Food Safety News

Subscribe to Food Safety News feed Food Safety News
Breaking news for everyone's consumption
Updated: 47 min 54 sec ago

CFIA warns the public not to consume Sunsprout brand Micro-Greens Alfalfa and Radish

August 12, 2020 - 12:25pm

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning the public not to consume Sunsprout brand Micro-Greens Alfalfa & Radish because of possible Salmonella contamination. The CFIA is telling retailers, restaurants and institutions not to sell or use the product.

The product subject to the warning:

Brand Product Size UPC Codes Sunsprout

Micro – Greens

Alfalfa & Radish 100 g 0 57621 13512 3 BBAUG11

The warning was triggered by CFIA test results, and has prompted a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

As of now, there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Consumers with concerns about an illness from consumption of this product should contact a healthcare provider.

For questions and concerns, the CFIA can be reached at 1-800-442-2342

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

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

Spokane Produce, Inc. recalls salsa products containing onions

August 12, 2020 - 11:17am

A Spokane WA firm, Spokane Produce, Inc. is recalling salsa products containing onions. This recall is the result of Spokane Produce, Inc. onion supplier Thomson International, Inc.’s expanded recall. The recall was initiated because of concern that the onions are contaminated with Salmonella.

Aug. 2, Thomson International Inc. recalled all of its onions regardless of color, from all 50 states.  Similar to recall in Canada, the U.S. recall is because of links to a Salmonella Newport outbreak that has sickened a total of 510 people across both countries.

The salsa products were distributed to retailers in the following states — ID, MT, OR, and WA.

The Spokane Produce, Inc. products subject to the recall are listed below:

ITEM NUMBER PRODUCT NAME SIZE BEST BY DATE 83260 Saddlin’ Up Salsa Hot 15 oz 8/16/2020 83259 Saddlin’ Up Salsa Medium 15 oz 9/30/2020 83259 Saddlin’ Up Salsa Medium 15 oz 8/5/2020 83258 Saddlin’ Up Salsa Mild 15 oz 8/11/2020 84032 Salsa Verde 15 oz 8/26/2020 84044 Salsa Verde Gallon 9/28/2020 84044 Salsa Verde Gallon 8/11/2020

 

Product photos can be viewed here.

Spokane Produce, Inc. has not received any reports of illnesses associated with these recalled items. The recalled products were distributed from 05/13/20 – 08/10/20.

Retailers have been instructed to remove any remaining products from their shelves and to dispose of any of the remaining products in their inventory.

Customers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume the products and should dispose of or return the product to the place of purchase. Consumers with further questions can contact Spokane Produce, Inc at (509) 710-8301. 

Consumers with concerns about an illness from consumption of this product should contact a healthcare provider.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

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

Coronavirus meat shortages were avoided as production slips but didn’t fall all that much

August 12, 2020 - 12:08am

Livestock and poultry production in the United States held up after the Defense Production Act put USDA in charge of making sure meat processors kept operating but in compliance with CDC and OSHA guidelines.

Livestock production for the April to June quarter reached 85.5 percent in comparison with the previous three month period.  And poultry production was 96.29 percent of the previous quarter.

According to USDA’s Quarterly Enforcement Report for the federal government’s third quarter, which runs from April 1 to June 30, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel inspected 36.67 million livestock carcasses, down from the second quarter’s 42.90 million.

The drop off for livestock was 14.5 percent. Poultry production hit 2.362 billion birds during the quarter, off just 3.71% from 2.453 billion in the previous quarter.

USDA was empowered to use the Defense Production Act on April 28 after beef, hog, and poultry production facilities were all having difficulties operating because employees were becoming infected with the coronavirus. Facility shutdowns were occurring and media forecasters were predicting shortages of meat and poultry would be occurring just as had occurred with toilet paper a month earlier.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said at the time that the goal was to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency while maintaining the health and safety of “these heroic employees.”

Food industry employees were deemed “essential” and could not be forced off the job as was done with “nonessential” employees. Nor were could any “essential” employees be forced to work. Before and after the Defense Production Act was triggered, companies used offers of higher pay and bonuses to keep production shifts filled.

While meat and poultry shortages did not develop as so many predicted, production facilities did have to close temporarily or hold back on production. And keeping plants operating with sufficient employees did come with a price.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says reports from 23 states show 16,200 meat and poultry employees were infected with the virus and 86 died.

Another sign that U.S. production kept up during the quarter is that meat and poultry productions imported to the country were up only about 5 percent at 1.1 billion pounds.

The quarterly report also includes information about specific administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement actions undertaken by FSIS.

The USDA agency riled two administrative complaints, one against Mullen, NE-based Sandhill’s Beef, and the other against Milton, WV-based Nelson’s Meat Processing.

Against Nelson’s, FSIS wants to suspend and permanently withdraw federal inspection services because of repetitive failures to comply with regulations including humane handling and slaughter of livestock.

With Sandhill’s, FSIS’s complaint is for lack of either a HACCP or SSOP. Administrative Law Judge Tiemey Carlos issued an order for the parties to conclude the proceeding.

The quarter’s sole seizure acton was a familiar one. The federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued warrants for the seizure of meat and poultry items from Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, PA.
The items were not federally inspected.

Also in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District, the firm of Chui Xun Liu entered into a consent decree, enjoining them from the sale or transportation of misbranded meat.

FSIS filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey for a permanent injunction against Little Falls, NJ-based Rainbow Foods Inc, and Robert Kalkan, its president. It seeks an end to violations and a promise to adhere to meat and poultry regulations.

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

Auditors find overdue inspections and poor recordkeeping

August 12, 2020 - 12:05am

An audit report in an Australian state has found many inspections of food businesses were overdue, recordkeeping was poor, and follow-up and enforcement were not always completed or consistent.

The Western Australian Auditor General’s report focused on food safety regulation by two local government entities, one a metropolitan and the other a regional one, with large numbers of restaurants, cafes, and bars in their districts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic scope of the audit was amended and it was decided not to identify the local governments.

Auditor General Caroline Spencer said the audit found overdue inspections, poor recordkeeping, and gaps in enforcement.

“These weaknesses increase the risk that unsafe food practices are not fixed, and the public consumes hazardous food. Both entities have advised us that they are in the process of completing overdue inspections and improving their inspection and enforcement practices and reporting. Ultimately, it makes good business sense to maintain clean premises and comply with food safety standards to avoid any reputational damage from serving food that makes people ill,” she said.

Spencer added the findings are not about encouraging more regulation of businesses, as this can lead to an unnecessary burden on food firms.

In 2016-17, Western Australia had 23,000 registered food businesses. Across the state, more than 7,000 cases of intestinal infectious disease were reported in 2017. The Department of Health estimates that a 1 percent decrease in foodborne illness could save the community and health system nearly AUS $6 million (the U.S. $4.3 million) annually.

Overdue inspections detailed
Low-risk firms are inspected every 18 months from the starting point, which is the initial inspection frequency after a business is classified, with a minimum of 24 and a maximum of 12 months.

Medium risk companies are inspected every 12 months from the starting point or a maximum of six and a minimum of 18 months. High-risk sites are inspected every six months from the start or a maximum of three and a minimum of 12 months.

