag-gag law about three weeks after losing the first one.

Officially,  Iowa’s new statute is the Agriculture Production Facility Trespass Law.  It makes it illegal for someone to gain access to private facilities with the intent to cause physical-economic hard to the operations, property or persons. Misdemeanor and aggravated misdemeanor charges may be brought with fines and prison time as punishments.

Different activist groups have been plaintiffs in the litigation, but the staple litigator is the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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Beach Beat: Food safety guinea pigs

January 29, 2020 - 12:04am

Those folks at PBS have done it again. They’ve aired a provocative piece that will stun you. It’s about the man behind the so-called Poison Squad.

Sounds scary doesn’t it. It’s fascinating. You won’t be able to look away. It’s the documentary film “The Poison Squad” and it premiered last night on the PBS series “American Experience.” 

Food safety is no stranger to the headlines nowadays. Who doesn’t know about the E. coli outbreaks links to romaine lettuce the past three years and the Jack in the Box E. coli hamburger outbreak in 1993. Then there was the deadly listeria cantaloupe outbreak of 2011, the deadly peanut butter outbreak of 2009, the deadly spinach outbreak of 2006 — you get my point. 

At the turn of the 21st Century and beyond, foodborne hazards are well known. People understand what you can’t see can kill you. It wasn’t always that way.

In 1956 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp to honor the 50th anniversary of the Pure Food and Drug Act.

Based on the book “The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Deborah Blum, the documentary tells the story of Harvey Wiley, a chemist who was smart enough and brave enough to figure out that someone needed to pay closer attention to how food is made, what’s in it, and the potential harm it holds.

Wiley was also a crusader for truth in labeling. Heck, he was one of the people who realized early on that processed foods needed ingredient labels.

Wiley was also the man behind the Poison Squad, a cadre of knowing volunteers who ingested common food additives at the turn of the previous millennium. Stuff like borax, formaldehyde and other chemical preservatives were on the squad’s menu. No one at the time knew the potential effects of the substances.

In addition to his research, Wiley is known for his work on the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Also known as the Wiley Act, it was the federal government’s first meaningful move to protect the public from harmful foods and regulate drugs.

Harvey Wiley, third from right, posed with his staff at USDA after being named the agency’s chief chemist.

Before working on the act, though, Wiley became the chief chemist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1882. He started working on the misbranding and adulteration of foods.

Without the courage of the members of the Poison Squad much of Wiley’s work would have been impossible. To learn about all of the details between Wiley’s education and his education of the world, watch the movie.

If you haven’t already paused to find out when the documentary will be aired by your local PBS station, do yourself a favor and look it up right now. Wiley’s is a compelling story and the film is waaaaaaay more real than all of that so-called reality programming that wants to grab your attention.

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Diners warned about potential hepatitis A exposure, urged to seek vaccination

January 29, 2020 - 12:01am

Health officials in New Zealand have warned people who ate at a restaurant about possible hepatitis A exposure.

Canterbury District Health Board’s public health team are advising people who ate at Madam Woo Christchurch on 255 St Asaph Street at any time on Jan. 15 or 17 that they may have been exposed to to the virus known for attacking the liver.

The infected individual is an employee who was unwell and was sent home on sick leave, according to Madam Woo management.

Vaccination focus
An urgent vaccination is being offered to diners who have not previously been vaccinated for hepatitis A. Those who have already been vaccinated or had the virus are considered to have immunity.

People who ate food from Madam Woo Christchurch — dine in, takeaway or from a meal delivery service — should call the public health team in Christchurch and speak to a health protection officer.

Dr. Ramon Pink, medical officer of health, said there was a limited window of opportunity for vaccinations which will provide the best protection to prevent someone going on to develop Hepatitis A.

People who dined on Jan. 15 have until Jan. 29 to receive the post-exposure vaccination, and those who dined on Jan. 17 have until Jan. 31 to be vaccinated. Anyone who ate food from the restaurant on those days should monitor themselves for symptoms for 50 days.

“The team has been extremely good to work with. It’s important to stress that there is no ongoing risk of infection to anyone who dines at Madam Woo now,” he said.

No ongoing risk
A statement from Madam Woo said it was an isolated incident and there was no ongoing risk at the Christchurch site and there has never been a risk at any other location.

“We are distressed to have been made aware of this potential exposure. We have already been in touch with the diners who we are aware ate at our restaurant on the dates in question, as well as our staff who worked on those dates to advise them of the potential risk – and in line with community and public health have asked them to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that can cause liver disease. A hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Illness usually occurs within 15 to 50 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of hepatitis A infection include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, and pale stool.