The audit report found current inspection and enforcement processes in the two local government agencies do not support an effective risk-based approach for regulating food businesses. Nearly 30 percent of high and medium risk inspections were overdue as 214 of 741 food business visits were pending as of November 2019.

The first government agency had 48 percent of high and 33 percent of medium risk firms overdue for inspection. On average, they were overdue by around 270 days. The second entity had 44 percent of high and 21 percent of medium risk businesses overdue. On average, they were late by more than 400 days.

These deviations mean businesses are paying annual fees for inspections that are not performed and they may miss out on information and advice on food safety practices. Both agencies told the auditor that some inspections could not be completed because businesses had canceled their registration or were closed.

Business information gaps
Both entities had incomplete records of inspections and inaccurate business register data. In a sample of 35 Australian Food Safety Assessment paper inspection forms, some were difficult to read, missing details, or an assessment against each standard was not recorded. Both agencies said they are developing an electronic form to improve the quality and completeness of inspection information. An electronic version of this inspection form is already available.

Company information in registers was not always accurate or complete as 47 of 1,204 businesses across both entities had no record of inspection and one agency had 15 companies in which the next inspection pre-dates the last one. Incomplete or inaccurate information can result in missed visits, and firms not being inspected according to appropriate risk classification.

Auditors found an instance where risk was not reassessed for business after multiple serious non-compliances were identified. In a review of 41 inspections across both entities, there were 30 inspections that identified non-compliance in food skills and knowledge, cleanliness, maintenance, handwashing facilities, or protecting food from contamination.

Both entities were not following up instances of identified non-compliance in a consistent way, to ensure food safety issues were fixed. Environmental Health Officers only recommended an improvement notice for two businesses, but these were never issued. One company had a follow-up inspection, while the other was later fined AUS $250 (the U.S. $180) for hazardous foods being thawed with no temperature control.

According to the Department of Health records, in 2018-19, only 2.6 percent of 734 inspections across both local government entities led to formal enforcement. Less than 1 percent of all inspections resulted in an improvement notice, the first option for non-compliance.

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

Parasite striking Texas with both in-state and national outbreaks

August 12, 2020 - 12:04am
Texas has two. Texas is one of 28 states and New York City that is part of the “domestically-acquired” Cyclosporiasis outbreak being experienced nationally.   And, according to Austin Public Health,  the Lone Star State has another outbreak of Cyclosporiasis going in the  Austin-Travis County area. “While we may be in COVID-19 season, we cannot forget the other diseases and infections that are commonly present in our community,” said Janet Pichette, APH Chief Epidemiologist. “And as we have said time and time again, there are ways to prevent many of these diseases and infections, including Cyclosporiasis – thoroughly wash fresh produce, wash your hands after handling fruits and vegetables, and separate products from raw meat and seafood.” For the Austin-Travis County outbreak,  the local epidemiologic team reports 82 cases with the earliest symptom onset reported on June 1.  For the national outbreak, the case count stands at  779, including 49 hospitalizations dating back to May 1. All sickened are sickened by the  Cyclospora, a parasite consisting of only one cell but able to cause the intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.   It spreads when people consume something contaminated by feces.  The parasite needs a week or two after being passed by a bowel movement to become infectious in another person.  That makes it unlikely that it is spread directly from one person to the next. Typically, Cyclospora infections were thought to be acquired during travel in tropical areas, where it is known to reach endemic levels.  In recent years, Cyclospora outbreaks in the U.S. have been traced back to mostly–but not exclusively– imported fresh produce.  In 2018,  Fresh Express supplied  Cyclospora-laced salads grown in the U.S. to McDoanlds locations, causing an outbreak. Cyclospora symptoms can include diarrhea, frequent bowel movements, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and fatigue.  Anyone who suspects an infected should seek medical attention – if not treated, the illness may last anywhere from a few days to more than a month. Cyclosporiasis infection can be prevented by following safe fruit and vegetable handling guidelines:
  • Wash: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling or preparing fruits and vegetables. Also wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat products and the preparation of fruits and vegetables.
  • Prepare: Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Cutaway any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating.
  • Store: Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within two hours. Separate fruits and vegetables from raw meat and seafood.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are also investigating a multistate outbreak of Cyclosporiasis infections related to bagged salad mix. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Apricot kernels recalled in New Zealand due to poisoning risk

August 12, 2020 - 12:02am

Raw apricot kernels are being recalled in New Zealand after three people needed hospital treatment.

They were sold by Christchurch business Ethnic Market in Linwood. Sale of raw apricot kernels is prohibited under New Zealand food law.

Those admitted to the hospital as a precaution have since been discharged after eating the raw kernels.

Ethnic General Trade Company Limited trading as Ethnic Market has recalled all batches and dates of Ethnic Market brand Apricot Pites (raw apricot kernels). The dried fruits and seeds come in a 500-gram bag.

Product tracing ongoing
Melinda Sando, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) national manager of food compliance, said the kernels have been removed from sale at Ethnic Market while the product is traced to see where else it is available.

“In the meantime, we are advising that if people have purchased these kernels they should throw them out, or return them to the place where they were bought. Raw apricot kernels contain a naturally occurring toxin that can break down to release cyanide when eaten. This can be harmful depending on the amount consumed,” she said.

It can cause a range of symptoms a few hours after ingestion from nausea, stomach aches, headaches, and respiratory issues through to cardiac arrest, depending on the amount eaten and can be serious, especially in children.

Regulated product
Apricot kernels contain a naturally occurring toxin called amygdalin which converts to cyanide after eating. Fresh apricots with the stone inside can still be sold and eaten. Apricot kernels are safe to eat in processed products, like almond biscuits, as the baking process reduces levels of the toxin. They resemble small almonds and have an almond-like taste.

A 2016 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion found eating more than three small raw apricot kernels, or less than half of one large kernel, in a serving can exceed safe levels. Some sellers promote them as a cancer-fighting food and promote intake of 10 and 60 kernels per day for the general population and cancer patients, respectively.

According to European Commission Regulation No. 2017/1237, apricot kernels must not contain more than 20 milligrams per kilogram of hydrocyanic acid.

Health Canada established a regulatory maximum level for total cyanide in apricot kernels sold as food. This also applies to apricot kernels used as an ingredient in other foods and came into effect in January this year. The limit is 20 parts per million (ppm) total extractable cyanide in apricot kernels sold for human consumption.

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

USDA world food security report measures the damage caused by COVID-19 pandemic

August 11, 2020 - 12:05am

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) is out with its annual International Food Security Assessment, and it isn’t pretty. And the reason things have gotten worse is the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

The authors–Felix Baquedano, Cheryl Christensen, Kayode Ajewole, and Jayson Beckman–say the bottom line is this:

“In the 76 low- and middle-income countries examined in the report, the number of people considered food insecure in 2020 was estimated at almost 761 million people or 19.8 percent of the total population. The shock to GDP from COVID-19 is projected to increase the number of food-insecure people by 83.5 million people in 2020 to 844.5 million and increase the share of the population that is food insecure to 22 percent.”

The annual report determines how much access people in 76 low and middle-income countries have to food. The answer to that question requires tracking incomes, food prices, and other economic factors including agriculture production and market conditions.

“Widespread food availability, rising income levels, and low food prices improve a country’s food security, although the breadth of these gains can depend on the distribution of income within a country,” says the ERS report. ” Conversely, disruptions to income, prices, or food supply can increase food insecurity, especially for the poor.”

This year’s report looks at the income shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on food security in each of the 76 countries, which are located in Sub-Saharan and North Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Among the findings are:

  • The number of food-insecure people in 2020 is estimated at 844.3 million, an increase of 83.5 million (11 percent) due to COVID-19 income shock. This implies that 22 percent of the total population of the 76 focus countries is unable to consume 2,100 calories a day, an average caloric level necessary to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle.
  • Most of the increase in people estimated to be food insecure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are in Asia (41 million people) and Sub-Saharan Africa (35 million people).
  • Even with the income impacts from COVID-19, food security is projected to improve in all 76 countries over the next 10 years. By 2030, the share of the population that is food insecure in these countries is projected to fall to 10 percent (456.8 million people), a 46 percent drop from 2020 in the number of food-insecure people. Despite this sharp decline, the 2030 estimate of food insecurity is almost 13 percent higher than the pre-COVID-19 scenario.
  • Improvement in food security is driven by income growth, relatively stable prices for major grains over the projection period, and lower population growth, particularly in Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Per capita income in the following decade is projected to increase by almost 42 percent on average for the 76 countries, but this is 1.3 percentage points lower than the pre-COVID-19 estimate.
  • The food gap, defined as the amount of food needed for all food-insecure people to reach the caloric target of 2,100 kcal/day, indicates the intensity of food insecurity. It can be expressed in calories per capita per day or in grain-equivalent quantities and is used to measure the intensity of food security at the aggregate level. For the 76 countries examined, the total food gap is projected to decline in all four regions from a total of 44.7 million tons in 2020 to 24.3 million tons in 2030.

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

Three of four UK Listeria outbreaks unsolved in 2018

August 11, 2020 - 12:04am

The source of infection was not found for three of four Listeria outbreaks in England in 2018.

The one which was solved was an international outbreak that involved 12 cases in England from 2015 to 2018 and was traced to frozen sweetcorn and vegetables produced by Greenyard in Hungary.

The company found the cause of contamination, a persistent presence of Listeria monocytogenes in one of the freezing tunnels, and closed down this tunnel at the plant. In June 2019, the factory was sold to Roger & Roger, a producer of potato and corn snacks.

This multi-country incident included 54 clinical cases of listeriosis in Australia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and the UK with 10 deaths. The outbreak was detected in Finland using whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

Traceability information indicated that frozen corn was produced in Hungary and packed in Poland. It was found that people had eaten the frozen sweetcorn uncooked, although instructions on the packaging told consumers to cook it. Implicated frozen products were distributed to 116 countries.

The second incident involved four people with illness onset in 2017 and 2018. The third outbreak sickened three people and the final one had five reported cases all in 2018.

Increase in Listeria from 2017
In 2018, 156 cases of listeriosis were reported in England and Wales and 32 people died which was higher than the 135 infections in 2017 but otherwise the lowest total since 2011.

Most infections were in those older than 80, particularly in men aged 70 and over. Of the 18 cases in the 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 age groups, 17 were female and 14 were associated with pregnancy. Pregnancy-associated infections accounted for 26 of all reported cases and, where known, a third of these cases resulted in stillbirth or miscarriage.

Nearly a quarter of 130 non-pregnancy associated cases died. This represented a 2.7 percent decline in the proportion of reported deaths (n=45) compared to the preceding six years.

National surveillance of listeriosis in England and Wales is coordinated by the Gastrointestinal Infections team at Public Health England (PHE).

In England, the North East had the highest incidence rate whilst the East of England had the lowest. Wales reported five cases in 2018. July was the peak month for listeriosis reporting in 2018. Cases were infected with different strains of Listeria monocytogenes and no outbreaks influenced this peak. In 2016 and 2017 numbers peaked in October and July respectively.

Despite an increase in 2018, the number of cases remains low compared to previous years, according to PHE.

“As a predominantly foodborne infection, this severe disease is largely preventable. It remains imperative that sporadic cases of illness and clusters of the disease continue to be monitored and investigated to inform the continued risk assessment of the food chain.”

NRL work on Listeria and E. coli
Meanwhile, PHE experts were told of two Listeria and five Salmonella clusters in a 12 month period, according to a report.

The UK’s National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for food microbiology is provided by PHE for the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The annual report of the NRL’s activities between April 2019 and March 2020 covers Listeria monocytogenes, coagulase-positive staphylococci, E. coli including STEC, Campylobacter, Salmonella and antimicrobial resistance.

There were two Epidemic Intelligence Information System (EPIS) inquiries of Listeria monocytogenes clusters sent from the Listeria European Reference Laboratory (EURL) held by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES). The NRL contacted PHE to respond to the EURL with the requested information. EPIS is a web-based platform that allows certain public health experts to assess whether current and emerging threats have a potential impact on Europe.

An FSA inquiry concerned a lab using an alternative method to ISO 11290-1 for Listeria detection; the NRL requested further details of the test and gave recommendations. Investigations were still ongoing at the time of the report.

The NRL received 14 outbreak alerts from the EURL for E. coli run by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità; nine from the United States, and five from individual EU countries.

Campylobacter and Salmonella
In July 2019, the Swedish National Veterinary Institute (SVA) as EURL for Campylobacter sent a questionnaire to all NRLs on implementation of the Process Hygiene Criteria (PHC), including sampling and methodological aspects. This was sent to FSA to refine answers and then collated information was submitted.

There were messages on five EPIS Salmonella clusters between April and March 2019 from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) the EURL for Salmonella. RIVM also wrote to NRLs in March 2020 to ask whether Salmonella testing on poultry before slaughter was still being performed under Regulation (EU) No. 200/2012, as COVID-19 was causing many EU countries to lockdown and experience staff shortages.

In March this year, the EURL launched monitoring of Salmonella Mikawasima isolates in food, animals, animal feed, and the environment, to investigate the source of human cases. Due to COVID-19, there will be a delay in the UK reporting data.

The EURL for antimicrobial resistance, run by the National Food Institute, sent an urgent inquiry on behalf of ECDC and EFSA in January 2020 for NRLs to share WGS data on OXA-244 carbapenemase-producing E. coli from food, feed or animals to support an outbreak investigation.

In April 2019, it was decided to stop testing to detect Staphylococcus enterotoxin from all food and drink matrices from June of that year. Demand for toxin detection in coagulase-positive staphylococci in the UK is very low, with on average one request every two years. The UK NRL outsources this method to an NRL in the Netherlands when a request is received from an official control lab and is related to official control work.

From September 2019 the FSA requested NRLs do not attend any EU meetings, after a government statement in August. However, it was agreed individual experts could attend EURL meetings, as these are of public health importance for the UK.

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

Researchers assess raw milk quality in England

August 11, 2020 - 12:02am

Public Health England researchers have looked at the microbiological quality of raw drinking milk and unpasteurized dairy products over a six-year period.

Findings highlight the public health risk associated with these items and provide further justification for continued surveillance and controls during production and throughout the food chain, according to the study published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection.