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Judge rules death was not due to food poisoning from restaurant

January 29, 2020 - 12:00am

A Spanish court has ruled the death of a woman was because of natural causes and not due to food poisoning at a restaurant that has a Michelin star.

The ruling was made in December 2019 by a judge at the Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community (TSJCV) and an investigation into the RiFF restaurant was closed.

The Ministry of Health of Valencia detected cases of food poisoning in February 2019 among customers of the restaurant in Valencia. An investigation and inspection found the site complied with sanitary regulations and there was no reason for it to be closed.

About thirty customers of the restaurant suffered food poisoning after eating morel mushrooms used in a rice-based dish, but symptoms were mild. The 46-year-old woman did suffer food poisoning but her death was due to a pre-existing condition, according to the ruling.

Mushrooms suspected
Spanish media quoted the judge as saying an analysis on the mushrooms revealed “some evidence of toxicity,” but with mild consequences such as nausea, vomiting or headaches.

In a statement, restaurant owner Bernd H. Knöller, said the morels had been sourced from a regular mushroom supplier that he had been working with for more than 25 years.

“As I knew, morels contain a mildly toxic substance when raw, which is generally believed to be destroyed in cooking, although apparently some mycologists have been demanding their prohibition for years,” he is quoted as saying.

“The mushrooms apparently had not come from Spain or from Europe but were from China, probably from Sichuan where the Chinese successfully cultivate them. Despite repeated requests, the supplier was not willing to confirm in writing the origin of the mushrooms.”

The number of foreign customers, which previously accounted for almost half of clientele, was reduced practically to zero following the incident and worldwide news coverage. RiFF achieved a Michelin star in 2009 and was awarded one star for 2020.

Knöller closed the restaurant at the time until the Ministry of Health concluded its investigation and it reopened in March.

“A combination of shock and media pressure made it impossible for me to continue working at the time. I have been operating my restaurant for 26 years but did not expect to receive such staunch support from our customers. The RiFF is still in business today because of their kindness,” Knöller said.

“The case was finally closed. So now it is time for me to take a deep breath and continue to do what I most enjoy: cooking.”

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Some state officials admit outbreak investigation is ongoing; others fail to respond

January 28, 2020 - 12:05am

Officials in two states have confirmed they are working with federal officials on an investigation into E. coli illnesses linked to lettuce served by a national restaurant chain.

Spokespeople with the Nevada and Vermont state health departments say the agencies are working with the federal agencies on the investigation. Both the CDC and the FDA confirmed for Food Safety News on Friday that they have an open investigation into the outbreak, which had not previously been made public. A source close to the investigation says the implicated restaurant chain is Subway.

Health department officials in the other two outbreak states, Maine and New Hampshire, did not respond to requests for information about the outbreak and investigation. Vermont had five confirmed patients, Maine had four and New Hampshire and Nevada each had one.

A spokeswoman for the Vermont health department said the state’s five confirmed outbreak patients were all children. She could not provide any information regarding how many were hospitalized because of the department’s patient privacy policy. However, she said none of the children developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure that is often fatal. 

The Vermont spokeswoman echoed what federal officials said Friday in regard to why the public had not been informed about the outbreak when it was discovered. She said there wasn’t any actionable information for the public and that public risk has now passed.

However, as with the FDA’s statement, the Vermont spokeswoman said officials became aware of outbreak illnesses in November but then said that by the time the outbreak was discovered in December the illnesses had stopped.

The FDA and CDC are being notably silent on the outbreak and ongoing investigation.

“I am not sure we have more to add. I provided you the policy on actionable information,” an FDA spokesman said Monday.

The outbreak marks the second time in the recent months when the FDA and CDC did not go public with information about an outbreak.

On Halloween, Food Safety News learned of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that the two federal agencies had not revealed to the public. It ended in September and involved romaine lettuce. 

Spokespeople from FDA and CDC said at the time that because they believed all of the implicated romaine had passed expiration dates by the time the outbreak was discovered, agency officials did not think the public needed to know.

About E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten at Subway restaurants and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. Specific tests are required to diagnose the infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or life-threatening symptoms and complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 5 to 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as a hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.

Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or death. This condition can occur among people of any age but is most common in children younger than five years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.

People who experience HUS symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care. People with HUS will likely be hospitalized because the condition can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage, and neurologic problems.

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