It reviewed microbiology results from 2,500 raw drinking milk and dairy products made with unpasteurized milk examined in England between 2013 and 2019. Samples were collected from the point of sale and place of manufacture as part of incidents of contamination, investigation of infections, or routine monitoring and were tested using standard methods for pathogens and hygiene indicators.

Raw cow’s milk for drinking can only be sold at farms and farm shops at production, including local deliveries and farmer’s markets. These restrictions do not apply to milk from other species or other dairy products made from unpasteurized milk.

Results and outbreaks
The dataset included: 719 raw cow’s milk from 2017 to 2019, 584 raw milk from non-bovine animals; 100 cream, two ice cream, 37 butter, 24 kefir, and 1,063 cheeses from 2013 to 2019.

Amongst all 2,529 samples tested, 69 percent were classed as satisfactory microbiological quality, 10 percent were borderline, 16 percent were unsatisfactory and 5 percent were unsatisfactory and posed a potential risk to public health due to pathogens. Results from routine monitoring were satisfactory for 62 percent of milk, 82 percent of cream, all ice cream, 51 percent of butter, 63 percent of kefir, and 79 percent of cheeses.

For all samples, 56 bovine milks and 79 cow or goats milk cheeses were associated with six incidents of infection. These included three raw cow’s milk outbreaks in 2017 with seven cases of STEC O157: H7, four Campylobacter infections, and one patient with Salmonella Dublin.

One person got Salmonella Mbandaka from cheese made at the same farm previously linked to a STEC outbreak, one listeriosis patient bought cheese from a farm shop in 2016, and coagulase-positive staphylococci (CPS) contamination involved hard goat’s milk cheese which did not enter the food chain in 2013.

Results of microbiological testing of cow’s drinking milk and cheese samples collected during incidents and foodborne outbreaks showed a higher proportion as potentially injurious to health: 44 percent compared to 20 percent for those taken for routine monitoring.

Routine monitoring findings
In raw drinking milk collected for routine monitoring, cow’s milk was generally of poorer microbiological quality than goat’s or sheep’s milk, for the presence of indicators and pathogens. Two unsatisfactory goat’s milk samples had high levels of CPS and unsatisfactory levels of aerobic colony counts (ACC) and coliforms: both samples came from the same farm in the same year.

For raw cow’s drinking milk tested in routine monitoring, results from 24 samples were unsatisfactory because of the presence and levels of pathogens. Campylobacter spp. were isolated from 18 cow’s milk samples, 13 of which came from three producers. In five other samples, Salmonella Mbandaka was isolated from one, unsatisfactory levels of coliforms detected in three, and unsatisfactory ACCs were found in the final sample. In one cow’s milk sample there was an unsatisfactory level of Listeria monocytogenes.

Salmonella was detected in three samples, once it was Salmonella Mbandaka and in the other two, Salmonella Dublin was isolated on different occasions from the same dairy. In the remaining three cow’s milk samples potentially risky to health, STEC was isolated. Two isolates came from different samples from the same farm and were both STEC O113: H4, the final isolate was STEC O15: H16.

Amongst the 984 kinds of cheese tested as part of routine monitoring, 80 percent were of satisfactory microbiological quality, 5 percent were borderline, 10 percent were unsatisfactory and 5 percent potentially injurious to health.

Goat milk cheeses were of poorer microbiological quality than those from the milk of other species. The 47 cheese were categorized as posing a risk to health because of high levels of Listeria monocytogenes or CPS, or isolation of Salmonella, E. coli O157, or STEC. Two possible cases with indistinguishable Salmonella Newport isolated from a hard cow’s milk cheese were found. Two samples of kefir were unsatisfactory due to CPS: one was prepared from cow’s milk and the other from goat’s milk.

Results indicated statutory hygiene indicator tests for raw drinking milk do not correlate well with the presence of pathogens but analysis of data from cheese showed an association between increasing levels of indicator E. coli with elevated levels of CPS and detection of stx genes. Isolation of STEC was significantly associated with lower levels of indicator E. coli.

The review found a similar level of adverse results to that reported previously for samples tested between 2014 and 2016 showing there is no evidence to support improvement in microbiological quality despite efforts by the Food Standards Agency. The FSA recommends businesses test raw bovine milk for indicator bacteria (E. coli, Listeria spp., ACCs, coliforms) and pathogenic bacteria (Salmonella, STEC, Campylobacter, CPS, and Listeria monocytogenes).

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

100 tons of misbranded meat and poultry products recalled over long list of undeclared allergens

August 10, 2020 - 10:09pm

Mr. Wok Foods Inc .in Las Vegas late Monday recalled approximately 200,000 pounds of meat and poultry products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The products may contain milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, or oysters, which are known allergens. The products may also contain MSG, sesame products, or sulfites, which are not declared on the product labels.

The frozen meat and poultry items were produced from Aug. 6, 2019, through Aug. 6, 2020. This spreadsheet contains a list of the products subject to recall.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 20783” or “P-20783” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were distributed for institutional use in vending machines and restaurants nationwide.

The mistakes were discovered by FSIS in-plant personnel during routine label reviews, when they found that one or more allergens were not listed on labels for various products.

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

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

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

Freshouse/Wegmans recalls of Valencia Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Organic Limes, and Red B Potatoes

August 10, 2020 - 3:14pm

Freshouse II, LLC of Salisbury, NC, a supplier of Wegmans Food Markets,   has since Sunday been recalling specific production lots, brands and weights of Valencia Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Organic Limes, and Red B Potatoes because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

And Wegmans, a 103-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina is recalling Valencia Oranges, bagged and bulk lemons and in-store produced seafood and restaurant food items.

Freshouse II produce was sold in Wegmans stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Brooklyn and Harrison, NY. Wegmans has placed automated phone calls to alert customers who purchased these products using Shoppers Club. The affected produce items, sold at Wegmans between July 31 and Aug. 7, include:

  • Wegmans 4lb Bag Valencia Oranges – UPC: 7789052363
  • Wegmans 2lb Bag Lemons – UPC: 7789015917
  • Wegmans bulk lemons – UPC: 4033

Both the Freshouse II and Wegmans recalls are due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Others may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalls were initiated after Freshouse II ‘s routine internal testing identified Listeria monocytogenes on a piece of equipment in a  packing facility.   The company ceased the production and distribution of the product that was packed on the equipment in question and are taking corrective actions and continually evaluating our cleaning and sanitation regimes.

No illnesses are yet associated with any of the recalled items.

Consumers can identify recalled retail products by looking for the brand, UPC number, and, if available the trace number printed on the tag or clip attached to the opening end of the bag. The recalled products were shipped directly to retailer distribution centers in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia and to wholesalers in Maryland and North Carolina (see table below).

CONSUMER RETAIL ITEMS
Recall Initiated August 9, 2020 PRODUCT BRAND RETAIL UPC TRACE # printed on tag or clip on bag SIZE LOT # ON BULK CASES
(this information is for retail stores) Limes Freshouse 33383 14683 174618 174570 174571 174572 2lb mesh bags 16444003
16444603
16444703 Organic Limes Natures Promise 88267 53813 174375 1lb mesh bags X0174375 Red B Potatoes Fresh from the Start 33383 51003 174575
174403 174595 3lb mesh bags 16475401
16453501
16475401 Lemons Fresh from the Start 33383 14020 174551 174552 2lb mesh bags 16453103
16415302 Lemons Wegmans 77890 15917 n/a 2lb mesh bags 16453103 Valencia Oranges Wegmans 77890 52363 n/a 4lb mesh bags 16415104 WHOLESALE BULK ITEMS
Recall initiated August 9, 2020 PRODUCT SIZE Shipper Reference Numbers
(this information is for
wholesale customers)   Lemons 40 lb boxes 1187005, 1187128, 1187103, 1187112   Limes 40 lb boxes 1187112, 1187099, 1187128, 1186832   Red Potatoes 50 lb bags 1187098, 320873, 320992, 2182424   Valencia Oranges 40 lb boxes 1187099, 1187015, 1187112

Consumers who have a recalled item listed above in their possession should not consume it and should destroy the product in a way so that it may not be consumed by others or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. Consumers with questions may contact Freshouse II, LLC at 631-369-7150, Monday through Friday: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Eastern Time. Consumers may also contact the company via email (customerservice@freshouse.com) or visit the company’s website at www.freshouserecall.comExternal Link Disclaimer.

Freshouse II, LLC has notified its retail and wholesale customers who received the recalled product directly from the company and is requesting that these customers remove the recalled product from commerce. We are also asking our direct customers to notify their customers of this recall. The company is issuing this press release and keeping the U.S. Food & Drug Administration informed of its recall process to assure that consumers are properly alerted.

“We voluntarily issued this recall out of an abundance of caution with the steadfast intent to minimize even the slightest risk to public health,” said Freshouse II, President Jamey Friedman,  “We take food safety and this recall seriously. Freshouse is committed to providing consumers with fresh, nutritious, safe products.”

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

APHIS lists pests, diseases that poise high risk to U.S. agriculture

August 10, 2020 - 12:05am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking feedback on its proposed list of pests and diseases of concern that are likely to pose a high risk to U.S. agricultural and natural resources.

Section 12203 of the 2018 Farm Bill requires pest- and disease-planning activities that mirror the extensive planning efforts APHIS already performs. Specifically, it requires APHIS to develop a uniform list of pests and diseases that represent the gravest threat to the United States and to develop comprehensive response plans to ensure Federal and State governments are prepared to respond to them.

APHIS is publishing the list on its website.  The agency will review comments from the public about the list, including suggestions of pests or diseases that should be added or removed.  In providing comments, individuals should keep in mind that the Farm Bill definition of a pest or disease of concern limits this list to those that are “likely to pose a significant risk to the food and agricultural critical infrastructure sector” and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible pests or diseases. Comments may be submitted to APHISPestDiseaseList@usda.gov.

After reviewing feedback and potentially revising the list, APHIS will ensure it has fully developed comprehensive response plans to address the pests and diseases on the list. Additionally, it will continue to work with its State partners on response plans they wish to create. The agency will also continue to periodically test those plans to ensure awareness of each organization’s roles and responsibilities.

APHIS continues to practice its thorough planning to prevent the introduction of potential pests and diseases into the United States. The presence or absence of a pest or disease on this list does not preclude APHIS from taking appropriate actions to protect plant or animal health. If a threat emerges that is not on the list, APHIS will respond appropriately, according to the agency.

APHIS promises to keep the United States free of foreign animal and plant pests and diseases, which the agency says benefits American producers and consumers by maintaining the value of U.S. agricultural and food resources and upholding and expanding export markets abroad.

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

The state of Food Safety News

August 10, 2020 - 12:03am

Food Safety News was founded in 2009 by the world-recognized food safety expert, attorney Bill Marler.

Since then, FSN has grown into a leading outlet for news about all aspects of the food safety arena — with 40,000 followers on Twitter, 200,000 likes on Facebook, and more than 40,000 subscribers that receive daily email updates with FSN’s latest stories. Our articles and social media posts reach and inform tens of thousands of readers everyday. 

Here at Food Safety News, we are determined as ever to bring our readers the latest updates in Food Safety innovation, legislation, food policy, and law recalls, outbreaks, and the stories of those impacted by food poisoning.

This past year we have covered numerous outbreaks, from E.coli in romaine lettuce to Fresh Express’s Cyclospora current outbreak. And this week we have been coving the Salmonella outbreak linked to Thomson International Inc. onions

We have spotlighted a marine recruit whose life plans were dramatically changed by his fight with E.coli,  a South African woman who’s outlook on life was changed by Listeria poisoning, a mother whose heart stopped three times while in the hospital with E.coli poisoning, and many more food poisoning victims.

A bit about us — Food Safety News staff

Bill Marler, Publisher, founder

Marler is the Managing Partner of Marler Clark LLP, a Seattle, WA, law firm that specializes in foodborne illness cases. He began representing victims of foodborne illness in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157: H7 outbreak traced to burgers from Jack in the Box restaurants in multiple states. She received an unprecedented $15.6 million settlement.

Dan Flynn, Editor in Chief

Flynn is a Northern Colorado-based writer and editor with more than 15 years of food safety experience.  As a public affairs professional, he worked with government and regulatory agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.  Flynn also worked for daily newspapers for a decade.

Coral Beach, Managing Editor

Beach is a print journalist with more than 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, trade publications, and freelance clients including the Kansas City Star, the Independence Examiner and Land Line Magazine. Before joining Food Safety News, Beach was a reporter for The Packer newspaper, an online and broadsheet trade publication covering the fresh produce industry in North America.

Joe Whitworth, Writer/Reporter — Europe and World

Whitworth is a food and beverage trade journalist. Prior to reporting for Food Safety News, he worked for William Reed Business Media since 2012 as Editor of Food Quality News before becoming a food safety editor for Food Navigator. He is based in England. 

Jonan Pilet, Writer/Reporter and Social Media Manager

Pilet earned his Bachelor of Arts in writing at Houghton College in New York. He also studied writing at the University of Oxford and received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Seattle Pacific University. 

Cookson Beecher, Contributing Writer

A journalist by trade, Beecher spent 12 years working as an agriculture and environment reporter for Capital Press, a four-state newspaper that covers agricultural and forestry issues in the Pacific Northwest. Before working at Capital Press, she was the editor of a small-town newspaper, the Courier Times, in Skagit County, WA.

Chuck Jolley, Ad Director

Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry. He’s also president of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame, honoring the legendary figures of the industry.

Share, Tweet, Subscribe

If you love Food Safety News, share us with your friends, like us on Facebook and leave us a review, or follow us on Twitter

You can also let us what you think about individual stories by submitting comments. Our comments are moderated, so please be patient as it sometimes takes us a few hours to approve comments.

To subscribe to our free daily morning news, please go to our website at www.foodsafetynews.com and click on the subscribe button on the right side of the page. You will need to enter your email address and when you receive the automated confirmation message you must click on the link in the confirmation message to activate your subscription. Our free news email is only sent once a day, so your inbox will not be overloaded.

If there are ways you think Food Safety News can improve, let us know via our contact page. We appreciate our readers and love to hear your feedback!

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

Three Californian firms are given warnings because of lack of FSVPs

August 10, 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.

Ventura Terra Garden Inc.
Ventura, CA

An import company in California is on notice from the FDA for not having Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for a number of imported food products. The inspection was initiated because of imported enoki mushrooms being associated with a multinational Listeria monocytogenes outbreak.

In the July 29 warning letter the FDA described an April 15-17, 20-21, and 29, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Ventura Terra Garden Inc.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

  1. The firm did not have a written hazard analysis to identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards to determine whether there are any hazards requiring a control. The firm may rely on the hazard analysis of your foreign supplier to meet their obligations under the FSVP regulation, however, they did not provide FDA with any evidence that they documented their review and assessment of their foreign supplier’s hazards analysis. They may meet their requirement to conduct a hazard analysis, by reviewing and assessing their supplier’s hazard analysis and documenting their review and assessment of that hazard analysis.
  2. An onsite audit of the firm’s foreign supplier, (redacted), did not consider an applicable food safety regulation. Specifically, their third-party “Audit Checklist Report” (redacted) dated April 4, 2019, for their enoki mushrooms imported from (redacted), did not include the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule as part of the criteria.
  3. The firm did not promptly document their review and assessment of the results of a verification activity that was conducted by another entity. Specifically, they did not have documentation that they reviewed and assessed the result of third-party (redacted) audit for their Enoki mushroom imported from, (redacted).

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

Kaymile Trading Inc.
South El Monte, CA

An import company in California is on notice from the FDA for not having FSVPs for a number of imported food products.

In a July 28 warning letter the FDA described an April 24, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Kaymile Trading Inc.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

  1. The firm did not develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP. Specifically, they did not develop an FSVP for each of the following foods:
  2. Roasted onion granules imported from (redacted) located in (redacted).
  3. Coarse black pepper imported from (redacted) located in (redacted).
  4. For the roasted garlic granules imported from (redacted), located in (redacted), they did not meet their requirements to conduct a hazard analysis. During the inspection, they provided a copy of their foreign supplier’s HACCP plan. They may meet their requirement to conduct a hazard analysis by reviewing and assessing their supplier’s hazard analysis and documenting their review and assessment of their supplier’s hazard. The firm did not provide documentation that they have reviewed and assessed their foreign supplier’s hazard analysis.
  5. The firm must approve their  foreign suppliers on the basis of an evaluation of the foreign supplier’s performance and the risk posed by the food, and document their approval. They did not document their approval of their foreign supplier of roasted garlic granules imported from (redacted).
  6. The firm did not establish and follow written procedures to ensure that they import foods only from foreign suppliers they have approved based on an evaluation of the foreign supplier’s performance and the risk posed by the food.
  7. They did not establish and follow adequate written procedures for ensuring that appropriate foreign supplier verification activities are conducted with respect to the foods they import.
  8. The firm did not conduct and document (or obtain documentation of) one or more of the supplier verification activities listed for each foreign supplier before importing the food and periodically thereafter. For example, they did not conduct and document (or obtain documentation of) one or more of such supplier verification activities for their foreign supplier (redacted), before importing roasted garlic granules and periodically thereafter.

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

Pasha Food Distribution USA Inc.
Tarzana, CA

An import company in California is on notice from the FDA for not having FSVPs for a number of imported food products.

In a May 18 warning letter the FDA described a March 18, 2020, Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) inspection at Ventura Terra Garden Inc.

The FDA’s inspection revealed that the firm was not in compliance with FSVP regulations and resulted in issuance of an FDA Form 483a. The significant violations are as follows:

  • The firm did not develop, maintain, and follow an FSVP. Specifically, the firm did not develop an FSVP for roasted eggplant manufactured by (redacted), and dried sumac and tahini manufactured by (redacted).

If a firm is a very small importer and they choose to comply with the modified requirements, they must document that they meet the definition of very small importer as required. In addition, for each food they import, they must obtain written assurance, before importing the food and at least every two years thereafter, that their foreign supplier is producing the food in compliance with processes and procedures that provide at least the same level of public health protection. 

The full warning letter can be viewed here.

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

Letter from the Editor: Any sign of normalcy is worth feeling cheerful about

August 9, 2020 - 12:03am
Opinion

Now when I get a report on Salmonella infections in backyard flocks across 46 states or hundreds sickened by Salmonella Newport due to contaminated onions, I feel just a little bit of cheer.

Oh, it’s not that I am heartless about those suffering from Salmonella or unfeeling about just how icky almost 800 cases of cyclosporiasis can be. It’s just that at the moment, foodborne illness outbreaks and pathogens are signs that we might eventually be getting back to normal.

And that cheers me.

We’d started 2020 nicely enough with outbreaks of Listeria in 17 states for contaminated enoki mushrooms and of E. coli O103 infections in 10 states over clover sprouts.

President Trump activated the federal emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus on Jan.31. For a while thereafter, it seemed like foodborne illness dried up. Now it’s starting to feel like things might be getting back to good old normal.

We are into seven months of life being very different than it was before this emergency drill. We’ve all changed. Some more than others.

As my routine involves news-gathering and writing, solo activities, I’ve been luckier than most. Still, I found myself listening to satellite radio’s Classics and Rural Radio instead of my bad old habits for talking heads on TV or radio.

There’s also more time for reading and reaching out without any noise.
Like most of us, I spend a half-hour or so each date updating myself on the various COVID-19 data sources–Worldmeter, John Hopkins, and CDC are all useful.

Is it good that we are at 5.1 million COID-19 cases when we had 60.8 million H1Ni cases during the 2009 pandemic? Or is it just bad that COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have hit 165,000 when we got off with 12,469 during the 2009 pandemic?

Somebody this week wrote that we are closer to the end than the beginning. I think that is all a matter of one’s geographic perspective. I’ve been going back and forth between two areas with different experiences.

Weld County, CO, for example, has produced only a trickle of new COVED-19 cases this summer, and only one additional death. In the spring, it was a hotspot with more than 3600 cases and 90 deaths.

When I first arrived in Hays County, TX in the spring, fatalities since the onset was still in single digits, but grew to a total of at least 34 over the summer. Hays County did not escape the spike in cases Texas experienced over the summer, reaching 5,012 cases since the first diagnosis of the virus within the county on March 14.

There are currently 2,803 active coronavirus cases with 2,175 recoveries in Hays County, home to Texas State University in San Marcos.

Weld County is home to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Several convalescent homes and the JBS beef plant ran up the Weld County numbers in the spring. Texas put caution aside for awhile causing the spike, which came after TSU adjourned.

Living in either Greeley or San Marcos without fear is not difficult, although it can be boring. It mainly involves staying away from other humans and masking up when some limited, short-time contact is required like at the grocery store.

Dining is either take-out or outdoor seating, and some of the options are pretty good. Restaurants have done well with take-outs of dinner and drinks.

Traveling between the two locations is a two and one-half hour United non-stop from Austin to Denver. An MIT study out last week found there is a 1 in 4300 chance of contracting COVID-19 from a nearby passenger, or even better at 1 in 7,700 if the middle seat is empty

I’ve already “risked it” a couple of times, and plan to do so again in two weeks. Airports and airlines require masks and its easy avoiding contact with people in the terminals. TSA wants to see your face but only requires removing your mask for a few seconds.

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

EU plans to include food safety culture in regulation

August 8, 2020 - 12:04am

The European Commission has published draft legislation that includes food safety culture.

A revision of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on food hygiene also covers allergen management, and redistribution of food.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is expected to adopt a revision of its standard on General Principles of Food Hygiene in the next few months. This update introduces the food safety culture concept as a general principle. Food safety culture’s aim is to increase awareness and improve the behavior of employees in establishments.

Considering the change of this standard and expectations of consumers and trade partners that food produced in the EU complies with such a standard, it is necessary to include general requirements on food safety culture in EU regulation, according to the EU Commission.

The draft introduces requirements on good hygiene practices to prevent or limit the presence of substances causing allergies or intolerances in equipment, conveyances, and/or containers used for harvesting, transport, or storage of foodstuffs.

Ambiguous and involved costs
Feedback on the food safety culture part of the plans, which closed this week, has been mixed with most concerns raised by industry while academia welcomed the draft.

Part of the new legislation asks management and all employees of businesses to commit to an appropriate food safety culture which includes a clear distribution of responsibilities, appropriate training, and supervision, and verifying controls are performed timely and efficiently and documentation is up to date.

Independent Retail Europe, which represents groups of independent retailers, said this was ambiguous and the commitment should be linked to the implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) requirements.

“Putting in place a culture of food safety is more important than ever in the time of COVID-19, but it should be based in concrete measures such as ensuring that appropriate resources are spent on the cleaning and the preparation of stores during regular working hours.”

The text also states “implementation of food safety culture shall take account of the nature and size of the food business”.

The group said this wording may be interpreted as allowing for a less ambitious level of food safety commitment for smaller businesses.

“The commitment to food safety should be the same for all operators – from hypermarkets to farmers’ markets.”

COCERAL, the European association representing the trade in cereals, rice, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats, and agro supply, said global harmonization was key to a level playing field and developing the same culture worldwide.

“At the same time, all the points listed are already part of the current business mindset and operations, under the HACCP approach. The Commission must consider the real costs for the involved economic players, bearing in mind particularly small and medium enterprises, and try to avoid imposing an economic burden on an already heavily hit sector in the COVID-19 aftermath.

“COCERAL deems that for the sake of harmonization, official control authorities at the member state level should adopt a common framework to evaluate compliance against the food safety culture requirements.”

The association said guidance would be beneficial to the food sector and it was important not to impose different requirements on businesses in different countries.

Industry pushback vs a step forward
FoodDrinkEurope, the European food and drink industry’s organization, said provisions on food safety culture look too vague to enforce in a reasonable manner.

“In our opinion, there is no expectation among either third countries or consumers that companies have a defined food safety culture, verified by the authorities. There is currently no agreement within the private standards on how food safety culture can be verified.”

The Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the EU (CLITRAVI) said the Commission was introducing a topic without knowing the implications and the meat processing industry in Europe was “very concerned” about including such requirements in the regulation.

“CLITRAVI underlines the point that work on food safety culture, which originates from the industry’s privacy standards, is still in process, as these are matters that have to do with human behavior and are not a technical requirement such as the HACCP.”

The group urged the EU Commission to withdraw the proposal which is planned for adoption in the third quarter of 2020 adding any pending legislation should await Codex work.

Bert Popping, of FOCOS – Food Consulting Strategically, said the addition of the food safety culture concept to existing rules on food hygiene is a significant step forward.

“However, the wording…is vague and will give rise to misinterpretation and confusion. It is recommended to precise the wording used prior to passing the proposal.”

Pieternel Luning of Wageningen University said the amendment creates opportunities and will not be an extra burden.

“The amendment will enhance awareness on the importance of food safety culture. Paying attention to the food business’ food safety culture will not only benefit the assurance of safe food but will also lead to more committed and motivated employees and overall better business performance,” she said.

“The scientific community in collaboration with the food industry has a great challenge to develop tools and improve road maps for enhancing the food safety culture tailored to the specific context of the food business operators in the food supply chains.”

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

Italy records nearly 80 HUS cases in 12 months

August 8, 2020 - 12:02am

Almost 80 hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) cases were registered between July 2019 and June 2020 in Italy.

The 77 patients came from 17 regions in the country while one person contracted HUS while abroad. Notification rates varied by region but were highest in Aosta Valley and higher than 1 case per 100,000 in Basilicata, Calabria, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Trento, and Bolzano.

Seventy of those affected were under 15 years of age. The median age of patients at the clinical onset of the disease was 2 years and 7 months for the past 12 months and the past decade.

HUS is a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure, permanent health problems, and even death. It is most often triggered by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Early symptoms include decreased urine output, diarrhea, and feeling slow and tired. HUS usually develops one to two weeks after initial symptoms of E. coli infection.

The sharp rise in STEC O80; lockdown impact
In 49 of the 75 HUS cases examined for STEC between July 2019 and June 2020, it was possible to confirm the diagnosis of STEC infection. Among these, the so-called top-5 STEC serogroups of O26, O157, O111, O145, and O103 dominate, representing 89 percent of STEC identified in HUS cases with the main one being O26.

In the past 12 months, the frequency of diagnosis for STEC O80 infection has tripled compared to the previous 10 years. Although the number of cases is limited, STEC O80 is considered an emerging serogroup in Europe.

Over the period studied, the majority of HUS cases were in the second half of 2019 with more than 70 percent of the total. There was a similar seasonal trend compared to the previous 10 years, although the overall number of patients is higher and there was a delayed seasonal peak compared to the summer jump of previous years.

In the early months of 2020, there were more infections than the seasonal forecast followed by a marked decline in the March to May quarter, coinciding with the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall number of cases compared to what was expected halved, passing from an average of 11 to five. In June, the number of patients appeared to be in line with the seasonal forecast.

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

Public health alert for sausages that USDA thinks are no longer on the market

August 7, 2020 - 7:22pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert because Bluegrass Provisions Co., a Crescent Springs, Ky. establishment, produced sausage products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. A recall was not requested because it is believed that all products are no longer in commerce and are past their use or freeze by dates.

The ready-to-eat smoked sausage items were produced on Apr. 22, 2020. The following products subject to the public health alert are:

  • 14-oz. plastic packages containing 6 pieces of “BLUEGRASS METTWURST,” with a use or freeze by date of July 23, 2020.
  • 14-oz. plastic packages containing 6 pieces of “WALNUT CREEK FOODS Smoked Sausage,” with a use or freeze by date of July 23, 2020.
  • 14-oz. plastic packages containing 6 pieces of Lidl “SMOKED BRATWURST,” with a use or freeze by date of July 23, 2020.
  • 14-oz. plastic packages containing 6 pieces of Lidl “SMOKED BRATWURST WITH CHEESE,” with a use or freeze by date of July 23, 2020.

The products bear establishment number “EST. 7417” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to distributors and retail locations in Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The problem was discovered by routine testing and the results showed one of the products was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The additional products may be affected by cross-contamination.

Consumption of food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns. Less commonly, persons outside these risk groups are affected.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections can occur in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. Persons in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be 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.

FSIS advises all consumers to reheat ready-to-eat products until steaming hot.

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

First indictments of poultry managers stemming from last year’s big poultry raid

August 7, 2020 - 6:58pm

 A Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of Mississippi has indicted four managers or supervisors or human resource officers stemming from the raid last August that saw 680 illegal alien employees detained. The indictments were based on information collected through criminal and administrative search warrants that were executed during the highly publicized raid of Mississippi poultry companies.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, conducted raids at seven sites across central Mississippi. It was the largest single-state worksite enforcement operation in U.S.  history, resulting in the detention of 680 illegal aliens and the prosecution of 119 illegal aliens for stealing the identities of American citizens, falsifying immigration documents, fraudulently claiming to be United States citizens, and illegal re-entering the country after they were deported, among other federal crimes.

The four unsealed indictments announced late this week marks the first criminal actions against poultry company management personnel and is limited to two companies, A&B Inc. and Pearl River Foods, LLC.

“This office has a successful history of prosecuting employers for violating our immigration laws, and today marks another step in ensuring that justice is fairly and impartially done, no matter the law-breaker. I want to thank our partners at ICE Homeland Security Investigations and our office’s federal prosecutors for doggedly pursuing these criminal violations.  The indictments unsealed today to mark the beginning, not the end, of our investigations and prosecutions.  Rest assured that we will continue to pursue criminal wrongdoers and enforce our criminal laws wherever the evidence may take us,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.

“The results of this ongoing criminal investigation illustrate the importance of strong interior enforcement. The arrests made last year pursuant to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s execution of more than a dozen search warrants have thus far yielded 126 indictments, 117 criminal arrests, and 73 convictions. In total, more than 403 individuals falsified social security information in order to gain illegal employment in the United States,” said acting ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director Matthew T. Albence. “Companies who intentionally or knowingly base their business model on an illegal workforce deprive law-abiding citizens and lawful immigrants of employment opportunities, which are especially critical as our economy looks to recover from the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE Homeland Security Investigations will continue its commitment to uphold the laws Congress has passed. These laws protect jobs for the legal workforce, reduce incentives for illegal migration, and eliminate inequitable financial advantages for businesses employing illegal immigrants.”

The indictments include;

Salvador Delgado-Nieves, 57, of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, was charged with three counts of harboring illegal aliens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in falsely representing themselves to be United States citizens, three counts of assisting illegal aliens in obtaining false Social Security cards, and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement officials when he denied having hired illegal aliens at A&B, Inc. in Pelahatchie.

Delgado-Nieves faces up to 74 years in federal prison and $2.5 million in fines for these criminal violations, as Counts 1-6 carry a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Counts 7-9 carry a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, and Count 10 carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

  Iris Villalon, 44, of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was indicted on one count of harboring an illegal alien, and one count of making false statements when she denied that she had hired illegal aliens for employment with A&B, Inc., in Pelahatchie, and one count of causing false employer quarterly wage reports to be filed when she knew the Social Security number represented in such reports was not assigned by the Social Security Administration to that specific illegal alien employee listed therein.

Villalon faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for these criminal violations, as Count 1 carries a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and Counts 2-3 carries a maximum of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Carolyn Johnson, 50, of Kosciuskio, Mississippi, was a Human Resource Manager and Aubrey “Bart” Willis, 39, of Flowery Branch, Georgia, was the Manager at Pearl River Foods LLC in Carthage, Mississippi.  Johnson was indicted on six felony counts of harboring an illegal alien as well as one count of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.  Willis was indicted on five counts of harboring an illegal alien.

The indictment charges both defendants with harboring illegal aliens following the execution of federal warrants at the Pearl River Foods facility on August 7, 2019.  Johnson was also indicted for fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a grant from the State of Mississippi for reimbursement for on the job training for employees of Pearl River Foods.  As set forth in the indictment, Johnson submitted claims for reimbursement for on the job training that never occurred.

If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum of up to 84 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines, with Counts 1-6 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, Count 7 carrying a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, and Counts 8-9 carrying a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

If convicted, Willis faces a maximum of up to 50 years and $1.25 million in fines, Counts 1-5 carrying a maximum of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation.

Following the unsealing of the indictments, the four defenants made their initial court appearances.

These cases were investigated by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and are being prosecuted by the Assistant United States,  Lynn Murray.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.  Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Contaminated red onion source named as Salmonella Newport outbreak infects 879

August 7, 2020 - 4:09pm

The Food and Drug Administration’s traceback investigation is ongoing but has identified Thomson International, Inc. of Bakersfield, CA as a likely source of the recent potentially contaminated red onions.

FDA and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with state and local agencies are also investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections.

As of Aug. 6,  CDC counts 640 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport in  43 states.

The U.S. cases are located in  Alaska (6), Alabama (1), Arizona (14), California (76), Colorado (14), Connecticut (2), Delaware (1), Florida (3), Georgia (1), Idaho (26), Illinois (41), Indiana (2), Iowa (20), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Maine (4), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (36), Minnesota (14), Mississippi (2), Missouri (6), Montana (52), Nebraska (10), Nevada (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (2), New Mexico (1), New York (5), North Carolina (5), North Dakota (8), Ohio (8), Oregon (85), Pennsylvania (9), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (17), Tennessee (5), Utah (90), Virginia (8), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (7), and Wyoming (16).

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to July 23, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 102 years, with a median age of 39. Fifty-four percent of ill people are female. Of 343 ill people with information available, 85 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

And, as of Aug. 7, 2020, there have been 239 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (67), Alberta (149), Saskatchewan (5), Manitoba (13), Ontario (3), Quebec (1) and Prince Edward Island (1).  Individuals became sick between mid-June and late July 2020. Twenty-nine individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (54 percent) are female.

Thomson International Inc., on Aug. 1, recalled all varieties of onions that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, due to the risk of cross-contamination. Recalled products include red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions shipped nationwide from May 1, 2020, to August 1, 2020, sold under the following brand names: Thomson Premium, TLC Thomson International, Tender Loving Care, El Competitor, Hartley’s Best, Onions 52, Majestic, Imperial Fresh, Kroger, Utah Onions, and Food Lion.

In addition, products containing the recalled onions are being identified and recalled.

At this time, Giant Eagle and Taylor Farms have recalled products containing recalled onions, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has published a list of Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products Containing Recalled Onions. A full list of available recall information is included below and will be updated as more products are identified and recalled.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and if additional products are linked to illness. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

Recommendations Advice for consumers, restaurants, and retailers: Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, sell, or serve recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc. or products containing recalled onions. If you cannot tell if your onion is part of the recall, or your food product contains recalled onions, you should not eat, sell, or serve it, and should throw it out. FDA recommends that anyone who received or suspects having received recalled onions use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with recalled products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. This includes cutting boards, slicers, countertops, refrigerators, and storage bins. Consumers who have symptoms of Salmonella infection should contact their health care provider. Most people with salmonellosis develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. More severe cases of salmonellosis may include a high fever, aches, headaches, lethargy, a rash, blood in the urine or stool, and in some cases may become fatal. Suppliers and Distributors: Suppliers, distributors, and others in the supply chain should not use, ship, or sell recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc. or food products containing recalled onions. Suppliers and distributors that re-package raw onions should use extra vigilance in cleaning any surfaces and storage areas that may have come into contact with recalled onions. If there has been potential cross-contamination or mixing of onions from other sources with recalled onions, suppliers and distributors should discard all comingled and potentially cross-contaminated products. Read the full update

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

Pages